As we like it

Raising the curtain on Maine's summer shows
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  June 18, 2014

theater_billyelliot_main 

HE COULD BE A STAR Massachusetts native Noah Parets will make his Ogunquit debut as Billy Elliott.

PortFringe (June24-29) is back with a fetching new look (thanks to a re-branding partnership with the Maine College of Art) and a big line-up, with over 50 shows on its schedule at six different venues around Portland:  Geno’s, SPACE, Mayo Street Arts, Empire, and both Portland Stage Company’s Studio Theater and Storefront. This year, the festival of new, original, and/or experimental theater also includes a Family Fringe program, on June 28 and 29, for theater-goers of all ages, and the general program has something for everybody, including radical cheerleaders, a hungry Frenchman, and serial killers; improv comedy, multi-media puppets, and experimental dance; the now-notorious entertainers Dave and Chrissy’s court-mandated musical community service; adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chaucer, and Italo Calvino; and the trial of William Burroughs' Naked Lunch (look for a Port-Fringe round-up and highlights in this column next week).

One of the highlights of summer in Portland is Fenix Theatre Company’s annual Shakespeare show in Deering Oaks Park. This year they’re back to comedy with As You Like It (July 17-August 9), under the direction of Peter Brown (who directed my favorite Fenix comedic show so far, A Midsummer Night’s Dream). And if you’re a particularly zealous enthusiast of Touchstone and Rosalind and the rest, you’re in luck: As You Like It also runs at the Theater at Monmouth (July 10-August 22; look for Deirdre Fulton’s Battle of the As You Like It’s review in July). It’s part of what Monmouth is billing as a “British Invasion” season program, which also includes Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance (July 17-23), Romeo and Juliet (July 24-August 24), and Joe Orton’s sex farce What the Butler Saw (July 31-August 23). And another Bard work, Much Ado About Nothing, goes up soon at Lyric Music Theater (June 20-29).

If musicals turn you on, you could stroll through the Maine summer in a constant state of arousal. This year, Maine State Music Theatre mounts Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (June 4-21), the endearingly local Chamberlain – A Civil War Romance (June 25-July 12), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (July 16-August 2), Footloose (August 6-23), and a one-man Star Wars tribute show (July 15-16). At Arundel Barn Playhouse, look for the 1970s pop music vehicle 8 Track (June 17-28), A Chorus Line (July 1-12), My Fair Lady (July 15-August 2), Legally Blonde  (August 5-16), and 1950s-60s pop music vehicle The Wonderful Wondrettes (August 19-30). Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados can head to Portsmouth for Seacoast Repertory Theatre’s Pirates of Penzance (June 13-July 19). And the Ogunquit Playhouse continues its old summer stock tradition with Billy Elliot (June 25-July 26) and Mary Poppins (July 30-August 30).

Harrison’s Deertrees Theatre, back in the 1930s and ’40s, was also a renowned destination for old-style professional summer stock theater. After falling into disrepair in the 1970s and ’80s, Deertrees renovated and has since been slowly reviving its summer theater programming. This year, the theater’s New Repertory Company mounts three shows in rep from July 11-August 15: The military veteran shenanigans of Heroes, the conservation-inflected family show The Selfish Shellfish, and local playwright David Butler’s The Grand O’Neal.

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