Maine’s summer theater season begins with a pair of shows that pay tribute to golden moments in American pop-culture history.
On Thursday, the Ogunquit Playhouse opens with “The Rat Pack is Back!” complete with a 12-piece orchestra.
The show, which runs through June 8, features the music of the famous Rat Pack — Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Joey Bishop — and is set at the Sands Hotel’s Copa Room in Las Vegas, where the crooners were holed up in 1960 during their filming of the original “Ocean’s 11″ movie.
The musical that Ogunquit is staging includes full versions of many of the songs the Rat Pack sang during their legendary casual shows at the Sands: “Fly Me to the Moon,” “New York, New York,” “That’s Amore” and others. It also includes bits of comedy and dialogue that were part of the performances back then.
“It’s literally like you have stepped back into the room with them, with all the irreverent humor and all the hit songs,” said Brad Kenney, Ogunquit’s executive artistic director.
Meanwhile, up the coast in Brunswick, Maine State Music Theatre opens its four-show season on June 5 with the Motown musical “Dreamgirls.” This is the show that made superstars out of singers Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson. Holliday won a Tony Award for her work on the Broadway version of the show, while Hudson won an Oscar for the film version.
The musical, which runs through June 22, tells the story of a female singing trio from Chicago called The Dreams, and is loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and The Supremes.
The Maine State Music Theatre version stars three singers whose names are not yet familiar, but may be soon: Bryonah Parham, Britney Coleman and Trista Dollison. All have extensive regional theater and Broadway credits.
Maine State collaborates with the Fulton Theater in Lancaster, Pa., as co-producers of this show. With the same cast, set and crew, the show played in Pennsylvania earlier in the spring, closing May 12.
Maine State’s acting artistic consultant, Curt Dale Clark, saw the Fulton show.
“I can’t wait for our audiences to see it,” he said. “The show got a standing ovation at intermission. It’s a star vehicle for most of the people in it, and this cast is no exception.”
Those are just two out of dozens of Maine summer theater offerings, and they run the gamut from Shakespeare and 20th-century classics to modern Broadway smashes. Here’s a rundown:
Ogunquit Playhouse: “The Rat Pack is Back!”, previews Thursday afternoon, opens Thursday night and runs through June 8; “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” June 12 to July 6; “Young Frankenstein,” July 10-27; “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” July 31 to Aug. 25; “Ballroom with a Twist,” Aug. 27-31; “West Side Story,” Sept. 4-28; “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” Oct. 2-20. 10 Main St.; 646-5511, ogunquitplayhouse.org
Maine State Music Theatre: “Dreamgirls,” June 5-22; “Les Miserables,” June 26 to July 13; “Gypsy,” July 17 to Aug. 3; “Mary Poppins,” Aug. 7-24. Pickard Theater, Bowdoin College, 1 Bath Road, Brunswick; 725-8769, msmt.org
Hackmatack Playhouse: “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” June 21 to July 6; “The Sound of Music,” July 10-27; “Les Miserables,” July 31 to Aug. 17; “Driving Miss Daisy,” Aug. 21-30. 538 School St. (Route 9), Berwick; 698-1807, hackmatack.org
Arundel Barn Playhouse: “The Andrews Brothers,” June 18-29; “Chicago,” July 2-13; “Shrek the Musical,” July 16 to Aug. 3; “All Shook Up,” Aug. 6-17; “Always Patsy Cline,” Aug. 20-31. 53 Old Post Road, Arundel; 985-5552, arundelbarnplayhouse.com
Boothbay Playhouse: “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” June 27 to July 13; “Once on This Island,” July 25 to Aug. 10. 275 Wiscasset Road; 633-3379, boothbayplayhouse.com
Theater at Monmouth: “The Knight of the Burning Pestle,” July 5 to Aug. 16; “The Taming of the Shrew,” July 12 to Aug. 18; “Our Town,” July 19 to Aug. 17; “The Year of Magical Thinking,” July 26 to Aug. 18. 796 Main St., Monmouth; 933-9999, theateratmonmouth.org
Fenix Theatre Company: Shakespeare in the Park — “Romeo and Juliet,” July 18 to Aug. 10. Deering Oaks Park, Portland; 400-6223, fenixtheatre.com
Dramatic Repertory Company: “[title of show],” May 30 to June 9, Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave.; dramaticrep.org
Acorn Productions: “Duck and Cover,” May 30 to June 9. Acorn Studio Theater, 90 Bridge St., Westbrook; 854-0065, acorn-productions.org
Snowlion Repertory Company: “The Freaks Club,” June 13-23. Studio Theater at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave.; 518-9305, snowlionrep.org
Heartwood Regional Theater Company: “The Legend of Jim Cullen,” July 19 to Aug. 3. Parker B. Poe Theater, Lincoln Academy, 81 Academy Lane, Newcastle; 563-1373, heartwoodtheater.org
Northport Music Theater: “The Spitfire Grill,” July 19-28. 851 Atlantic Highway, Northport; 338-8383, northportmusictheater.com
Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or email@example.com