Southern Maine’s arts and entertainment calendar is hyper-busy this last week of July. Top choices are a pair of classic Broadway musicals that opened last weekend in Brunswick and Ogunquit.

“Hello Dolly!” and “Cabaret” are radically different in style and mood, but if you get to the theater only twice this summer, these are your best choices.

Charis Leos stars in the title role of “Hello Dolly!,” which opened last weekend at Maine Stage Music Theatre in Brunswick. Roger S. Duncan

“Hello Dolly!” is an exemplar of the frothy confectionary aspect of musical theater, while “Cabaret” is a riveting show that explores the dark side.

In the rural town of Hiram find the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, which offers four days of performances of Americana on multiple stages July 25-28.

‘Hello Dolly!’

Among the many musical comedies in Broadway’s long and glorious history, in my mind none better exemplifies theatrical perfection than the one that just opened at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. “Hello Dolly!” offers extremely likable characters, extraordinarily tuneful music and an exceptionally clever plot.

With book by Michael Stewart and score by Jerry Herman, “Hello Dolly!” opened in 1964 and copped 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, a record that stood for nearly four decades.


The setting is 19th-century New York City, and the story revolves around a pair of front-and-center romances plus two lightly limned background pairings.

The title character, Dolly Levi, is a widow who works as a matchmaker. Good-hearted but devious, Dolly is hired to find a suitable wife for a rich merchant, but she schemes to grab him for herself.

The complications are too intricate to briefly describe, but comic chaos ensues as conflicting narratives collide, a minor riot ensues inside a posh restaurant and everything sorts out satisfactorily at the denouement in a criminal courtroom.

I loved Charis Leos in the title role. Leos is a veteran character actress with this company, and the opportunity to see her showcase her comic genius and vocal talent in a leading role is priceless.

I also liked David Girolmo as Dolly’s romantic prey, Matt Gibson as his nerdy clerk and Lauren Blackman as the latter’s romantic interest.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “Hello Dolly!” through Aug. 3 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit



At the antipode of musical theater’s brightness scale is “Cabaret,” another Broadway masterpiece. With book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, “Cabaret” explores the dark and seedy recesses of society in a stressful social, economic and cultural milieu.

The original 1966 production won eight Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Score, and “Cabaret” has been one of the most frequently revived shows in Broadway history. The current version dates from 2014 and has largely been reproduced for the 2019 season at Ogunquit Playhouse.

The setting is Berlin, Germany, in the period shortly before the Nazi takeover. The story revolves around a pair of doomed romances, and much of the action takes place inside the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy cabaret that caters to a dark underclass of German society.

The central character is the Emcee, a raunchy, bawdy, ghostly character who presides over the Kit Kat Klub and frequently pops up as an apparition in other scenes. Randy Harrison delivers a compelling interpretation of this vile character.

Kate Shindle delivers another outstanding performance as the Kit Kat Klub’s leading lady, a tawdry singer and dancer whose limited success is attained by sleeping with the club’s owner. Other major roles are played by Billy Harrigan Tighe as an American expatriate and Mariette Hartley and John Rubinstein as the secondary romantic matchup.

Catch “Cabaret” at the Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main St. (a mile south of the village) through Aug. 10. Call 646-5511 or visit


Ossipee Valley Music Festival

For the past 20 years or so one of the anchors of my summer has been the Ossipee Valley Music Festival, held the last weekend in July at the Ossipee Valley fairground in Hiram.

Impresario Bill Johnson at first focused on bluegrass, but over the past decade he’s broadened his artistic scope to add different rootsy acts, with the result that “Americana” is probably the best description. He’s also added a second stage, dance barn, seminars, lessons and contests.

Throw in a bunch of food trucks, a down-home church supper and numerous vendors of souvenirs, CDs and string instruments, it amounts to quite a festive gathering.

Two dozen bands and solo acts are slated to appear July 25-28, with the biggest number appearing Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday.

The top billing for 2019 goes to the Gibson Brothers, who have a new act titled “Country Electric Show.”

For full schedule and details, visit

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