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

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

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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

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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

HOT FLASH! A Summertime Hit At Falmouth Footlights!

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , on July 3, 2016 by Ringer

Hot Flash Cafe

Summer 2016

No “oops” about it…The Footlights Theatre in Falmouth did it again.

Thanks to the creative collaboration of Director Michael J. Tobin and an uber talented cast that can competently and confidently control improvisations and whack live comedy silly, Footlight’s new summer show HOT FLASH! WHAT A FEELIN’! is destined to be 2016’s seasonal best-seller.

HOT FLASH! WHAT A FEELIN’! is a potpourri of fun and crazy entertainment milieus— Sitcom, talk show, variety show, game show, commercials, song parodies, stand-up comedy, improvisations—with lots of audience participation.  Billed as a hilarious new musical comedy that celebrates women, their friendships and the adventures they face in their later years, it’s a show with a lot of variations…with one gorilla of a theme:  Menopause, and all its wonderful physical and emotional symptoms that girls (and their brave men) have to deal with during this natural life transition.

HOT FLASH! WHAT A FEELIN’ comes on the heels of last summer’s highly successful run of GIRLS ONLY, a 2-character female-targeted musical-comedy-variety presentation that starred Nancy Durgin and Cheryl Reynolds.  For HOT FLASH!, the sensational Durgin-Reynolds team is reunited with the bonus appearance of the effervescent Gretchen Wood.

The selectively compiled material is customized for the audience, baked in an inferno and served up with hyper gusto and just the right amount of home-grown spices that unleash massive doses of affirmation from a very empathetic audience, yielding infinite portions of unbridled laughter.  This is not mind-bending, emotionally-challenging, avant-garde theater, folks.  This is just one big overdose of pure and simple fun for adults in search of a gut-wrenching guffaw rather than a psychoanalytical moral to the story.

It all takes place at The Hot Flash Café—“the hottest spot north of the Foreside”—where owner Nancy and her employees Cheryl and Gretchen serve the audience with flavorful stories, memories, songs.  Absent the presence of television cameras, the intimacy of this theater experience invokes the live recording of an old-time television musical-comedy variety show (think Carol Burnett, Laugh-In, even Golden Girls…on steroids).

Topping my favorite sketches are two superb segments of “The Porch Sisters,” a trio of classy, sassy Southern belles who also deliver a musical gem of “PMS Blues.”   With all the “Café Chit Chat” and “Emotional Baggage,” there’s plenty of opportunity for audience interaction but even more so with the “Name That Tune” pre-show game and the “PMS Pyramid Game Show.”

Each of these gals can sing, with perfect delivery and no lack of animation, so the interspersed parodies are a great addition to the buffet:  “Hot Flash!,” My Favorite Things,” “AARP,” and “Memory” a solo by Nancy.

In my years of reviewing local theater, I have never been disappointed with the depth and consistency of these ladies’ individual stage skills…but combined in one cast they are a delightful, masterful tour de force, a bundle of high-voltage talent you don’t want to mess around with and you certainly don’t want to miss.

HOT FLASH! WHAT A FEELIN’ is running now through August 18th, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM.  The Footlights Theatre is located at 190 US Route 1, Falmouth.  For tix and info, contact 207/747-5434 or visit www.thefootlightsinfalmouth.com.

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–Louis Philippe

Reindeer Presents Summertime Tribute to Connie Francis

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2016 by Ringer

KristaConnie3August 2016

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS—Reindeer Group’s summertime tribute to America’s Sweetheart, Connie Francis—comes to the McAuley Performing Arts Center on Sunday, August 7th at 2 PM, for a concert to benefit Mercy Hospital’s employee assistance fund, “Angels Among Us.”

AMONG MY SOUVENIRS was originally presented by Reindeer Theatre Company at the Warren Memorial Library in 1994.  Last year, Music Director Louis Philippe who created the nostalgic multi-media tribute, revived the show in 2015, this time starring popular Westbrook-Windham singer Krista LeBeau Johnson.  The response to a series of local shows was tremendous, ending with a historic sell-out performance at the Franco Center in Lewiston.

“Krista is a ringer for Connie Francis,” said Philippe, who “discovered” the singer in the choir at St. Anthony Church in Westbrook.  “She captures all the smooth, powerful and schmaltzy elements of Connie’s iconic parade of hits that dominated the pop charts of the late 50s and 60s and still produce tons of memories and fun today.”

Among Connie Francis’ signature songs featured in the show:  My Happiness, Stupid Cupid, Don’t Break The Heart that Loves You So, VACATION, Frankie, Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, Who’s Sorry Now, Follow The Boys, Lipstick On Your Collar and more.  “Who can sit through highlights of Connie’s life story and not get a rush of wholesome goosebumps when they hear ‘Where The Boys Are’ or ‘Among My Souvenirs?’” Philippe noted.

Backing Miss Johnson will be the Connie Francis quartet with Music Director Louis Philippe on keyboards; Tom O’Donnell, a member of the original 1994 pit, on guitar; Bruce LeBeau on bass, and Marc Mailhot on drums.

The cast also includes Maureen Knott LeBeau who narrates highlights of Connie Francis’ life, career and personal struggles.  An entertaining visual backdrop provides iconic images and nostalgic videos that add to the show’s emotional and sentimental appeal.

McAuley Performing Arts Center is located at 631 Stevens Ave., Portland.  General seating admission is $15/advance, $20/day of the show.  For tickets and reservations, call Reindeer Group at 207 857 9002 or email reindeer@maine.rr.com.

Proceeds from this event will benefit the ANGELS AMONG US Fund, an emergency relief fund that provides financial assistance to Mercy Hospital employees during times of unusual hardship.

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City Theater’s MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON’s is deliciously silly romp

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , , , on May 10, 2016 by Ringer
Murder at the Howard Johnson's 1

Rebecca Cole, Karl Carrigan and Ryan Lane star in City Theater’s MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON’S. photo credit: http://www.audrahatch.com

May 2016

City Theater in Biddeford takes a break from its highly-reputed lineup of powerful, emotional blockbuster musicals to serve up the refreshing farce MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON’s.

Sam Bobrick and his writing partner Ron Clark have concocted a deliciously silly romp about a ridiculous love triangle between Arlene Miller (Rebecca Cole), her husband Paul Miller (Ryan Lane) and her lover, the couple’s dentist, Mitchell Lovell DDS (Karl Carrigan).

It’s Christmas, 1978, and the iconic and colorful room at Howard Johnson’s is where Arlene and Mitch plot to murder Paul if he doesn’t agree to a divorce.  He doesn’t.  They don’t.  By the following July 4th, Arlene and Paul are again at Howard Johnson’s, this time celebrating their plan to murder Mitch for cheating on Arlene.  They don’t…but there are fireworks.  And by the end of 1979, the two men have joined forces to murder Arlene for moving on with another man.  They don’t.  Life goes on.

Directed and produced by Linda Sturdivant, MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON’s is a zany comedy about a trio of dysfunctional characters brilliantly depicted by this top-notch cast that gives a nod to a cache of marriage and relationship issues and a wide-range of personality quirks.  Collectively, the Cole-Carrigan-Lane team drives every scene with lots of energy, great lines, and fast-moving twists and turns—some predictable à la television sitcoms or soap operas while others are a righteous sideswipe to one’s sense of humor.  As inept and clumsy as their unfiltered characters are, all three actors are quite commanding, changing courses of this love triangle on a penny, impressively aware of the fourth wall and instinctively knowing precisely how much schmaltz to give to make the shtick work.

Lane’s portrayal of Paul Miller provides the anchor for these actors to jump into the shallowest of waters.  He’s bland, realistic to a fault, always getting the shaft in life, and his introverted interpretation provides the perfect juxtaposition to Carrigan’s outrageously extroverted role of Mitchell Lovell, DDS. Unlike Miller, Lovell is a splashy-dressing over-the-top womanizer with the right looks, moves, and lines— and if you don’t believe him, ask him.

And perfectly balanced (or imbalanced as this case may be) between the polarizing personalities of the men in her life is Arlene.  Cole is masterfully in control of Arlene, bouncing between the extreme highs and lows of this everyday housewife searching for happiness, not ever staying in one emotional place. Her subtly over-exaggerated expressions were flawless.

This is a play that involves little thinking and abundant enjoyment.  There is no deep-rooted hidden social agenda, no hidden statements, no psychological  bombshells, no epiphanies of marriage and morality, no moral to the story.  In Arlene’s words:  “Life is so complicated for those of us who think.”

The collaboration of Bobrick and Clark’s eloquent creativity is undeniably successful in making an audience laugh.  In addition to writing over 40 plays, a sampling of Bobrick’s television credits include The Andy Griffith Show, Get Smart, The Smothers Brothers Show, Bewitched, and numerous musical variety shows. Mr. Bobrick also created the teenage hit series Saved By The Bell.  Among Mr. Clark’s credits:  Monologues for Jack Carter, Alan King, Henny Youngman as well as dozens of other stand-ups of the period and writing for The Jackie Gleason Show, The Danny Kaye Show, The Steve Allen Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Kraft Music Hall, The Tim Conway Comedy Hour, The Van Dyke Show and Moonlighting.

MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON’s runs from Friday, May 13th to Sunday, May 22nd, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2 PM.  For tickets and reservations, call 282-0849 or visit www.citytheater.org.  [And when you see the show, pay extra attention to the “Housekeeping” staff…a priceless touch of reality!]

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-Louis Philippe