(Left to right) Will Ray as Captain Von Trapp, Hanley Smith as Maria, Katie Sina as Elsa. Photo by Kinectiv

Attempting to bounce back after two years of COVID-19 closures and financial losses, Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick will present a full season of shows, but with a smaller staff.

Maine State Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark said the call to cancel the 2020 season before it began wasn’t as difficult as making the decision to cut last year’s season short. The choice to cancel was prompted by a decline in ticket sales and a rise in hospitalizations of Mainers due to the Delta variant.

“The number of hospitalizations definitely meant something to me. Our clientele is an elderly population,” said Clark. “Our productions are so big, if we don’t sell out, we can’t pay for them. Every day, we were just digging the hole bigger,” he said.

By canceling midseason, Clark said he saved the theater nearly $2 million in potential losses.

The biggest loss endured by the theater in 2021 was money spent on the Rogers and Hammerstein show “Cinderella,” the theater’s most expensive production, said Clark.  Unable to obtain the rights to the show this year or next, Clark said the elaborate costumes and set pieces will remain in storage for now.

In an attempt to recover financial losses, the theater has cut its internship program and reduced its staff from 200 to 147 employees, hiring only those with professional theater experience.


Pre-pandemic, Clark said a show would typically sell out the week before it opened. However, ticket sales for “The Sound of Music” were 88% sold just two days before opening night. Clark said he believes people are waiting until the last minute because in the past shows have been canceled due to the pandemic.

Despite a rough two years, Clark said he’s excited about the 2022 season and hopes to meet the expectations of Maine State subscribers. Clark said he is thankful for the ongoing support of the community and the theater’s 500 subscribers for Wednesday matinees and 400 for Wednesday evening shows.

“The upcoming season gives me goosebumps,” said Clark.

Featuring a cast with Broadway credits and elaborate set pieces the 2022 season will open on June 8 with “The Sound of Music.”

Hanley Smith will play the leading role of Maria, in her Maine Stage debut.

“This story is particularly meaningful in our current landscape, and it feels like the perfect message of courageous hope and bountiful love with which to reopen Maine State Music Theater’s doors,” Smith said.


Smith said COVID made life as a performer very difficult the last few years.

“Covid has been devastating for the arts,” Smith said. “My husband and I are both performers, and we questioned whether or not we would ever get the chance to do what we love again. To feel that your life’s calling may be forever taken away is difficult to describe. But we held fast, and the ability to return — with all the various safety protocols — is the most incredible gift. I sincerely hope that none of us ever take our beautiful, unique jobs for granted again.”

Maine vocal coach and actress Shannon Thurston will also make her Maine State debut as Sister Maragetta. She said she is proud to be a part of this production.

Hanley Smith as Maria, in “The Sound of Music.” Photo by Kinectiv.

The second show of the season, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, is a comedic musical about biblical figure Joseph and his twelve brothers who envy his colorful coat.

A musical adaptation of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel and 1985 Steven Spielberg film “The Color Purple” will be the third show of the season. Writers Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray tell the story of an oppressed young black woman named Celie over the span of 40 years, featuring jazz, ragtime, gospel, blues and African music.

“It’s our duty to bring this show to the community. They deserve something with meat on the bones,” said Clark.

The fourth show is the Tony nominated “Kinky Boots” by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. Based on a true story, the musical tells the tale of a struggling British shoe factory owner who partners with a drag queen named Lola, to help save his dying business.

The season will continue with a children’s performance of “Frozen Jr.”, a three-part concert series and end with “Smoke on the Mountain,” a musical collaboration with Portland Stage Company.

For tickets and more information, visit msmt.org.

(Left to right) Blake Hammond, Katie Sina and Will Ray, rehearsing “The Sound of Music.” Photo by Kinectiv

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