“Kinky Boots” was staged at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick in August 2022. The six-time Tony Award-winning musical tells the story of Charlie Price as he reluctantly inherits his father’s failing shoe factory.   Jared Morneau photo

After slashing its annual budget by $1.5 million last year to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine State Music Theatre is beefing back up with the launch of a new fundraising campaign.

Launching in May, “Turn Up the Limelight” is a new fundraising incentive that offers ticketholders a chance to peek behind the curtain — literally. MSMT has always offered behind-the-scenes tours to sponsors and top donors but has decided to extend the invitation to anyone who purchases a ticket this year.

“These tours are an opportunity for our audiences to see our technicians and artists work up close,” said Maine State Music Theatre Development Director Morgan Rodgers.

Patrons will be able to sign up for tours starting in May.

Rodgers said the tours are free, but donations are encouraged and appreciated. She said guests will have a chance to tour the scene shop, costume department and paint deck; chat with artists; and join a virtual backstage tour.

“We really want to open this up to the community at large to see what goes into creating a show here,” Rodgers said.


She said this year’s lineup of shows is more expensive compared to last year, and the theater hopes to raise $500,000 by the end of the season.

Before the pandemic, the theater’s yearly operating budget was $6.2 million. Last year, the theater worked with a reduced budget of $4.6 million, forcing it to cut staff and the number of sets featured in shows.

This year’s budget is jumping to $6.7 million. Rodgers said production costs have increased by 29% due to inflated material costs. In addition, personnel costs have increased by $400,000 because the theater has chosen to hire people with more work experience, she said.

Rodgers said the theater survived last season thanks to donors and government grants. The theater received over $2.7 million in Shuttered Venue Operator Grants as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

It has been a bumpy ride for the theater since the pandemic started.

In 2020, the theater never opened. It attempted a truncated season in 2021, which was cut short due to poor ticket sales.


Last year went more smoothly, until the theater’s hit show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” was forced to close a week early after five cast members tested positive for COVID-19. That meant the show was considered to be in “outbreak status” and had to be called off according to Actors’ Equity Association union rules. Rodgers said the theater lost $350,000 that year.

This year, Actors’ Equity does not have any testing protocols or COVID closures in place, but the theater will continue to follow the state CDC guidelines and brace itself for any changes the union may make this summer. Health officials have expressed concerns about a rise in COVID cases and variants in China and the potential for them to begin spreading in the United States, prompting new rules regulating travel from China.

Since July, the number of COVID cases has decreased by 35% in both Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties.

The community COVID tracker on the CDC’s federal website reported a weekly average of 74 cases per 100,000 people in Cumberland County and 47 cases per 100,000 in Sagadahoc County. In July, there were 113 cases per 100,00 people in Cumberland County and 136 per 100,000 in Sagadahoc County.

The theater will kick off its season on June 7. The 2023 lineup is “Titanic,” “The Buddy Holly Story,” “9 to 5” and “Something Rotten!”.

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