In its four years in Portland, Snowlion Repertory Company has done what many small theater companies tend to avoid: Musicals.
On Friday, Snowlion opens its fifth musical in Portland, “The Elephant Piece.” It’s the New England premiere of a musical that theater co-founders Al D’Andrea and Margit Ahlin helped stage in New York several years ago.
It opens Friday at the studio theater at Portland Stage Company and runs for two weekends.
With a cast of 12, it tells the story of what Ahlin calls a “roving band of miscreants” who roam the earth looking for elephants and wreaking havoc. It is a musical fable told in vaudevillian style and full of absurdist spectacle. The miscreants, or hackers, chase the last elephant on earth, each hoping to gorge himself on a part of the elephant to make him whole.
“The show is an exploration of our relationship to the earth, to the creatures that inhabit the earth and to each other,” said D’Andrea, who directs the musical. “We chose it, because the health of our planet and all of those of us who inhabit it are of increasing concern.”
As the hackers make their merry way across the globe consuming and destroying, they begin to realize the peril of their ways and the destruction in their wake. They cross paths with an innocent Everyman, who tries to shield his son from the realities of the world embodied in the hackers.
Through the course of the musical, the hackers get what they want, but ultimately reform their ways. They are transformed, and the musical ends hopefully.
“This is not a dark exploration,” D’Andrea said. “There are serious themes under the subject matter, but it is funny and entertaining, and a thought-provoking journey.”
“The Elephant Piece” is presented as a one-act, at about 85 minutes.
As a roving band, the hackers carry most of what they need on their backs. The story is told with minimal props and colorfully inventive costumes. Pianist Jim Colby accompanies the cast.
D’Andrea and Ahlin developed the musical several years ago when they operated Third Step Theater Company in New York. They collaborated with Darryl Curry, who wrote the book, music and lyrics.
In their shows in Portland they have demonstrated a willingness to tackle musicals.
Generally, musicals are harder to stage because they require a larger cast and a diverse array of talents.
Previously, Snowlion has presented the musicals “The Sock Who Lost his Mate,” “The Christmas Bride,” “Mesmerized” and “The Freaks Club.”
“The Elephant Piece” stars David Arthur Bachrach, a longtime New York actor and Maine native. This will be his third outing with Snowlion.
On Wednesday, Snowlion will host a benefit performance for Hope Elephants, a Maine organization that cares for injured and aging elephants.
Located in the town of Hope, the organization provides medical, physical therapy and nutritional support for Rosie and Opal, retired circus elephants.
“We have these elephants right here in Maine, and part of Snowlion’s mission is to be of service to the community,” Ahlin said. “What better way to be of service than to be of service to these elephants? Everyone loves elephants.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: