It became abundantly clear very early on that nobody in the Richman family was likely going to become a dentist.
Lucas Richman, conductor of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, and his sister, singer and actress Kelly Lester, are two of the five children of Peter Mark and Helen Richman — all of whom went into the arts for a career, as have many of their spouses and children.
Lester this week makes her Penobscot Theatre debut with the company’s final production of its regular season: “The Spitfire Grill.” It’s a musical, based on the 1996 film of the same name, about a young woman, Percy, recently released from prison, who decides to make a new life for herself in a small Wisconsin town, and finds work at the titular diner, owned by the sharp-tongued Hannah Ferguson (Lester).
A week after that, Lucas Richman will conduct on May 6 the Bangor Symphony’s last concert of the season, dubbed “The Pines of Rome,” featuring violinist Frank Almond and works by Rossini, Puccini and others.
Where some parents encourage their kids to have a backup career in case their artistic dreams fall through, that was never the case with the Richmans — and it has led to a lifelong bond between the extended family, as they support each other’s careers decades later.
“Our parents understood the drive and the need to express oneself,” said Lucas Richman. “We were always running around, doing theater, ballet, acting, piano lessons, voice lessons. It was an intensely creative household.”
Their father, Peter Mark Richman, has had a more than 60-year career in film and television, appearing in everything from “The Twilight Zone” to “Dynasty.” Their mother, Helen, was a TV actor and toured with Broadway shows for years. All three of the other Richman siblings are in the arts as well — Roger and Orien are actors, and Howard is a piano teacher.
“Our parents were supportive of our dreams from the very beginning. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do this for a living,” said Lester. “And we all have such a good time, flying around the country to see our kids shows and see each other perform. It’s a lot of fun.”
Lester has performed in Maine before — she performed with her mother, Helen, and her daughter, musical theater performer Jenny Lester, in the BSO’s “Celebrating Women” concert in May 2017. That’s where PTC director Bari Newport first saw her, and asked her not long after if she wanted one of the two lead roles in “The Spitfire Grill.”
“She saw something in me and thought I’d be right for the part,” said Lester. “I think it’s just a beautiful show, that says so much about hopes and dreams and community… I think PTC does an amazing job taking chances on smaller shows that may not have major name recognition, but are gems nonetheless.”
“The Spitfire Grill” is directed by Dominick Varney; joining Lester in the cast are PTC regulars Brianne Beck, Scott Johnson, Ira Kramer and Heather Astbury-Libby, and newcomer Elizabeth Flanagan in the role of Percy. The show runs Wednesdays-Sundays, April 26-May 13 at the Bangor Opera House. “The Pines of Rome,” the next BSO concert, is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6 at the Collins Center for the Arts.
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