Gregory J. Trapp Jr. (Kurt), Taylor Quick (Liesl), Lily Philbrook (Marta), Josie Marzilli (Gretl), Sophia Scott (Louisa), Hanley Smith (Maria) and Will Ray (Captain Von Trapp) in “The Sound of Music” at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. Photos by Jared Morneau Photography

Despite slashing its yearly operating budget by $1.5 million and cutting staff, Brunswick’s Maine State Music Theatre failed to turn a profit for the second consecutive year in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will lose a significant dollar amount, but we won’t know how much until the audit comes back,” said Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark.

Maine State Music Theatre never opened in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic shuttering performance venues across the country.

In 2021, the theater company attempted a truncated season. Due to scheduling issues caused by a delay in the start of the season, performances were moved from the usual venue at Bowdoin College’s Pickard Theater to the Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

Poor ticket sales led the company to cancel its fall 2021 shows, which at the time Clark attributed to controversy over a policy requiring patrons to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, as well as general concerns about the virus. Hundreds of tickets were refunded.

Clark said before COVID, the theatre had a yearly operating budget of $6.2 million, but for 2022, it worked with a $4.7 million budget to offset higher costs and lower ticket sales.


“In 2019, we had 80 completely sold-out performances, and the rest were probably at 97% capacity,” Clark said. “This year, we only had one sold-out performance — a Sunday matinee of ‘The Sound of Music.'”

The 2022 lineup included four Tony-nominated musicals, “The Sound of Music,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “The Color Purple” and “Kinky Boots.”

Feedback from showgoers has been mixed, Clark said, calling this season an “I love it, I hate it,” kind of year, according to patrons.  

He said many enjoyed “The Sound of Music,” but claimed they’d seen it too many times before.

MSMT’s last week of production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was canceled due to COVID-19 cases among the cast.

Clark said audiences raved about “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” but the theater disappointed some ticket holders after the show had to shut down a week early when five cast members contracted COVID-19.

Clark said closing “Joseph” early was the most challenging ordeal of the season because the show was generating “such momentum.”


“The ‘Joseph’ tickets were flying out the door until the cancellation happened,” Clark said.

While many prospective patrons donated the cost of their canceled tickets, the theater had to refund others, putting them further into a financial hole.

The last two shows of the season generated some criticism from the community. Clark said he received some letters of pushback from the community regarding “The Color Purple” and “Kinky Boots” because of their themes involving race and sexual orientation.

“The Color Purple” cast at Maine State Music Theatre: DeQuina Moore (Shug Avery), left, Kelvin Roston Jr. (Mister), Tavia Rivée (Nettie), Lawrence Flowers (Harpo), Dori Waymer (Squeak/ensemble) and Jaden Dominique (Celie), seated.

Clark declined to share the letters or get into detail about their contents with The Times Record.

Regardless of the few who opposed the final two shows, Clark said “The Color Purple” was MSMT’s strongest show this season and “Kinky Boots” was a “massive hit.”

The six-time Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots” tells the story of Charlie Price as he reluctantly inherits his father’s failing shoe factory, with, from left, Jonathan Bryant, Stephane Duret and Donovan Hoffer.

Clark said several factors could have played into struggles this season.


He said many people found other activities to enjoy during the pandemic while the theater was closed and never returned, while some frequent patrons passed away, and some are “still erring on the side of caution” when it comes to COVID.

Two weeks ago, MSMT announced the 2023 season lineup: “Titanic,” written by Maine State Music Theater adviser Peter Stone; “The Buddy Holly Story,” featuring the music of a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll icon; “Nine to Five,” based on the Dolly Parton movie; and “Something Rotten,” about two down-and-out playwrights competing against Shakespeare during the renaissance.

Clark said he hopes audiences will show up in 2023 and COVID will no longer be a factor.

“It’s going to take us a while to get the audience back,” he said.

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