Bryant Martine and the cast of “Something Rotten!” Jared Morneau photo

Last week, the Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick broke even for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, after polishing off a successful 2023 season.

Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark said breaking even is “a good sign” after three years of canceled shows, budget cuts, virus surges and financial losses. Clark recognized the theater has a long way to go before attendance and profits reach pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, the theater sold out 90 of its 96 performances. This year, it only sold out 11.

The summer theater never opened in 2020 after the pandemic forced performance venues to temporarily shutter across the country. In 2021, Maine State Music Theatre attempted a truncated season at an alternate venue but saw poor ticket sales, in part due to controversy over a policy requiring patrons to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Clark said hundreds of tickets were refunded that year.

To make up for rising material costs and low ticket sales, the theater cut its operating budget by $1.5 million in 2022 and still finished in the red. Last year, MSMT was forced to cancel 10 performances of its hottest show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” after too many members of the cast contracted COVID to continue.

Clark said this summer, they were fortunate not to cancel any performances and maintain a healthy cast and crew. As a result, ticket sales increased by 17% compared to last year.

“The thing I was most happy with this year was the stark difference between each show,” Clark said.


Carolyn Anne Miller and Kevin Earley in “9 to 5.” Jared Morneau photo

Audiences saw “Titanic,” a dramatic story about passengers on board the ocean liner that sank in 1912; “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” a 1950s concert sharing the life of a rock ‘n’ roll icon; “9 to 5,” a hysterical revenge story about three women mistreated in the workplace; and “Something Rotten!,” a tongue-in-cheek Shakespearean comedy that collides with modern-day Broadway.

Next year, Maine State Music Theatre is trying something new with Christmas in July. The main stage will host a performance of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” while the theater for young audiences will perform “The Story of the Nutcracker.” Clark said a local family inspired the idea after he learned they celebrate Christmas with their children each July because during December their family is spread out across the U.S.

Andrew Harvey as Buddy Holly. Jared Morneau photo

In addition to early (or late?) Christmas festivities, audiences can enjoy Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific”; “Funny Girl” by Jule Style, Bob Merrill and Isobel Lennart; and “Beautiful: The Carole King Story,” by Douglas McGrath.

Clark urged patrons to purchase subscriptions by Oct. 31 to get the best deals on ticket prices. This year, tickets were $70-$130 without a subscription and $55-$125 with a subscription. He said ticket prices will increase slightly next year to combat rising material costs.

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