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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

PTC production offers weird, wild trip to the Florida swamps

BANGOR We are not alone in the universe at least, not according to some eccentrics living in the swamps of Florida.

That's part of the story behind 'The Sugar Bean Sisters,' a play by Nathan Sanders. Penobscot Theatre Company is presenting their production of the show a Maine premiere through Feb. 17 at the Bangor Opera House.

It's the tale of the Nettles sisters, two spinsters living out their days in their deceased father's shack in the town of Sugar Bean, Florida. There's Willie May (Irene Dennis), a born-again Mormon who supports their little family by way of her 'grapefruit fortune,' a settlement for an injury she received while working at a citrus plant. And then there's Faye Clementine (A.J. Mooney), a woman whose main claim to fame is an appearance on the cover of 'The Weekly World News' after a UFO sighting 20 years ago.

Published in Happenings

Ever wonder what it would like to hear all seven Harry Potter books told in 70 minutes? This is your chance. The on-stage performance that has played to many sold-out houses across the world, 'Potted Potter,' is coming to the Gracie Theatre in Bangor.

Created and performed by actors Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner, 'Potted Potter' is an attempt to tell all seven Harry Potter books to the audience in a matter of just over an hour. In this unique performance, Turner plays Harry Potter, while Clarkson takes up the task of playing all 360 other characters from the series.

Published in Happenings
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
Thursday, 13 December 2012 11:58

The Easter Parade' world premiere

On Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m., the doors at Husson University's Gracie Theater opened for the world premiere of Laura Emack's "The Easter Parade," performed and produced by the Husson University Theater (HUT).

Michael Churchill, New England School of Communications student, directed this play and has been part of HUT since 2009. His favorite part of this play was being able to "watch people who are normally pretty reserved just go wild and do some really funny things."

Published in Happenings
Thursday, 13 December 2012 11:29

Breathing new life into a classic Miss Julie'

Midcoast Actor's Studio to tour Strindberg production

BELFAST/TENANTS HARBOR Classic works of theatre sometimes get a bad rap. Too many people immediately dismiss older works as inaccessible, despite the fact that so many of them are built around themes whose universality hasn't diminished in the years since they were first written and produced.

Take August Strindberg's 'Miss Julie,' for example. The play, written in 1888, was the subject of scandal in its day due to its frank depictions of sexuality and unflinching portrayal of class dichotomy subjects that still inspire discussion and debate to this very day.

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, 28 November 2012 21:52

A visit to Grover's Corners

Orono Community Theatre presents 'Our Town'

ORONO Here in Maine, we tend to have an inherent understanding of small-town life the pros and the cons alike. So it makes sense that a play like Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town' would resonate with area audiences.

Orono Community Theatre is giving us a chance to experience that resonance firsthand with their production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The show runs from November 29 to December 2 at the Keith Anderson Community Center in Orono. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.

Published in Buzz
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
Thursday, 01 November 2012 10:47

Down the Rabbit Hole'

Play explores the aftermath of tragedy

EDDINGTON Ten Bucks Theatre Company is bringing a heartbreaking tale of love and loss to the stage.

The company is presenting its production of 'Rabbit Hole,' the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, at Eddington's Comins Hall from November 1 through November 11.

Published in Happenings
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