Perhaps it won't come as a surprise that Maine State Music Theatre, now in its 40th year, lists Man of La Mancha and Anything Goes as part of its just-announced 1998 season. However, the playhouse, which bills itself as "Maine's only professional music theatre," has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.
The first is Smile, Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamlisch's musical that flopped on Broadway in 1986 but retains a strong cadre of admirers. Based on the 1975 film by Michael Ritchie (screenplay by Jerry Belson), Smile satirized middle-America in its look at beauty pageants and the desperate conniving of its participants and orgainzers. Veanne Cox, Jodi Benson, Jeff McCarthy and Anne Marie Bobby all appeared in the Broadway production, which librettist/lyricist Ashman directed.
Songs in the show include "Disneyland," "Shine" and "In Our Hands." and the title tune. At Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, Smile runs June 23 to (appropriately enough) July 4.
Steven C. Peterson, MSMT's managing director, told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 25) Smile is in the process of being reworked in a co-production with Teaneck NJ's American Stage Company. "They're going back to what was done in the workshops of that show. A lot of changes were made when it came to Broadway, but there were many who felt it was better without the changes." The revised show ran at American Stage April 22-May 17. MSMT artistic director Charles Abbott directed the show at both venues. Not only is Connie Shaffer choreographing, she plays a choreographer in the show. The character was originally a male, Tommy; with Shaffer in the role, the name is changed to "Tommi."
Man of La Mancha opens the season (June 9-20). Songs in this 1966 Tony winner include "Dulcinea" and "The Impossible Dream." The aforementioned Edissi will play Dulcinea in La Mancha, which is directed by Andrew Glant-Linden. For those with more biblical tastes, MSMT will offer Maury Yeston's In The Beginning (Aug. 11-22), a retelling of Old Testament through folks peripheral to the action. Instead of Noah, we meet his cousin; Adam and Eve are out of the picture, but we visit their neighbors. Tunes in the show include "No Women in the Bible," "New Words," and "Nileside Cotillion." David H. Hahn penned the libretto, which, as the press release reminds us, was based on the word of God.
Said spokesperson Peterson, "The show has had a number of incarnations: History Loves Company at Marriott Lincolnshire in IL, and 1 2 3 4 5. The script has been worked on with a new author -- David Hahn, who is currently in Houston working on Hot Shoe Shuffle. Maury came to us through Music Theatre International, and he'll be in residence at the theatre." Artistic director Abbott had worked on the Kopit/Yeston Phantom in Houston.
Gerard Alessandrini, creator and director of Off-Broadway's Forbidden Broadway, will direct In The Beginning.
Also part of the Maine State Music Theatre season will be Anything Goes (July 7-18), Cole Porter's comedy with such tunes as "I Get A Kick Out Of You" and "It's Delovely." This Walnut Street Theatre co production will recreate Tony Walton's Lincoln Center set designs. Canadian actress Karen K. Edissi will star as Reno Sweeney.
Show Boat will pull in July 27-Aug. 8, featuring such Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein classics as "Bill" and "Ol' Man River." Artistic director Abbott will direct. According to spokesperson Peterson, Stacy Robinson will play Joe; Patricia Ben Peterson will probably play Magnolia.
At the end of the season, as a special bonus, MSMT is also co-producing Master Class with Portland Stage Company, Aug. 25-Sept. 19. Terrence McNally's Tony-winning play shows opera diva Maria Callas giving advice -- and headaches -- to a trio of singing hopefuls.
For tickets and information on the Maine State Music Theatre season call (207) 725-8769.
-- By David Lefkowitz