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Love and loss, music and murder - A PTC preview

August 31, 2016
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Left: PTC Artistic Director Bari Newport, who was appointed in December 2011, is now entering her 5th year at the helm of the area's professional theatre troupe. Right: A collection of PTC's posters for the upcoming season. Left: PTC Artistic Director Bari Newport, who was appointed in December 2011, is now entering her 5th year at the helm of the area's professional theatre troupe. Right: A collection of PTC's posters for the upcoming season. edge photo by Kevin Bennett/Image courtesy of PTC

Previewing Penobscot Theatre Company's 2016-2017 season

BANGOR One of Bangor's longest-tenured artistic organizations is preparing to kick off yet another season.

Penobscot Theatre Company is just days away from the kickoff of its 43rd season of producing live theater for audiences from greater Bangor and beyond.

Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport has assembled another first-rate slate of plays for the 2016-2017 season. Theatregoers can expect to see shows with casts big and small, shows filled with laughter and tears.

Looking for a madcap murder mystery? They've got that. How about a classic musical or two? There's that too. A movie adaptation featuring ladies of a certain age or a Maine novelist's adaptation of her own book? Yes and yes. Or maybe you're looking for a bunch of singing lumberjacks or an Italian food-driven one-woman show?

You can probably guess the answer.

Here's a look ahead at what's coming from PTC over the course of the 2016-2017 season:

Calendar Girls (Sept. 8 Sept. 25)

This play adapted for the stage by Tim Firth from his own screenplay for the 2003 film of the same name will serve as the kickoff to the new season.

When Annie's husband dies at an early age from leukemia, her women's group in England decides to try and raise money to fight cancer. However, their choice of tactic is an unexpected one they decide to publish a calendar. A calendar, it should be noted, that will feature the ladies themselvesbut not their clothes. It has a phenomenal cast, featuring a veritable 'who's who' of local talent.

Based on a true story, this production of 'Calendar Girls' is a Maine professional premiere.

'We've had the rights for Calendar Girls' for about two years,' said Newport. 'We've just been waiting for the right time to do it. We've had other things that have come up, so things kind of moved. We're excited to finally be doing it. It's a very moving script and it will be a very special production.'

Murder for Two (Oct. 20 Nov. 6)

Next up is a small cast/many roles production filled with murderous mayhem and plenty of music. 'Murder for Two' Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian wrote the book; Blair handled the lyrics, while Kinosian did the music.

This whodunit features a small-town policeman with dreams of making detective. When shots are fired at a surprise birthday party for a noted novelist, resulting in the writer's demise, it's up to the detective to work through the assorted suspects and solve the case before someone else shows up and steals away his chance at the big time. Oh, and by the way it's all done with just two actors. One actor plays the policeman, the other plays all the suspectsand they both play the piano.

This production marks the first time that this high-energy, hilarious show has been produced here in Maine.

'It's really complicated and quite a tour de force,' she said. 'It's two actors doing an entire murder mystery, almost Clue-style. They play the piano and accompany each other and themselves. It's pretty amazing. It just became available. It'll be the third or fourth regional production that has been done. It'll be very unique; I think it'll be really quite spectacular.'

Oliver! (Dec. 1 Dec. 24)

This year's holiday show is this classic musical, based on 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens. With book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, the show first hit the stage in London in 1960, but even now, over five decades later, it remains one of the most beloved in the history of the genre.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it follows the young orphan Oliver Twist as he makes his way through the streets of London, leaving behind the workhouses and getting taken under the respective wings of the elderly criminal Fagin and his protg the Artful Dodger.

With loads of fondly remembered songs and a massive cast including plenty of young actors 'Oliver!' promises to continue the tradition of fantastic holiday offerings from PTC.

'We've never done Oliver!' here,' Newport said. 'And we've already done a show about an orphaned little girl, so why not do one about an orphaned little boy? There are 20 in the cast and five in the pit; we have people who have never been on our stage before. I think this one is going to be really big family-friendly, Dickens and it's going to look great.

'We've kind of made a little artistic statement for ourselves with unpacking these classic texts and doing them with a little of our own flair. I intend for that to be the case with Oliver!' as well.'

Lumberjacks in Love (Feb. 2 Feb. 19)

Next up, to warm your hearts in the throes of winter, is this sweet and silly musical. It is the creation of Fred Alley and James Kaplan names you might remember as the guys who gave us last year's PTC hit 'Guys on Ice.'

Four lumberjacks are living it up in manly fashion in the Wisconsin woods. They live for the dinner bell and bathe once a month whether they need it or not. But everything gets thrown into disarray with the appearance in the camp of a headstrong mail-order bride. Singing and dancing ensues as the men try and deal with the disruption to their heretofore simple and easily understood lives.

'Lumberjacks in Love' is yet another manly man musical; the PTC production marks the Maine premiere.

'This has just as much heart as Guys on Ice' did,' said Newport. 'Super cute, men dancing in barrels, that sort of thing. And I'm very excited about a pair of designers sisters who happen to have a house in Lubec and are coming to do the set and costumes. I was surprised it had never been done in Maine before. It's light, charming perfect for February.'

Papermaker (March 16 April 2)

Monica Wood is best known as an award-winning novelist, but last year, her first play 'Papermaker' received its inaugural production at Portland Stage. Now, the show is coming to the Bangor Opera House for its second production.

It's the story of a months-long strike at a Maine paper mill in the late 1980s. The tale is told through a pair of viewpoints that of a mill executive seeking to maximize profits and that of a union-friendly family that has relied on the mill for employment for generations. As the two competing factions come face to face, the very fabric of the community begins to unravel.

Local audiences will be transported by this well-wrought, challenging, timely piece of theater from one of Maine's most talented writers.

'Monica Wood wrote about her childhood growing up in a mill town,' Newport said. 'It's obviously a timely, interesting, family-oriented story. [Monica] will be here at the beginning and during the second week of the run. A lot of people are really excited about this one.

'Frankly, second productions are sometimes harder for a playwright than world premieres in terms of getting shows done,' she continued. 'So many patrons and people in the community have asked about it, so we're glad to be doing it.'

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti (April 27 May 14)

This last offering of the regular season is an unconventional and altogether unique theatrical experience. Adapted by Jacques Lamarre from Giulia Melucci's memoir of the same name, this one-woman tour de force is a show unlike anything you've seen before.

Not only is this lone actress going to unspool tales from a lifetime of loves lost conversations spanning an entire romantic history but she's going to cook dinner while she does it. Like, actually cook dinner. The stage will feature a fully functional kitchen where a four-course Italian meal will be prepared in real time a meal, I might add, in which a lucky few audience members will be given the opportunity to partake.

Nothing like this show has ever graced the Opera House stage; in fact, this particular show has never graced any stage in the state of Maine. Sit and enjoy as a single talented performer loves, losesand makes spaghetti.

'This one actress will make an entire dinner from scratch while she tells this humorous, personal story,' Newport said. 'And compares her cooking to her romantic life. It's a one-woman tour de force; the only other character in it is the kitchen. It's pretty much the perfect date. And the theater is going to smell great. It's a love letter to being Italian.'

The Full Monty (June/July)

Once again, Penobscot Theatre Company is adding a seventh show to their season. The announcement was made on Aug. 25 at their annual 'Scenes and Songs' event that this season's extra show would be 'The Full Monty,' the musical adapted from the 1997 film of the same name.

With book by Terrence McNally and score by David Yazbek, this Americanized version of the story involves a group of down-on-their-luck steelworkers in Buffalo who, in a desperate attempt to make some money and enhance their prospects, decide to put on a strip show after seeing their wives go bonkers during a Chippendales review. Theirs will be different, though they will be going completely nude, or 'the full monty.'

The seventh show schedule has worked well for PTC over the past few years, giving audiences the opportunity to see a big, brassy, bombastic show as they enter into the summer months. 'The Full Monty' is no different.

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While these seven shows make up the lion's share of PTC's season programming, there are other wonderful events taking place over the course of the year.

At the beginning of October, a band called The Grand Tour featuring the music of George Jones will set feet to stomping at the Bangor Opera House. The band features Andrew Crowe, whose turns in 'Ring of Fire' and 'Rock of Ages' make him a familiar face to local audiences.

PTC also continues their tradition of presenting a New Year's Eve show. This time, we've got something a little naughty an honest-to-goodness burlesque show will be hitting the stage for two shows on the night of December 31.

And of course, there are the educational offerings one of the hallmarks of PTC. Their Dramatic Academy will be doing three shows over the course of the season. The fall will see 'The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales' and the winter session offers 'The Neverending Story (Atreyu and the Great Quest).' In the spring will be, well, 'Spring,' an adaptation of Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby novels.

All in all, it looks like it is going to be another fantastic season courtesy of Bari Newport and all the folks at PTC.

(For tickets or more information about PTC's upcoming season, visit their website at www.penobscottheatre.org.)

Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2016 19:32

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