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Angels and demons, music and mayhem

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A preview of Penobscot Theatre Company's 2014-2015 season

BANGOR The Penobscot Theatre Company is gearing up for its 41st season. Bangor's only professional theater company has six shows slated to bring the Bangor Opera House stage to life in 2014-2015.

It's a wonderfully wide array of offerings, with a little something for everyone on the docket. There are musicals featuring country classics and ice fishermen. There's a black comedy and an absurdist romp. There's a beloved classic for the holiday season and a modern masterpiece to close things out. All in all, it's an outstanding bill of fare that should feature at least one show that suits every taste.

(Note: PTC's annual 'Scenes and Songs,' a condensed preview of the upcoming season, takes place on Thursday, Aug. 21. Tickets are free and can be obtained by contacting the box office at 942-3333.)

Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport was kind enough to take some time out of the preparatory hustle and bustle to discuss PTC's exciting upcoming season.

The Honky Tonk Angels' (Sept. 4-21)

Leading off the season will be Ted Swindley's 'The Honky Tonk Angels.' This show Swindley's follow-up to 'AlwaysPatsy Cline' (which played to sold-out PTC houses in 2012) tells the story of three good old gals who make their way to Nashville in hopes of making it big. It's a foot-stomping good time packed with country classics. Laura Hodos, who played Patsy Cline here in 2012, will be returning.

'Michelle Colvin will be directing this one,' said Newport. 'She's done shows for the Grand Ole Opry and Dollywood massive spectacle-type shows. She's an obvious choice for Honky Tonk Angels.'

'Laura Hodos is one of the best musical theater performers that I know,' Newport continued. 'She'll be great in this.'

In addition, Hodos will be performing a cabaret-style show for the community on Sept. 14; it's called 'Julie & Mary & Ethel & Babs' and features the music of Julie (Andrews), Mary (Martin), Ethel (Merman) and Babs (Streisand).

'It's always great to have Laura,' said Newport. 'She brings such positive, joyful feelings to the experience whenever she's here.'

The Mystery of Irma Vep' (Oct. 16 Nov. 2)

Next up will be 'The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful' by Charles Ludlam. It's a two-man tour de force starring Mark Chambers seen in PTC's last two-man outing 'The Woman in Black' - and Dominick Varney, each playing a number of different parts. 'Irma Vep' is a madcap satire aimed at skewering all manner of theatrical and literary targets, from Victorian melodrama to farce to 'Wuthering Heights' to Hitchcock. Expect high energy, lots of laughs and, well vampires from this one.

'This one is kind of whackadoodledoo,' Newport said with a laugh. 'Mark Morrow is coming in to direct; he specializes in the ridiculous, which is exactly what Irma Vep' is. It's a send-up of Victorian melodrama and stories like Frankenstein.'

'It was one of the most-produced plays in the country back in the late-1980s,' Newport continued. 'It's got werewolves, wooden legs, crying paintings, a thousand costume changes it's just an amazing theatrical feat.'

The Wizard of Oz' (Dec. 4-28)

This season's holiday show will be the musical version of the beloved classic 'The Wizard of Oz.' It's the story that we all grew up with, brought to life by some of the finest talent the area has to offer. With memorable musical numbers and characters that reside in our cherished childhood memories, this show will take audiences by the hand and lead them down the Yellow Brick Road. It's family fun for theatergoers of all ages.

'We're doing the production from a child's perspective, but [the actress playing] Dorothy will be the only child in the show,' said Newport.

'We've put together a great ensemble. Pamela Chabora an actress based in Portland will be playing the Wicked Witch, and she is outstanding.'

In addition, there exists the possibility of a 'Wizard of Oz' movie sing-along, though nothing is yet set in stone. Newport also noted that dog auditions for the role of Toto will be held on Sept. 13; take note, all four-legged future stars.

Guys on Ice, An Ice Fishing Musical Comedy' (Jan. 29 Feb. 15)

Leading off in 2015 will be the Maine premiere of 'Guys on Ice, An Ice Fishing Musical Comedy.' The show which features book and lyrics by Fred Alley and music by James Kaplan has already proven to be extremely popular at venues across the country, but this is Maine's first chance to spend the day with Marvin and Lloyd as they take to the ice, expressing their appreciation for good friends, good beer and the hope inherent to a day in the life of an ice fisherman.

'This is the Maine premiere of this show,' Newport said. 'It started in Wisconsin and has been done all over the country Massachusetts, New York, California but it's the first time it has made its way to Maine.'

Long-time company fixture Dominick Varney is making his PTC directorial debut by taking the helm of this one. Musical direction will be handled by Larrance Fingerhut of ImprovAcadia fame.

'It's just two guys philosophizing about life and the one that got away,' said Newport. 'It's a three-person musical; funny, cute just perfect for February.'

End Days' (March 12-29)

Next comes 'End Days' by Deborah Zoe Laufer. It's a quirky, thoughtful comedy featuring a young girl struggling with parents who have withdrawn into their own worlds and a neighbor boy who loves her almost as much as he loves Elvis. It's a play that explores the spaces between science and faith, so obviously, Stephen Hawking is in it. Jesus, too. Suffice it to say, audiences should expect the unexpected with this one.

'Deborah Zoe Laufer is one of the most exciting playwrights out there right now,' said Newport. 'her mind is imaginative and fun and her work is always very poignant. It's a fresh and interesting black comedy very funny.

'The show has been on my radar for a long time, but I wasn't sure about doing it here,' she continued. 'But the Maine Science Festival asked us if we would participate and do a science-based play and End Days' was a perfect fit.'

August: Osage County' (April 30 May 17)

And closing out the 2014-2015 season running from April 30 to May 17 - is Tracy Letts's 'August: Osage County,' the 2008 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It's a compelling (and darkly comic) family drama, filled with bittersweetness and dysfunction and joy and pain. It's a glimpse beneath the surface of one family's struggle to deal with each member's respective demons. This beautifully written ensemble piece will serve as a fitting end to a stellar season.

'We have a responsibility to do shows like this one as the professional theater in the region,' Newport said. 'We should strive to challenge audiences and actors alike, and this piece does that.'

As part of the production, local musician Jacob Augustine who created the soundscape for last season's production of 'Our Town' will be back. He's creating an original score for the show, though he won't be playing live in Osage County like he did in Grover's Corners.

'It's a great character piece,' said Newport. 'And it's all about family situations. Yes, parts of it might be uncomfortable, but the show is also very funny.'

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And that doesn't even take into account the forthcoming offerings from the theater's Dramatic Academy (they'll be doing 'Frankenstein,' 'Holes' and 'James and the Giant Peach' over the course of the season) or the assortment of other educational classes and programs that will take place in the coming months.

So yes, Penobscot Theatre Company might be over 40, but if this season is any indication, they're far from over the hill. Clearly, this group isn't planning on slowing down anytime soon.

(For more information about all things Penobscot Theatre, visit their website at penobscottheatre.org or give the box office a call at 942-3333.)

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 22:39

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