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BANGOR – A beloved recent theatrical tradition is returning to the area after a hiatus of a couple of years.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s next production will be the musical “9 to 5,” bringing back the theatre’s summer spectacular for the first time since 2019. This show – based on the 1980 movie of the same name – features music and lyrics by Dolly Parton with a book by Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay. Directed by Ethan Paulini, the production’s preview performances are set for June 23 and 24, with the official opening night set for June 25. From there, the show will run through July 31.

“9 to 5” was meant to fill this slot during the 2020 season, but the show was postponed due to COVID. Now – after the summer slot went unfilled in 2021 as well – the big, flashy extravaganza is back!

Past shows to fill this slot – billed for years as the “surprise” show – include musicals like “Rock of Ages,” “The Full Monty” and “Mamma Mia!” The one non-musical exception was the beloved comedy “Shear Madness.” Regardless, the show was always intended to serve as a big, bold close to the season, a chance for area audiences to enjoy some summer fun.

There’s no need to delve too deeply into the plot particulars, but here’s a brief synopsis courtesy of the PTC website:

This hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the rolodex era is outrageous, thought-provoking, and even a little romantic! When three female co-workers are pushed to the boiling point, they each concoct hilarious plans to get even with the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot they call their boss. Hey, a girl can scheme, can’t she?

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Seeing a show of this scale grace the Bangor Opera House stage once again is truly welcome. However, that scale means that there are a LOT of people working VERY hard to bring the production to life. Whether we’re talking about the performers or the production team, making something this big work involves a ton of collaborative effort.

As such, I thought it might be nice to offer readers a bit of perspective on the show through some conversations with a few of the principals. Director Ethan Paulini and actors Christie Robinson and Heather Astbury-Libby – two of the three women in the central trio – were kind enough to share some of their thoughts about the show, their process and what it’s like to be bringing summer excitement back to the Opera House stage.

Published in Cover Story

BANGOR – Get ready to drag yourself to the Bangor Arts Exchange for a one-person show unlike anything you’ve seen before.

“Livin’ For Drag: The Making of a Queen” is an original musical featuring Bangor’s own Priscilla Poppycocks and directed by Brad LaBree. With book and lyrics by Dominick Varney and music by Varney, Phil Burns and Harry Burns, the show will take place at the Bangor Arts Exchange on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5. Tickets are available at www.bangorartsexchange.com.

The show explores the journey of one Priscilla Poppycocks and her growth into the fabulous queen that she is today, an autobiographical journey loaded with laughter, tears and plenty of sass. Oh, and more than a few cocktails too.

To help prepare the Queen City for this particular queen, I reached out to speak to Miss Poppycocks (and Mr. Varney too, I guess) about this project. Both were gracious enough to respond to my questions via e-mail – I was unable to meet them in person, for fear of being overwhelmed by sheer fabulousness.

Published in Buzz
Monday, 13 September 2021 15:03

Welcome to the Rock – ‘Come From Away’

I’ve never been one to enjoy filmed versions of stage shows. Now, I’m not saying adaptations – those can be lovely. I’m talking pointing cameras at a stage where a show is going on. Most of the time, you lose the immediacy and energy that makes live performance great and you also lose the production values and delicacy that film provides. It’s literally a lose-lose.

And then you see things that remind you that every rule has its exceptions.

“Come From Away,” currently streaming on Apple TV+, is one of those exceptions. The musical, with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and which first hit Broadway five years ago, tells the story of a small town in Newfoundland that found itself playing host to thousands of unexpected visitors following the shutdown of U.S. airspace after the tragic events of September 11. It’s a tale of kindness and generosity, a story of love and loss and the myriad connections that can come from the unforeseen.

Now, this is very much a filmed play and not a movie. That said, it’s remarkable how well this show works in this context. There’s quality production work happening here, camera work and editing and the like coming together to find that very narrow sweet spot. “Come From Away” doesn’t suffer those losses of energy or delicacy; rather than be diminished by the overlapping of media, it is enhanced.

Of course, it helps that the ensemble is tight and talented and the songs absolutely slap.

Published in Style
Sunday, 05 July 2020 16:23

‘Hamilton’ gets the job done

If you were even remotely connected to the theatre world five years ago, you were aware of the phenomenon that was “Hamilton.” Adoring fans were shouting the praises of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop Founding Fathers opus from the rooftops. The soundtrack was everywhere. Tickets were impossible to come by.

Now, a half-decade later, the masses who to this point were unable to see the show have finally gotten their chance.

A filmed version of the show, as directed by Thomas Kail and recorded back in 2016, was supposed to get a theatrical release this year. Instead, it made the move to streaming, landing on Disney+. And if social media buzz is any indication, a LOT of people watched it. That’s no surprise.

What is a surprise is how great it is.

Now, that’s not meant as a slight to the show itself. The plaudits and accolades speak volumes regarding the quality of the experience. No, what I’m talking about is the fact that filmed plays almost always fail to fully resonate. Best case, you get a dull, flat rendering of an experience meant to be energetic and visceral. Worst case, you get something effectively unwatchable.

Yet this film somehow blows away that best case. I can say with confidence that this version of “Hamilton” is far and away the best filmed representation of a stage play that I have ever seen. Granted, there’s a fair amount of production value here, but the fundamental staginess of the show remains intact. You never once forget you’re watching a play, and yet … it clicks on the small screen to a remarkable degree.

It’s utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 10 December 2019 12:05

‘Matilda: The Musical’ a magical good time

BANGOR – The power and importance of storytelling is springing to life at the Bangor Opera House this holiday season, courtesy of one very special little girl.

Penobscot Theatre Company has opened their production of “Matilda: The Musical,” based on the classic children’s story of the same name by Roald Dahl, with book by Dennis Kelly and music & lyrics by Tim Minchin. The PTC production – directed and choreographed by Jeff Payton and Matthew Shaffer with music direction by Phil Burns – runs through December 29.

It’s a huge undertaking for PTC, with a massive, kid-heavy cast and a significant logistical load on the production side. It’s the sort of show where the spectacle of the thing is an integral aspect of the proceedings; the bigness of it all is baked in. And thanks to some great performances and bold aesthetic choices, this huge undertaking is a successful one.

Published in Buzz

ORONO – Thanks to one Orono theatre company, the dead are rising … and singing … and dancing.

Some Theatre Company’s production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” – with book and lyrics by George Reinblatt and music by Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond and Melissa Morris – is running at the Keith Anderson House in Orono through Nov. 9; the show is directed by Elaine Bard, with musical direction by Jason Wilkes.

It’s based on the Sam Raimi movie series of the same name, a beloved cult favorite that starred Bruce Campbell as an out-of-his-depth guy who winds up thrust into an apocalyptic fight between good and evil that he is not even remotely prepared for. It is gory and visceral while also being winkingly self-aware and wildly funny. And as of 2003 – it’s a musical.

And in the capable hands of the folks at STC, it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 18 June 2019 19:19

Take a chance on PTC - ‘Mamma Mia!’

BANGOR – There’s a whole lot of fun in the sun happening at the Bangor Opera House these days, a wealth of dreams and dancing queens.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s latest production – the final one of their 46th season – is the musical “Mamma Mia!” It’s a jukebox musical built on the tremendous catalog of 1970s Swedish pop supergroup ABBA, with book by Catherine Johnson. This production – directed and choreographed by Amiee Turner, with music direction by Phil Burns – runs through July 14 at the Bangor Opera House.

It’s the story of a young woman on the verge of getting married who is hoping to get a better sense of who she herself is by learning more about her history – specifically, who her father is, something her free-spirited and hard-working mother never told her. It’s about how powerful love can be … and what it means to allow yourself to feel it, no matter how much time may have passed.

It’s a lovely (albeit a tough thin) story, but the real highlights are the singing and the dancing – and as far as those are concerned, PTC’s production is pure dynamite. It is one of the biggest, brightest shows to grace this stage in some time, shiny and sweet and downright spectacular.

Published in Style

BANGOR – This summer, Penobscot Theatre Company is asking you to take a chance on them.

PTC will be closing out its 45th season with a production of “Mamma Mia!” This jukebox musical is based on the music of Swedish pop royalty ABBA, bringing loads of the quartet’s beloved songs onto the stage. From June 13 through July 14, the Bangor Opera House will be transformed into an idyllic Greek paradise, hosting a wedding about to be upended by unanticipated parental confusion – as in, who’s the father?

Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport continues to find the fun in this summer slot, bringing what will undoubtedly be a breezy delight to area theatergoers.

In advance of this month-long theatrical treat, we reached out to Amiee Turner, the show’s director and choreographer, to speak to her about the experience. Turner has a rich and varied theatrical background, having started her career as a Broadway dancer, dancing in half-a-dozen Broadway shows. She transitioned into directing and choreographing from there. In the years since, she’s helmed over 50 productions and produced about 70.

Turner was kind enough to answer a few questions from The Maine Edge.

Published in Cover Story

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
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:47

Follow the yellow brick road to Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH - There's no place like the Grand. There's no place like the Grand. There's no place like the Grand.

The Grand is bringing the land of Oz to downtown Ellsworth with their production of the musical version of “The Wizard of Oz,” with book by Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Charles Strouse. The beloved classic will be running through April 14. For tickets and/or more information, you can visit The Grand’s website at www.grandonline.org or call (207) 667-9500.

There are a handful of classic tales that are almost universally beloved; “The Wizard of Oz” likely resides near the very top of that list. The film version of the story is iconic, but not everyone has had a chance to experience that magic live and in person. Thanks to the folks at the Grand, you can do just that.

And you’ll definitely have some fun if you do.

Published in Style
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