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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

December is here, and hence the holiday season is in full force. The snow has started falling, the lights have started shining and the shopping has started in earnest. Hopefully, you’re out there shopping local whenever you can – a thriving community depends on consumers buying from their neighbors.

But shopping local doesn’t end with retail. You should shop local when it comes to your Yuletide entertainment as well. And here’s the thing – you can do that, because there is an embarrassment of riches out there for locally-offered holiday performance.

Sure, you could sit at home and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time or run through your Christmas Spotify playlist. But where’s the fun in that?

Especially when you take into account that our region is absolutely jammed with possibilities. There are stage shows and concerts galore. There is comedy and drama and so much music. There are holiday classics and brand-new creations. All of it right here in your backyard.

Look, if you want to stay home and drink hot toddies in front of a roaring fireplace, that’s perfectly OK. No judgment – sounds like you’ve figured out what it is you want from the holiday season and life in general. But if you’re looking to be entertained, well … you’re in luck.

In recent years, it seems as though every December has had a wealth of options. But this year more than ever, it feels like there really is something for everyone out there.

Please note that this isn’t even close to everything out there. I’ve just chosen a handful of options that might pique your interest. Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground, because there is just so much out there, with so many people celebrating with their own joyful noises.

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:28

PTC’s ‘Gaslight’ lights up the stage

BANGOR – All is not as it seems on the stage of the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company is presenting “Gaslight,” the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton. This Victorian Era-set melodrama is directed by Bari Newport; the show runs through November 3. It’s a thrilling tale of deceit, a story where not even the evidence of one’s own eyes can be trusted.

This play – and the subsequent film adaptations – led to the inception of the term “gaslight,” defined by Merriam-Wesbter as follows: “To attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation.”

In this story, a woman whose grip on the reality of the world around her is steadily crumbling must confront the fact that there’s far more to her descent into madness than she could ever have imagined. She’s left with no idea who to trust and forced to come to terms with the notion that there are those close to her who may have sinister motives.

PTC is offering up some full-on back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead melodrama, with all the shadowy sumptuousness and flamboyant flourishes that that entails. It is big and broad and overtly theatrical, easily overcoming a somewhat-dated script with rich production values and wonderfully toothsome performances.

Published in Buzz

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

BANGOR – Bangor’s professional theatre company is getting ready to kick off the 2019-2020 season.

Penobscot Theatre Company is launching into its 46th season in just a couple of weeks. The company has been a mainstay of the region’s cultural scene since its very beginnings back in 1973 – nearly half-a-century ago – growing right along with myriad other aspects of the city’s vibrant evolution.

For year 46, Artistic Director Bari Newport and her team have put together another interesting, engaging season – one aimed at connecting with all manner of audiences.

“We pride ourselves on doing a wide variety of work,” Newport said. “And next season is a perfect example. The wide demographic that we reach, both geographically and in terms of interest level. ‘I like comedies.’ ‘I like to bring my family.’ ‘I like new work.’ ‘I like musicals.’ ‘I like historical pieces.’ ‘I like dramas.’ We truly reach a wide variety of different types of people and I want our season to reflect that.”

It is a wide-ranging season, to be sure – from musicals and dramas to farces and one-woman shows, this program has got them all. If the mission is to try to come up with something for everyone, it seems clear that this is mission accomplished.

“We've been really focused on being distinctive,” said Newport. “And I think that we are. I think that our work is very much our own. I think it’s vibrant and optimistic and colorful – energetic. We try to really dig in to every aspect.” 

Let’s take a closer look at PTC’s 2019-2020.

Published in Cover Story
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

Once again, summer’s arrival is upon us. The weather is warming up and the days are approaching their greatest length. People near and far are going to descend on our state’s beaches, mountains and forests; people are going to swim and hike and boat and generally experience the outdoors in a fashion that one can only achieve in Maine.

But there are other summertime perks, too.

For those who love live theater, there are loads of options. Companies near and far are bringing exciting work to stages all over the region; no matter where you might be, there’s a good chance that you’ve got some excellent theater happening nearby.

Some of these companies are stalwarts of the scene, having been around for decades. Others are relative newcomers, bringing a new energy to the proceedings. Bangor, Belfast, Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Brooksville – they’ve all got something for you; Orono and Ellsworth and Stonington too.

It’s well worth your time to experience some of what our area’s summer stages have to offer. Here’s a look at just some of what’s to come.

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

BREWER – Earlier this month, area residents watched as the U.S. Coast Guard cutters Thunder Bay and Shackle worked their way up and down the Penobscot River, carving through the ice in an effort to open up the river following a long winter.

According to official spokespeople, the annual operation is executed to help prevent inland flooding; the ice is broken up and allowed to flow downstream. It winds up in the ocean rather than city parking lots and basements when the spring thaw arrives in earnest.

But is that REALLY why they’re doing it?

Published in Style
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