The Westbrook Performing Arts Center, photographed in 2012, will host Maine State Music Theatre’s major productions this season. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick will produce two mainstage shows this season, but stage them at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center because of scheduling restrictions at its longtime home at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus.

This season will mark the first time Maine State has produced its mainstage musicals outside of Brunswick and only the second time off-campus. Curt Dale Clark, the theater’s artistic director, said he knows the news will disappoint some people in town.

“We know the situation is not ideal and that some of our decisions are going to upset people in a certain way or another, but this is the best possible way to get as much entertainment as we possibly can to as many people (as possible) who have supported us during the pandemic,” he said.

Brunswick Downtown Association Executive Director Debora King said although the change “is going to hurt,” considering that many restaurants and hotels would fill up on the night of a performance, after talking with Clark, she understands the decision.

“There was simply no way that it was going to be held in Brunswick at the Pickard theater,” King said. “I’m thrilled that they are able to find some place to have even just two of the four shows.”

It’s the second year in a row the pandemic has hampered the theater’s season, which is squeezed into a tight window between the spring and fall semesters at Bowdoin. The venerable midcoast theater company will still produce entertainment this summer at Pickard – in the form of concerts, all-star revues and theater for kids. But last week’s news of loosened restrictions for indoor entertainment came too late to allow Maine State to produce its big blowout musicals on campus, Clark said.

“Our staff comes from all over the United States and meets here in Brunswick to begin building the show from scratch. We build the sets, costumes, everything,” he said. “We’re just now starting to hire a staff and make travel arrangements, and it’s going to be very tight as is. Bottom line, the only way to produce was to change venues for this year. It was just too soon to try to do the mainstage shows here.”

The last time Maine State produced its shows off the Bowdoin campus was in 1999, when Pickard was renovated. Maine State performed at Crooker Theater at Brunswick High School that summer.

Maine State announced its plans in an email to subscribers Monday morning. Instead of four mainstage shows at Pickard, it will produce two mainstage shows at Westbrook Performing Arts Center: “Jersey Boys,” Aug. 31 to Sept. 19, and “Cinderella” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sept. 28 to Oct. 17.

While it is preparing those shows, it will use its time at Pickard for a variety of events, including two all-star shows featuring favorite past performers from the theater’s history. The first Stars of Maine State Music Theatre concert will be July 28 to Aug. 1, and the second will be Aug. 4-8. Each will feature four different singers who have starred at Maine State in recent years.

In addition, it will host a co-production with Portland Stage in late July, with details to be announced; “Piano Men: The Music of Elton John and Billy Joel,” starring Maine-based performer Joe Boucher, Aug. 15-16; and “Christine and Patsy … Together Again,” with singer Christine Mild performing the music of Patsy Cline, Aug. 22-23. An additional concert, with details pending, is scheduled for Aug. 8-9.

The theater is producing three musicals for young audiences, two of which will be at Pickard: “Beauty and the Beast,” Aug. 12; and “Shrek,” Aug. 19. On Oct. 9-10, it will produce “Alice and Wonderland” in Westbrook.

Maine State plans to open up all 570 seats in Pickard for its concerts, meaning it will operate at full capacity. It will ask audience members to be vaccinated and people will be welcome to wear masks, Clark said. “We will follow the state and CDC guidelines to the letter,” he said.

Times Record staff writer C. Thacher Carter contributed to this report.


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