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DIRIGO STORIES: Veteran helps create WWI musical debuting in Brunswick

The Theater Project in Brunswick debuts a WWI-era musical on April 6 (WGME).

BRUNSWICK (WGME) -- A Vietnam Veteran who runs a trailer company in Scarborough is adding a new title to his resume: musical producer.

"A lot of people think I’m nuts, but they’ve thought that for years!” Kelley said.

Persistence and a little chance have brought Kelley to this point. "The Anzacs: Lest We Forget" is set to debut at The Theater Project in Brunswick on Thursday, April 6, but it's been a journey 30 years in the making.

"A friend gave me this album, and I loved the music. I used to play it in my car on tape. Then I lost it, and I didn't find it again until three years ago," Kelley said.

The album contains 14 songs about the Australian New Zealand Army Corps, or Anzacs for short. Kelley, a U.S. Army veteran, served alongside the Anzacs for part of his time in Vietnam, so the music had a special place in his heart.

But when he rediscovered the music three years ago, he also learned the album came with a book called “The Anzacs: 100 Years On, In Story and Song,” by Ted Egan. It's the true story of three Australian brothers who fight for the Anzacs in World War I. Kelley was fascinated.

"I asked all my friends, 'do you see a play here?' And without exception they said, 'Yes, absolutely.'"

Kelley, who owns MBI Trailers in Scarborough, started shopping the idea around to theater companies. Eventually, he found Michele Livermore Wigton who has ties to The Theater Project.

"She said, ‘This guy Sam is incredible. You're going to love him,'" said Wendy Poole, Executive Director of The Theater Project. “You know he's right. This music is just ripe for a play."

With the theater on board, the team worked to get the rights to adapt the story. The book's author, Ted Egan, still lives in Australia. Kelley got in touch with Egan who gave his permission to adapt his work into a musical. Wigton wrote the musical, and Poole is directing it.

“This was created by this passion Sam had for the music,” Poole said. “As artists you just look for those moments when somebody can come to you and say 'Isn't this incredible?'”

“I hope veterans come out and see it,” Kelley said. “It’s a story about war and the after effects of war.”

The show debuts Thursday, April 6 – exactly 100 years since the U.S. entered World War I. It runs for nine performances April 6-9 and . Kelley plans to attend all of them.

For tickets CLICK HERE, or call 207-729-8584.

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