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STOWE, Vt. In the weeks since NBC aired a revival of 'The Sound of Music,' the real von Trapp and the vacation lodge it runs in Vermont are in high demand.

And yes, the family was watching as Carrie Underwood, in a widely watched and panned performance, took over the role of Maria von Trapp, made famous on Broadway by Mary Martin and on film by Julie Andrews.

Published in Adventure
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 13:44

Growing pains Spring Awakening'

UMaine production combines old story, new music

ORONO We live in a world that has become oversensualized in a lot of ways. When it comes to teenagers especially, it can sometimes seem like adolescence has become a race to the finish line of sexuality. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy they grow up so fast these days.

Of course, while it can be argued that kids today learn too much too soon, it can also be very easy to forget that not so long ago, young people were kept in the dark about basic emotional interactions and their very natural (and very human) sexuality. Too much knowledge might merit our concern, but so too does too little.

The musical 'Spring Awakening,' based on a century-old German play of the same name, offers an exploration of a time when the physical and emotional sensations of the youth were misunderstood unknowns. The University of Maine School of Performing Arts is presenting their own production of the musical, which features book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik. The show runs through Feb. 24 at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus.

The action takes place in Germany in the late 1800s. Wendla (Hope Milne) is a young girl who is just starting to realize that there is so much about the world that she simply doesn't know. Her parents, rather than deal with her as an adult, instead insist on treating her like the child she no longer is.

Meanwhile, Melchior (Austin Erickson) is a young man whose intelligence and inquisitiveness make him a bit of a handful in the strict authoritarian schools. His classmate Moritz (Garrett Rollins) doesn't have Melchior's natural gifts, and so finds himself struggling both with the high academic expectations and the stern and harsh strictures of the system.

We watch as these teenagers along with their friends slowly begin to discover the realities of who they are. This self-exploration wends its way through a number of basic truths of growing up. However, these kids have not been equipped to deal with the realities of the world. Things like puberty and sexuality (hetero and homo alike), pregnancy and abuse (physical and sexual) are thrust into their lives, and they haven't the slightest idea of how to deal with them.

'Spring Awakening' ostensibly centers on Melchior and Wendla; Erickson and Milne ease us through a developing relationship that dances from sweet to unsettling to sad. Their interactions are the foundation on which the rest of the show is constructed. Strong voices blend with childlike innocence to create a jarring juxtaposition. Theirs is an engaging love, despite being doomed from the start.

Rollins offers a nicely awkward counterpoint to the more self-assured Melchior. His journey might be the most well-defined of them all; we are forced into empathy as he bears us along on his sad descent. The barefoot Bohemian Ilse, played with brash fearlessness by Blaise Collette, stands out as well. And Nellie Kelly as Martha, alongside Collette and the rest of the cast, belts out perhaps the most aggressively moving song of the entire show, the chillingly powerful 'The Dark I Know Well.'

Of course, at its core, this show is about the ensemble. The world of this play is an off-kilter one a 19th century story wedded to 21st century songs. Real investment from every player on the stage is needed for there to be any hope of verisimilitude. The young girls, the schoolboys, even the adults ranging from cruel to clueless all add their own unique facets to the tale being told.

Director Tom Mikotowicz deserves credit for assembling a quality cast and tasking them with such a challenging piece of work. The world of adolescent sexuality is a minefield from which many of these players aren't so far removed Mikotowicz strikes a balance between the subtle and the overt. Music director Craig Ouellette has assembled a first-rate octet of an orchestra, providing not only the tunes behind the songs, but the backbeat of the production itself.

Scenic designer Dan Bilodeau has created a set that manages to be minimal while still feeling epic a feat no doubt aided by Shon Causer's high-octane lighting design. The two designs elevate each other, combining into something much greater than either individual aspect.

'Spring Awakening' is the best kind of academic theater both challenging and entertaining; credit to the School of Performing Arts for mounting a show that can offer lessons to performers and audience members alike.

('Spring Awakening' is playing at UMaine's Hauck Auditorium through Feb. 24. For tickets or more information, visit the School of Performing Arts website at umaine.edu/spa.)

Published in Happenings
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:07

Dreaming the dream Les Miserables'

Musical adaptation doesn't quite connect

Adapting a beloved work into a new medium is always a tricky prospect. Maybe it's a great work of literature, maybe it's a comic book, maybe it's a stage play regardless, if a cinematic adaptation is being made, chances are that there is a fairly devoted fan base out there a fan base that will let you know on no uncertain terms if you screw up their baby.

Published in Movies
Thursday, 13 December 2012 12:20

Bet your bottom dollar on Annie'

PTC presents modern musical favorite

BANGOR One of the most wonderful artistic traditions here in Bangor is the annual holiday production at Penobscot Theatre. It has become a vital part of this celebratory time for many area families.

For a long time, we got various and sundry adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic 'A Christmas Carol' the occasional 'Gift of the Magi' notwithstanding. In recent years, however, the offerings have diversified. We've gotten to spend time with Crumpet the Elf in David Sedaris's 'Santaland Diaries.' We've gotten the musical stylings of 'Plaid Tidings,' and we've watched Ralphie pine for a Red Ryder BB gun in 'A Christmas Story.'

Published in Happenings
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 11:47

The sun will come out

PTC bringing Annie' to life in Bangor

BANGOR - This holiday season, Penobscot Theatre Company is undertaking one of its most ambitious projects to date.

The musical classic 'Annie' will be gracing the stage at the Bangor Opera House this December, with performances running from Dec. 5 through 29.

'Annie' is based on the long-running comic strip 'Little Orphan Annie' by Harold Gray. The strip ran for over 85 years, inspiring film adaptations and a radio show (a show that made an appearance of its own in last year's PTC holiday production of 'A Christmas Story'). However, it is the 1977 stage musical not to mention the 1982 film version of that musical that is the 'Annie' that holds the most meaning for us.

Published in Cover Story
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 15:27

The George Stevens Academy goes Into the Woods'

ELLSWORTH - The Grand announced the return of George Stevens Academy's theatrical department presenting Steven Sondheim's classic musical 'Into the Woods,' directed by Moira McMahon on Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2 and 7 p.m.

Published in Happenings

NEW YORK - 'The Book of Mormon' arrived on Broadway like a bawdy toddler, cursing and making poo jokes, but winning hearts anyway. Now it's ready for a road trip.

The nine-time Tony Award-winning musical opens its first national tour in Denver this month after its creators have gently prepared the little sister version to stagger off without them.

'Doing a musical is like having a kid,' says Trey Parker during a break in rehearsals in New York. 'It's out there alive somewhere. It's not like a movie or a TV show where what we intended is what everyone will see. The kid can act out. The kid's going to do what it wants to do.'

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 16:06

Johnny Baseball' takes the mound

New musical offers new look at old curse

ORONO It's Game Four of the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox are on the verge of being swept by the New York Yankees. A group of fans in the bleachers is living and dying with every pitch, sitting in fear of the fabled Curse of the Bambino.

Only it turns out it might be a curse of a different sort.

So begins 'Johnny Baseball,' the new musical being presented by the University of Maine's Summer Music Theatre Festival. Directed by Tom Mikotowicz, the show - with book by Richard Dresser, music by Robert Reale and lyrics by Willie Reale will run through Aug. 12 at Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus.

Published in Happenings
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 12:04

Johnny Baseball' steps to the plate in Orono

New musical offers different take on The Curse of the Bambino'

ORONO It's always a welcome surprise when two of your (seemingly) disparate interests come together in an unexpected way.

The University of Maine at Orono's Summer Music Theatre Festival is currently in the process of building one of those improbable marriages with their upcoming production of 'Johnny Baseball,' a musical created around the history of the Boston Red Sox.

That's right a musical about the Red Sox.

Published in Cover Story
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