The cast of an upcoming production of Treasure Island, showing at Maine State Music Theatre June 26 to July 13. (Photo by Kinectiv)

BRUNSWICK — This summer, swing dancers, pirates, New York City matchmakers and munchkins will grace Pickard Theater’s stage — just not all in the same show.

Maine State Music Theatre kicks off its 61st season next month with a series of shows that Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark said will sell out fast.

The season will open with “Sophisticated Ladies” June 5-22, a dance and music show based entirely off the music of prolific jazz musician and big band leader Duke Ellington. The show is not plot based, but instead showcases Ellington’s work, Clark said. It will be the largest dance show ever done at Maine State Music Theatre, Clark added.

The next show will be the East Coast premiere of “Treasure Island,” running June 26- July 13.

Based on the classic book by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Treasure Island” follows Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver on a high seas, pirate-filled adventure.

Maine State Music Theatre’s 61st season will kick off June 5 with “Sophisticated Ladies.” The show features the music of Duke Ellington and runs through June 22. (Photo by Kinectiv)

This is the first time ever doing “Treasure Island” in Brunswick, and it can be hard to draw large audiences for new work, Clark said. However, with a well-known name like “Treasure Island,” and a character like Jim Hawkins, who he said was the “Harry Potter before Harry Potter,” Clark is most excited about this show. The theater bought copies of the book for different reading levels for all the local libraries so that patrons can read the book before seeing the show and then compare and contrast, he said.  

The show has been a challenge to put together, Clark said, partly because the scenes vary so greatly throughout. The characters and audience are taken from the West English coast onto a working ship on the high seas and to different parts of Skeleton Island. There are 30 cast members, many of whom are involved in elaborate sword fighting scenes.

Each Maine State Music Theatre season features a “classic” musical, Clark said, which this year will be “Hello Dolly!,” which runs July 17- Aug. 3.

The show follows the romantic and comic exploits of Dolly Gallagher Levi, a strong-willed matchmaker, as she sets out to find a match for the “well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder, according to the MSMT website. For this show, Clark said the 30-person cast is being “very true to the script,” although costume designer Ryan Moller said in January that his reimagining of Dolly’s famous red dress will be different than “anything we’ve seen before.”

Finally, the season will close with “the behemoth that is the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Clark said, from Aug. 7-24.

In what the theatre said may be the “greatest family of musical of all time,” the show will take the audience from Dorothy’s home in Kansas to Munchkinland and down the yellow brick road to Oz, with her famous companions, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion as Dorothy tries to escape the Wicked Witch of the West and find her way home.

“The Wizard of Oz” has not been performed on Maine State Music Theatre’s stage since 1961, when the role of the Wicked Witch of the West was played by Margaret Hamilton, who also played the role in the 1939 film.

With a 55-person cast, elaborate costumes and a magical set, Clark said the show, based on Frank L Baum’s classic book will have the same level of ornament and grandeur that went into last summer’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

The children’s series this year will kick off June 12 with an adaptation of “Snow White” that features a group of “dwarfs” over six feet tall and a princess who won’t settle for a prince she doesn’t know.

“The Three Little Pigs” debuts July 8, and the classic “The Little Mermaid,” which Clark said always sells out, opens Aug. 19.

They are also selling a new children’s series subscription.

“I try to choose an eclectic set (of shows),” he said. As the largest music theatre in the Midcoast, he added, it is important to recognize that they may be the primary artistic outlet for many in the community. A variety of shows, like a sword fighting adventure show or a romantic comedy classic, will ensure there is something for everyone, he said.

Last year, the theatre sold approximately 69,000 tickets and reached 95% capacity with seats and subscriptions. Clark said he is projecting similar numbers for the upcoming season.

Last year, the theatre celebrated 60 years since Victoria Crandall opened what was then Brunswick Summer Playhouse. It can be hard coming off a big anniversary season, but Clark said he still thinks of every year as a big deal.

“What Vicky Crandall started here 61 years ago is special and it’s our job to remind people how special it is,” he said.

Tickets for this season’s shows can be purchased at the Maine State Music Theatre website, msmt.org.

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