Archive for the Archive Press Releases Category

REINDEER TO REPRISE TRIBUTE TO CONNIE FRANCIS, STARRING KRISTA JOHNSON

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , on July 26, 2015 by Ringer

Connie3Krista1

July, 2015

In September of 1994, Reindeer Theatre Company presented Among My Souvenirs, a musical tribute to America’s sweetheart, Connie Francis, at the Warren Memorial Library Auditorium in Westbrook.

“It was one of the most moving and sentimental shows Reindeer ever staged,” said Louis Philippe, Reindeer’s Artistic Director who created the multi-media show. “With a line-up of crazy popular Connie Francis hits performed live, interspersed with a narration of her life, career and personal struggles, along with nostalgic images of the star, audiences were completely captivated and enthralled to re-live powerful memories of the late 50s and 60s.

The star of that show was Kammy Marcotte, a very talented local singer. “I can recall how the shows would end and nobody wanted to leave,” Philippe remarked. “Ever since the show closed 11 years ago, people have been asking about it and I’ve always dreamed of bringing it back to life…but I never found the right singer.

(20 years later) Enter: Krista Johnson of Westbrook who began singing with the St. Anthony’s Church choir which Philippe directed. “She came to the choir a little meek but clearly she had strong vocal skills and an immense passion to perform,” Philippe said. “After a couple of months, Krista began doing more solos and one day in the middle of Mass it hit me: THAT’s the perfect voice to re-create Connie Francis.”

Johnson jumped at the opportunity. “Finally, I was given an opportunity to share my gift,” the enthusiastic singer shared.

“But I had never heard of Connie Francis before,” Krista admitted. “So I rushed home and devoured every YouTube video I could, read every article I could find, and immediately downloaded 20 of her songs. Now, I feel honored to be singing her greatest hits. I love her schmaltzy style, her smooth voice that is so effortless,” she said.

“There are many songs I emotionally connect with,” Krista noted, “many lyrics that bring me to different times and experiences in my life, and sometimes I get carried away while singing Connie’s songs.  Just recently my husband pointed out a few songs he felt “were written for me to sing.”

Those songs are what made Connie Francis the top-charting female artist of the late 50s and early 60s, an international recording star, a television and movie star and a top concert draw. Her hits include: “Who’s Sorry Now, V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N, Where The Boys Are, Lipstick On Your Collar, Stupid Cupid, A Second Hand Love, Follow The Boys” and many others that will be performed in Among My Souvenirs.

Reindeer’s goal is to have another creative property that is mobile and can be easily reconfigured and presented in various formats—as a dinner-theater show, a concert tribute, private functions, senior groups, nursing care facilities, etc. A similar Reindeer show Philippe created in 2012, Forever Frank, a tribute to Frank Sinatra, continues to entertain audiences in various formats.

The public debut of the reprise of Among My Souvenirs is Friday, August 21st, 7:30 PM at the Westbrook Eagles, 89 Saco St., Westbrook. Seating is limited and reservations are required. General Admission is $15, $12 for Seniors. FMI & Reservations, call Reindeer at 857-9002.

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CITY THEATER’S SMASH HIT “RENT” IS UNDAUNTING ARTISTIC SUCCESS

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by Ringer
Biddeford City Theater's cast of RENT. Photo credit: AudraHatch.com

Biddeford City Theater’s cast of RENT. Photo credit: AudraHatch.com

July, 2015

To say that Jonathan Larson was a musical theater genius would be an understatement. Steven Sondheim would be proud.

To say that City Theater’s production of RENT is spectacular and compelling would also be an understatement. Larson would be proud.

To conceptually photoshop Puccini’s “La Bohème” from 1930s Left Bank Paris on a band of struggling artists with AIDS in 1990s East Village Manhattan, and create a rock opera—script, music and lyrics—is visionary to say the least.

To take a rock musical like RENT and nail every song and perfectly emulate every Larson nuance of every character with unabashed skill and spirit is one of City Theater’s most amazing and glorious gifts to the community. The other, of course, is a superb creative team led by Artistic Director Linda Sturdivant whose reputation for setting high standards and exceeding expectations is well known.

RENT documents a year in the life—and death—of a group of friends/peers squatting in a loft, all struggling in some way—financially, creatively, artistically, sexually, romantically, emotionally. Many have AIDS and debilitating addictions; all have baggage. It was a good time to be alive, to party with friends (everyone was a friend) to follow one’s dream while binging on rampant sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll and overindulging on unfiltered choices with no consequence in sight. “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss…”

For many, though, it was a horrible struggle filled with pain, loss, denial, death. And Larson has an uncanny way of painting the juxtaposition between life’s highs and lows. The audience has no choice but to experience the intense inner conflicts and outward battles that each of his bohemian family members grapple with. “…No other path, no other way, no day but today.”

Larson’s challenge to audiences is to look back on their own year of emotional milestones and challenges and “measure your life in love.” After all, there are only 525,600 minutes in a year…YOU decide how to spend those moments.

The story focuses on Roger Davis (Joel Crowley), a songwriter-musician who is HIV positive, and his roommate Mark Cohen (James Muller), a brainy video artist who escapes into his work. Their friend Tom Collins (Jason Phillips) arrives for a surprise visit and is mugged before entering, but is tended to by a stranger, a transgender percussionist named Angel Dumont Schunard (Justin Stebbins), and the two fall in love. An exotic dancer and neighbor, Mimi Marquez (Ashley Christy), asks Roger to light her candle and a romance is sparked. Mark’s former girlfriend, Maureen Johnson (Karleena Stoner), is a bisexual performance artist who left Mark for a new lover, Joanne Jefferson (Sarah Thurston). Meanwhile, Benjamin Coffin III (Brian McAloon), former roommate of Roger, Mark, Collins and Maureen, is now their landlord and demanding rent.

A fabulous ensemble portrays a parade of 19 beautiful, colorful and decadent characters that are vital to a narrative that develops…sometimes too fast. If you’re not paying attention you can easily miss some complex details (a note that even Sondheim shared with Larson).

To point out some highlights of this show is akin to winning an Oscar and remembering all the people to thank. To claim that every cast member was flawless in their art is NOT to be taken as some reviewer’s throw-away cliché, but an honest recognition of some formidable and inspiring individuals.

Joel Crowley’s “Roger” is precisely the raw, honest, vulnerable and complicated guy Larson created, complete with amazing vocal strength, control and range. Bravo!

What Justin Stebbins brings to his cross-dressing “Angel” is one of the most emotional and transforming pieces of theater that transcends boundaries and changes hearts. Bravo!

RENT is a non-stop concert/variety show of Larson hits that combine many influences—Sondheim (no surprise), Tim Rice, Galt MacDermot, and an array of generic 80s pop songsters. The music is magnificent, ripe with refreshing lyrics and interesting melodies.

Music Director and pianist Kevin Smith presents a magnificent handful of musicians whose collective output sound like a professional off-Broadway pit, once again proving that Smith is one of the most professional and capable Music Directors in Maine theater.

Larson’s trademark writing style (i.e. rounds of phrases interlaced with other rounds of phrases and integrated rhythms that all come together oftentimes in unison for a big finale) is evident in the show’s chart-topper “Seasons Of Love.” But his interesting treatment of duets is arguably his biggest creative asset: “Another Day” and “Without You” feature astounding vocals by Crowley and Ashley Christy. Bravo!

Totally impressive are the vocal triumphs of Rebecca Rinaldi and Brian McAloon in “Seasons Of Love” (it doesn’t get any better than this). Bravo! And to all who were mesmerizing in both versions of “La Vie Bohème”: BRAVO!

And leave it to Larson to create a crazy performance art piece called “Over The Moon.” But leave it to an amazingly talented Karleena Stoner to turn that piece into an unbelievable mind-boggling show-stopper. This superb singer and actress walked away with the bakery. Bravo!

RENT brings out the harsh realities of living a life with AIDS and the fear of losing one’s dignity. Larson’s depiction of his Life Support characters (and the powerful “Another Day”) was inspired by the real life meetings of the support group Friends In Deed which Larson attended. The names of those who are part of the Life Support meeting in the show carry the same names of Larson’s friends who died of AIDS.

RENT is an extension of Larson’s autobiographical musical tick…tick…Boom! which City Theater presented earlier this season. To know RENT is to know Larson, and the community is indebted to City Theater for bringing both of Larson’s creations to glorious life.

RENT is Larson’s divinely appointed legacy, as he would never enjoy the fruits of his labor. Tragically, in January, 1996, only hours before its off-Broadway opening, Larson collapsed in his apartment and died from an aortic aneurysm. Injustice? Mercy? Judgment?…Ironically, all themes the playwright espoused in his prophetic work—that in a matter of hours would change the face of American musical theater.

RENT runs until August 2 at City Theater, 205 Main St., Biddeford. Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets are $20. Call 282-0849 or visit http://www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

LOUIS PHILIPPE TO RELEASE CD OF INSPIRATIONAL SONGS FOR COMFORT AND HEALING

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , , on June 10, 2015 by Ringer

The Funeral SingerJune, 2015

“It’s been on my bucket list for a long time now,” said Maine singer and recording artist Louis Philippe. “Very often I’ll meet people in public who will stop me and say ‘Oh, you’re the guy who sang such-and-such a song at so-and-so’s funeral…that was so beautiful…do you have that song on CD?’” This fall, I’ll finally be able to say I do.

THE FUNERAL SINGER—like The Wedding Singer or The Jazz Singer— is designed for a specialized niche market. VOLUME 1, which is due out this Fall, is a collection of 15 most popular and powerful songs that are customarily associated with funerals and memorial celebrations but that also bring comfort, healing and peace of mind at any time during any of life’s transitions.

“This is the CD you want to reach for when dealing with the death of beloved pet, or the end of a relationship, losing a job, a health crisis, moving away, and any number of milestones that cause sadness and separation,” said Philippe.

Philippe, an avid proponent of music therapy, knows first-hand the impact of the songs he personally selected for this CD. “With over 40 years experience in Music Ministry, I can guarantee there is no stronger source for inner strength and consolation then hearing such beautiful, peace-filled music and soothing words—especially God’s words,” he noted.

In the Portland area alone, Louis Philippe has provided music for funerals at St. Pius X, St. Joseph’s, St. Patrick’s, St. Bartholomew’s, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Peter’s, Holy Cross, St. John’s, St. Louis, Sacred Heart, St. Edmund’s, St. Anne’s, Westbrook-Warren Congregational, Highland Lakes Congregational, North Deering Congregational and Trinity Lutheran. He currently leads “a rockin’ choir” on Sunday mornings at St. Anthony’s in Westbrook.

The recording process is just about complete thanks to the production and engineering craftsmanship of David Angel Entertainment in Gorham. The next step—to raise funding pledges to help with licensing and manufacturing costs—is already underway.

THE FUNERAL SINGER: Volume 1 is now an active project on Kickstarter.com, an exciting and unique crowd-funding website that provides support and global exposure for thousands of creative projects. The goal is to raise $2,500 in pledges by July 31st. A pledge of $20 is basically an advance order for the CD, with various rewards assigned for higher levels of pledges.

“It’s a great way to raise critical funding and get the word out,” Philippe said. He did note that some of his targeted donors might be skeptical to go online and donate, so they’re asking if he’ll simply take a check. “Of course,” he responded, “Old-school help from all sources is always welcome.”

THE FUNERAL SINGER: Volume 1 includes time-tested favorites such as How Great Thou Art, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, It Is Well With My Soul, Softly And Tenderly Jesus Is Calling and Ave Maria, along with more contemporary songs like Amy Grant‘s El Shaddai, Don Besig’s Flying Free, and Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up. Plus you’ll get the Word direct from God in songs like Be Still And Know That I Am God, Be Not Afraid, and I The Lord. The list also includes beautiful renditions of Irish Blessing, Where My Father Lives, and Lord You Have Come To The Seashore. You’ll even get the long-established French-Canadian favorite J’Irais La Voir Un Jour….

“I definitely feel God’s anointing on this project,” the Westbrook singer proclaimed. “I have no doubt that God has a very specific purpose for this CD and will assuredly use it to bring His healing message to many individuals who even aren’t aware they’ll benefit from it yet. Plus it’s a great calling card for churches and funeral homes who find themselves in need of quality, spiritual, sensitive music.

To make a pledge, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1419197897/the-funeral-singer-volume-1 or contact Louis Philippe at 207/857-9002 or reindeer@maine.rr.com.

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DURGIN AND REYNOLDS ARE SENSATIONAL IN FALMOUTH FOOTLIGHTS SUMMER OPENER, “GIRLS ONLY”

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , , on June 5, 2015 by Ringer
Cheryl Reynolds and Nancy Durgin star in Falmouth Footlights summer opener "GIRLS ONLY--THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN."

Cheryl Reynolds and Nancy Durgin star in Falmouth Footlights summer opener “GIRLS ONLY–THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN.”

June, 2015

“Now THAT’S a girl’s night out!”

Indeed. Just one of many similar sentiments overheard by audience members who had just experienced one of the best and funniest comedies about all-things-female that kicked off its five-week Maine premiere to mark the official opening of Falmouth Footlights’ summer season.

Girls Only—The Secret Comedy Of Women by Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, is a most delightful and raucous party that celebrates the honor, truth, humor and silliness of being female and unapologetically embraces all those curious-to-confusing moments of girlhood as well as the awkward and emotional elements of womanhood.

No subject is safe in this no-holds-barred explosion of multi-media fun and frivolity…bras, childhood diaries, young love, puberty, menopause, maxipads, you name it…if it has anything to do with the female life cycle, you can bet it’ll be memorialized and crowned, dissected and analyzed, paid tribute to and laughed at in this farcical foray of growing up girly-girly.

Girls Only finds its roots in a dense body of work created by the Denver-based improvisational comedy troupe A.C.E., a trio made up of Barbara Gehring (a Canadian), Linda Klein (an American) and Matthew Taylor (an Englishman) who created shows that are at once highly structured but absolutely free-spirited, full of spontaneous, unrehearsed dialogue and an exuberant engagement with the audience. That format is a tasty concoction of television variety show, stand-up comedy and cabaret—a tall order for even the most seasoned and polished actress.

So, ok, can we talk? There are other comedies that embrace female themes. Menopause: The Musical comes to mind as a top-notch presentation in this genre of comedies. But sadly, similar attempts by playwrights fail to reach their entertainment potential because the script is too long and complicated with emotional baggage, the characters are staid, or the show is laced with overt, graphic, sexual content and relentless vulgarity that, quite honestly, kills the comedy. Girls Only is significantly and effectively—and refreshingly—different. Very different.

This national hit comedy is chock-full of production value and a sensational creative mix of sketch comedy, song and dance, improvisation and, of course, audience participation.  This show can be successful only if the two starring ladies are able to navigate this brilliant ship.

Maine favorites Nancy Durgin and Cheryl Reynolds are perfectly cast, with a masterful blend of extensive experience as professional actresses, women, and close friends onstage and off. They are lovable, comfortable, charming and hilarious right from the start, easily and naturally connecting with everyone at their slumber party.

This comedic duo does it all with 100% accuracy—singing, comedy, hand-numbing choreography, even a stellar and moving ballet that is sheer glee— never missing a beat, always in control of their stage antics, and prompting endless ROFLMAO guffaws from a most satiated audience.

Durgin and Reynolds handle all the sensitive topics with a realism and tender humor that all the ladies in the audience will appreciate and relate to. As the creators of the show put it, “if a woman knows what “the time of the month” is, she’s old enough to enjoy the show. There is nothing risqué in the content of the show, rather it is a reminder that underneath, women all have very funny and very charming feminine similarities.”

Artistic Director Michael Tobin spares no expense in creating a most welcoming party atmosphere for the ladies (and gentlemen) who see the show. One can literally spend hours in dreamy reverie just perusing the set dressing and enjoying the pre-show entertainment. It’s your childhood bedroom reborn, complete with your collection of posters, record albums, games, books, magazines, toys, dolls, snacks and nick nacks that comprised your exclusive memory bank.

Girls Only is all about women having fun and laughing at themselves. Women are encouraged to bring their mothers, daughters, sisters and girlfriends for a perfect girls’ night out. The more women you come with, the more you’ll be encouraged to share your own memories when you leave—or perhaps in the show? (shh). Men who do brave the elements might recognize and appreciate some exclusively-female trials and tribulations their girlfriends or wives face.

Girls Only—The Secret Comedy Of Women might just be summer theater’s hottest ticket, running through July 2nd, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM, at The Footlights’ cozy and intimate (and air-conditioned) theater located at 190 US Route 1 in Falmouth. Tickets are $18, $15 for Seniors (62+) and $10 for Children (-16). For reservations and more info, call 747-5434 or visit www.thefootlightsinfalmouth.com.

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–Louis Philippe

PORTLAND PLAYERS’ “HAIRSPRAY” IS ONE HUGE HIT!

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , on May 22, 2015 by Ringer
Portland Players presents the big fat musical sensation HAIRSPRAY. (l-r: Alison Bogannan as Tracy Turnblad, Adam Normand as Edna Turnblad and Paul Bell as Mr. Pinky)

Portland Players presents the big fat musical sensation HAIRSPRAY. (l-r: Alison Bogannan as Tracy Turnblad, Adam Normand as Edna Turnblad and Paul Bell as Mr. Pinky)

May, 2015

The beat of a whole new era explodes with spectacular fun and energy galore in Portland Players’ production of the big fat musical HAIRSPRAY, running now through June 7th.  Welcome to the 60s!

Written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, HAIRSPRAY is set in Baltimore in 1962 and is a gentle social commentary and joyous celebration of the integrations of black and white, young and old, rock and soul, entitled and not.

The storyline is driven by Tracy Turnblad, a plus-size passionate high schooler who dances her way onto the popular Corny Collins teen tv show and uses her newly acquired fame to change the world (“I think it’s stupid that we can’t dance together”). With determined naiveté—and complete support from her parents Edna and Wilbur—her quest for justice and fairness lands her in jail, but also lands her a boyfriend, a spokes-girl contract for a plus-size dress shop, and a whole lotta popularity.

During a game of dodge ball, Tracy is knocked out by her nemesis, Amber Von Tussle (daughter of Corny Collins Show Producer Velma Von Tussle), prompting an invitation from Seaweed J. Stubbs (fellow detention student and a Negro Day dancer) to explore new territory—Northern Avenue—where his mom, Motormouth Maybelle, is throwing a platter party. This is where Tracy formulates and launches her dream of integrating The Corny Collins Show on national television.

Naturally, there are complications on all fronts that lead to a wonderfully clever collage of touching scenes and powerful songs revealing some honest and emotional soul-searching amidst the personal, interpersonal and interracial challenges. In the end, Tracy stays true to herself, and is fortunately pardoned by the Governor and released from jail (a second time) in perfect time to compete in The Corny Collins Miss Teenage Hairspray competition. Musical and cultural history is made, dreams come true, and a rousing celebration brings the audience to their feet.

The music is front-and-center, in-your-face, undeniably fantastic, including the syrupy “clean white kids” pop rock ditties, the period television seque music, and the great infusion of rhythm & blues. Music Director David Delano leads a 6-piece pit with a panache that keeps the feet tapping, the hands clapping and the hearts warm.

For this show, Director Michael Donovan has assembled a huge cast of 40 actors, singers and dancers—a daring feat for any community theater. But Donovan successfully uses every square inch of stage and fills it with talent, movement, excitement and 60s razzle-dazzle.

Choreographer Victoria Perreault’s vision and effort are well-noted. Clearly there are some strong dancers in this show who capture the audience’s roaming eyes, but Perreault’s guidance (and individual attention to detail) makes everyone look good and move well—in two genres.

The lead characters are ridiculously superlative—period! The Turnblad Family (Alison Bogannan as Tracy, Adam Normand as Edna and Mark Barasso as Wilbur) are equal, if not better, than their Broadway counterparts. Most noteworthy, however, is Normand’s drag-role as the plus-sized mother. Clearly, this guy is outrageously comfortable in his skin and masterfully drives all his scenes with expert timing, comedic perfection and unabashed entertainment.

Rachel Henry is Penny Pingleton, Edna’s dorky and devoted friend who becomes smitten by Seaweed. Jessica Libby is the villainess Velma Von Tussle, one-time beauty queen who now produces The Corny Collins Show and pushes her daughter to seek the stardom she never had. Rachel Friedman is Amber Von Tussle, the quintessential spoiled bratty entitled American princess who will do anything to win. ALL are absolutely flawless with their character interpretations, vocal deliveries and superb comedy.

David Van Duyne is effective as teen heartthrob Link Larkin, one of The Corny Collins Show Council members who falls in love with Tracy. Other Council members/dancers include Abigail Ackley as Tammy, Schuyler White as Brad, Waice Falconeri as Fender, Bailey Auspland as Brenda, Kyle Aarons as Sketch, Caryn Wintle as Shelly, Taylor Gervais as IQ, Holly Hinchliffe as Lou Ann, Jessica Tkacik as Sue, Sarah Yoder as Lucy, Alexandra Swaney as Kim and Robin Sillars as Peggy.

Chris Jones surpassed expectations with his stupendous performance as Seaweed, with all the right moves and a sweet voice. His little sister, Little Inez, was played by Lily Thorne who nailed her role, leaving a desire to hear more from that talented young lady. Their mother, Motormouth Maybelle, owner of a record shop, was righteously portrayed by Emily Akeley (“Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and the powerful torchy “I Know Where I’ve Been” were majestic).

The Dynamites, an all-girl back-up singing group consisting of Brie Roche as Judine, Rebecca Washko as Kamilah and Jona Cormier as Shayna were crowd pleasers with a strong presence and solid vocals—a nice professional salute to the great period music.

Sean Senior was very convincing as the cocky self-absorbed Corny Collins. Other worthy performances were provided by Megan Bremermann as the Matron (“The Big Dollhouse”), Paul Bell as the Principal, Mandela Gardner as Gilbert, Mikayla Clifford as Cindy Watkins and Madison Duong as Lorraine.

As typical with any blockbuster musical, the ensemble was quite busy and impressive and included Emily Butson, Justin Gifford, Kristen Higgins, Christie Paul, Peter Salsbury, Rebecca Skolnik, Ashleigh St. Pierre, Sophia Sturdee and Natalie Veilleux.

What makes HAIRSPRAY such a spectacular show are the many elements of entertainment that combine for an unequaled first-rate audience experience. Every song is fun, comforting and infectious, but the group numbers, “Good Morning Baltimore, Welcome To The 60s, Without Love” are hands-down awesome (although the duet with Edna and Wilbur, “You’re Timeless To Me,” was a show-that-stole-the-show-within-a-show). Clearly, Director Donovan knows how to work a crowd, and knows how to get his cast to reach their highest level of performance.

The only drawbacks for me were technical concerns, mainly the sound. For such a superb production that features supreme wall-of-sound group singing, I was disappointed in the unevenness of the singing levels. All the parts were there as evidenced by the cast members who were mic’d, but the ever-important melody was not out front. Additionally, harmonies and lines were lost when alternately delivered by those with mic’s and those without.

Most importantly, I would suggest that Portland Players consider an audio system upgrade. The two hung house speakers just didn’t have the wattage to cleanly handle the wonderful and powerful vocals that were being poured out on stage, and the equalization didn’t seem optimal for each singer. The result was distortion at peaked output levels and muffled and indiscernible lyrics.

But all was easily forgiven when Tracy’s dream came true and the orchestra started “You Can’t Stop The Beat.” For years I’ve been telling people that the finale of HAIRSPRAY is one of the most exciting, lively, upbeat, extravagant finales in all of musical theater. “How was Donovan gonna pull this one off?” I thought to myself. “With ridiculous grandeur,” was his cast’s reply. BRAVO to one and all!

HAIRSPRAY is now running through June 7th at the Portland Players, 420 Cottage Road in South Portland. Shows are at 7:30 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 PM on Sundays. For tickets and info, call 799-7337 or visit www.portlandplayers.org.

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–Louis Philippe

CITY THEATER PRESENTS THE COMEDY “FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS”

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , , on May 13, 2015 by Ringer
City Theater's cast of FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS: Front, l-r: Jeanette Wolfarth as Mindy, Hannah Perry as Francis and Joanna Clark as Meredith. Back, l-r: Sarah Thurston as Georgeanne and Karleena Stoner as Trisha

City Theater’s cast of FIVE WOMEN WEARING THE SAME DRESS: Front, l-r: Jeanette Wolfarth as Mindy, Hannah Perry as Francis and Joanna Clark as Meredith. Back, l-r: Sarah Thurston as Georgeanne and Karleena Stoner as Trisha. Photo: http://www.audrahatch.com

May, 2015

Spring, 1993. Tracy Marlowe and Scott McClure get married in an extravagant wedding at the bride’s family mansion in Knoxville, Tennessee, and fun is had by all. All, that is, except five women: The Bridesmaids.

Five very different women, somehow connected to the bride somewhere in time, are fatefully unified by their dislike for Tracy and their disdain for the hideous gaudy gowns she made them wear. But as the milestone reception roars on outdoors, the five women escape to the solitude of an upstairs bedroom where many threads are weaved and other milestones are celebrated and mourned.

Such is the backdrop of Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, written by Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under, American Beauty) being staged by Biddeford’s City Theater from May 15-24. Hailed as a celebration of the female spirit and billed as a girl’s night out, Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, is undoubtedly a feast of feminine artistry and a wild journey into the psyche of women (guys, pay attention, you might learn something).

The cast is fabulous.

Hannah Perry is superb as the sweet-faced, true-to-herself Francis, cousin of the bride, balancing between her well-noted Christian beliefs and her earthly goal to find a boyfriend. A solid and consistent performance.

Joanna Clark masterfully brings Meredith, Tracy’s “bad-ass” high-class younger sister, to life. She’s blunt, impulsive and chaotic with a strong disposition that, when removed, reveals a vulnerable victim underneath.

Karleena Stoner plays Trisha, Tracy’s high school friend, with equal perfection—defensive, fights for what she believes in, has a bad reputation but can be very caring, just wants to have a good time and not get hurt.

Sarah Thurston is a consummate professional actress whose portrayal of Georgeanne, another high school friend of Tracy’s, embodies total command of her character’s every physical, emotional and intellectual nuance with supreme confidence and flawless comedic timing and expression.

Jeanette Wolfarth is remarkable in her treatment of Mindy, Tracy’s new sister-in-law—high strung, caring and humorous, comfortable with her sexuality but needs to be accepted.

Notable in this production is that the main characters—Tracy and Scott and a host of other leading personalities—are viewed and analyzed from the second-floor perch but are never seen on stage. The only other member of the cast is Caleb Aaron Coulthard who convincingly plays the role of Tripp, Mindy’s cousin. His scene at the end with Trisha is riveting, classic as Bogie and Bacall.

Also not seen is another leading lady, Costume Designer Barbara Kelly, who created the famed “same dresses” for this show. The uniquely tailored gowns all look alike indeed but metaphorically—and logistically— take on lives of their own.

The set is simply beautiful—thank you to Technical Director Karl Carrigan and Scenic Painter Jessica Chaples-Graffam.

Playwright Alan Ball’s recipe for comedy clearly includes a range of not-so-subtle emotional themes that almost throw his property into the “dark comedy” category. His embrace of the seven deadly sins and other societal issues (insecurity, friendship, sexual abuse, drugs, faith), with a confrontational approach, combined with in-your-face graphic language peppered throughout the script, sabotages the comedy, uncomfortably redefining the piece at the expense of the wonderful direction and performances.

Which is not to say that FIVE WOMEN doesn’t have its guffaw moments. Au contraire! The five leading ladies—and Bravo to Director Megan Cross—brilliantly pulled out all the stops in an over-the-top interpretation filled with comedic chaos and shocking humor. But Ball’s “celebration of the female spirit” almost overdoses from ultra-stereotyped characters and their foray of rapid-fire psychological symptoms.

But overall, there are some redeeming messages: 1) What you wear on the outside has no impact on who you are on the inside, and in fact could be oppressive; 2) Finding common ground with the most unlikely people can be powerful, purging and unifying; 3) Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the need for acceptance; and 4) Self-discovery is vital for happiness.

Five Women Wearing The Same Dress runs two weekends, May 15 – 24, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM. City Theater is located at 205 Main St., downtown Biddeford. All seats are $20. For reservations, visit www.citytheater.org or call 282-0849.

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–Louis Philippe

COLBY STUDENTS CAPTURE AND CULTIVATE MAINE’S FRANCO “SOUNDSCAPES”

Posted in Archive Press Releases with tags , , , , , on May 1, 2015 by Ringer
Natalie Zelensky, Assistant Professor of Music at Colby College

Natalie Zelensky, Assistant Professor of Music at Colby College

May, 2015

BRAVO to Colby College Assistant Professor Natalie Zelensky for her creative and inspiring approach to music and learning!

Since coming to Colby in 2012 with a Ph.D. in Music Studies from Northwestern University, Professor Zelensky developed an array of out-of-the-box music courses that cross curriculum and make music fun, innovative nourishing. Courses titled “From Rockabilly Kings to Lady Gaga: A History of Rock and Roll;” “Exploring Music and Gender;” and “Introduction to World Music” have helped established her teaching style and has drawn interest campus-wide.

But it’s her course titled “Music as Culture: Introduction to Ethnomusicology” that has become wildly popular with music majors and non-music majors alike. Ethnomusicology broadly bundles cultural and interdisciplinary elements of music and explores how music engages the arts, religious belief, philosophy, society, etc. It can be a study of any period of history or global location, but what makes Zelensky’s course particularly unique is its convergence with Maine’s Franco-American Music.

The students of MU222/Maine’s Musical Soundscapes: The Ethnography of Maine learn ethnographic field methods and conduct interviews at sites that make up the rich tapestry of Maine’s soundscape.

Students are paired up to plan and conquer the tasks of conducting interviews, writing treatments, creating storyboards and then presenting their findings in the form of a documentary film.

“I’ve learned that making a documentary is very difficult, said Mardene Haskell, a sophomore from Holderness NH, Sophomore. “You are not only filming an interview…you are telling a story and attempting to represent someone to the best of your ability.”

Mardene’s biggest challenge was working with the editing software but “I love learning about things that I wouldn’t otherwise know unless I put myself out there, and take classes that I know nothing about. Colby has given me the opportunity to do that.”

“I am proud to say that I know much more about my state, Franco-American history, as well as the history of Maine,” she recanted, noting “Maine is a unique, amazing place that will always have a huge place in my heart.”

Mike Boardman, a sophomore from Pelham, NH and Cameron Price, a freshman from Rutland, VT were co-directors of their film project.

“It has been a very learn-as-you-go process for us,” said Boardman. “We think the interviews just got better each time and we became more comfortable with our consultant.”

But they also shared their challenges with the editing and trimming. “That has been quite a surprise, we thought it would be a little bit easier,” Boardman stated.

“We have both learned a lot about the Franco culture and the process to make a movie,” said Price, adding, “And we hope to pass along our perspective of that culture to those who see our film.”

“For us it has been a great experience working with our consultant,” the two concurred. “He always made jokes and had us laughing during the entire process. And we got to make a movie we wouldn’t have done on our own without the push of our teacher and Colby.”

[Editor’s Note: As the consultant for the Boardman-Price creation, I can attest to their highest level of respect and professional “star” treatment. They were so comfortable to share this journey with, and represented the project, the class and the College with a refreshing sense of purpose and pride.]

The collection of student documentaries will be shown to the public this Friday, May 8th at an event called Maine’s Musical Heritage, from 7-8:30 at Given Auditorium in the Bixler Building on the Colby Campus.

This year’s film subjects include: Jacynthe Blais Jacques, French instructor/Tutor and Director of Cultural and Language programs at The Franco Center in Lewiston; John Cote, guitarist, mandolin and fiddle player from Lewiston; Louis Philippe, singer/recording artist from Westbrook; Steve Muise, fiddler and teacher from Farmington; Accordeonist Leonel Ducas from Orrington; and Luc Duplussey.

The event is open to all students, faculty, staff and the interested public. Admission is free and a reception will follow.

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