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BANGOR – The music of an American icon is ringing forth from the stage of the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” – conceived and adapted by Peter Glazer from the songs and writings of Woody Guthrie – is directed by Chris “Red” Blissett and music directed by Jeremy Sevelovitz, both of whom also star. The show runs through Sept. 29.

It’s a celebration of the legendary life of Woody Guthrie, one that uses his vast catalog of songs and an assortment of other writings to tell a tale of early 20th century America. With six actors taking turns embodying Guthrie himself, sharing his stories of the common man and the hardscrabble lives being lived by the struggling population through times of war and depression. Heather Astbury-Libby, John Burstein, Gaylen Smith and Tova Volcheck join Blisset and Sevelovitz to bring this performance to life.

Published in Style

Few cinematic subgenres are as predictable as the musical biopic. We’ve grown accustomed to watching the lives of famous musicians broken down into beats that have been repeated so many times as to become rote – it’s a sort of rock-and-roll lifestyle shorthand. We know how these goes.

That said, that formulaicness hasn’t necessarily prevented these films from succeeding both critically and commercially. Heck, last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” made $900 million at the box office and netted Rami Malek a Best Actor Oscar for playing Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury.

After that kind of run, it’s no surprise that Hollywood would return to the well again, this time with “Rocketman” starring Taron Egerton as Elton John. What is surprising is this: “Rocketman” is a better movie than “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Egerton’s performance as Elton John is better than Malek’s as Freddie Mercury.

Seriously. The movie won’t do nearly the same box office numbers and Egerton won’t get a sniff of the awards-show attention that Malek received, but that doesn’t change the fact that both are better.

They’re better because “Rocketman” – directed by Dexter Fletcher (the same guy who cleaned up Bryan Singer’s mess on “Bohemian Rhapsody”) – leans into the inherent weirdness of rock stardom in a way we don’t often see, embracing the flamboyance of its subject through a liberal dusting of full-blown musical numbers and magical realism. When you’re telling the story of a provocatively stylish and over-the-top icon, you’ve got to do it in a provocatively stylish and over-the-top fashion.

(Oh, and it doesn’t hurt if in a movie about a singer, your lead performer, you know … sings.)

Published in Movies

BANGOR – A musical tale of coming of age and coming out, a story of family and fate, is showing at the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre is presenting “Fun Home,” a musical based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron. The show runs through May 12.

Directed by Tricia A. Hobbs with musical direction by David John Madore, it’s the story of Bechdel herself, looking at her personal journey of gender identity through the lens of her past while also coming to terms with some of her family’s secrets. This is a challenging and thought-provoking piece, asking questions about self and selfishness and what it means to sacrifice. It is about choices – both those we make and those that the universe makes for us. It is about love and connection and secrets. It is about sexuality and discovery.

And it is one of the most emotionally impactful productions to grace this stage in a very long time.

Published in Style

ORONO – If you seek the Holy Grail, you might well find it at the Collins Center for the Arts next week.

The national touring production of “Monty Python's Spamalot” lands at the CCA on the campus of the University of Maine on February 20.

With book and lyrics by Eric Idle and music by John Du Prez, “Spamalot” is largely inspired by the beloved 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Since its Broadway premiere in 2005, the show has been produced with great success all around the globe.

And now it’s coming to the Collins Center for the Arts.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 06 February 2019 13:53

‘Honky Tonk Laundry’ good clean fun

BANGOR – Songs and suds are spinning together into a foot-stomping good time at the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s latest production is “Honky Tonk Laundry,” a jukebox musical written by Roger Bean (author of “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and many others) and arranged by Jon Newton. The show – directed and choreographed by Dominick Varney with musical direction by Phil Burns – runs through February 24.

It’s the story of two women brought together by fate at a small-town laundromat, an unlikely pairing whose worlds become bound together through the power of dirty laundry – both figurative and literal. Through a collection of some of country music’s most beloved songs, the two work their way through their issues of love and loss as they seek ways to undo the regrets of the past.

Published in Buzz
Saturday, 22 December 2018 12:11

Nanny nostalgia – ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

On its surface, it would appear to be the most unnecessary sequel in a cinematic landscape already littered with unnecessary sequels. The mere idea seems to epitomize the monetization of nostalgia. Its title sounds more like a punchline than an actual movie.

Despite how we might feel about its existence, there’s no getting around it: beloved magical nanny Mary Poppins has returned in Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns.” And yet, even with the perceived strikes against it, the filmmakers have managed to make a decent film. Better than decent, in fact – this movie is actually pretty good.

Obviously, it doesn’t measure up to the original – no movie could, and it would be ridiculous to expect otherwise. There are stretches where it doesn’t quite click. However, for the most part, “Mary Poppins Returns” is a light and lovely story, a chance to spend a little more time with an iconic character. And it’s generally time well-spent.

Published in Movies

WINTERPORT – Theatergoers are being treated to some marvelous music in Winterport.

Winterport Open Stage has opened its 25th season with a production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On” at the Samuel Wagner Middle School in Winterport. The musical, written and created by Roger Bean, directed and choreographed by Dominick Varney and with musical direction from Jason Cross, runs through Nov. 4.

The show – the fourth in the wildly popular “Marvelous Wonderettes” series – follows the formula set forth by the previous incarnations, using the titular girl group as the foundation upon which a structure of popular songs is erected. Like the others, it’s a fun nostalgia trip – a chance to venture down Memory Lane and experience beloved songs of yesteryear.

Published in Style

I love me a movie musical. My deep and abiding affection for the joy and wonder of the genre is well-documented. So it should come as no surprise that I was interested in checking out “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” the sequel to 2008’s blockbuster hit “Mamma Mia.”

But here’s the thing – I had never SEEN “Mamma Mia.” This despite not just the aforementioned movie musical love, but an actorly crush on Meryl Streep AND a long-standing affinity for the music of ABBA! It makes zero sense that I would not have seen that film. And so, I rectified that fact before taking in the sequel.

You don’t need me to tell you about the first film, but I can tell you that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” stays largely true to the unabashedly dorky spirit of its predecessor, packed with impromptu musical numbers and hammy scenery chewing and the inarguably outstanding music of ABBA. It also makes the unusual choice of serving as both a sequel AND a prequel to the original, roughly splitting the story between the two timelines. It is campy, winking and just delightful.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 13:47

‘The Greatest Showman’ not that great

Musical has its moments, but mostly falls short

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 11:04

Putting it on to take it all off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An inside look at Penobscot Theatre’s “The Full Monty”

Published in Cover Story
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