My 2-cents: Count Your Clynks!

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , on July 17, 2017 by Ringer

ClynkHas this ever happened to you?

After dropping off my returnables at Hannaford in Westbrook via the Clynk redemption service, I look forward to checking my account balance online a few days later to see how rich I am.  Oftentimes I feel like I should have a higher balance.  But, I figure, their way of counting and accounting must be right and my instinct must be wrong.

So I conducted my own audit.

On 6/26/17, my balance was $9.40.  I dropped a Clynk bag with $2.10 worth of containers.  On 6/27/17, my balance should have been 11.50, but it was $11.30 (20-cents less).  “Hmph,” I thought.  Perhaps 4 glass containers got broken in transit?  Or perhaps 4 containers were from NH?  So, I tried again.

On 7/15/17, my balance was still $11.30, and I had clynked 8,225 containers.  I dropped off another bag (thoroughly checked for deposits—all legit, none crushed)—a total of 52 containers valued at $4.10.  On 7/17/17, my account balance should have been $15.40 with a total of 8,222 containers.  Instead it was $15.05 (now 35-cents less) but somehow I ended up with a count of 8,225 containers (I KNOW that was wrong…what do aluminum cans do when no adults are in the room?).

It’s not my job to audit Clynk, or to question the relationship between Hannaford and Clynk, or to supervise employees who might be damaging a lot of product, or worse, skimming (for which casino employees notoriously faced harsh penalties at best).  But, as a loyal Clynk fan and a regular Hannaford customer, I am concerned there’s a serious breach that needs to be immediately addressed.

Just from my two recent experimental audits, I find myself short 55-cents, not a major blow to my budget (I’ll probably still be able to pay my mortgage), but considering this scenario has likely repeated itself throughout my many years of clynking, the collective damage to my pocket could feasibly be in the hundreds of dollars.  Now, combine the many customers who clynk at Westbrook Hannaford, multiplied by the number of Hannaford locations who have a relationship with Clynk and the amount of damaged goods and/or under-reported/skimmed deposits has now reached major theft/fraud levels.

Not to be an alarmist, but I’d like to get my under-reported deposits back over the years (how is that even calculated?).  And I’m sure once this information is made public there may be another Clynk customer or two…or thousands…who feel a class action suit might not be out of the realm of resolutions.  But don’t get me wrong…I love the convenience and cleanliness of the Clynk redemption service.  I just don’t like getting ripped off.  So I’m making my story public—clanking about Clynk as it were— in hopes that someone with proper authority might research the matter, perhaps conduct their own audit, and righteously resolve the matter.

–Louis Philippe

Schoolhouse Arts Center Soars With PETER PAN

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on July 14, 2017 by Ringer

 

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July 2017

One of my favorite songs of all time is Liza Minnelli’s magical trademark rendition of “Never Never Land” from her Liza’s Back Live Concert CD released in 2002.  But for bits and pieces, I had never seen PETER PAN, the musical from which the song was born…that is, until now.  I’m glad to report that my first journey to Never Land was a wonderful experience.

Schoolhouse Arts Center at Sebago Lake presents PETER PAN in its full splendor through July 30th.  This is the classic tale by Sir James M. Barrie that spawned the 1954 Broadway musical that starred Mary Martin in the iconic lead role.  With music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, this timeless tale marks the directorial debut by Zachariah Stearn, himself a Schoolhouse icon, who effectively creates a fun, exciting adventure for audience members of all ages.

The journey to Never Land begins in the nursery of the Darling home (Scene 1).  While Mr. and Mrs. Darling (Steven Koskinen and Cindy Smith) are out for the evening and the children Wendy (Ashley McBreairty), John (Reese Madarasz) and Michael (Ella Tedeschi) are asleep, Peter Pan (Kaylin Brown) makes his grand entrance in search of his shadow, with the help of his fairy, Tinkerbell.  The children are enthralled by Peter Pan who teaches them to fly and invites them to come to his home, Never Land, where he lives with the Lost Boys…and off they go.

Like Oz and Narnia, Never Land (Scene 2) is enchanting, blithe, ever-imaginative, forever young, with forests abundant in adventures.  But the Lost Boys face challenges from Tiger Lily (Emily Thompson) and her tribe of Indian Braves and Captain Hook (Steven Koskinen) and his band of Pirates.  As amazing as Never Land is, before long, the children wish to return to their home but they and the Boys are captured by Hook’s Pirates and trapped aboard the Jolly Roger (Scene 3).  With some fateful twists and climatic surprises, thanks to Peter Pan, all ends well.

The large mixed cast of 34 actors, singers and dancers is a nice representation of the Schoolhouse community talent pool that includes all ages, cross-genre roles, and all levels of experience from the newbies to seasoned pros.

Despite some tentative moments early on, the cast quickly found a creative flow that was infectious and delightful.  Clearly, Director Stearn’s vision “to create a production filled with childlike wonder and innocence, with big colorful characters,” was a message heard loud and clear.

The best moments are the larger group scenes which provide entertaining animation by actors confident in their characters.  The Pirates are visually vibrant, each with unique eccentricities that bring comic relief and joy to their scenes.  Steven Koskinen (Captain Hook) is outstanding with his expression and timing and Schoolhouse favorites Jeffrey McNally (Smee) and Jacob Clowes (Noodler) do not fail to deliver their usual high-energy top-notch game.

Other Pirates include Janet Littlefield (Cecco), Jack Lamont (Jukes), Cindy Smith (Smitty), John Littlefield (Starkey), Timothy Dwyer (Timbo) and Airin Wolf (Mullins)—all worthy players.

Emily Thompson owns the stage in her role as Tiger Lily, displaying grace and competence with her dancing skills and leading a highly-qualified tribe of Indian Braves that include Gabrielle Bouthot, Sophia Cartonio, Alexis Clement, Cara Kennedy, Pauline Kennedy, Annikka Mocciola, Meghan Reidy and Melissa Spicer.

Kaylin Brown (Peter Pan) and Ashley McBreairty (Wendy) soar in their leading roles (pardon the pun).  Both possess nicely controlled, pristine singing voices and clear diction (though a tad more projection couldn’t hurt).  They’re capable of driving their scenes with their instinctive blend of magical innocence and naïve wisdom.

The songs are stellar and well delivered by leads and chorus alike and will certainly be on the lips of audience members for days after the curtain call.  “I’ve Gotta Grow,” “I’m Flying,” “Never Never Land,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” are just a few favorites.  The music is under the capable direction of Allen Thomas.

Schoolhouse Arts Center is “old school”—literally.  It’s a charming venue with creaky wooden floors, old-fashioned bathrooms, classrooms that are now lobby space.  It is the very essence of Maine community theater with a bonus rustic feel in the heat of summer.  It might not be state-of-the-art but Schoolhouse is the ultimate “state of the heart” theater group that specializes in the process of performing arts versus the slickness of the product.

At Schoolhouse, there’s a noticeable casualness before the show begins, perhaps bursts of controlled chaos (cast members frantically searching for their props, or scooting across the stage to deliver a message, or simply appearing in full costume to say hi to their family).

Process-vs-Product— it’s a beautiful thing.   Director Stearn gets it.  Those few tentative moments in the action when actors are faced with a momentary crisis (“Am I waiting for the band or are they waiting for me?” “What should I do for these four measures?” “Oops, was I supposed to come out yet?” “Is that crocodile stuck?”) are precious and scary moments that lead to personal victory and empowerment.  Schoolhouse founders Hank and Nancy Beebe understood that philosophy and would be very proud of the PETER PAN cast and crew.

Schoolhouse’s choice to stage PETER PAN was a bold one that falls between two factors, i.e, the (left brain) funding required for aesthetic changes to the stage, liability, safety issues and equipment installation to “fly” castmembers versus the (right brain) potential payoff for having that creative wow factor of castmembers “flying.”  Cudos to the Board for the decision to “fly.”

PETER PAN runs through July 30th, Thursdays – Saturdays at 7 PM, and Sundays at 5 PM.  Schoolhouse Arts Center is located at 16 Richville Rd., Standish (near the intersection of Routes 35 and 114).  For reservations, call 207/642-3743 or visit www.schoolhousearts.org.

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–Louis Philippe

CITY THEATER BRINGS OUT LAUGHTER, TEARS WITH “STEEL MAGNOLIAS”

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on May 13, 2017 by Ringer
Steel Magnolias

Biddeford City Theater’s cast of STEEL MAGNOLIAS (l-r): Mary Boucher, Candy Jamerson, Rebecca Cole, Maddy Jarvis, Elizabeth Lester, Jessica Fidalgo.

May 2017

City Theater presents Robert Harling’s dynamic comedy-drama STEEL MAGNOLIAS, a touching play that unravels the layers of tangent relationships among a group of very different Southern women whose lives are presented through the prism of their one common social setting, Truvy Jones’ in-home beauty salon.

It’s Spring of 1987 and in the northwestern Louisiana parish of Chinquapin there’s excitement and anticipation in the air, particularly at Truvy’s Beauty Spot where the ladies are prepping for Shelby’s wedding.  The salon chat is quick, upbeat and funny, revealing diverse personalities and a colorful picture of the quirky locale.

Suddenly, Shelby has a diabetic episode that confronts the eternal hope of spring with the reality of serious medical challenges that could—and does—impact her life.  Shelby’s journey is the backdrop of the story— from her wedding day to the birth of her child, through her diabetic episodes, dialysis, kidney transplant and untimely passing.

Based on Harling’s real-life experience with his sister’s death, the play is a testament to the love, friendship and support of the female characters who, as the title suggests, “are as delicate as magnolias but as tough as steel.”

STEEL MAGNOLIAS is a tender, heart-warming piece that requires a strongly-connected ensemble cast of women who can pour out their stage craft, turn on a dime and effectively sell all the range of emotions that the playwright has embedded in his work, from laugh-out-loud hilarity to intense despair.  The 1989 award-winning film adapation is arguably the highest recognized version of STEEL MAGNOLIAS which starred Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley Maclaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah.

For City Theater’s production, Director Linda Sturdivant has managed to muster a divergent troupe of lovely, talented, women who competently and confidently succeed in reaching Harling’s creative criteria—to the delight and enthrallment of a very engaging audience.

Maddy Jarvis, a senior at Bonny Eagle High School, skillfully handles the role of Shelby with clarity, charm and just the right amount of naivety and optimism.  Rebecca Cole plays M’Lynn, Shelby’s Mom, subtly balancing M’Lynn’s assertive, self-reliant motherly instincts to protect her child at all costs with her own inner fears of losing her daughter.  Cole’s impassioned climax in the final scene is an emotional feat, a Kleenex moment not one eye in the audience escapes.

The role of Truvy is aptly handled by Jessica Fidalgo, who instinctively multi-tasks her way around the salon, wearing many hats as business owner, employer, social host, caring friend, etc., making sure everyone is taken care of.  Elizabeth Lester is quite amusing in her portrayal of Annelle, the meek new girl at the salon who slowly becomes an integral part of the ladies’ circle.

Keeping the comedy front-and-center—at any given moment—are Mary Boucher and Candy Jamerson whose character interpretations of Clairee and Ouiser, respectively, guarantee the guffaws don’t outweigh the tears.  Both ladies are “seasoned” actresses who know precisely how to deliver the zingers and one-liners they’ve been commissioned with (think Elaine Stritch).

STEEL MAGNOLIAS runs through May 27th, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM.  City Theater is located at 204 Main St., downtown Biddeford.  FMI: 207-282-0849 or http://www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

INSIGHT FROM INDUSTRY INSIDERS: THOMMY KANE

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , on April 21, 2017 by Ringer

April 2017

Why Social Media is Dead for Musicians and Performing Artists

Thommy Kane is a Portland-based rapper/hip-hop artist formerly known as POVERTY.  He is also an actor, record producer, poet and entrepreneur…and a friend of mine.

“As a hip hop artist, I have been mulling over which social media platform is the best to get music out there. After several months of research I have come to the conclusion that none of them are, anymore.

In the early days of Myspace, Social media was a new thing. The excitement brought people to it in droves and it was a hot bed for entertainers. Dane Cook even made a comedy career off of his Myspace following that made him the highest paid stand-up comic in the world at the time. YouTube and Facebook coming in around mid-2000’s, also made tons of people famous. Singers like Justin Beiber became the world’s next Michael Jackson, solely off of Youtube popularity alone. However, with constant evolving technology making high quality music, and videos, cheap and easy to make, the music market became flooded. It has gotten to the point where just about anybody can make some form of music now at a decent quality for a very inexpensive cost. A lot of fans became artists, and buyers became sellers. The over-saturation of music and videos resulted in a massive pouring of people self-promoting down the feeds of everybody’s twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Then, in a response to match the demand of self-promoting artists, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram began charging artists to get exposure, the same way they charge Subway to market a $5 foot-long.

So, people who don’t do music, who artists are targeting as fans, are not only being pelted with youtube and soundcloud links all day long from every artist under the sun, but now they also have to sit and see forced content in their newsfeed that reads “sponsored” over it. Where the fan of music once clicked on an occasional link to check out some struggling artist’s music, they are now so overwhelmed and annoyed with all the spam, they simply don’t bother anymore. Just like most people won’t even bother to read this article. Not to mention, that every DJ, artist, band, singer, beat producer, painter, photographer, website designer, travel blogger, food blogger, dancer, graphic designer, video director, youtuber, comedian, actor, model and tattoo artist is trying to promote themselves. In other words, everyone has adopted the same logic that they could build a business for themselves on social media by marketing themselves. What this has resulted in is everybody plugging and promoting themselves without taking any time to look at what others are promoting.

What also occurred, is websites like Facebook, have drifted far away from being a social media site, now acting more as a news aggregate and self-promotion engine. The entire landscape of social media has changed. The online world has become so weighed down by a myriad of people selling something, that the small few people who aren’t selling anything have become simply exhausted. Where it used to only be big corporations jockeying for your attention, now it’s all of them and half of the people you know online.

Facebook had artists spending years building a Facebook fan page for themselves, and now they charge the artist money to reach their own fan base. Twitter is basically a place where people follow people who are already famous. So for the struggling artist, good luck with that. Also, Twitter won’t allow you to upload songs or videos without limiting its duration. Instagram is exactly the same as twitter in both cases. Snapchat won’t let you do anything accept snap a pic or shoot a 10 second video and share it. Hardly the platform for promoting music. Soundcloud is predominantly swarmed with other struggling artists promoting to other struggling artists. The only way to gain the attention of regular people on their site is to chart, which you need thousands and thousands of fans already to achieve. Unless of course you plug your Soundcloud on other Social Media sites, which I have already explained is useless. Youtube on the other hand is another nightmare all together. The average person looks at a YouTube video with a few hundred to a couple thousand views and immediately dismisses it. Nobody wants to support something they don’t already see others supporting, and this remains a factor with Soundcloud plays as well.

Which is why now, there are dozens of websites that will help you pay for fake plays and views. However, what good is a fake play or view, if it doesn’t directly convert into a real fan? Lastly, don’t even get me started on email marketing. Nobody wants spam in their emails.

So I began doing some research as to just where people do go for new music. I know there are still die-hard fans of music who are interested in discovering new music right? They’re must be some place they go, right? Wrong.

There is no one place, app or website anyone goes for new music anymore. In fact, what my research has revealed, is that the vast majority of music listeners discover music nowadays in video games, commercials and believe it or not, radio. Radio, something we all thought would die 10 years ago, is still very much alive. Occasionally, some people stumble upon you because of a viral video, hear something they liked on a Pandora playlist, or simply discover artists who are trending. However, the question then becomes, just how does an artist do any of these things?

Well, first of all, you can’t “make” a viral video. It either happens or it don’t. With regards to Pandora, it is next to impossible to get included in their playlist without being a signed artist. There are ways, but it’s a major pain in the ass. As far as getting on the radio, you simply cannot do that without major money and a major radio promoter who can get that accomplished for you. You may be able to get on local radio, or some local college stations, but that’s about it. And, you will never be in rotation on the station, without some rep from Interscope Records making it happen with Clear Channel. As far as placements in video games, movies, and commercials, the only way to achieve that as an artist is to have a publishing deal with someone like EMI or BMI. However, publishing companies will almost never do a deal with an unsigned artist, unless of course you write or produce songs for somebody else who is signed.

Some even argue that if you just go outside to promote your music and do shows, it could have a much better effective reach than online. What people fail to realize though, is that nobody goes to shows to go see artists they never heard of. If you are willing to perform for free in front a few strangers you could develop a fan or two, but even for super talented artists, this doesn’t result in significant growth.

What has happened is that only artists with serious amounts of wealth behind them are making any noise. Most record deals happening these days are simply insiders helping out other insiders. Very rarely will you hear a story like “Russ” (who is fucking dope af btw) come up, just from building their own organic online following.

Just recently I did a test with online social media advertisement. I spent $30 on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram just to see the results. Keep in mind I targeted people who specifically like hip hop and similar interests. Facebook, after claiming I could reach a minimum of 18,000 people, was the least effective. My $30 got me 5 likes on my fan page, 800 views on my video and 2 comments. My $30 ad on twitter resulted in 4 reposts, 8 likes and only 1 new follower. My $30 on Youtube got me 4,000 views (which was pretty good), but only 16 likes, and zero new subscribers or comments. In fact, I think a vast majority of the views were counted solely from the ad playing for 5 seconds before another video. Instagram did the best though. My $30 on Instagram got me 3,000 views on a video, 118 hearts, 8 comments and 17 new followers. The results of this test run got me thinking.

If any artist out there is backed by major money, like record label money, you could easily make someone a star for about roughly $50,000. However, what I hear from people every day, is how tired they are of mainstream music. I hear people say things like “the Industry shoves stuff down our throats, etc,) Well, unfortunately the game is completely designed for that to be the case again. In the 90’s, the music business had all the power. If an artist was going to make it he needed big label money. We just went through a fifteen year span where that was no longer the case. Just about anyone could get online and blow up. I even remember when the rapper “Benefit” was downloaded over one million times off Napster. Unfortunately, the fifteen year grace period of independent artists has come to almost a screeching halt.

As a fan of music, the bad side to all of this is you will, once again, only know about music that big money put in front of you. The good side though, is that you will longer need to swim through a barrage of struggling artists promoting their links, considering that only big money will be able to afford to put it in front of you. As an artist on the other hand, we are stuck in a major state of limbo. You need views, plays, streams and likes to get record deals, but you need record deal money now to get views, plays, streams and likes. So, if you’re a fan of someone’s music, it’s incredibly important to follow and subscribe on all platforms. Its extremely important to share, view, like or engage with their content. Its also important for the artist to engage back and show respect for that level of support. The intimate relationship between artist and fan is one of the only remaining combative measures we can take anymore to fight against big money.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m just going to keep climbing up that wall of adversity. I’m going to continue showing love to my pre-existing fan base and welcome any new fans who trickle in with open arms. It’s a process though and not likely to result in a huge rapid growth. Though I truly believe that if music is truly good, nothing can stop it from spreading. Therefore, I obviously have more work to do. They say that 100 fans on the internet can turn into a million overnight if so much as one stroke of luck occurs. Well, considering I am not backed by a millionaire, I guess that’s all I can hope for. Keep on keeping on, playa.”

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–Thommy Kane

SCHOOLHOUSE ARTS PRESENTS CLASSIC COMEDY “PLAZA SUITE”

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2017 by Ringer

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April 2017

Ever check into a hotel and wonder who stayed there last night?  Last month?  Last year?  Was it a single person?  Married couple?  Family? And just what occurred in that very same space you’re now occupying?

Playwright Neil Simon provides some answers in his classic comedy PLAZA SUITE, now playing at Schoolhouse Arts in StandishWith Simon’s unique trademark style of situation humor, PLAZA SUITE offers an inside look at three parties who at one time or another stayed at NYC’s Plaza Hotel for very different reasons.  It’s a snapshot in time of quirky characters with idiosyncratic personalities on zany, fragmented journeys that all intersect in Suite 719.

Act One.  Sam and Karen Nash are celebrating their “23rd or 24th” anniversary “today or tomorrow.”  Despite Karen’s desire to rekindle the romance by revisiting their honeymoon suite, Sam’s desire is focused on work, work, work.  Just when tensions are boiling, Jean McCormack, Nash’s young, skinny and attractive secretary, drops by with more work that compels Sam back to the office.   Karen’s joking reference to an affair between Sam and Jean turns out to be true.

Terri Plummer’s Karen and Chris Roberts’ Sam are wonderful to watch as they navigate all the emotional landmines through incessant roller-coaster rides of nice-talk and heated arguments.  The strengths and weaknesses of their characters are manipulated perfectly by Plummer and Roberts, never letting up on the push-and-pull, up-and-down, ying-yang, internal conflicts.  Crickett Cote’s brief portrayal of Jean McCormack is subtly well-played.

Act Two.  Hollywood Producer (and legendary ladies man) Jesse Kiplinger is in town and hopes to hook up with his old high school flame Muriel Tate after 17 years.  Muriel, now married with children, is guilt-ridden but reluctantly accepts Jesse’s invitation to visit and promises she will not stay long.  After a drink or two or 10, Jesse reveals his inner feelings about his work, fame, past relationships and his love for Muriel, who admits to her unhappy marriage and by now has poured out her heart and soul on her way to passing out in bed.

Gerald Davis, though perhaps a tad young for the role, is ultimately convincing as Jesse Kiplinger.  He is strong as the self-absorbed purveyor of fame and fortune, knows how to display the precise amount of inner anger, and gently reveals his character’s vulnerability.  Mia Perron is both fun and funny as Muriel Tate, aptly handling a wide range of emotion as she successfully transforms Muriel from a shy, demure, proper young lady into a wilder and willing partner.  Together, the facial expressions and comedic timing are entertaining.

Act Three.  Sixty-eight guests and a bridegroom are anxiously waiting downstairs for Roy and Norma Hubley to escort Mimsey, their daughter and bride-to-be.  Only problem is Mimsey has locked herself in the bathroom.  Hilarity ensues as the frantic parents, desperate and under pressure with each passing moment, try everything under the sun to get their daughter out.  But out of blame, excuses and time, Mom and Dad, bruised and defeated, torn and tattered, have no choice but to tell the groom, Borden Eisler, the wedding is off.  Borden  comes to the room and immediately and effortlessly gets Mimsey to come out.  The wedding is back on.

This is the mad-cap pièce de résistance of all three acts, with more outward slapstick and farce, and Teresa Dyer (Norma) and Tom Ferrent (Roy) capably and comfortably achieving their creative tasks.  They work well with each other, and against each other, and instinctively flow from moments of comic hysteria to moments of subtle silence.  Rachel Scala plays Mimsey.

Honorable mention is due for Jon Bolduc’s dual-role as the waiter in Act One and Borden Eisler in Act Three.

Overall, PLAZA SUITE is comfort food for theater goers.  It’s nothing fancy, high-tech, psycho-analytical, political or dramatically intense.  It’s just a fun time with a good comedy courtesy of Neil Simon, Director Jerry Walker, and a nice bunch of Maine talent.

PLAZA SUITE runs April 21-May 7, Friday & Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.  Schoolhouse Arts Center is located at 16 Richville Rd., Standish.  FMI: 207/642-3743 or www.schoolhousearts.org.

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–Louis Philippe

Maine Musician’s Music Video Makes Strong Case in Independent Music Awards

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , on March 26, 2017 by Ringer

Across The Fine Line

John Milazzo2

March 2017

John Milazzo of Auburn is a singer, songwriter, studio engineer and music producer who has been involved in music projects on one level or another for decades.  Even while maintaining an active law practice, he kept his musical aspirations and achievements alive—in hopes of crafting that next big hit, supporting other artists with their worthy goals, or simply creating and sharing beautiful original songs with friends and family.

Recently, John C. Milazzo Jr., Esq, retired as general counsel and chief deputy director for the Maine Public Employees Retirement System…and he’s not missing a beat!

Last year he wrote and recorded (and why not? He built his own full-service state-of-the-art professional recording studio in his home…and did I mention he is retired now?) a social commentary called Across The Fine Line, a soul-searching reflection of cultural, political and humanitarian hot topics that are prevalent in American society.

The music is a crisp and tasty dose of contemporary easy-listening/pop, the lyrics are poignant and deliberate, and the production (mixing and mastering) is superb—all a testament to the man’s ability to proficiently blend his technical skills and creative gifts.

Just a few weeks ago, Milazzo received an email invitation to submit his song for consideration by the Independent Music Awards, a global competition for established artists & rising stars, producers, indie labels and visual artists.  IMAS is described as a unique music discovery and vetting platform that helps exceptional independent artists get the opportunities they need and deserve.

This year’s focus is on social action music videos.  The only problem was that, although John had been working on the video for a few days, it was not finished. So, with literally only hours before submission deadline, and with no video production experience, the undaunted producer took the bull by the horns, immediately digested his iMovie software and created a stunning video just in the nick of time.

“I created this video because I believed that the song’s message would be better understood and further enhanced by pairing it with visual content.” Milazzo said.

“I wanted to bring the viewer into a world where there’s a lot of bad things going on and make the case that we need to reflect on our words, actions and choices and stop crossing the line before it’s too late,” said the songwriter.

Initial response to the music video validate Milazzo’s three-fold design:  To present universally-relevant content that nobody could disagree with; In a strong video presentation appropriate for general audiences; That especially did not presuppose judgment or blame.

“What’s interesting is that nobody’s reacting in a partisan way,” Milazzo noted.  “Everyone that’s watched it said it’s made them think.” 

Encouraged by his accomplishment, Milazzo describes his creation as “a little pebble dropped in a big pond.”  And he is hoping his work will have a rippling impact that’s positive, provocative and motivating. To help reach that goal, he has pledged to donate any profits from his song to charitable causes.

“I’m not a particularly spiritual person,” he said, “but man, this thing is bigger than me.”  He envisions the possibility of churches, schools, any type of groups, using the music video as a tool to prompt discussions and explore changes and solutions to some of the issues that are prevalent in today’s current events.

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–Louis Philippe

To view the music video, click here:  Across The Fine Line

For more info on John’s studio work, click here:  AudioDigitalRecordingStudio

For more info on IMAS, including how to register as a fan and vote, click here:  Independent Music Awards

Footlights Stages Hilarious Sex Romp, THE NAKED TRUTH

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , on March 10, 2017 by Ringer

The Naked TruthMarch 2017

Isn’t it funny what people can get in an inheritance?  In this case, very funny.

In The Naked Truth, an adult sex comedy by Rich Orloff, George and Liz (Jeffrey Gillenwater and Cindy O’Neil), a retired couple from Dayton, Ohio, inherit a resort in Key West from George’s estranged brother.

The new owners face some jarring challenges upon their arrival when they discover the Godiva Inn is a floundering clothing-optional resort and with the inheritance comes Clark (Justin Gifford), front-desk clerk and aspiring drag queen, and Jane (Leslie Chadbourne), a lesbian maintenance worker who moonlights as a Dominatrix.

Conflicts abound as Liz (“aghast but slightly intrigued”) quickly embraces the freedom and perks of her new surroundings (Disneyworld with a libido) while George clings to his normal, traditional values, setting up the classic battle between “the scenic route” and “the very same road.”  George decides to turn the place into a family-friendly property called Snow White Inn but after the personal and financial struggles continue to mount, he puts the property up for sale.

Enter Fred (Michael J. Tobin/Director) who is immediately smitten by “Strawberry Fields,” Clark’s diva queen persona (RuPaul of Key West).  Desperate to sell, George uncomfortably asks “Strawberry Fields” to seduce Fred to get him to buy the Inn.  Clark agrees, and mayhem ensues but the plot backfires.  When Clark is sufficiently insulted and dissed by Fred the morning after, George uncharacteristically steps up in Clark’s defense, calls off the sale and dismisses Fred.  The unsuspecting hero then announces that The Godiva Inn (where Jesus and Liberace co-exist and where Happy Hours start at sunrise) will live on.

The Naked Truth is a ROFLMAO marathon laughfest overloaded with unrelenting sight gags.  It’s light on substance, heavy on schtick, and feels like an ‘80s cable comedy that broke new ground when it first came out but isn’t as controversial today— but still fun to watch with lots of buttered, salted jiffypop.

The trademark ensemble easily upholds the Footlights’ reputation of working with the very best talent.  Chadbourne, Gifford, Gillenwater, O’Neil and Tobin are each capable, professional players that theater-goers have enjoyed for decades, in hundreds of productions in Southern Maine venues.

The characters portrayed by Chadbourne, Gifford and O’Neil are edgy, over-the-top, and effectively played with high energy, precision and maximum strength.  By contrast, Gillenwater’s rendering of George is at times more comical because of his subtle treatment of the introverted, defeated, withdrawn personality.

The pièce-de-résistance was Tobin’s transformation into Fred, a superb comedy performance reminiscent of Jerry Lewis and other great vintage television comics.  With zany expressions, kooky movements and quirky speech, Fred is dazzling and mesmerizing, worth the price of admission…and will hopefully host his own musical variety show at Footlights in the future.

So as I contemplated this review, there was something about the show that was unresolved and after reviewing the playback in my brain, I concluded that it is Orloff’s very own script that at times creates a glitch for the fine characters he’s created, like a puzzle piece that’s slightly off.  He clearly knows how to get the laugh, but I felt a disconnect in the flow with exaggerated pauses and uneven animation—none of which seemed to be noticed by the audience judging by the boisterous screams and roaring guffaws.

Honestly, The Naked Truth is hysterical…especially for those who go for that sort of adventuresome, no-holds-barred, risqué, free-spirited lifestyle.  And those who don’t should beware that they will likely find themselves ready to book the next flight to Key West.

The Naked Truth runs thru March 25th, Thursdays at 7 PM, Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, with a 2 PM Matinee on Saturday, March 18th.  Footlights Theatre is located at 190 US Rte 1 in Falmouth.  FMI & Tix: Call 747-5434 or visit www.thefootlightsinfalmouth.com.

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–Louis Philippe