Attempting to bounce back from two years of COVID-19-related closures and financial losses, the Maine State Music Theater in Brunswick will perform a full season of shows, albeit with a reduced staff.
Maine State artistic director Curt Dale Clark says the call to cancel the 2020 season before it starts isn’t as difficult as making the decision to cut the season short of last year. The choice to cancel was prompted by a drop in ticket sales and an increase in Mainers hospitalizations due to the Delta variant.
“The number of hospitalizations definitely meant something to me. Our clientele is an elderly population,” Clark said. “Our productions are so large that if we don’t sell, we can’t afford them. were just digging the hole bigger,” he said.
By canceling the midseason, Clark said he saved the theater nearly $2 million in potential losses.
The biggest loss the theater suffered in 2021 was money spent on the Rogers and Hammerstein show “Cinderella,” the theater’s most expensive production, Clark said. Unable to secure the rights to the show this year or next, Clark said the elaborate costumes and sets would remain in storage for the time being.
In an attempt to recoup financial losses, the theater cut its internship program and reduced its staff from 200 to 147 employees, hiring only those with professional theater experience.
Before the pandemic, Clark said a show would typically sell out the week before it opened. However, ticket sales for “The Sound of Music” sold out at 88% just two days before opening night. Clark said he thinks people are waiting until the last minute because in the past shows have been canceled due to the pandemic.
Despite two tough years, Clark said he’s excited for the 2022 season and hopes to meet the expectations of Maine state subscribers. Clark said he was grateful for the continued support of the community and the theater’s 500 subscribers for Wednesday matinees and 400 for Wednesday night shows.
“The upcoming season is giving me goosebumps,” Clark said.
Featuring a cast with Broadway credits and elaborate sets, the 2022 season will open June 8 with “The Sound of Music.”
Hanley Smith will play the lead role of Maria, in her Maine Stage debut.
“This story is especially meaningful in our current landscape, and it feels like the perfect message of brave hope and abundant love with which to reopen the doors of Maine State Music Theater,” Smith said.
Smith said COVID has made life as an artist very difficult in recent years.
“Covid has been devastating for the arts,” Smith said. “My husband and I are both artists, and we wondered whether or not we would get the chance to do what we love again. Feeling that the call of your life can be taken away from you forever is hard to describe. But we held on, and the ability to come back – with all the different safety protocols – is the most incredible gift. I sincerely hope that none of us ever take our beautiful and unique jobs for granted again.
Maine voice coach and actress Shannon Thurston will also make her Maine state debut as Sister Maragetta. She said she was proud to be part of this production.
The second show of the season, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a musical about the biblical figure Joseph and his twelve brothers who envy his colorful coat.
A musical adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film “The Color Purple” will be the third show of the season. Writers Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray tell the story of an oppressed young black woman named Celie over a 40-year period, with jazz, ragtime, gospel, blues and African music .
“It’s our duty to bring this show to the community. They deserve something with meat on their bones,” Clark said.
The fourth show is the Tony nominated “Kinky Boots” by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. Based on a true story, the musical tells the story of a struggling British shoe factory owner who teams up with a drag queen named Lola, to help save her dying business.
The season will continue with a children’s performance of “Frozen Jr.”, a three-part concert series, and conclude with “Smoke on the Mountain,” a musical collaboration with Portland Stage Company.
For tickets and more information, visit msmt.org.
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