Maine State Music Theatre’s “Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance” is history at its best.

With an epic story, soaring score and stunning costumes, it captures and breathes life into the biography of Maine’s Civil War hero, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

“Chamberlain” premiered at Maine State Music Theatre 18 years ago but has returned with a reworked script, directed and choreographed by Marc Robin.

The theater pulled out all the stops for the opening performance. A half-hour before the show, costumed actors began mingling with delighted patrons outside the Pickard Theater.

Before their eyes, Union soldiers pitched tents while a chorus of performers serenaded onlookers. And, with that, Chamberlain’s beloved campus was transported back in time 150 years.

A set steeped in history awaited the audience inside the theater, with artistic renderings depicting the college and Maine as it looked during Chamberlain’s lifetime. But as the curtain rose, the audience was first whisked off to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the impending battle at Little Round Top, where Chamberlain and his 20th Maine made their famous charge against Confederate forces.

This production’s cast is dynamic, from the top-billed stars to the 22-member ensemble. James Patterson heads up the cast in the title role. He is paired with Kathy Voytko as Chamberlain’s headstrong wife, Fanny.

Patterson and Voytko have strong chemistry that sizzles on stage. And their captivating performances are made all the more gripping by their powerfully moving vocals. The duet “Alone in the Dark” was rich with emotion.

Although the musical, written by Sarah Knapp and Steven Alper, gives insight into the impact the war had on Chamberlain’s life, the heart of the play is a love story filled with highs and lows.

It’s not only a love story between a husband and wife, but one that explores a man’s love for his country, familial love and the bond between brothers.

Ben Mayne and Sam Weber play John and Tom Chamberlain, Joshua’s strikingly different siblings. John is an ailing chaplain, and Tom is rambunctious and prone to bad habits. Both idolize their big brother, who constantly worries about them.

The actors are well paired, vividly bringing their characters to life on the stage with a wonderfully humanizing quality. Their duet “The Fighting Professor from Maine” is both entertaining and touching. And, Mayne’s final vocal in Act II is hauntingly beautiful.

David Girolmo and Mike Schwitter round out the primary cast. Girolmo delivers a memorable performance as Fanny’s father, Reverend Adams. His rich vocals playfully draw the audience in on “The Burden.”

Schwitter is a Confederate soldier, Jebediah Logan. He delivers a gorgeous solo on “Heaven Must Have Plans.” It’s a pop/rock song, providing an unforgettable change of pace among the more traditional ballads. A group of Confederate soldiers back Schwitter with beautifully harmonizing vocals.

“Chamberlain” is a thoroughly entraining way to mark the 100-year anniversary of Joshua Chamberlain’s death. History leaps off the pages and into the hearts of the audience with this mesmerizing musical.

April Boyle is a free-lance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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