“The Wizard of Oz,” a stage adaptation of the iconic 1939 movie, is the final mainstage show at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. Roger S. Duncan

As August rolls to the mid-month mark, Maine State Music Theatre is looking to the end of its 2019 season. And the company is rolling out big, with two shows running simultaneously, in Brunswick and Portland. Both represent significant pieces of American popular culture.

First to open was the biggest production in Maine State Music Theatre’s long history: “The Wizard of Oz,” with 50 people on stage and about 200 costumes. This is a stage adaptation of the celebrated 1939 movie. “The Wizard of Oz” runs through Aug. 24 in Brunswick.

Second to open was a co-production with Portland Stage Company. The show is “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a celebration of the jazzy music of Thomas “Fats” Waller, one of the pioneer African-American artists of the mid-20th century. “Ain’t Misbehavin’” runs through Sept. 1 in Portland.

Maine State Ballet wraps up its production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this Saturday in Falmouth.

‘The Wizard of Oz’

One of the most iconic Hollywood hits of the 20th century was the 1939 MGM musical “The Wizard of Oz,” a film adaptation of a famous 1900 fantasy novel by L. Frank Baum, featuring an absolutely scintillating score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg and filmed in the then-revolutionary Technicolor process.

It is rightly regarded as an American cultural treasure.

Maine State Music Theatre is closing out its 2019 mainstage season in Brunswick with a faithful stage adaptation of the classic movie, a fantasy that begins on a farm in Kansas then switches to the magical land of Oz, which is populated with witches – both good and bad ones – plus a band of miniature munchkins, an army of winkie soldiers and a squadron of flying monkeys.

And best of all, there’s a talking scarecrow, a man made of tin and a cowardly lion. Plus a very real Midwestern girl and her beloved dog.

Maine State has pulled all of the proverbial stops to deliver a tuneful and magical theatrical experience, led by Carolyn Anne Miller, whose rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was a huge crowd-pleaser. Miller gets great support from the oddball pals she discovers in Oz: Marc Robin as the scarecrow, Ian Knauer as the tin man and David Girolmo as the lion. Kudos also to Lauren Blackman and Susan Cella as the good and bad witches, respectively.

I was also in awe of the costuming, with big numbers of spectacularly colorful and whimsical outfits designed by Travis M. Grant.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “The Wizard of Oz” through Aug. 24 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit MSMT.org.

‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’

About the time “The Wizard of Oz” was filming in Hollywood, an African-American pianist and composer reached the peak of his creative powers in the jazz clubs of New York.

Thomas “Fats” Waller was both a product and prime mover of the Harlem Renaissance, a period when many black artists gained widespread popularity and launched careers. Many, such as Waller, found crossover success, appealing equally to white audiences.

Waller’s songbook included well-known tunes such as “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Squeeze Me” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” In 1978 a collection of Waller tunes were packaged as a jukebox musical titled “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which ran nearly four years on Broadway and copped three Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

In co-production with Portland Stage Company, Maine State Music Theatre is currently offering splendid performances of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” running through Sept. 1.

Five actors sing 31 songs, each in the format of a wordless skit. Songs are delivered as solos, duos, trios and full ensemble. My top picks among these are “Yacht Club Swing” by Renelle Nicole, “Find Out What They Like” by Qiana McNary and La’Nette Wallace and “Fat and Greasy” by Jonathan Adriel and Dwelvan David.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “Ain’t Misbehavin’” through Sept. 1 at Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave. Call 774-0465 or visit PortlandStage.org.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

In Falmouth this weekend, Maine State Ballet is presenting a terpsichorean take on William Shakespeare’s most beloved romantic comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Set to music by Felix Mendelssohn and choreographed by the company’s founder and artistic director, Linda MacArthur Miele, audiences will be transported to an enchanted forest in ancient Greece, where a royal wedding is planned. Complications ensue, driven by a band of mischievous fairies and a troupe of bumbling actors. Comic chaos runs rampant until all the characters sort out their proper mates and gather for the famous wedding scene.

Dancers will be drawn from the company’s professional staff, top students in the allied ballet academy and recent graduates.

Performances are slated through Saturday at the company’s headquarters at 348 Route 1. Call 781-3587 or visit MaineStateBallet.org.


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