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When planning its 34th season, the staff at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono relied on a time-honored strategy when it came to choosing its lineup of shows: trying to cram as diverse a lineup of performances and broadcasts as possible into one eight-month period.
“I would say there’s something for everyone, and we mean everyone: country music fans, world music fans, for families, for Broadway fans, for hip hop fans, and so on,” said associate director Karen Cole. “We’ve even got stuff for fans of shows like ‘The Office’ and ‘Mystery Science Theater,’ which really have some diehard fans. And there’s reptiles and llamas.”
Though pop pioneer Chubby Checker played a show on Friday, the season kicks off officially on Sept. 28, with the annual Collins Center gala party, followed by a performance from beloved musician and composer Bobby McFerrin.
Some of the other musical highlights hitting the main stage this season include songwriter Roseanne Cash (Oct. 26), country music legend Marty Stuart (Nov. 20) and Celtic ensemble the Irish Rovers (Feb. 25). There are also several tributes to icons of pop music, including a touring show playing the Beatles “White Album” in its entirety (Oct. 7), with a band including major names like Todd Rundgren, Micky Dolenz and Christopher Cross. There’s also the “The Simon & Garfunkel Story,” a theatrical setting of the songs of Simon & Garfunkel that has toured around the world (Jan. 21).
Outside of the realm of pop music, the Collins Center will host Kune, a Canadian ensemble featuring musicians from Canada’s many and varied cultural traditions (Nov. 15), and TAO, a modern Japanese taiko drumming and dance group (Feb. 21).
The center features a number of touring plays and musicals each year, and this season is no exception. Shows for 2019-20 include “The Office! A Musical Parody” (Nov. 3); the Broadway tour of the revival of “The Color Purple” (Feb. 3); the Broadway tour of the musical version of “Finding Neverland” (March 2); “The Choir of Man” (April 8), a jukebox musical set in an English pub; and the touring Broadway production of “An American in Paris” (April 19).
As one of the few places in eastern Maine to consistently see contemporary dance, the Collins Center for the Arts this year will host two world-class dance ensembles, including the long-running modern dance troupe Momix (Feb. 5), and FLEXN, a New York-based hip hop dance ensemble (March 1).
There are always a few shows each season that defy easy categorization. For the 2019-20 season, those shows include a performance from Cirque Mechanics, a circus arts ensemble (Oct. 10); illusionist Lyn Dillies (Oct. 18); and the touring show from cult favorite TV show Mystery Science Theatre 3000, featuring show originator Joel Hodgson and his robot sidekicks (March 8).
The mainstage season is rounded out by shows from Maine standup comedian Bob Marley (two shows on Oct. 19), children’s performances including an animal show from Rainforest Reptiles Nov. 17) and “Llama Llama Live!” based on the bestselling books (April 9), and two holiday shows: a touring production of “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 12), and a Christmas show from vocal ensemble The Swingles (Dec. 17).
Concerts at Minsky Recital Hall will this year feature jazz, in addition to chamber music. Minsky shows include violin-piano duo Bomsori Kim and Phillip Chiu (Sept. 15), jazz players Bruce Barth and Anat Cohen (Oct. 4), the Jupiter String Quartet (Nov. 8), the Septura Brass Septet (Feb. 16), the Miro Quartet (March 29), and jazz duo Camila Meza and Aaron Goldberg (April 4). In a special performance, early music vocal ensemble Stile Antico will perform at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bangor (Sept. 19).
Broadcasts of National Theatre Live and the Metropolitan Opera return this year, with 18 operas, plays and musicals set to hit the big Collins Center screen. Highlights include NT Live’s broadcasts of the critically acclaimed staging of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” starring Gwendoline Christie of “Game of Thrones” (Nov. 21), a broadcast of a revival of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” starring Andrew Scott of TV’s “Sherlock” (Jan. 17), and a production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” starring Sally Field and Bill Pullman (Feb. 7). The Met in HD’s schedule features 10 operas, including a highly anticipated production of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” (Feb. 1).
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s season at the Collins Center features performances Oct. 6, Nov. 10, Jan. 26, March 22, April 5 and May 3, with “The Nutcracker” performed with the Robinson Ballet on Dec. 21 and 22, and the annual pops concert, featuring music from Paul McCartney, Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber, on May 30. Ensembles from UMaine’s School of Performing Arts will perform on Oct. 27, Dec. 5, Dec. 8, March 10 and April 23.
For a full schedule and for ticket information, visit collinscenterforthearts.com.