Friday, December 13, 2013
George and Linda Smith
The Maine State Music Theater is a state treasure, so we were not surprised that the performance of "Gypsy" was one of the best we've ever enjoyed. But we were surprised by our dining experience at Frontier Cafe -- and by the fact it, too, is driven by its owner to perform -- by connecting the world through food, arts and culture.
IF YOU GO . . .
Maine State Music Theater is located on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick.
Parking is tough. There are parking places on campus, and also throughout the nearby business district. Get there early if you want to park anywhere near the theater.
Frontier Cafe: 14 Maine Street,
Old Fort Andross, Brunswick
We had never seen "Gypsy" and it was amazing. And we hadn't attended a performance at Maine State Music Theater for years, forgetting what a great venue it is, and how the theater attracts some of the best talent in the country.
Charis Leos, who performed the role of the mother of the show's central character, Gypsy Rose Lee, just blew us away. What a voice! What a performance! There are a lot of actors in this musical and every one was wonderful -- including our old friend Glenn Anderson, performing at MSMT for his 20th consecutive season.
The theater's seating is intimate and includes a balcony. There are no bad seats. The staff is friendly and helpful. And if each performance is anything like "Gypsy," we need to get here more often. We heard that the previous musical, "Les Miserables," was also fantastic.
Mary Poppins opened last night and runs through Aug. 24. That should be a good one, too. But we were really intrigued by "Footlight Follies," scheduled for the night of Aug. 12, and billed as "an evening of the best (and hilarious worst) of talents provided by community members, our own MSMT acting company, staff and Board of Trustees as well as surprise guests." Sounds good!
Nancy Heiser, a Maine Sunday Telegram restaurant critic, gets credit for drawing our attention to the Frontier Cafe. Nancy tells it like it is -- the good and the bad -- and when her column about the cafe came out glowing, we knew it had to be good. But honestly, it was much better than good.
Owner Michael "Gil" Gilroy led travel excursions through the Middle East and Asia until 9/11, and wanted to bring those experiences to his new restaurant, which includes art shows, a cinema and a huge space where Gil encouraged customers to linger and talk. He sees the restaurant as a discussion space. I, of course, focused on the food. And the food is what really surprised me.
Executive Chef Jason Putnam changes his menu seasonally and obviously enjoys cooking a wide array of foods. The cafe's menu is the most unusual we have seen in our two and a half years of writing this column. This is an especially good place for vegetarians and others with a special diet -- and those on a tight budget.
Curried mussels were my favorite dish, with a curry spice sauce that was fantastic. A half portion for $8 was plenty for me.
The Maine State Music Theater has all the theatrics one appreciates in a live musical performance. For me the live orchestra (housed in a pit where you can't see them, but certainly can hear them), the lights, the costumes and those amazing voices define the experience.
We haven't had the chance to see performances the last few years, so when we recently visited to see "Gypsy" I realized just how much I missed going. I do think Gypsy is now my favorite musical. Charis Leos, who played the lead role of Rose, stole the show by belting out songs with her powerful voice. This was Charis' eighth season at Brunswick, and in overhearing comments as we left the show, she has become a perennial favorite with most show-goers.
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