Lakewood Theater is open for its 110th summer season on the western shore of beautiful Lake Wesserunsett in Madison, Maine. The Lakewood Theater is a cultural gem known for providing quality shows to residents and visitors to the Belgrade Lakes Region.
In the summer theater tradition, during the early 1900s Lakewood Theater hosted Broadway and Hollywood stars, directors, playwrights and producers who were looking for other places to practice their craft when New York theaters closed for the season. Apparently, before the advent of air conditioning, theater folks left the city and established themselves in resort areas where the more mobile middle class took their annual vacations, thus providing an audience.
In its glory days, Lakewood Theater saw the likes of Gloria Swanson, Vincent Price, Lynn Redgrave, Milton Berle, Lana Turner, Robert Preston, Phyllis Diller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Imogene Coca and more. Dressing room walls, which sport some of their fading signatures, have been preserved. Actors would stay in cottages by the lake for a week as that's how long each show ran. On their last night at Lakewood, they'd be treated to a lobster feed.
The land surrounding Lakewood Theater was once a camp ground for the Kennebec Indian Tribe. In the late 1800s, an amusement park was built here. The current theater building was constructed in 1882 for the Madison Spiritualist Association. By 1899, Herbert L. Swett, a Bangor native and Bowdoin College graduate became manager of the amusement park and developed the property into an inn and theater. Between 1925 and 1941, this jewel of the Upper Kennebec Valley, was the major summer tryout for productions hoping to succeed on Broadway. A 1920s Chamber of Commerce brochure proclaimed "Plays which bear the stamp of Broadway approval." "Life with Father" premiered at Lakewood Theater in 1939.
The Maine Legislature designated Lakewood Theater as the State Theater of Maine in 1967. By the 1970s the Broadway casts stopped coming to Madison. After some ups and downs between 1970 and 1985, Jeffrey Quinn and the late Marti Stevens of The Cornville Players, the oldest community theater group in central Maine, were invited to stage their shows at Lakewood. They soon founded Curtains Up Enterprises, Inc. (CUE), a non-profit partnership, which maintains the facility and produces comedies, dramas, musicals and children's shows. Jeff Quinn is the general manager of CUE, which works to renovate and restore the theater building, including adding cabaret seating along the sides.
Today, Lakewood Theater's white facade and inside stage draws from a rich pool of local talent for shows produced from late May until mid-September. The 2010 season includes "Little Women," "Ring of Fire," "Shakespeare in Hollywood," "Gypsy," "Looking," "Dracula," and "Who's Under Where." Showtimes are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., every other Sunday at 4 p.m. and matinees every other Wednesday at 2 and 7 p.m.
Before enjoying a show at Lakewood Theater, make some time to play golf at the Lakewood Golf Course and look at properties along the shore of Lake Wesserunsett. Then you can be assured of always enjoying the shows and everything else the Belgrade Lakes Region has to offer.