Out & About: Musicals focus on fascinating fictional females

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

This weeks’s top picks of the tix are two popular Broadway musicals that focus on a pair of female nightclub performers. Both are fictitious, but they’re fascinating characters.

In Brunswick, “Sister Act” is a recent Broadway show that revolves around the story of a brazenly worldly wannabe diva who takes refuge in a convent.

In Ogunquit, “Victor/Victoria” revolves around an operatic soprano who creates a successful nightclub act by pretending to be a man performing as a woman.

The Monday Showcase series at the Bowdoin International Music Festival is beginning to emerge as an identifiable “brand.” Let’s take a look at the evolution of this series.

‘Sister Act’

The City of Brotherly Love becomes the city of sisterly love in the hottest Broadway musical that’s been released for the 2015 season.

Among the precious few first-summer rights-holders for “Sister Act,” Maine State Music Theatre has mounted a wonderful, fully professional production that runs through July 11 in Brunswick.

Here’s how it goes down: Deloris Van Cartier is a foul-mouthed nightclub singer who is romantically tied to a Philadelphia gangster. After seeing a man shot to death, Deloris enters a witness protection program that forces her to live in a convent, where nobody would think to look for her.

The fish-out-of-water device is classic comic fodder, and the book (Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane) milks it for cascades of laughs with sparkling repartee and zingy one-liners.

Ditto the score (music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater), which is studded with melodic, energetic numbers with titles such as “Take Me To Heaven,” “Raise Your Voice,” “Sunday Morning Fever” and “Haven’t Got A Prayer.”

Needless to say, Deloris (Trista Dollison) finds herself at odds with the sisters of the holy order, especially the Mother Superior (Mary Jo McConnell). But as Deloris takes over the leadership of the choir, some of the nuns (Cary Michelle Miller, Charis Leos and April Woodall) warm up to her, and she in turn learns to respect their ways and values.

Dollison is the star of this show. She’s a trained opera singer who can act persuasively and belt out the big numbers with passion. Dollison gets great support from three opposing actors: Kingsley Leggs playing a murdering gangster, Jay McKenzie as a bashful policeman and McConnell as the head of the cloister.

Kudos also to Charles Kading, for the exquisite sets, Kyle Melton for props and Jeff Hendry for costumes. On a personal note, I toured the MSMT shops in mid-June and watched many of these items under construction. It was fascinating to see the completed pieces on stage. The mammoth circular stained glass window is simply amazing.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “Sister Act” through July 11 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit msmt.org.


“Victor/Victoria” is another popular Broadway musical that revolves around a nightclub chantress, a fictional French star of the 1930s. Her special shtick was disguising herself as a man in real life and performing as a female impersonator in Parisian clubs.

The book was written by Blake Edwards, based on his own film screenplay, which in turn was based on several antecedents. Most songs were written by composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, with three additional songs by Frank Wildhorn.

Ogunquit Playhouse opened its superb professional production this past weekend; it runs through July 18.

“Victor/Victoria” is a show about showbiz, and much of the action takes place in and around nightclubs in Paris and Chicago. Disguises abound, and gay themes and jokes are interpolated throughout. Broadway veteran Leslie Brescia tackles the difficult title role with panache, pretending to be the male lover of George Dvorsky, who plays a Parisien ne’er-do-well, while actually falling in love with Darren Ritchie, who plays a Chicago nighclub owner.

Top performer in my estimation is Robyn Hurder, a native Mainer who’s now making waves on the national theater scene. Hurder portrays the proverbial dumb, ditzy blond bombshell. It’s a familiar stock character, and Hurder’s wonderfully spirited, over-the-top interpretation reaches the stratosphere.

Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on U.S. Route 1, presents “Victor/Victoria” through July 18. Call 646-5511 or visit ogunquitplayhouse.org.

Bowdoin International Music Festival

For most of its 51 seasons, the Bowdoin International Music Festival has offered two primary concert series, on Wednesdays and Fridays. A few years ago, after the college converted an old natatorium into the lovely Studzinski Recital Hall, a new series was added.

The Monday Showcase series has evolved into one with a unifying theme: string quartets and variations on same. In 2014 the Monday Showcases presented all of Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets. For 2015, the five-concert series will feature a diverse variety of composers and ensembles that are anchored by four different quartets.

Each is a resident ensemble at a major conservatory. The Dover Quartet, featured on July 6, is a crown jewel of Philadelphia’s famed Curtis Institute of Music. The Ying Quartet, which will appear on July 12 and July 19, resides at Eastman. BIMF co-artistic directors, brothers Phillip and David Ying, are the anchors of that ensemble.

On July 20, a double bill of quartets, eight players in total, will perform two octets, by Dmitri Shostakovich and Felix Mendelssohn.

Let’s look at the first of the Monday Showcase series. The Dover Quartet catapulted to international stardom following a stunning sweep of the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, becoming one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world. In 2013-2014, it became the first ever Quartet-in-Residence for the Curtis Institute. During the 2014-2015 season, the Dover Quartet will perform more than 100 concerts throughout the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe.

Three works comprise the July 6 series opener. First and last will be familiar string quartets by Robert Schumann and Cesar Franck. The middle work is far less known, the last of three string quartets written by Viktor Ullmann, a 20th-century Austrian composer who perished in a Nazi death camp during World War II. His String Quartet No. 3 was written in 1943 while the composer was a prisoner at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival presents its Monday Showcase series July 6-Aug. 3 at Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College Campus in Brunswick. Call 725-3895 or check out bowdoinfestival.org.

Sidebar Elements

“Sister Act” is a Broadway musical that is set in a cloister. When a wannabe nightclub diva is sent to a Philadelphia convent to hide from a murderous gangster, she transforms the sisters of the holy order and is herself transformed by their love.