The summer solstice may be a couple of weeks away, but Maine’s 2015 season of straw-hat theater is already flowering. The 2015 season will include a number of traditional Broadway favorites plus a slew of recent shows.
In Brunswick, Maine State Music Theatre just opened a wonderfully funny and poignant production of “The Full Monty,” a musical adaptation of the movie of the same name. It will run through June 20. Plus the theater’s intern company will offer a one-performances production of “Fame: The Musical.”
Ogunquit Playhouse opened its season with an hilarious production of “Sister Act,” Broadway’s hottest new release for the summer of 2015. It will run through June 20.
Feeling that they’ve been shed by society, six unemployed steelworkers try to make some money by shedding their clothes.
That’s the central gimmick that underlies “The Full Monty,” a 2000 Broadway hit that was based on the 1997 British movie of the same name.
Maine State Music Theatre opened its season with a superb production of this fascinating show.
The idea is ingenious. Six Buffalo steelworkers, who have been unemployed since their factory was shuttered two years earlier, despair of making a living. Plus the toll on their personal lives and relationships has been devastating. One of them, played by Peter Matthew Smith, concocts an outrageous scheme to make a fast buck: create a male strip show, similar to the Chippendales.
But unlike the Chips, who wrap up their show clad in skimpy thongs, this improbable amateur ensemble plans to unwrap all the way: go the full monty.
That’s what drives the laughs. But the script (by Terrence McNally) and score (by David Yazbek) transform “The Full Monty” into an engaging drama as these six desperate men confront their fears, battle their inner demons, discover their inner strengths and forge new relationships.
There are too many outstanding performances to name all who deserve it. Tops among the supporting cast are Jayson Elliott as an obese man whose struggles with his girth reflect his emotional conflicts, Kingsley Leggs as “the big black man” and Charis Leos as an emotionally abandoned wife.
My pick for the top supporting actor goes to Sandy Rosenberg. Her portray of a sassy, sarcastic aging pianist provides the show’s comic high point.
Kudos also to the creative team: stage direction and choreography by Donna Drake, music direction by Aaron McAllister, lighting by Annemarie Duggan and set by Robert Klingelhoefer.
Maine State Music Theatre presents “The Full Monty” through June 20 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit msmt.org.
Maine State Music Theatre is a thoroughly professional company, and one of its missions is to provide a venue and training opportunities for aspiring young people interested in entering the profession. That’s one principal purpose of MSMT’s long-running intern program, which showcases the talents of its performing members on selected Mondays during the season.
The first offering is June 15, when the company will produce “Fame: The Musical,” a stage adaptation of the 1980 movie about students of the famous New York High School of the Performing Arts. “Fame: The Musical” debuted in 1988 and has become one of the most frequently produced shows in the world.
“Fame” follows the final class of the high school, from audition and admission in 1980 to graduation four years later. All the struggles, fears and triumphs are depicted with razor-sharp focus as the hopeful young artists navigate the worlds of music, drama and dance.
The cast of 15 includes seven Maine actors, led by Falmouth’s Alex Cohen in the starring role. At the helm is Curt Dale Clark, who is now in his second full season as the artistic director of the venerable Brunswick company.
“This production is so full of heart and reckless abandon that I feel sorry for anyone who misses it,” enthused Clark. “The kids pour their heart and soul into each and every moment.”
Maine State Music Theatre presents “Fame: The Musical” for one performance only: June 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit msmt.org.
Ludicrous incongruity is the lifeblood of comedy. And it’s the time-tested formula that powers “Sister Act,” a hilarious and melodic musical comedy that opens the 2015 season at Ogunquit Playhouse.
Here’s the basic set-up: Deloris Van Cartier is a brazenly worldly disco diva who is romantically tied to a gangster. After witnessing a murder, Deloris enters a witness protection program that forces her to live in a convent – the last place anyone would think to seek her.
It’s an obvious fish-out-of-water situation, and the book (Cheri Steinkellner, Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane) milks it for a gazillion 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.”
There are twists and turns plus many complications. One concerns the church’s dwindling flock and failing finances. Another deals with Deloris’ ridding herself of her gangster lover and finding the right man to marry. Plus there’s the fate of the murderer, which dictates when Deloris can ditch her disguise and emerge from the convent.
“Sister Act” is a musical comedy, so it’s perfectly predictable that happiness prevails at the denouement, but how it happens is intriguing. Transformations in attitudes are required, and the myriad characters learn to accept each other in new roles as they move forward.
“Sister Act” is a wonderful show. My companion and I laughed throughout the performance. Ogunquit executive director Brad Kenney and stage director Stephen Beckler have assembled a topnotch team, which is led by Rashidra Scott in the pivotal role of Deloris. Scott has played this part both on Broadway and the recent national tour.
Scott is convincing in both her competing facets: the brash and vulgar nightclub singer of the first act and the much gentler and wiser woman at the final curtain. Her transformation is the central drama of “Sister Act,” and it lifts this show beyond the normal sphere of musical comedy. She also sings and dances beautifully.
Ogunquit Playhouse, a mile south of the village on Route 1, presents “Sister Act” through June 20. Call 646-5511 or visit ogunquitplayhouse.org.
“The Full Monty” is a Broadway musical that follows a group of six unemployed factory workers as they struggle to earn money and regain self-confidence. Pictured above are three of the six, played by Peter Matthew Smith, Chuck Ragsdale and Jayson Elliott.