AFTER 33 YEARS, LOUIS PHILIPPE RETURNS TO THE COMMUNITY THEATER STAGE

9to5-2

Louis Philippe as Franklin Hart, Jr., with his girls (l-r):
Sara Thurston as Doralee, Lynn Boren-McKellar as Violet and Suzy Dowling as Judy

9to5

I am NOT Charlie. This is NOT Charlie’s Angels.

9to5-4

I hate it when the phone lines are tied up…

9to5-3

Is it because I’m a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot?

“Funny thing about theater: it always seems to find me at just the right points of my life—not because I’m even considering doing a show, but because it’s part of God’s will for me.”

Doing theater was the farthest thing from my mind back in Lewiston in 1979 when I was much more passionate about fronting my band and being a recording artist.  That didn’t stop Dick Rosenberg, a well-known director with Lewiston-Auburn Community Theater, to ask me to play the role of the Emcee in LACT’s production of Cabaret.  Sure, why not?  I was experiencing band burnout and needed a break anyway.

And so began my initial exploration into the scary world of memorizing lines and blocking and pretending to be someone else.  Despite the glowing ever-important review, I’m pretty sure I was clueless, channeling Dick Van Dyke versus Joel Gray, and thinking: “Well, this was an interesting experience, one that I will likely never do again.”  But God had another plan.

In that audience was Lynwood Dyer, a director with Portland Lyric Theater, who five years later was directing his group’s version of Cabaret, and asked me if I’d be interested in reprising the role.  Sure, why not?  Again, it was at a pivotal down-time from the band scene.

As fate would have it, the director of the next show (Pippin) saw me in Cabaret and asked me to audition for Leading Player.  I did—and in that audience was Joe Thomas, artistic director with Portland Players who wanted me to play Littlechap in Stop The World I Want To Get Off.  I did.

“It was the best time; it was the worst time.”

For someone who really wasn’t pursuing a career in theater (and was intimidated how all my fellow castmembers knew every show and every famous actor and all their famous scenes), I was having the time of my life—playing back-to-back lead roles for years, expanding my stage skills, working with superb directors, music directors and choreographers, and meeting some awesome people (some with lifetime bonds).

After playing Littlechap for the third time, for River Tree Arts in Kennebunk, I got the news that Joe Thomas had died.  Between Lynwood Dyer and Joe Thomas (and God), I would have no community theater on my resume.  So when he died, life changed.

Portland Players was in the process of casting Joe’s 100th show, La Cage Aux Folles (in which I was to play Zaza).  But the show was cancelled, and Players opted to stage Stop The World instead.  For the last time, I was Littlechap, after which I felt it was truly time for me to get off the creative merry-go-round of theater.  “Again, this was an interesting experience, one that I will likely never do again.”   That was the summer of 1990.

“Line?”

For the next 20+ years, I was off-stage and back-stage—mainly directing and producing an aggressive schedule of shows and revues for Reindeer Theatre Company—my own children’s and community theater group—but also directing and music directing productions for outside groups.  I also spent four years back on the band stand, living in NYC, where I had the opportunity to work for PolyGram Records—then the world’s third largest record label in the world.

Back in Maine, my own performing and recording career was flourishing, yet I found great reward in helping to shape the musical careers of future stars—with a statewide band competition called The Rock-Off, and my own independent record label called Reindeer Records.  Life was fantastic and God’s blessings were many.

“A funny thing happened on the way to the stress test…”

Doctors called it a myxoma.  I called it Timmy the Tumor.  It was a mystery how it had formed and managed to cling to the outside of my heart for so long, but in January of 2013 it was successfully removed with open heart surgery:  benign and never to return, with the prognosis that I will likely never have a heart issue again.

Yes, there was the thought of dying, and yes, I was more than ready if that happened.  “So now what, God?” I asked after being back in the comfort of my own home, realizing God must have an incredible purpose for me.  Meanwhile there were many weeks of healing, two months of cardio rehab at Turning Point, on-going gym visits…and the planning of a wide-open future.

“Is God funny or what?”

I had told the nurses before “graduating” from Turning Point that rather than joining a gym I’d much prefer to get involved with some creative dance program that would be good for cardio exercise and  building up stamina while being artistically productive.  No recitals; No competitions; And it had to be fun!  “God, what d’ya think?”

Literally, within hours, a young lady who worked at a retirement home where I performed called me out of the blue.  In her other life, she was Assistant Music Director for Biddeford City Theatre’s upcoming production of 9 to 5: The Musical and asked if I’d be interested in playing the role of the sexist-egotistical-lying-hypocritical-bigot boss, Franklin Hart Jr.  It was déjà-vu.

At first, I was reluctant and truly tried to think of a legitimate excuse, but I couldn’t, and just kept laughing inside at the wonderful feeling that this had to be the answer to my prayer for creative, artistic, and fun therapy (“and to play a guy named Hart, that’s funny”).  Needless to say, I landed the role…or more appropriately the role landed me.

In many ways, it’s like being back at LACT in 1979 and starting all over again, memorizing lines and blocking and pretending to be someone else.  On the other hand, I’ve learned that when things come to me this easily, intentionally, and with such specific design, it clearly has God’s anointing all over it so how could I possibly not want to step through this door of opportunity and embrace what is in store for me?

###

 9 to 5: The Musical runs July 19th to August 4th at City Theater, Biddeford’s historic Opera House. Fridays and Sundays @ 8 PM; Sundays @ 2 PM.  Tickets are $20, available for online purchase at http://www.citytheater.org or by calling 207/282-0849.

Photos by Audra Hatch – http://www.audrahatch.com

Advertisements

7 Responses to “AFTER 33 YEARS, LOUIS PHILIPPE RETURNS TO THE COMMUNITY THEATER STAGE”

  1. Steve Gagnon Says:

    Way to go Louie. Can’t wait to see you perform. Looks like those gals are really giving it to you!!!! Steve Gagnon and Ellen Mavodones

  2. Way to go Louis! We’ll be there! Love ya! Kathy and Ellen

  3. I will see you soon. Can’t wait to see you tied up LOL

  4. Kathy Eliscu Says:

    I am trying to imagine you playing a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot – and all I can say is…BRILLIANT type casting! ha ha – I can’t wait to see you tied up – I mean, playing this role. We will be there & for 20 bucks a piece, you better sign our programs. This is going to be a great show. We love you already. Thanks, God.

  5. Great story! Hoping to get a group of us from St. Anthony’s to see the show. I am definitely going. Mary Hopkins

  6. I am so happy that you have decided to use your talent to make me and others smile.
    Lots of lovin, Rho-dee

  7. Madeleine Marquis Says:

    Very Happy for you, the Marquis from Waterbury

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: