Music Theatre History
IN THE BEGINNING
Legend has it that a farmer had gathered apples from his orchard and put them in wooden barrels for safe keeping. When he went back, however, the apples had all turned into a mushy cider-vinegar, so all the neighbors came over and helped pour the liquid down the hill. Hence, literally a Vinegar Hill.
In the late 1800s, William E. Smith built a farm and barn in the area. The property, still affectionately known by locals as The Smith Sisters’ Farm in honor of William’s daughters Gelia and Marcia who lived to be 90 and 100 respectively, remained in the family for 100 years. In 1997, Adrienne Grant purchased the property, which had been vacant for over a decade, from the Smith family, and set about giving the old barn and farmhouse new life.
A CURTAIN CALL
“When I acquired the property, it was a falling down barn with a dirt floor and haylofts,” Grant said in a 2009 interview with Seacoastonline.com. “We had to move the barn, reinforce the structure and build it into a theater.”
Under Grant’s artistic direction, The Arundel Barn Playhouse opened its doors in 1998, and presented entertainment for nearly 20 years in the “Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland tradition,” with a resident company performing throughout the season. Among its roster of talent was John Lloyd Young, who went on to win a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys.
VINEGAR HILL MUSIC THEATRE
In 2015, Grant retired and sold the playhouse to business partners Tim Harrington and Debbie Lennon who renamed the venue to honor its history. With a dream of providing top quality entertainment for the community, Tim and Debbie set about refurbishing and expanding the space to include a rustic garden bar and installed state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment.
The theatre opened in May 2016 under the Creative Direction of George Dvorsky, a former Broadway performer, and in 2016, Sarah Dearing took over as Managing Director.
In its first three seasons, Vinegar Hill Music Theatre has featured performances by such local, national, and international talents as Linda Eder, Ronan Tynan, Maureen McGovern, Well-Strung, Robert Klein, Jim Messina, John Waite, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Caroline Rhea, Thelma Houston, Juice Newton, Paula Cole, Livingston Taylor, The Drifters, The Platters, Lenny Clarke, Shelley MacArthur, Rickie Lee Jones, Juston McKinnon, Suzanne Vega, Roomful of Blues, Larry Gatlin, Peter Cincotti, Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, and Rustic Overtones with the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, and has hosted events benefitting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Maine Medical Center, Seeds of Peace, and the Maine Cancer Foundation.
Vinegar Hill Music Theatre is proud be a part of the tradition of summer theatre excellence in Maine, and of the histories of Arundel, Vinegar Hill, and the Smith Sisters’ Farm.