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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: June 4, 2014

Buddy Holly, Shakespeare in the park & “Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance”

Written by: Bob Keyes
“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” features the music of the American rock pioneer as well as songs by the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Urdaneta photo

“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” features the music of the American rock pioneer as well as songs by the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Urdaneta photo

Maine State Music Theatre launches its season this week with “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.” It’s an uptempo retelling of the life and music of an American rock pioneer.

The musical tells Holly’s story through his songs, “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy” and others, and also features the music of the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. The three, along with the pilot, were killed when their plane crashed after a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959.

“Buddy” recounts Holly’s life from his teens through his death.

But it’s the second show on Maine State’s summer calendar that has Brunswick abuzz.

"Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance” is an updated version of the musical​ opening at Maine State on June 25.

“Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance” is an updated version of the musical​ opening at Maine State on June 25.

Eighteen years after its debut, “Chamberlain: A Civil War Romance” will be restaged beginning June 25 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus. With songs and a script that is loyal to history, “Chamberlain” tells the story of the complicated relationship between the Civil War hero and his wife, Fanny.

Artistic director Curt Dale Clark enlisted the creative team of last year’s hit “Les Miserables” to stage “Chamberlain.” He also called back authors Steve Alper and Sarah Knapp for a rewrite.

He promises a big, bold show that will keep Brunswick talking all summer. Clark compared it to “1776,” a musical based on U.S. history with a compelling personal storyline.

Maine State commissioned the show 18 years ago. It was well received but not revisited, Clark said.

“When I arrived here eight years ago as an actor, the first 20 people I met all told me about the production of ‘Chamberlain’ and expressed hope we could do it again,” Clark said.

When he became artistic director last year, Clark remembered those comments and explored a revival. The first task was getting Alper and Knapp to make revisions.

“It wasn’t perfect the first time,” Clark said. “We really wanted to do it, but we really wanted to make changes. We got in touch with Steve and Sarah, and they were happy to do so.”

The second task was hiring a creative team. Clark tapped his partner, Marc Robin, who directed last year’s “Les Miserables.” Robin is artistic director at Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

He hired a cast for workshops and a staged reading. The new show includes much of the original, with revisions that came out of the staged reading in Pennsylvania.

The musical tells the epic story of Chamberlain, who led the 20th Maine Regiment in the Civil War. He was a native Mainer, and later became governor. He received the Medal of Honor for his performance at Gettysburg, and commanded Union troops at the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia.

He had a difficult relationship with his wife, complicated by the demands of his service to his country and his state.

In tone and tenor, part of the new “Chamberlain” will be informed by Clark’s visit to Gettysburg over the winter. Chamberlain is respected by Civil War buffs from the North and South, and is a fitting subject for grand artistic treatment.

“We’re constantly looking for heroes. In Maine, we’ve got one, and he’s still relevant today,” Clark said. “Chamberlain has a dignity, a humility.”

The remainder of the mainstage season includes “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” July 16-Aug. 2; and “Footloose,” Aug. 6-23.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, through June 21.
WHERE: Maine State Music Theatre, Pickard Theater, Bowdoin College, Brunswick
HOW MUCH: $38 to $63
INFO: 725-8769 or

OTHER SUMMER THEATER in southern Maine

Ogunquit Playhouse opened with “Grease,” running through June 21, and follows with “Billy Elliot,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Witches of Eastwick” and “The Addams Family.” 646-5511 or

The Theater at Monmouth opens July 10, and is subtitling its repertory series as “The British Invasion,” with a lineup that includes Britain’s best: Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” opening July 10; and “Romeo and Juliet,” opening July 24; Oscar Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance” opening July 17 and “What the Butler Saw” by Joe Orton, opening July 31. 939-9999 or

Fenix Theatre, which stages free shows at Deering Oaks, presents Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” directed by Peter Brown, July 17-Aug. 9.

Arundel Barn Playhouse opens with “8 Track: The Sounds of the ’70s,” June 17-28; then has “A Chorus Line,” July 1-12; “My Fair Lady,” July 15-Aug. 2; “Legally Blonde,” Aug. 5-16; and “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” Aug. 19-30. 985-5552 or

Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick opens with “Arsenic and Old Lace,” June 20-July 5; then presents “The Music Man,” July 9-26; “Spamalot,” July 30-Aug. 16; and “The Trip to Bountiful,” Aug. 20-30. 698-1807 or

Boothbay Playhouse, “South Pacific,” June 26-July 12; “Into the Woods,” July 17-Aug. 1; “Children of Eden,” Aug. 7-20. 633-3379 or

Mainestage Shakespeare offers free Shakespeare at Lafayette Park in Kennebunk with “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Macbeth,” July 3-Aug. 9. 205-3848 or

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