As mid-July approaches, Maine residents and visitors alike can enjoy the crescendo of our state’s hectic summer schedule of arts and entertainment.
During the summer months, most activity takes place outside Portland. In Harrison, the 42nd annual edition of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival starts on July 15.
Arundel Barn Playhouse, an archetype of summer theater, is currently running a professional production of “A Chorus Line,” one of Broadway’s all-time critical and box office hits.
North of Nashville is a Maine-based Americana duo that seems to be going places. The two guys have a long string of Maine gigs going this summer, beginning this Saturday in Portland.
Among Maine’s numerous classical music festivals, none exudes the distinctively different quality of our state better than the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, situated in an utterly unique concert hall on a bosky hillside just outside Harrison Village.
Built in 1936 as an opera house in the Adirondack style, Deertrees Theatre is constructed of hemlock logs harvested on site. Its beautiful woodland setting, its open woodwork and superb acoustics are Deertrees’ hallmarks.
Returning for its 42nd season, the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival is ready to start its five-concert series, which runs every Tuesday from July 15 to Aug. 12. Music director Laurie Kennedy is highly regarded for designing programs that are stunning in variety and excitement.
Kennedy, who is the principal violist with the Portland Symphony, hires performers from orchestras all over this country. With the PSO approaching its 90th anniversary season, she is launching her 2014 festival with a group of her colleagues.
These include John Boden (horn), Alice Hallstrom (violin), Joseph Holt (double bass), Tom Parchman (clarinet) and Janet Polk (bassoon). Also performing on July 15 will be cellist Elizabeth Anderson, formerly with the New York City Opera, and pianist Stephen Manes, who will be returning for his 42nd season (a festival record).
She is also launching a series. Over the course of the next three years, the festival will perform all nine of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano trios. Kennedy is starting with an early example, Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, which features dramatic first and last movements and gives a clear foreshadowing of Beethoven’s genius.
The concert will continue with a very unusual combination of instruments in Carl Reinecke’s trio for horn, clarinet and piano. Wrapping up the evening will be another early work by Beethoven, his Septet for Strings and Winds.
All concerts take place at 7:30 p.m. in Deertrees Theatre, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Phone is 583-6467. For the complete five-week festival program, please visit sllmf.org.
Backstage dramas and shows centered on theatrical themes are so numerous that they almost comprise a sub-genre of the Broadway canon. One of the best ever written is “A Chorus Line,” the 1975 smash hit that played on Broadway for 16 years, setting a record for longest run.
This box-office blockbuster and nine-time Tony Award-winner gives voice to the hopes, dreams and frustrations of Broadway’s (mostly anonymous) dancers. Last week Arundel Barn Playhouse opened a fine professional production. Per its longstanding practice, the playhouse recruits its casts from students and recent graduates of college theater programs.
Like many shows from the 1970s, “A Chorus Line” has been labeled a “concept musical,” an alternative form of theatrical architecture in which the traditional romantic story arc is replaced by a clever dramatic conceit or special situation. The action in “A Chorus Line” takes place in a New York studio; over the course of a few hours, about 20 hopeful hoofers audition for the director of an upcoming Broadway show.
As they strut their stuff for the director, they relate their stories, and a thematic progression is woven from the fabric of their past experiences and future dreams. This novel concept was developed by Michael Bennett, the show’s original choreographer and director. The script was written by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, while Marvin Hamlisch composed the music and Edward Kleban penned the lyrics.
“A Chorus Line” packs an emotional punch, which mostly derives from an array of tensions created by broken homes, traumatic happenings in school and awkward experiences with first jobs and first loves.
There’s no traditional romantic pairing in this show, but sexual sparks fly – mostly in retrospect – between director Zach, played by Will Bonney, and ex-girlfriend Cassie, played by Lexi Duffy. The latter gets my vote for tops among the cast. Duffy boasts the traditional “triple threat” of the musical stage: acting, singing and dancing.
The big comic number of this show is listed in the program as “Dance Ten, Looks Three,” and Kate Turner gives an inspired performance. Two of the show’s most moving numbers are ably showcased by Aili Venho. She gets the top song – “What I Did For Love” – and demonstrates her considerable promise as an up-and-coming actress.
It’s not surprising that all of this comes together so pleasingly on Arundel’s stage: Director/choreographer Taavon Gamble has been involved in six prior productions of “A Chorus Line” in many roles, from dancer to director.
Arundel Barn Playhouse, 53 Old Post Road (just off U.S. Route 1) presents “A Chorus Line” at 8 p.m. through July 12. Call 985-5552 or visit arundelbarnplayhouse.com.
Portland may be 1,200-plus miles from Nashville, Tennessee, but the artistic distance is zero, according to a new country music duo that’s making some waves both here in Maine and elsewhere. North of Nashville is Jay Basiner and Andrew Martelle, and they released their self-titled debut CD a couple of months ago and now they’re touring in support.
Basiner is the leader. He is the principal songwriter, sings lead – with a very southern twang – and plays guitar. Martelle alternates between mandolin and fiddle. They describe their music as “fiddle-driven heartland honky-tonk” and “outlaw country.” I’ve got their 10-cut CD spinning as I write this, and I’m very enthusiastic about these two.
“The Lady and the Outlaw” sets the tone, while “Hooked on Me” and “One Night of Pretending” are two other excellent, well-crafted songs that are equally well delivered.
Basiner and Martelle live in Maine, and this summer they’ve got a heavy schedule of appearances on home turf, beginning this Saturday at a free 5:30 p.m. concert at Maine State Pier, part of Shipyard Brewing Co.’s 20th anniversary celebration. For other times and venues this summer, please check out www.northofnashville.org.
Alice Hallstrom, associate concertmaster of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, will be featured July 15 when the 42nd season of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival opens.