Footlights Stages Hilarious Sex Romp, THE NAKED TRUTH

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

The Naked TruthMarch 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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–Louis Philippe

City Theater + PUMPBOYS AND DINETTES = Hot Hoedown

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on March 8, 2017 by Ringer

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March 2017

It’s not surprising these days that Pump Boys and Dinettes seems to be enjoying a rowdy revival with theater-goers across the country.  It’s a simple Americana-themed country musical about the simple life of simple small-town characters…nothing pretentious, no drama, no frills, no elaboarate set changes or fancy costumes, no challenging messages, not even a plot.  What City Theater’s production of Pump Boys and Dinettes is is one mighty delicious serving of high octane fun.

Part musical, part concert, part music revue, Pump Boys and Dinettes weaves the stories of five guys who work at a gas station (L.M., Jim, Jackson, Eddie and Buck) on Highway 57, somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina, and two waitresses (sisters Rhetta and Prudie Cupp) who work at the Double Cupp Diner next door.

Pump Boys and Dinettes, a Tony Award nominee in 1982 for Best Musical, was written by members of a performance group of the same name who starred in the Broadway production—John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann.

The show begins seamlessly as cast members randomly show up to begin their work day.  Then Jim (Joel Crowley, rhythm guitar) brings the audience into their world and kicks off 100 minutes of 100% satisfying toe-tapping home-town-lovin’ entertainment.

The music is generically classic country-pop with touches of rockabilly, blues and folk.  The songs are colorful snapshots into the warm and affable life-loving characters that reveal what’s important to those on the Highway 57 journey— fishing, dating, men, grandma’s cooking, growing up, tips, vacations, drinking, etc.

All the Pump Boys play instruments:  L.M. (Kevin Smith, Music Director, piano), Jackson (Jason Phillips, bass), Eddie (Josh Adams, drums) and Buck (Brian Callaghan, lead guitar).  The Dinettes—Rhetta (Kelsey Franklin) and Prudie (Sara Sturdivant)—provide percussion on kitchen utensils.

Don’t expect a Broadway pit, but don’t be surprised that you’ll be movin’ and groovin’ to top-notch country guitar licks (thank you Brian) and high energy honky-tonk piano playing (thank you Kevin)…one one of the best countrified cabarets this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

And if you think the music is good, wait til you hear the voices—the best in town.  Crowley, Franklin, Phillips, Smith and Sturdivant each make the most of their opportunities to showcase their individual vignettes.  They know how to sing and they know how to sell a song.  But collectively, these singers become a powerhouse strong enough to melt the heart of any aficionado with beautiful, intense, clean, tasty harmonies reminiscent of the Gaithers or the Jordanaires (thank you Todd Hutchisen, sound design, and Matt Eaton, sound board operator, for the rich transparent sound and wonderful blend).

Producer/Director Linda Sturdivant and Co-Director Brian McAloon have assembled a cast of strong performers—City Theater veterans and familiar favorites—who are not only superbly talented on script but whose inate creative instincts can be relied upon to deliver remarkable performances at any given moment.  This, combined with the cast’s easy-going welcoming appeal, provides a refreshing, relaxing diversion from the headlines du-jour, a therapeutic benefit that far exceeds the cost of admission.

While Main Street in Biddeford may be a slight distance from Highway 57, Pump Boys and Dinettes, without question embodies a unique theatrical flavor yet easily meets the criteria of one of City Theater’s best musical offerings.

 A well-deserved standing ovation goes to Daniel Brodhead of Portland Stage Company who oversaw the duties of Technical Director.

Pump Boys and Dinettes run thru March 26th, Fridays and Saturday at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, at 205 Main Street, downtown Biddeford.   Tix and FMI: 207/282-0849 or www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

BANDING TOGETHER FOR NICK KNOWLTON

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , on February 8, 2017 by Ringer
BANDING TOGETHER FOR NICK KNOWLTON—Planning is underway for a fundraising gala celebration to beat the band—and to help the popular singer beat his recent diagnosis of esophageal cancer—Sunday, March 12, at the Lewiston Ramada Inn starting at 1 PM. The event will feature an array of musical luminaries that have been part of L-A’s historic music scene. The Planning Committee includes, seated (l-r): Brie Knowlton, Nicholas Jr., Krista Knowlton and Elaine Poulin; standing (l-r): Gini Haines, Doug Haines, Louis Philippe, Pete Nadeau, Debbie Morin, Bill Moraldo, Denny Breau, Ed Boucher, Jeannie Martin, Bette Sanborn, Joline ten Eyck and Danny DiBiase.

BANDING TOGETHER FOR NICK KNOWLTON—Planning is underway for a fundraising gala celebration to beat the band—and to help the popular singer beat his recent diagnosis of esophageal cancer—Sunday, March 12, at the Lewiston Ramada Inn starting at 1 PM. The event will feature an array of musical luminaries that have been part of L-A’s historic music scene. The Planning Committee includes, seated (l-r): Brie Knowlton, Nicholas Jr., Krista Knowlton and Elaine Poulin; standing (l-r): Gini Haines, Doug Haines, Louis Philippe, Pete Nadeau, Debbie Morin, Bill Maroldo, Denny Breau, Ed Boucher, Jeannie Martin, Bette Sanborn, Joline ten Eyck and Danny DiBiase.

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February 2017

A fundraising gala for widely-acclaimed popular singer Nick Knowlton is being planned by friends and family upon hearing of his recent diagnosis of esophageal cancer.

BANDING TOGETHER FOR NICK is set for Sunday, March 12, at the Lewiston Ramada Inn, where Knowlton has performed for many years with bands and as a DJ, and where many of his talented musical friends throughout his five decades of performing will be converging from across the country to take to the stage and pay tribute to the local legend…and to help raise money for hospital and medical expenses.

Since the late 80s, Bette Sanborn has been singing in local bands including the popular Good & Plenty Band at the Ramada, where Knowlton also worked with many groups.  In 1996, Knowlton created “The Nick & Bette Show” and there developed an instant bond and long-lasting friendship.

Today, Sanborn continues to guide the hospitality and entertainment offerings at the Ramada as Dining Room Manager and is looking forward to “a big, big event.”

“Nick being a champion for causes he strongly believes in is remarkable,” said Sanborn.  “This is going to  be an outpouring of musicians and friends who want to give back to Nick after all he has done for so many in the community.”

Ed Boucher, who managed Knowlton’s early bands and whose EAB Recording productions catapulted the local singer to regional and national status, sees the event as a way to help a friend known for his community outreach in his own time of need—in a big way.

BANDING TOGETHER FOR NICK is an opportunity for generations of loyal music fans who have helped shape the L-A music scene to reconnect and share memories with the great bands that Nick fronted and they followed—Terry & The Telstars, White Fluff, Poorboy, Katahdin, Katfish, and others.

“Expect the unexpected,” the producer resounded, “When old friends throw a celebration like this, magic happens, memories are made and it shows that when we band together we can make a difference and everybody has a great time.”

Boucher is advising folks to get their tickets early because he predicts a sellout event. “Nick knows everyone and everyone knows Nick,” he explained.

A star-studded parade of musicians and singers who have all contributed to the rich narrative of L-A’s music scene since the 60s will join the many friends, family and fans expected to make this event an unforgettable milestone gathering.

Among the bands scheduled to perform is Terry & The Telstars, with its original members (Knowlton in front on vocals, Danny Caron on drums, Pete Nadeau on keyboards, and Terry McCarthy on guitar).

Caron, who is flying up from Wilmington, NC, is very much looking forward to an historic reunion.  The band got back together for a PAL HOP Reunion in 2010 and reportedly enjoyed it so much they decided to continue performing for several more events, he reported.

Caron credits the good Lord for putting together four 14-year-olds from Lewiston, Maine, all with a dream of becoming rock stars, and launching them on an incredible musical and spiritual journey called Terry & The Telstars.  The rest is history that continues to be made.

Caron expressed his humility and amazement that people still enjoy the aura that Terry & The Telstars created years ago.  “Everybody re-lives part of their past when they come to events like this.  Here we go one more time with the boys, Nick,” the drummer youthfully exclaimed.

Among the bands scheduled to play are:  Denny Breau & Friends, The Girls of L-A, Good ‘N Plenty, and of course Terry & The Telstars.  Performers include:  Billy Belskis, Roger Blais, Ed Boucher, Ron Bouffard, Danny Caron, Frank Coffin, Danny DiBiase, Bonnie Edwards, Bob Elie, Kathy Haley, Shawna Haley, Malinda Liberte, Jeannie Martin, Moe McKenna, Arthur Melendy, Debbie Morin, Paul Murphy, Pete Nadeau, Louis Philippe, Bette Sanborn, Laurie Sidelinger, Mike Willette, Jeff Wright and more.

Bill “BC” Cloutier and Dave Dean, long-time radio personalities in Central Maine, will share the emcee duties.

The doors open at 1 PM. Tickets are $15 and are available online at https://ticketing.thecolisee.com, or by calling the Androscoggin Colisée box office at 783-2009.

Shortly after his diagnosis last December, an online fundraising effort was launched to help with inevitable financial burdens.  At this writing, almost half of the $50,000 goal has been reached.  Donations can be made at gofundme.com/nickknowlton.

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–Louis Philippe

AUBURN PARISH GETS ITS ACT TOGETHER FOR CABARET NIGHT

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on January 31, 2017 by Ringer

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February 2017

Stars of Auburn’s Immaculate Heart of Mary community will shine on Saturday, February 18th at 7 PM as the parish presents a fun-filled night of music and laughter to raise money for its pipe organ project.

A parade of talented performers from the Sacred Heart-St. Philip cluster will grace the stage at CABARET NIGHT, hosted by guest entertainer and local favorite Louis Philippe in a show he says is “reminiscent of the old days when parish halls were the center of social and family life and talents shows and variety shows were held regularly.”

The emcee and singer will present an array of his own trademark songs in the program which will also feature a wide variety of individuals and groups who have all stepped up to show their support for the Sister Elizabeth Platt Pipe Organ Fund for Sacred Heart Church.

Featured acts include:  The Noddin Boys (Lee and Bruce), Alana Gagnon, Chicks With Sticks Steel Drummers (Jill Longstaff, Deanna Kersey, Diana Mawhinney and Josh Caron), Ben Daigneault, Emma Daigneault, Foothills Jazz Trio (Jim Perkins, Siiri Stinson and Dan Perkins), Shelley Harris and Rita Gagnon, Mark Vaillancourt, Ernie Gagne, Lorraine Cote and Pam Vaillancourt, Tony Lajudice, George Harris and Julie Chasse, and Neil Marchessault.

Carol DeRoy has been spear-heading the creation and development of the pipe organ effort and is also Production Coordinator for CABARET NIGHT, responsible for lining up the talent and working with the Committee to transform an ordinary parish hall into a live Cabaret setting with glitz and pizzaz.

The experience of working with so many musicians and singers (many professional) willing and eager to perform gratis for this cause has been a high note for DeRoy.  “The reception and excitement this event has stirred up in our community is truly amazing,” she said, noting “there is a demand for this type of entertainment, for an enjoyable and inexpensive evening filled with music, laughter and camaraderie.”

One person who is also excited about the event is Sacred Heart’s Music Director Pam Vaillancourt who began her journey in Music Ministry with the Children’s Choir in second grade.  With her years of experience in music and theater, onstage and backstage, she has been instrumental in developing the singing congregation.

“Music is very important and helps elevates one’s thoughts,” says Vaillancourt.  “I love how everyone gets involved and participates in the Mass, and I love hearing everyone singing along with the choir.”

In addition to singing in CABARET NIGHT along with her mother Lorraine Cote, Vaillancourt will wear the Stage Manager’s hat, tending to the needs and easing the nerves of the performers. “Hopefully this will be the first of a series of events that will showcase the incredible talents we have in the Lewiston/Auburn area.”

The Sister Elizabeth Platt Pipe Organ Fund for Sacred Heart Church was established in 2015 to highlight the richness and significance of the church’s liturgical celebrations through sacred music and inspire active participation within the community.  At age 85, Sister Elizabeth Platt, C.O.C., currently serves as Pastoral Associate, and has dedicated 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.

All proceeds from CABARET NIGHT will go to the Sr. Elizabeth Platt Pipe Organ Fund for the purpose of refurbishing and installing a used 1954 Casavant Opus 2277 Pipe Organ which, through a donation to the parish, was acquired from the Sisters of Notre Dame in Toledo, Ohio, after their chapel closed.

In addition to helping defray expenses for the purchase, relocation, and installation of the new instrument as well as on-going maintenance and improvements, the fund will provide education and training programs to parish organists, choirs and cantors, as well as subsidized organ lessons for deserving and talented young people.  David E. Wallace & Co. LLC of Gorham has been selected for the design work which is expected to be completed soon, DeRoy reported.

“There’s a noticeably inspiring energy at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish,” Philippe noted.  “Having been involved with Music Ministry for over 40 years, I know how important good music is to the Liturgy and I know that music can be filled with His anointing. So when a church invests in its music program, it opens the door for the Spirit to work,” the singer added.

Tickets are $12/adults and $6/students.  FMI, contact the IHM office at 782-8096.

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FRANCO CENTER’S CONNIE FRANCIS TRIBUTE TO INCLUDE FRENCH SONGS

Posted in Hot Off The Press on November 12, 2016 by Ringer

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November 2016

Those planning to attend the return of AMONG MY SOUVENIRS—last year’s sold-out musical tribute to America’s Sweetheart Connie Francis— can expect a little added surprise to this year’s concert:  “Des chansons en francais!”

Louis Philippe, creator and Music Director of the multi-media touring revue AMONG MY SOUVENIRS, said he was aware that Connie Francis recorded many albums of favorite foreign songs—Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, German and Irish, but discovered a few French songs that she had also recorded in her career.

“What a perfect addition to the program just in time for the wonderful audiences of the Franco Center coming up the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Philippe noted.

Described as “the most moving and fun shows Reindeer Productions ever staged,” AMONG MY SOUVENIRS quickly sold out last year so the Franco Center is bringing the touring concert back by popular demand for TWO shows: Saturday, November 26 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, November 27 at 2 PM.

The show features the bouncy, melodic, pop 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 more.

“These are all the popular, infectious and sentimental hits of Connie Francis that the audience will easily reminisce and re-connect with…and singing along is encouraged,” said Philippe.

Krista LeBeau Johnson of Windham 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 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).

In addition to the musical memories, the audience will be treated to a pictorial review of Connie’s life while a narration of her career and personal struggles is presented by Maureen Knott LeBeau of Westbrook.

The Gendron Franco Center is located at 46 Cedar St., Lewiston.  Reserved seats are $18 ($15 for Seniors) and can be obtained by calling 207 689-2000.  For Saturday’s performance, the doors at the main entrance located on Oxford Street (Heritage Hall double red doors) will open at 6:30 PM for a pre-show social hour.  FMI, visit www.facebook.com/FrancoCenter/events.

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City Theater’s WEST SIDE STORY is Grand Theatrical Splendor

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on July 23, 2016 by Ringer

West Side Story1

Schuyler White as Tony and Maddy Jarvais as Maria. Photo: AudraHatch.com

West Side Story3

Miles Obrey (left) as Chino and Adam Gallant as Diesel stand at arms while Owen White (left, Bernardo, leader of The Sharks) and Joel Crowley (Riff, leader of The Jets) strategize The Rumble. Photo: AudraHatch.com

West Side Story4

James Muller (Snow Boy), Seth Crockett (Big Deal), Adam Gallant (Diesel), David Moses (Action) and Caleb Streadwick (Baby John) have fun in “Gee, Officer Krupke” Photo: AudraHatch.com

July 2016

WEST SIDE STORY debuted on Broadway almost 60 years ago, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents, conceptually inspired by Jerome Robbins as a contemporary musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, the classic tragic tale of young lovers crossing into forbidden territory, naively hoping their love for each other would eradicate the familial conflicts, racial discrimination and cultural barriers that challenged their relationship.

For Robbins’ updated version (which he directed and choreographed), Tony and Maria replace Romeo and Juliet; 13th Century Verona, Italy is now the Upper West Side of New York City, 1957; and the clash of the Montague and Capulet families are now embodied by two rival teen gangs—the Jets (White, Irish-Catholic) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican).   Changes aside (and one can only wonder what the next revised script might look like), WEST SIDE STORY is still the magnificent and universal story of young love, teen angst and the hope of overcoming social and ethnic divisions.

Biddeford City Theater’s production of WEST SIDE STORY has it all:  Copious multi-level performing spaces with pockets of built-in scenes that still comfortably give the ever-mobilized large cast room to run, jump, dance, climb, fly, roll, fight, meet, and rumble; An amazing cast of actors who can sing, dancers who can act; singers who can dance, dancers who can sing, actors who can dance; singers who can act; And an extraordinary crew who deserve highest recognition for their passion and attention to every element of production—seen and unseen.

With a reputation for top-notch local productions that rival the pros, City Theater’s presentation of WEST SIDE STORY is nothing short of phenomenal entertainment.  Director Linda Sturdivant has pulled out all the stops and has raised the bar of excellent theater to the highest level.  It’s no surprise that the cast of 36 mostly high school and young adult performers includes many favorites who are consistent, strong and bankable.

Schuyler White as Tony and Maddy Jarvais as Maria are a powerful team, blending impeccable vocal skills and emotions to their love-riddled roles.

Joel Crowley is Riff, leader of The Jets: Action (David Moses), Diesel (Adam Gallant), Big Deal (Seth Crockett), Snow Boy (James Muller), Baby John (Caleb Streadwick) and Anybody’s (Gaia Ayres).

Their Girls: Velma (Alyssa Rojecki), Graziella (Lizzie Hobbs), Clarice (Callie Cox), Minnie (Abby Randall), Pauline (Katy Albert), Connie (Katie Spagnolo), Donna (Ashley Marie) and Debbie (Hallie Scammell).

Owen White is Bernardo, Maria’s brother and leader of The Sharks: Chino (Miles Obrey), Pepe (Owen Carten), Indio (Logan Marrithew), Luis (Charlie Lees), Juano (Rodric Jones), Queso (Andrew Lamb) and Anxious (Zack LaChance).

Their Girls:  Anita (Liz Kershenbaum), Consuelo (Jessica Libby), Rosalia (Elizabeth Lester), Francisca (Autumn Rivas), Teresita (Bethany Perkins), Estella (Brianna Chu), Margarita (Nina Finocchiaro), Gianna (Kai Brown) and Camilla (Etain Brown).

The cast also included Tad Williams as Officer Shrank, Sarah Wells as Officer Krupke, Jay Jones as Doc and Kathy Demers as Glad Hand.

At the risk of sounding aloof, it’s difficult to credit individuals with outstanding performances because truly there was not one weak link on stage.  From the starring roles to the ensemble, every individual’s contribution to every character in every scene, song and dance was unmitigated creative success.

The Bernstein brand of lush, vibrant and enthralling orchestration is a huge factor to the longevity and popularity of WEST SIDE STORY.  Bernstein’s original intention was to present the material in operatic form, as “lyric theater,” but further collaboration with the Laurents-Sondheim-Robbins team led to adjustments but maintained the magnificent musical artistry.

The music controls the purpose-driven pace of the narrative, augmenting intense emotions, driving the impressive and mesmerizing dance pieces, and punctuating all the action with rich, ethereal, incidental and sometimes stunning transformations that command the performance.

To ensure the music would be righteously treated, Sturdivant recruited the talents of two of the area’s best music directors—Kevin Smith and Rebecca Rinaldi.  Both the music and singing are glorious.

The orchestra also featured Joshua Adams and Jason Phillips on percussion, Don Lauzier on trumpet, Timothy Burns on horn, Owen Doane on trombone, Blaise Spath and Ray Libby on Reed, Sam Schuth on violin and Jimmy McGirr on bass.

WEST SIDE STORY features trademark songs that define the great American music theater:  “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere” and more.

The Schuyler-Jarvais duet renditions of “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart” were particularly strong.  The Shark Girls clearly had a lot of fun with “America.”   David Moses stole the show in the comic relief “Gee, Officer Krupke.” A musical high was achieved by Liz Kershenbaum and Jarvais in the powerful “I Have a Love.”

The dancing was bold and brilliant, choreographed by Mariel Roy with assistance by Adelyn Bell.  Among the highlights: The “Dance At The Gym” sequence was quite entertaining, all the dance moves by The Jets and The Sharks were exciting and riveting, especially “The Rumble” (credit to Mark Bedell for the fight choreography), and the Ballet Sequence was totally breath-taking and beautiful (special mention to Elizabeth Lester for her outstanding dance skills).

Technical salutes to Debbi Ketchum for Set Design, Jessica Chaples-Graffam for Scenic Painting, Technical Director Josh Adams, Todd Hutchisen for Sound Design and Sound Board Operator Matt Eaton, Heather Crocker for Light Design and Light Board Operator Shay Ayers, and Costume Designers Barbara Kelly and Brian McAloon…just to name a few of the dozens of crew members and over 200 volunteers who helped create beauty and grandeur on a large scale.

WEST SIDE STORY is sponsored by Biddeford Savings and runs through August 7th, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM.  The theater is located at 205 Main St., Biddeford. Tickets are $20.  Call 207/282-0849 or visit www.citytheater.org.

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–Louis Philippe

Schoolhouse Arts brings Disney magic to Standish with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Posted in Hot Off The Press on July 15, 2016 by Ringer

Beauty and the Beast

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Photos courtesy of Lauren Kennedy Photography

July 2016

It’s a tale as old as time… La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756 was the best known version of this traditional folktale…that is, until Disney’s film version in 1991 and a highly successful Broadway run from 1994-2007.  Today, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and a script by Linda Woolverton, Beauty and the Beast is a widely popular musical choice among community theaters with high schoolers.

Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish brings Beauty and the Beast to life, with all the Disney splendor and enchantment, in a production local theater fans will find charming and delightful. Directed by Dillon Bates, with the help of Assistant Director Adam Gary Normand, it’s a huge show with a cast of 30 whose opening night jitters were quickly replaced with an awakening of confidence that empowered them to easily push the magical fairy tale into the audience and pull them right back in (thank you, Lumiere).

Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a Prince who is turned into a gruff and hideous beast by a spell as punishment for his selfish ways and can only become human again if he were to find love.  Belle, an adventurous young woman from a small village, finds her way to the castle where her inventor-father is being held prisoner and makes a deal with the Beast to let her father go and take her as prisoner instead.

Belle proves to be a determined prisoner who is not afraid to speak her mind, while the servants of the castle, who have all been turned into household items as part of the same spell, now have new hope that the Beast and Belle can fall in love and they, too, can become human again.  It’s a monumental task, a journey filled with twists and surprises, and lots of evil forces to fight along the way, but ultimately—with some coaching, bending, changing, civility and forgiveness—the goal is achieved.

Janelle LoSciuto as Belle and Tom Ferent as the Beast are superb and convincing.  LoSciuto’s Disney-esque ingénue, carefree characterization and clean, crisp vocals play well against Ferent’s struggling antagonist with intense, purposefully-placed delivery.

Zac Stearn is outstanding as Lumiere.  His stage skills are top notch but his animation is especially captivating with priceless expression (think Jim Carrey).  Also impressive were Danny Gay as Cogsworth (and Lighting Designer) and Barbara Laveault as Mrs. Potts, Sarah Flagg as Madame De La Grande Bouche and Katie Lind as Babette.

Jake Boyce commands two roles—Choreographer and a very entertaining Gaston.  His sidekick, LeFou, is adeptly handled by Jeff McNally.  Chris Roberts plays Maurice, Kaylin Brown is Chip and Louis King is Monsieur D’Arque.  The Silly Girls—Corinne Sophia Ulmer, Sophia Cartonio and Anna Giroux—are fun scene stealers.

The ever-busy Ensemble deserves a standing ovation:  Jacob Clowes, Josh Davis, Cara Kennedy, Lisa Libby, Valerie Lind, Sarah Morin, Meghan Reidy, Angel Spiller, Abigail Thomas, Emily Thomson, Livi Vail, Bridget Daigle, Kianna Hubbard, Jack Lamont and Diane Ruecker.

Music Director Allen Thomas skillfully leads an admirable perfectly-placed nine-piece pit that provides nicely balanced support for all the singing.  And for this show, the singing is magnificent.

This is home-town Maine summer community theater at its best.  Disney magic aside, there’s something quite magical about an old schoolhouse, a charming rustic building now supported with patches of love and attention. When you walk in, you notice it’s a weathered building, in need of dusting, washing, painting, normal things, with rooms dotted with donated items and leftover pieces and writings from past events.  It’s not the neatest house, but it’s the busiest house in the neighborhood, where kids flock to create and explore.

It’s not the slick, high-tech, high-cost, state-of-the-art-everything that makes this Beauty and the Beast production a theatrical triumph.  It’s the hearts and spirits of the grass-roots summer-stock of diverse local talent who create the magic—some veterans of theater with impressive bios, others just stepping in the spotlight for the first time.  The moral to this story:

Beauty and the Beast has several morals and cultural clichés for the audience to ponder: Most obviously never judge a book by its cover, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, beauty is not only skin deep but can be found in the heart, and hearts can change.  There’s also redemption found in the Beast’s transformation from a mean bully to a nice guy.  In its first published version written by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, the story was intended for adult readers and addressed the issues of a marriage system in which women had no right to choose their husband or to refuse to marry.

So if the lesson is to never judge by appearance, Schoolhouse Arts Center’s Beauty and the Beast is a perfect choice.  Don’t hesitate to be their guest!

Beauty & The Beast runs thru July 31st on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 5 PM.  The theater is located at 16 Richville Rd (Route 114) in Standish.  FMI: www.schoolhousearts.org or call 207/642-3743.

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–Louis Philippe