Archive for the Hot Off The Press Category

Laura Hurd Whited Stars in Comedy Cabaret LAUGHING MATTERS at Footlights in Falmouth

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2018 by Ringer

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April 2018

Laura Hurd Whited takes laughing seriously.  After years in the making, the singer/actress/comic is proudly and confidently debuting her very own cabaret musical-comedy revue that proves her point: LAUGHING MATTERS (it really does).

LAUGHING MATTERS is a well-crafted anthology of comedy songs through the years weaved in rich carefully-selected stories of love and romance, abundantly loaded with humor and cleverly delivered in Laura’s trademark affable, personable, “I’m-breaking-the-4th-wall-and-taking-this-show-into-the-audience-and-nobody’s-gonna-stop-me” style.

The singer glows when she decribes her material.  “I love these songs.  Many are songs people don’t really know.  Some are obscure.  Three songs are from the ‘40s.”  But they all meet the performer’s strict criteria, i.e. “They have to be funny—TO ME!” And, she adds, the songs are all about her most endearing and interesting topic EVER—relationships!

Consider LAUGHING MATTERS as a universal love bomb that’s designed to hit anyone who can relate to any aspect of love…“finding it, losing it, being treated badly, trying too hard, trying too little, finally getting it just right and then wham.  I just wanna give these songs to everybody in the audience,” Laura imparts with a happy heart.

And the intimate setting of The Footlights Theater in Falmouth is the perfect venue for her creation.  “Again, it’s all about relationships, even with the audience…looking right at people, being present in every moment, when somebody sneezes, coughs, has to get up, interacting constantly, a show with a flow, a different show every time.  Being on stage at Merrill is thrilling in a way, but you’re really talking to God all the time blinded by lights.  I’d much rather be right here, right now…

Laura does admit that going to see a person singing a bunch of songs could be boring, so she’s taken many precautions to assure her audiences will enjoy a maximum cabaret experience.  “Let’s just say a lot of songs are not solos…there’ll be lots going on, lots of surprises, some planned, some not, maybe some conflict…we’ll just leave it at that,” she carefully offered so as not to reveal some built-in hidden laughter landmines.

The songlist reads like a manifesto for a very bizarre journey for which Laura channels various and sundry Broadway to very-off-Broadway gems, well-known to little-known to unexpected singers and comedy song-writers, and a delightfully unbalanced mix of “warm-and-fuzzy date” to “rogue cabaret act.”    The show gets “lots of help from” Music Director Bob Gauthier on piano.

The singer waits until the end of the show to present the title song, Laughing Matters, written by Mark Waldrop and Dick Gallagher and released by Bette Midler in 1998 that brings her message full circle:  “Laughing does matter, life is hard, times are hard, you need to laugh—to cope, to survive, to celebrate.  Love and relationships are the most important things to each of us, and laughing gets us through.”

Laura started singing at a young age—not professionally, just around the house.  “I used to sing on the plane, in the aisles, so I’m told…I earned lots of wings.”

She recalls the first time she sang in public, in her 10th grade when she belted out Send In The Clowns and got a standing ovation.  The next day, her neighbor, Arlene Winger, a well-known vocal trainer, told her, “That was wonderful, you can never sing like that again.”  Laura started lessons and ultimately went on to Boston Conservatory where she received a Bachelor of Arts Fine Arts degree in Musical Theater.

Upon graduating, she was excited to spend the next year gainfully employed as an actor with The New England Children’s Theater troupe, touring schools throughout New England.  Then it was time for some personal milestones—marriage, becoming a mother, and moving back to Maine.

When the time was right, Laura returned to the stage.  Her favorite roles include Fraulein Kost in Cabaret at Lyric Music Theater; Miss Adelaide in Guys And Dolls—among other shows—at Quisisana Resort in Lovell; a coveted slot in the popular annual Best Of Broadway revue for many years; and most recently Margaret, the mother, in Carrie: The Musical, also at Lyric.

Perhaps her most challenging role was Judy Garland in the tour-de-force The Property Known As Garland, written by Billy Van Zandt and produced at the Old Port Playhouse in Portland, a charming, busy, quaint performing space run by Artistic Director Michael Tobin.

“Judy was a huge role for me,” Laura confesses. “It was tough, it was emotional, and my voice has changed since that tribute.  I can still belt, but I found a place in my voice that I don’t feel I need to as much.  I’m comfortable doing whatever needs to be done, my approach and delivery is different for every song, I can go anywhere.”

“But I’ve never been a huge Broadway person,” quips Laura who enjoys stretching her voice, pushing the envelope and adding “tools for the toolbox.”  Rather, she is influenced by the likes of Diana Krall and has ultimate respect for stand-up comics.  “To walk out in front of an audience and tell stories is the bravest thing I know (other than going to battle).”

And so she seriously began developing LAUGHING MATTERS four or five years ago, though the concept had been born sooner. “I decided I was ready,” and contacted Tobin, now Artistic Director of The Footlights Theater in Falmouth.  The show was now a reality.

“Then it hit me—the show is fabulous in my head but will it be what I imagine?”  Some subtle motivation from her son (who was evaluating his own musical aspirations) calmed her creative consternation.  “I know the songs inside out, I know what I want to share with the audience, I’m not gonna die, I’m enjoying getting there and I know I’m gonna have fun,” she acclaims.

With all due respect, Laura truly has comic discernment, a visionary gift that perfectly combines comedy and humanity.  “I’ve always been jokey,” she divulged, “but people don’t really take me seriously.  They don’t take laughing seriously.” They will now.

LAUGHING MATTERS makes its world debut for one weekend only, April 26 – 28, 7:30 PM at the Footlights space located at 190 US Route 1 in Falmouth.  Tickets are $18, FMI 207/747-5434 or TheFootlightsInFalmouth.com.

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–Louis Philippe

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VINTAGE SONDHEIM + STRONG CITY THEATER CAST = PERFECT “COMPANY”

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , on March 11, 2018 by Ringer

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March 2018

Picture it. Manhattan. 1970. It’s Robert’s 35th birthday and his crazy married and engaged friends throw him a surprise party.  Though he’s content to be single (or is he?), his friends use the milestone event to shower him with unsolicited relationship advice so he can be as happy as they are.  The problem is they’re all in certifiably dysfunctional relationships of their own.

Picture it. Biddeford. 2018. It’s opening night of City Theater’s production of COMPANY, featuring book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  What’s really center-stage is a cacophony of personality differences, emotional failures and psychological challenges of five upper-middle class couples with upper-middle class problems…and three of Bobby’s girlfriends.

Thankfully, there are enough moments of levity and shtick to qualify COMPANY as a musical comedy because it’s mentally exhausting (if not disturbing) to endure the clamoring emotional clashes and incessant push-and-pull of all the crazy married people on stage.

…All of which, in no way, should be interpreted as a negative critique of the production.  Au contraire, it’s exactly what Furth and Sondheim, Director Linda Sturdivant and the entire 18-member cast carefully succeeded in delivering—a good solid show with intensity, precision, gutsy honesty and a few laughs to wash it all down with.

Caleb Lacy is quite effective in the lead role of Robert, in many ways still a kid at heart, not able to commit to a relationship, unable to blow out his candles, unsure about what he wants.  Through various vignettes, Robert’s quest for answers reveals the best and worst of his friends:

Sarah (Rebecca Rinaldi) and Harry (Brian McAloon)—with boundless bickering over their individual food and alcohol addictions, they endlessly taunt each other until grappling in a stifling karate competition.

Susan (Alyssa Rojecki) and Peter (Seth Crockett)—a seemingly perfect match-up between a Southern belle with fainting spells and an Ivy Leaguer who might be gay, who opt for divorce in order to maintain their happy relationship.

Jenny (Gusta Johnson), straight-laced and uptight and David (Tim Steiner), modish and contemporary but a tad controlling.

Amy (Mia Foley Perron), a manic Catholic girl who gets cold feet on her wedding day and Paul (Schuyler White), her easy-going ever-optimistic Jewish fiancé.

Joanne (Jennine Cannizzo), a snarky, sassy and abrasive older friend and Larry (Peter Salsbury), her well-to-do, sweet and doting third husband.

Also providing relationship research are Bobby’s three girlfriends:  April (Joanna Clarke), a dopey, naïve but beautiful flight attendant; Kathy (Adelyn Bell), a small-town on-off girlfriend who decides to leave New York to get married; and Marta (Elizabeth Lester), a hip New York fanatic whose unbridled babbling is stunning.

And speaking of stunning, the music and lyrics are amazing samples of Stephen Sondheim’s trademark talent—Lyrics that tell stories, looping stories over looping stories, and wonderful dissonance that, when all combined, create a mesmerizing polyphony that augments any given production number with vivid musical motion and emotion.

The show’s title song, Company, along with Getting Married Today, Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You, and the Finale are superb production numbers, righteously choreographed by Mariel Roy.

While the songs are recognizably dated, the collective vocals of the cast is stellar.  Several knock-out standouts include:  You Could Drive A Person Crazy (by Bell, Clarke and Lester), Getting Married Today (featuring Perron, Johnson, White and Company), and Being Alive (Lacy’s breakthough song that brings him to finally blow out his candles), all prime examples of solid solo work.

But my “Standing O” goes to Jennine Cannizzo for her impeccable interpretation of The Ladies Who Lunch that would make Elaine Stritch very proud.

Music Director/Pianist Sara Sturdivant effortlessly and instinctively knows how to make a cast shine, while driving a pit of competent players:  Victoria Hulburt, violin; Ray Libby, woodwinds; Don Lauzier, trumpet; Jimmy McGirr, bass; Joshua Adams and Karl Menard, percussion.

Certainly noteworthy is a quartet of singers/dancers/set movers cleverly called The Vocal Minority.  Hats off to Hannah Brown, Briana Chu, Anna Devoe and Andrew Lamb.

COMPANY opened on Broadway almost 50 years ago, on April 26, 1970 and ran for 705 performances.

City Theater’s production of COMPANY runs through March 25th, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM.  The theater is located at 205 Main Street, downtown Biddeford.  FMI, call 282-0849 or visit www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

Seeking Acts for St. Anthony’s KC Variety Show

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , on March 9, 2018 by Ringer

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May 2018

The Knights of Columbus of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Westbrook announced plans for a variety/talent show to be held in the church hall on Saturday, May 12th at 6:30 PM, and are seeking interested acts.

“AN EVENING WITH EMELIA & FRIENDS” will feature an array of performers of all ages and experience levels in a family-friendly cabaret setting.  The show continues a string of annual KC-sponsored musical variety extravaganzas held in prior years that enjoyed much success as community-building events and fun showcases for local talent.

This year’s host is 13-year-old Emelia Bailey, a dedicated young member of the St. Anthony’s music ministry team, an up-and-coming opera singer and an all-around musical-theater enthusiast.

Emelia is a 7th grader at Gorham Middle School who, at her young age, has already performed in numerous musicals in southern Maine and in operas with Opera Maine at Merrill Auditorium.  She is a past winner of the NATS musical theatre singing competition and Gorham’s Got Talent.  She currently sings with the University of Southern Maine Youth Chorale and has worked in conjunction with the college and Opera Maine to help write the upcoming chamber opera Girl in Six Beats that will be performed this spring at USM.  She enjoys liturgical singing and is a cantor at St. Anthony’s Church in Westbrook.

Participation is open to children, teens, adults and seniors from the pews and from the community at large.  Interested acts are invited to obtain a sign-up sheet by contacting Louis Philippe, who is coordinating the acts:  857-9002 or reindeer@maine.rr.com.   Deadline to sign up is April 1st. Acts will be limited to five minutes and confirmed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Self-contained acts preferred, but piano accompaniment and/or soundtracks may be available.

Proceeds of the evening will benefit Greater Portland Family Promise, an affiliate of the national Family Promise program, dedicated to addressing the needs of families facing homelessness in the Greater Portland, Maine area.  Through an interfaith network and connections with existing community resources—which includes St. Anthony’s parish, Family Promise provides housing, meals, case management and community for children and their families experiencing homelessness.

Tickets for the show will be $10 (with age discounts) and will be available after all Masses beginning the weekend of April 14 & 15.

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CONNIE FRANCIS TRIBUTE COMES TO PORTLAND’S ITALIAN HERITAGE CENTER

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , on March 8, 2018 by Ringer

May 2018

The popular, infectious and sentimental hits of America’s Sweetheart of Song will fill the “Startlight Ballroom” of the Italian Heritage Center in Portland on Sunday, May 6th at 2 PM, when the IHC’s Charitable Scholarship Fund presents AMONG MY SOUVENIRS, a tribute to the legendary Connie Francis.

“The Connie Francis Show,” as it is often referred to, is coming back to Portland after several years of touring elsewhere in Maine.  The show features the dreamy, bouncy, trademark pop tunes 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 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 an informative narration of the star’s life, career and personal struggles provides more sentimental trivia and interesting biographical history.

“This show is truly one of the most moving and fun shows Reindeer Theatre Company ever staged,” said Philippe.  “It’s a chance for audiences to reminisce and re-connect with friends and re-live some powerful memories of the late 50s and 60s….and everybody has a ‘Connie’ story.’”

“And what a perfect venue to honor Miss Francis’ Italian heritage,” Philippe said, noting that the Italian Heritage Center audience will be treated to a few Italian songs which are in the singer’s well-known portfolio of foreign recordings in Italian, French, 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 a remarkably appealing stage persona much like Connie’s and she easily captures the iconic Francis trademarks—her powerful and mesmerizing vocal delivery of catchy, compelling pop melodies and schmaltzy lyrics that all combine for a supreme night of riveting nostalgia,” Philippe stated.

In addition to Music Director Philippe on piano, the “Connie Combo” also features Jimmy McGirr on upright bass, Joe Napoleone on drums, and Tom O’Donnell on guitar (the original guitarist from the 1994 revue).  Narration is handled by Maureen Knott LeBeau of Westbrook.

Over the past few years, AMONG MY SOUVENIRS has been hosted by several 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 groups can call 207-857-9002.

General cabaret seating tickets are $15/members, $20/guests, with cash bar and light refreshments.  For tix & info, call 671-3133, 671-9412 or 939-8570.  Special premium reserved tables available. Advance tickets only—no tickets will be sold at the door. The Italian Heritage Center is located at 40 Westland Ave., Portland, 772-2500, http://italianheritagecenter.com.

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AUBURN CHURCH TO REPRISE POPULAR CABARET NIGHT

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2018 by Ringer

February 2018

Back by popular demand, Sacred Heart Church in Auburn is bringing back CABARET NIGHT in celebration of its on-going parish-wide pipe organ fundraising campaign which is nearing its first milestone goal.

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Mark the date:  Saturday, February 3rd at 7 PM for the second annual fun-filled musical variety show for all ages, once again being hosted by guest entertainer Louis Philippe.

CABARET NIGHT is just one of many events the parish has undertaken as part of the overall fundraising drive launched in 2015 to help purchase, refurbish and install a 1954 Casavant Opus 2277 Pipe Organ which, through a donation to the parish, was acquired from the Sisters of Notre Dame in Toledo, Ohio.

The secondary goal of the Sister Elizabeth Platt Pipe Organ Fund for Sacred Heart Church is to provide education and training programs to parish organists, choirs and cantors, as well as subsidized organ lessons for deserving and talented young people.

Thanks to the generosity and enthusiastic support of parishioners, volunteers and the community at large, the parish is close to reaching its primary goal for the organ installation sometime this year, according to Carol DeRoy, Fundraising Committee Member and Cabaret Night Production Coordinator.

I believe that this endeavor has brought our community closer together in sharing a mutual dream,” DeRoy said, acknowledging the many gifts made in recognition of family and friends or in memory of loved ones.

Committee Member Roland Bergeron, in charge of Finance, agrees.  This project has lifted us up, and brought unity among our parishioners,” Bergeron stated, adding: “We are prayerfully grateful to be much closer to our goal in getting the pipe organ installed and creating beautiful sacred music for generations to come.”

At age 86, Sister Elizabeth Platt, C.O.C., currently serves as Pastoral Associate, and has dedicated over 30 years of service to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in religious education and the RCIA Program.  A period of her life she often speaks about with great fondness is her years of ministry teaching children to sing the parts of the Mass.  She also worked with the Boys’ Choir in Boston before coming to Maine.

Pam Vaillancourt, a familiar talent from the L-A area, began singing in the church choir since her elementary school days. She’s now Music Director at Sacred Heart Church (since 1994), a well-known advocate of music and ministry, and will once again serve as Stage Manager for this year’s event in addition to performing duets with Louis Philippe (Patsy Cline medley and a gospel medley).

“After our first Cabaret Night, there was so much positive feedback that we knew we had to do it again,” Vaillancourt noted.  “The cast and volunteers have worked really hard in bringing this show to our stage and much closer to our goal.  I hope that everyone who came to last year’s sell-out Cabaret Night will come back and see this one.”

This year’s line-up of diverse acts—guaranteed to entertain everyone— includes:  Ben Daigneault, Emma Daigneault, Rabbi Sruli Dredsner and his wife Lisa Mayer, The Noddin Boys (Lee and Bruce),  Philippian Troubadours (Dick Dubois, Bruce Geoffroy, Jim McConnell, Bob Morin and Conrad Vaillancourt), “Mr. Ray” (Ray Marchessault), Magician Mark Vaillancourt, Alana Gagnon and Pam Vaillancourt.

The Sacred Heart Parish Hall is in the basement of the church, located at the corner of Minot and Western Avenues in Auburn.  Tickets are $12/adults and $6/students.  FMI, contact the IHM office at 782-8096.

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City Theater Presents “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS” + Bonus Concert!

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on December 2, 2017 by Ringer

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December 2017

The true meaning of Christmas can be found on the stage of Biddeford City Theater, served up by talented actors, singers and dancers in a back-to-back two-for-one double-dose of holiday cheer: “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS” plus a Bonus All-Star Christmas Concert.  Producer/Director Linda Sturdivant wraps plenty of magic and music in a wonderful family-friendly presentation that runs through December 17th.

PART ONE:  “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS”

The classic 1965 animated television special comes to life with glorious splendor, in lots of living color.  The delightful cast of cartoon characters makes their grand entrance bedecked with the impressive costume handiwork of Barbara Kelly, Wendy Brown and Tehya Brown.  Each player is adoringly animated and clearly captivating as witnessed by the faces of young and old alike in the audience.

Charlie Brown (Schuyler White) is not happy about the commercialism of Christmas and brings his case of the blues to “Dr. Psychiatrist” Lucy (Rebecca Rinaldi) who prescribes some involvement in the season, specifically directing the neighborhood Christmas play.  But the kids don’t listen to him and mock him, leaving Charlie once again disappointed.

Lucy sends Charlie off to find the perfect tree.  When he returns with the scrawniest, smallest tree, he is once again laughed at and rejected.  But Linus (Miles Obrey) then delivers his inspiring childlike soliloquy   of what Christmas is all about which rallies the cast to turn Charlie Brown’s Christmas into the perfect tree after all…and everyone is happy.

The cast also includes Brian McAloon as Snoopy, Lindsay Armstrong as Sally, Caleb Streadwick as Pig Pen, Hannah Brown as Frieda, Andrew Lamb as Schroeder, Briana Chu as Violet, Kelsey Seavey as Patty, Gerald Davis as Shermy and Gina Lewis and Ashley Shevenell as Twins #3 and #4.

Based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz, the words are by Lee Mendelson (who produced the television special) but the lingering iconic jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi takes a front-and-center spot in the curtain call.  The music is righteously rendered by Music Director Kevin Smith on piano, Jimmy McGirr on bass and Joshua Adams on percussion.

Add some clever group movements by Choreographer Mariel Roy, fun oversized set pieces by Master Carpenter Ed Wood, imaginative colorful trees courtesy of Jessica Chaples-Graffam and you get a complete fool-proof recipe for a heaping serving of holiday comfort food for the entire family…but wait, there’s more…

PART TWO:  THE BONUS CHRISTMAS CONCERT

When the lights go up on Act Two, many Charlie Brown cast members are joined by other City Theater luminaries who have been featured in leading roles during the previous season for more wholesome holiday cheer—an All-Star musical program.  (It’s kinda like keeping the television on after the Charlie Brown Christmas Special is over and watching the holiday musical variety show that comes on right after).

The concert features a wide range of Christmas songs—traditional favorites, contemporary, humorous, serious, classical and sing-alongs, all performed by gifted individuals who are well known in the City Theater stable and familiar to City Theater audiences.

Jennine Cannizzo does a fine job as Mistress of Ceremonies, shepherding the line-up of acts while comfortably handling her own brand of “We Need A Little Christmas” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (with the ensemble).  The same wonderful pit from Act One provides the musical power for Act Two—a different genre but equally righteous.

Among the highlights:  Brie Roche’s rendition of “Never Fall In Love (With An Elf)” from the 2011 Broadway production of Elf The Musical; a powerful and immaculate version of the famed Celine Dion-Andrea Boccelli duet “The Prayer” offered by Rebecca Rinaldi and Brian McAloon; a divine delivery of “Gesu Bambino” by Miles Obrey;  and a refreshingly upbeat “Mary, Did You Know” by McAloon.

The Atlantic Dance Arts Dancers (Choreographer Mariel Roy’s new dance studio in Gorham) is represented with their lively rendition of the 1994 Maria Carey hit “All I Want For Christmas.”  Congratulations Mariel and thank you ADA Dancers Amber Arsenault, Hannah Batman, Hailey Fardon, Lily Rowe, Janessa Wilson and Marissa Wilson.

The All-Star Quartet (McAloon, Obrey, Rinaldi & Roche) takes the Trisha Yearwood/B.J. Thomas hit “Take A Walk Through Bethlehem” to new heights with a beautiful gospel arrangement by John Glaudini that majestically layers the contemporary creation of Ashley Cleveland, John Jarvis and Wally Wilson with the traditional carol “Joy To The World.”

 “O Holy Night” closes the concert, featuring soloists McAloon, Rinaldi and Schuyler White and the entire ensemble, accompanied by a lovely modern dance treatment by Amber Arsenault.

As Schuyler White sings: “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” and City Theater’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas/Christmas Concert” defines the true meaning of Christmas.  Great fun for all ages!

The show runs through December 17th, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM (no performance December 3rd).  The theater—Biddeford’s Historic Opera House—is located at 205 Main St., Downtown Biddeford.  FMI: 207/282-0849 or www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe for the Biddeford Journal Tribune

 

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN CLOWN TOWN – And How Was Your Day?

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , on November 18, 2017 by Ringer

November 2017

I went to the Mall this morning.  I opened a door for a lady who accused me of sexual harassment and abuse for forcing my power as a man over her will and infringing on her rights.  Another woman was right behind her but so as not to offend her, I purposefully did not open the door for her.  She quipped, “Asshole, I guess chivalry is dead, what are you too weak to be nice to females twice in a row?”

I saw this very cute baby in a stroller while on line at the food court. I told the mother “what an adorable child.”  She told me “You best be mindin’ your own business, you pedophile, or you get me screamin’ for a cop.”

I saw a display in a restaurant window offering complete homemade Thanksgiving dinners-to-go for $89, heated, packaged and ready to serve.  I popped in and told the cashier, “What a great idea!” One short, shabby-clad obese lady on her way out interrupted, “You think it’s a great idea to glorify them damn pilgrims killing all them Indians and stealing their land?”  “No,” I replied, “I think it’s a great idea if short people stay away from the buffet.”  At least the cashier enjoyed it.

I decide to support the establishment and have breakfast there and read the newspaper:  “Sex Crimes By Moore, Trump Punishable By Death; Franken Forgiven” headed the story of the U.S. Senate introducing a bill to make any sexual indiscretions—true, alleged or imagined—a capital crime if committed by Republicans.  Experts stated “After all, they have a higher moral standard and should know better.  Democrats don’t know better due to decades of environmental conditioning but will face investigation by the Ethics Commission.”

More Headlines:  “Referendum Effort Underway To Allow Marijuana Vending Sales In Public Schools;”  “Illegal Immigrants Sue State For Ending Food Benefits”—claiming they are still entitled to free money even though the State ended the program because it ran out of funding; “Local High Schooler Suspended For Asking Fellow Asian Student His Nationality;” “Gorham Car Dealer Faces No Consequences For Stealing Customer’s Money And Not Delivering Car”—Dealer Owner David McGovern II evades authorities for years, leaving customers, Maine District Court, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Maine’s Attorney General powerless victims; “Non-Profits Requesting Audit of CYLNK Redemption Service”—after realizing their bottle refunds from fundraising efforts are lower than anticipated, possible skimming suspected;  “South Portland City Council To Consider Sharia Law.”

I decided to go to church.  I prayed that young black men find mercy, discernment and positive opportunities.  The priest told me I was being racist.  The 3rd collection was for Planned Parenthood; I didn’t give any money. The 4th collection was for a LGBTQ mission group; I didn’t give any money.  The 5th collection was for a gubernatorial candidate’s campaign; I didn’t give any money.  On my way out, the usher pulled me aside and said, “You’re either a bad Catholic or one cheap bastard.”  “And with your spirit,” I retorted.

 “Clown Town,” I thought to myself while driving home, reflecting on the lyrics of a song by a great award-winning songwriter named Gladys Shelley.  What were the chances that I would get an incredible opportunity to meet her when I moved to NYC in 1979, and that she would become my friend and mentor?  She often invited me to Sunday dinner at her Fifth Avenue apartment that she shared with her five chihauhaus.  As fate would have it, because I was thin and quick to cross through Central Park, she nicknamed me “Reindeer,” which I later adopted as the name of my company.

This amazing lady, who owned Palisades Park, was almost 70 years old then, but so full of life and creative energy.  Sometimes she’d call me with short notice and tell me her limo driver was going to pick me up and that we were going to some popular cabaret to listen to some singer who was showcasing some of her material.  Over the years she’d give me sheet music for me to learn and would put me in a studio to do demos of her songs…what a thrill!  And of course she was in the audience when I proudly presented some of her songs in my very own showcase at Palsson’s.  But my most special Gladys Shelley milestone is a single release of her song “My World Is You” translated in French by my mother for the dual-language release “Ma Vie C’est Toi.”  We were all so proud.

When I got home, I was welcomed with unconditional love by my energetic little girl patiently waiting for Daddy to take her for a w-a-l-k.  While we walked, I reflected on my crazy day and an ever-deteriorating crazy world—as Gladys would say, “Clown Town.”

 “Thank you, Heavenly Father,” I profoundly adulated, “for this crazy day, for the plate I was given, for making me who I am, for your countless miracles and gifts.”  “You’re welcome, my Son,” He said, “Keep up the good work and know that I am always with you.”

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–Louis Philippe