Nostalgia, History, Talent Explode in World Premiere of HEARTBREAK HOTEL at Ogunquit Playhouse

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , , on September 3, 2017 by Ringer

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September 2017

Floyd Mutrux is one of the busiest and most brilliant writers, directors and producers, with a wonderfully cluttered and creative mind that spills into every facet of his stage productions, intent on providing his targeted audience with the ultimate entertainment experience.

Mutrux is the co-author of the Tony award-winning, record-setting, smash hit Million Dollar Quartet which graced the Ogunquit Playhouse stage in 2015 and 2016 and became the greatest selling show in Ogunquit Playhouse history—the perfect storm of creative development, artistic vision, superb talent and great minds.

So when it was time to unleash his next musical feat—the prequel to Million Dollar Quartet—it was no surprise that he chose Oqunquit Playhouse for the world premiere of Heartbreak Hotel.  It was also no surprise to see him in the audience as he continues to shepherd and tweak his creation.  And it’ll be no surprise when Heartbreak Hotel hits Broadway with a bullet.

Heartbreak Hotel provides a window into the early life of a teenage musician named Elvis Presley who “knew all the songs” but didn’t have his own style.  In 1953, coaxed by his girlfriend, Dixie Locke, Elvis cut a record at Sun Recording Studio as a birthday gift for his mother. Sun Studio Owner Sam Phillips then introduced Elvis to guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black and The Blue Moon Boys was born.

A year later, the trio was back in the studio, still with no unique sound—until an impromptu version of “That’s All Right” immediately impressed Phillips—enough to sign Elvis and The Blue Moon Boys to a record contract.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

With the addition of drummer DJ Fontana, Elvis and his band didn’t take long to inject their newly-created style of music—rockabilly—into the world of clubs, radio and television appearances in Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. With a backdrop of racial inequality and civil unrest, the fusion of rhythm & blues and rockabilly created a toxic new style of rock ‘n roll (“race music”) that appealed to blacks and whites, girls and boys alike—which instantly made Elvis popular and controversial.

In 1955, Colonel Tom Parker, a former carnival barker from the Netherlands who came to America to make his fortune, became Elvis’ official manager.  Soon after, in January of 1956, Elvis signed a contract with RCA Records whose first label release was Mae Axton’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” Next up: His buddy Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Elvis was in the fast lane on a rapid journey toward his unsuspecting destiny.  Milestones from the ’54 – ’58 years:  The Blue Moon Boys were no longer part of his deal but continued their own careers, he catapulted into Hollywood fame, his girlfriend left him, he bought a more suitable home called Graceland, and he would soon join the Army where he would meet Priscilla Beaulieu, his future wife.

This was the point in the show, minutes shy of the end, that felt like a natural culmination to a wonderful musical “rockabillyumentary” and a perfect cliffhanger for Part III of the trilogy (read on). A few hasty (and questionably relevant) scenes followed while a heavier dose of projections evoked images of the looming racial divide, followed by an almost out-of-place mini-set of patriotic hymns…which eventually led to a tentative ending.

But the cast put an exciting flashmob-like button on the show with an all-out dance party/concert that had the audience instantly on their feet for a tasty encore.  Suddenly, The Ogunquit Playhouse became John Lane’s Starlight Dance Hall filled with swooning patrons and adoring “young” Elvis fans.

The entire cast was phenomenal.  Eddie Clendening, who originated the role of Elvis in the Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet, shines anew in Heartbreak Hotel.  It doesn’t get any better.  Clendening captured the naiveté of a carefree young man who grew in confidence and humanity with each new experience, and with perfect balance of emotions to disguise his happiness.

The Blue Moon Boys are expertly played by Matt Codina as Guitarist Scotty Moore, Nathan Yates Douglass as Bassist Bill Black and Jamie Pittle as Drummer DJ Fontana…the perfect rockabilly combo.

As is often the case with musicals, the Ensemble is superbly versatile, entertaining, masters of their stage craft with vocal talent beyond belief.  Case in point:  Berlando Drake, Terita Redd and Geno Henderson—a dynamic show-within-the-show with powerhouse interpretations of numerous recording artists; Brenna Bloom is Marion, Erin Burniston is Dixie Locke and Fallon Goodson is Alice from Dallas.

Matt McKenzie and Jerry Kernion are well-suited for their roles as Sam Phillips and Colonel Tom Parker (respectively), and Christopher Sutton easily handles the role of Dewey Phillips, amusingly weaving narration in-between radio announcements.

The music is predictably sensational.  Heartbreak Hotel features a buffet of classic hits made famous by the King of Rock ‘n Roll and many legends who influenced his music…the soundtrack of life for many.

Aesthetically, the set design is striking, and even more stunning to watch the multi-function, fast-moving backdrops effectively frame scenes and change performing venues, with crisp lighting effects and projections of nostalgic video and graphics.  Bravo to Scenic Designer Adam Koch, Lighting Designer Richard Latta and Projection Designer Brad Peterson.

And the inside scoop is Floyd Mutrux’s announcement in the program that the third part of the Sun Records Trilogy is called Blue Suede Shoes and “will be coming your way in the not too distance future.”

Heartbreak Hotel runs through September 30th.  Ogunquit Playhouse is located at 10 Main Street in Ogunquit, ME 03907.  FMI:   http://www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or 207.646.5511.

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–Louis Philippe for the Biddeford Journal Tribune

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By Popular Demand, “CONNIE FRANCIS SHOW” Returns To Franco Center

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , , , on August 25, 2017 by Ringer

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Thanksgiving Weekend 2017

Back by popular demand, “The Connie Francis Show,” as it is often referred to, is coming back to the Gendron Franco Center for the third year in row.

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS, Louis Philippe’s musical tribute to America’s sweetheart, will be center stage for one show only, a 2 PM Matinee on Sunday, November 26th when the widely-popular, infectious and sentimental hits of Connie Francis will once again fill the air.

With the same original cast that sold out the Center’s 400-seat Performance Hall in 2015, AMONG MY SOUVENIRS features the dreamy, bouncy, trademark Connie Francis hits that are embedded in the hearts of America’s teen culture from the 50s and 60s:  Who’s Sorry Now, Where The Boys Are, V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, Lipstick On Your Collar, I’m Gonna Be Warm This Winter, Stupid Cupid, Follow The Boys, Among My Souvenirs and many more.

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS is a multi-media presentation created in 1994 by Louis Philippe’s Reindeer Theatre Company in Westbrook. The songs are performed live (singing along is encouraged), while nostalgic images are projected on big-screen, and a narration of the star’s life, career and personal struggles provides more sentimental trivia and interesting biographical history.

 “This is a chance to reminisce and re-connect with friends and re-live some powerful memories of the late 50s and 60s.  It is truly one of the most moving and fun shows Reindeer Theatre Company ever staged” said Philippe.

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS will also include a few French songs which Philippe discovered in the singer’s well-noted portfolio of foreign recordings in Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, German and Irish.

Krista LeBeau Johnson of Westbrook has been the star of the show since it was reincarnated in 2013.  “Krista has an incredible appealing stage persona much like Connie’s and she easily captures the iconic Francis trademarks—her powerful and mesmerizing vocal delivery of infectious pop melodies and schmaltzy lyrics that all combine for a supreme night of nostalgia,” Philippe stated.

In addition to Music Director Philippe on piano, the back-up combo includes Bruce LeBeau of Westbrook on bass, Marc Mailhot of Westbrook on drums, Tom O’Donnell of Farmington on guitar (the original guitarist from the 1994 revue).  Narration is handled by Maureen Knott LeBeau of Westbrook.

The touring production has been hosted by public venues, service organizations, non-profit groups, and church and hospital fundraisers.  “We’re always open to bringing the show to more venues, particularly for worthy fundraising events,” Philippe said.  Interested individuals or groups can call 207-857-9002.

The Gendron Franco Center is located at 46 Cedar St., Lewiston.  All seats are $18, reserved, and can be obtained by calling the Box Office at 207 689-2000, or visiting www.francocenter.org online.

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City Theater’s WIZARD OF OZ is Phenomenal Entertainment!

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on July 23, 2017 by Ringer
Wizard of OZ

Biddeford City Theater’s cast of THE WIZARD OF OZ: Brie Roche as Dorothy, Justin Stebbins as Scarecrow, Brian McAloon as Tin Man and Schuyler White as The Lion. photo credit: http://www.audrahatch.com

July 2017

Biddeford City Theater pulls out all the stops for a sensational season closer, The Wizard of Oz, running now through August 6thIt doesn’t get any better than this.

Yes, this is the same classic tale by L. Frank Baum, with Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made into the best known commercially successful movie adaptation in 1939. It’s the same iconic musical fantasy that became a television tradition broadcast annually from 1959-1991.

But as rich in cultural history, sentimental value and tradition The Wizard of Oz is, City Theater’s live presentation is unique with refreshing updates and lots of “wow” factors.

With its wide extended stage, three performing levels and double video screens that add up to a LOT of action, La Salle de l’Opéra channels a major performance venue hosting an impeccable, high-energy national tour.  The live concert extravaganza unfolds at perfect speed, with just enough suggestive set pieces for seamless scene changes, high doses of animation and sensory excitement, special effects, characters that “fly” and multi-media graphics that provide a new dimension to an already huge show.

Producer/Director Linda Sturdivant has amassed the largest cast in City Theater history—62 strong—who take the audience on a journey with Dorothy and her dog, Toto, who are swept up in a tornado from their Kansas farm to a place behind the sun, the magical land of Oz.  She befriends three characters—Scarecrow, Tin Man and The Lion—who join her on the yellow brick road to find the great Wizard of Oz who can grant their wishes for a brain, a heart, courage, and the way home.

The journey is robust and daring, magical and scary, filled with characters, challenges and special effects  that fill the senses and delight audience members of all ages.  Witches, Munchkins, Crows, Apple Trees, Poppies, Snowmen, Jitterbugs, Flying Monkeys, Tornado Dancers and The Winkie Guard.  Familiar favorites peppered with new personalities, some with flavorful attitude.

From beginning to end, there is not one environmental, theatrical or logistical element that detracts or distracts the audience from enjoying the ultimate Maine summer community theater experience.  It doesn’t get any better than this!

The acting, singing and dancing—all flawless.  The only possible hints of upstaging come from an assortment of adorable young actors from Munchkin Land whose cuteness factor leaves the audience defenseless.  Then there’s a humble-but-stellar performance turned in by Moe McGirr, the Yorkshire Terrier/Chekhov Canine that plays the role of Toto with Tony-Award-Winning flair.

Standing ovations to Brie Roche (Dorothy), Justin Stebbins (Scarecrow/Hunk), Brian McAloon (Tin Man/Hickory) and to Schuyler White (Lion/Zeke).  Also to Jessica Chaples-Graffam (Auntie Em), Peter Salsbury (Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard), Alyssa Rojecki (Wicked Witch of the West/Elmira Gultch), Lynn Boren McKellar (Glinda the Good Witch) and Brett Balfour (Professor Marvel)…all consummate professionals.

The parade of matchless talent includes:  Tad Willaims (General of the Winkies), Cameron Turgeon (The Mayor); Miles Sims-Kastelein (Barrister); Sally McGrath (Coroner); Braden Suey and Jared Wiliams (City Fathers); Amelie Lourdeau, Nola Lourdeau and Laila Suey (The Lullabye League; Abigail Frank, Lucy Gellis and Lily Tarbox (Lollipop Guild); and The Folk of Munchkin Land—Ysabel Arsenault, Ella Cabana-Flick, Madison Collin, Michaela Davis, Peter Graffam and Blake Lewis.

A group of featured dancers wonderfully augment various scenes with imaginative tableaus of motion—Gaia Ayres (who also plays Nikko, The Leader of the Monkeys), Briana Chu, Callie J. Cox, Nina Finocchiaro, Paul Jesus McIntosh, Caleb Streadwick, Logan A. Merrithew, Molly Scott and Jason Spivey.

The cast also includes Katy Albert, Lindsay Armstrong, Barbara A. Blais, Cindy Blais, Aberdeen Brickett, Devenny Brickett, Tega Bourgeois-Lang, Maggie Carlock, Elisha Cicio, Meg Davis, Ryleigh Dyer, Caroline Fallona, Jay W. Jones, Alyssa Landry, Gina Lewis, Kaitlin McGinley, Evelyn McGirr, Laina MeKonis, Mark J. Nahorney, Valerie Nahorney, Dustin Niehoff, Meg Reynolds, Kelsey Seavey, Ashley Shevenell, Izaiah Stackpole and Victoria Stackpole.

Perhaps the hardest-working person on stage is Kevin Smith, Music Director, who harnesses a magnificent 10-piece orchestra while tediously and immaculately playing gate keeper to some stunning pieces of background music by Herbert Stothart, lush orchestration written by Larry Wilcox, and vibrant dance and vocal arrangements by Peter Howard.  For his non-stop focus, precision timing and his uncanny ability to juggle incessant musical cues without missing a beat, Smith is masterful.

The amazing pit includes Smith on Keyboard; Will Silvers on Keyboard II and Tenor Sax; Joshua Adams on Percussion Kit;  Blaise Spath, Flute and Baritone Sax; Ray Libby, Clarinet, Flute and Sax; Victoria Hurlburt, Violin; Mathew Nichols, Cello; Jimmy McGirr, Bass; Don Lauzier, Trumpet; and Owen Doane, Trombone.

In addition to the 50 people who contribute their time and talents on the production and tech staff, a volunteer crew of 215 people also helped Director Sturdivant mount this majestic event.  Some of those luminaries include:  Choreographer Mariel Roy, Set Designer and Technical Director CJ Payne, Stage Manager Greg Brackett, Scenic Painter Jessica Chaples-Graffam, Master Carpenter Ed Wood, Projections by Richard McIntosh and stupendous costume designs by Barbara Kelly and Alysa Avery.

The Wizard of Oz is arguably one of Sturdivant’s most creative and lavish family-friendly feats (“Oh, I’ve had these ideas living in my head rent-free for years, I finally put them on stage.”).  The problem with making such a bold claim is that Sturdivant is always raising the bar at City Theater…and the next opportunity is right around the corner.

Five-star, family-friendly entertainment, not to be missed!  “There’s no place like Biddeford, there’s no place like Biddeford, there’s no place like Biddeford.”

The Wizard of Oz is running now through August 6th—Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM.  The theater is located at 205 Main St., downtown Biddeford.  FMI:  207-282-0849 or www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

REINDEER CONSUMER ALERT: STAY AWAY FROM CLYNK! Reports Show Redemption Service is 80% Inaccurate! CLYNK and HANNAFORD Need State Audit Or Divorce!

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

Clynk

[Final Audit results below.  Updated 8/22/17]

Has 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 8,170 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 (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 are married to 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.

UPDATE 8/14/17

According to the Clynk site, on 7/17, I had recycled 8,225 containers and my balance was $15.05 (a loss of 55-cents less since I began auditing my drops).

On 8/2, I dropped 47 containers totaling $3.15 (Drop #3).

Clynk accurately reported that exact match, for a total of 8,272 containers and a balance of $18.20 (of course this was just after they got my complaint).

On 8/8, I withdrew $15.  New balance is $3.20.

On 8/11, I dropped 39 containers totaling $2.85 (Drop #4).  My new totals should’ve been 8,311 containers for a new balance of $6.05.  Instead, the Clynk site claims my balance is $5.95 after 8,309 containers clynked (2 containers less than I had triple-counted and 10-cents less).

Again, no big deal financially, except for the fact that for the last FOUR DROPS, Clynk has under-reported the amount of containers I dropped off, and shorted me THREE OUT OF FOUR TIMES–75% of the time.  Not good.

As of this date, according to my calculations, I have been short-changed 65-cents in less than two months (I wonder what that total is for all the years I’ve been Clynking?).  Troubling.  On behalf of all the organizations and individuals that trust Clynk and are presumably also being short-changed, I am compelled to report my latest findings.  75% error rate within 60 days is a red flag.

UPDATE 8/22/17

According to the Clynk website, I recycled 8,309 recyled containers for a balance of $5.95.

On 8/20, I dropped 24 containers that totaled $1.75 (Drop #5).  A few days later, Clynk credits my account with 27 containers and 20-cents more.  ??? Definitely wrong!  This is the first time their error is in my favor, but an error nonetheless (and my loss is now 45-cents, not including the purchase of the required CLYNK bags).

CONCLUSION:  In about a two-month period, my audits have proven CLYNK to be incorrect 80% OF THE TIME!    This is a class-action suit waiting to be filed, a major rip-off to thousands of Hannaford customers and businesses and non-profits that utilize the CLYNK service.

MEMO TO HANNAFORD:  What would you do if a cashier incorrectly reported his/her daily cash register tally incorrectly 80% of the time???  Exactly!

Except for a call from CLYNK’s Marketing Director apologizing and insisting my case is not the normal CLYNK experience (social media begs otherwise), neither CLYNK or HANNAFORD seem to have the will to do the right thing and conduct an investigation.  Someone’s making money off of unsuspecting Hannaford customers…and someone has to pay.  And still the Maine Department of Agriculture which oversees bottle redemption regulations remains silent.  I predict a divorce on the horizon.  In the meantime, I have closed my CLYNK account and am very happy to get 7-cents a container from Friendly Discount’s fast and efficient self-serving redemption machines.

–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