GORHAM, Maine – A free film series, starting Sunday, Jan. 26, will highlight the history of the American musical theater and feature some of its top productions, from vaudeville to the latest Broadway hits.

The series, which includes a range of movies from the first filmed version of “Porgy and Bess” to the award-winning “Rent,” is presented as part of a unique class being offered this semester at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

“American musical theater mirrors all the great issues and struggles of our time,” instructor Christenia Alden-Kinne, who is teaching the class, said in a recent news release.

A total of 10 films will be presented at 2 p.m. on Sundays over the coming months, and they will be shown on a big screen at 10 Bailey Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Alden-Kinne will introduce each film to the audience.

“These productions focus on such issues as racism, feminism and poverty, yet they also demonstrate our country’s irrepressible optimism,” she said. “These landmark musicals are beloved by audiences, and they have changed the way we look at ourselves.”

All showings are free and open the public. The film series schedule is as follows:

— Sunday, Jan. 26: “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — 1942 biopic celebrating the life of George M. Cohan; starring James Cagney in his Academy Award-winning performance.

— Sunday, Feb. 2: “The Pirates of Penzance” — Kevin Kline reprises his Tony Award-winning role in the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera of a roguish pirate king and a lovely maid.

— Sunday, Feb. 9: “Showboat” — the ground-breaking musical by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

— Sunday, March 2: “Porgy and Bess” — the first filmed version of George and Ira Gershwin’s work, which uses George Gershwin’s own orchestrations; performed by the London Philharmonic and the Glenbourne Opera Co.; directed by Trevor Nunn.

— Sunday, March 9: “Oklahoma” — the London Royal National Theatre staging of the Rodgers and Hammerstein production; starring Hugh Jackman; directed by Trevor Nunn.

— Sunday, March 16: “My Fair Lady” — the Academy Award-winning film starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn; awarded Best Picture in 1964.


— Sunday, March 23: “West Side Story” — the Academy Award-winning film by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim; named Best Picture in 1961; one of the American Film Institute’s 100 best films of all time.

— Sunday, April 13: “Sunday in the Park with George” — Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning concept musical starring Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters.


— Sunday, April 20: “Chicago” — Academy Award-winning film of the Kander, Ebb and Fosse musical; longest-running American musical on Broadway; named Best Picture in 2002.

— Sunday, April 27: “Rent” — final performance on Broadway of Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical.