Archive for Falmouth Footlights

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


–Louis Philippe


Footlights’ FALLING LEAVES is Powerful, Heartwarming, Hilarious Original

Posted in Hot Off The Press with tags , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Ringer

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October 2018

“‘Come, little leaves,’ said the wind one day, ‘Come to the meadows with me and play…put on your dresses of red and gold; for summer is past and the days grow…old.’”

With that pithy picture of fall by George Cooper, Playwright Michael J. Tobin begins his new theatrical accomplishment FALLING LEAVES, a romantic dramedy which enjoyed sell-out audiences and standing ovations at its world premiere this weekend at Footlights Theater, 190 US Route 1 in Falmouth.

The feeling of seasonal transition—in the air and on the lovely set—forebodes winds of change, even storms in store for the Warner clan which is gathering at Mom’s Maine homestead, Autumn Inn, for the annual reunion to honor their departed Dad.  We are told to “embrace the craziness, the rest will just surprise us.”

Autumn (Leslie Chadbourne) is very much the doting matriarch, a traditional Mom with old-fashioned values, locked in the day her husband left 10 years ago.  She has a new man in her life, a handyman named Hank (Rick Kusturin), who she hired to help out around the place after her husband died, and she enjoys the camaraderie of dear friend, Sam (Gretchen G. Wood), who also helps run the Inn.

One by one, her three adult children converge on the scene for the big day—Lizzy (Victoria Machado) with husband Paul (Mark Calkins), Michael (Ryan Lane) with boyfriend Peter (Andrew Hanscom) and Katie (Autumn Carey).  Within minutes, it’s clear that each have brought “excess baggage” they are wanting to unload on Mom:  Lizzy and Paul are anything-but-happily married and planning to divorce; Michael and Peter are planning to be married—at the Inn; and Katie is pregnant and considering abortion.

With the help of Sam, Hank, and Ruthie (Jaymie Chamberlin), another friend of Autumn’s, everyone’s secrets are cleverly and comically maneuvered to keep Mom in the dark—that is, until a slight trickle at the cocktail party leads the dam to bust.  Sibling rivalry breaks out, Mom is devastated, while her friends try to maintain calm.

This is the storm Tobin created:  Family conflicts that sometimes result in harsh, cruel treatment;  Strong differences of opinion over love, relationships, marriage, divorce, abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage;  Clashing cultural and moral philosophies that can create division and dysfunction within a family unit; Human mistakes that seem insurmountable to forgive.

But thankfully, Autumn’s love for her children is unconditional.  So, with a little help from her friends—and a couple of months to process things—Michael and Peter’s wedding is a success, Paul returns to work things out with Lizzy, and Katie decides to keep, and love, her baby.  After the roller-coaster ride of emotions, Hank and Autumn admit their love for one another and a surprise double-wedding-on-the-spot brings on a double dose of happy endings.

In addition to directing, handling all things tech, and running the theater, Tobin is a remarkably gifted playwright, reminiscent of Alan Ayckbourn with a touch of Hallmark.  His story-lines are topical, emotional and universal, edgy enough to make audiences think but inclusive enough to maintain engagement.  His characters are relatable and realistic, with perfect personalities and quirks to sell every purpose-driven line, juicy conversation and appointed message.   His busy brain is superb at multi-tasking relationships and churning out layers of plot rife with a range of emotions that can all change on a…single word…usually a comic zinger, Tobin’s trademark.

But as is typical with productions at the Footlights barn, the success of the show is reliant on the strength of the cast, and all nine members of this ensemble turn out impeccable, well-defined, well-interpreted performances.

Chadbourne’s Autumn is a testimony to her stage skills, life experiences and humanity.  Mom is a small word but Chadbourne effectively fills her role with major life-giving, life-changing, even tormenting moments that every Mom embraces.  Gretchen’s Sam is another character for her long resume of roles that she nails with campy confidence and perfect delivery.  Kusturin’s Hank, a warm-and-fuzzy departure from his more classic roles, is nonetheless a charming Prince Charming of the Handyman Society.

The Warner kids hit a home run.  With quick timing and sharp focus, Machado’s Lizzy and Calkins’ Paul are a perfectly unbalanced yin-yang couple facing realistic challenges that every modern married couple faces.  Carey’s Katie as a young Manhattan career woman forced to face her pregnancy is well portrayed with the right blend of millennial attitude and traditional sensitivity.

Lane’s Michael is emotional and powerful in his dual quest for his own acceptance by Mom and her acceptance of his boyfriend.  Andrew Hanscom is gently persuasive in the precarious role of Peter, poised with awkward diplomacy but blessed with some good one-liners.  And Jaymie Chamberlin, a Footlights original, returns with another solid performance as Ruthie.

FALLING LEAVES is about family.  While contemplating how to begin this review, I thought to myself, “Wow, pity the family that has to deal with crazy issues like divorce, abortion and gay marriage.”  Then it hit me—wait, this was about MY family.  And an intense wave of gratitude filled my heart for my Mom’s unconditional love and my family’s happy endings (well, maybe not in 90 minutes).

FALLING LEAVES runs through October 28th, Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Matinee on Sunday, October 21st at 2 PM.  FMI: 207-747-5434 or visit   You might just see your own family on stage.


–Louis Philippe

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


–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


–Louis Philippe

Footlights’ THE TIN WOMAN Compelling Comedy-Drama About Death And Survival

Posted in Recent Press Releases with tags , , , , on March 15, 2016 by Ringer

March 2016

Fans of Days Of Our Lives will recall a recent tragic car accident that claimed the life of the popular Doctor Daniel Jonas, an organ donor whose heart was transplanted in his good buddy Brady Black, also a victim of the same car crash.  As his physical healing progresses, Black experiences some startling memories and emotions that strangely continue to live on in Jonas’ heart and impel Black on a far-fetched journey to “find the girl in his (i.e. Daniel’s) dreams.”  The miracle of soap opera editing aside, the storyline comes to a surprising yet fate-filled full circle.  Weird, huh?

That same kind of weird full-circle is manifested in Sean Grennan’s THE TIN WOMAN which is running now until March 26th at The Footlights Theater in Falmouth.  Since its premier in the summer of 2014, THE TIN WOMAN is rapidly gaining national recognition as a powerhouse artistic property that deals with death in one of the most creative and compelling ways.

In the playwright’s own words: “It’s a play about a heart transplant recipient and her eventual meeting with the family of the donor.  The themes of the show were loss, family, grief, a willingness to live on, and healing relationships. Oh and it’s funny.”

Funny indeed!  THE TIN WOMAN is a therapeutic goldmine that combines intense grief, anger, guilt and denial with assuaging moments of guffaws and healing hilarity.  The result is a dynamic and emotional piece of entertainment that gently and generously deals with dying—and living.

Joy receives the heart of Jack Borden who died in a car accident.  Still unhappy and questioning her own guilt and survival, Joy tracks down Jack’s family to get answers and closure.  For the Bordens—Jack’s Mom Alice, Dad Hank and Sister Sammy, the loss of Jack impacts them all uniquely so they grieve the only way they know.   The pain is ever-present and the path to healing and closure seems insurmountable.  But the story-line tackles the harsh and awkward emotional moments that erupt and graciously leads everyone—audience included—to a surprising and gratifying resolve.

Victoria Machado brings Joy to life—twice—with precision and realism, exuding all of Joy’s veracity and struggles, from her introverted fears to her strong defensive reactions.  And although Jack is dead, Mark Calkins is very much alive, never leaving the stage as a virtual silent emcee, effectively threading the tale from the spirit world.

Cindy O’Neil plays the dual role of Joy’s Nurse and Joy’s friend, Darla.  To say she is a theater patron favorite would be an understatement.  A veteran of stage and film, and another example of the consistently high quality of ensemble talent that The Footlights Theater is known for, O’Neil easily weaves in and out of two distinctively fun characters without a beat.

Leslie Chadbourne and Michael Tobin are hybrids of every Mother and Father that face such a crisis.  The chaotic emotional duels that result from  trying to communicate are poignant and savory.  Both try desperately to tame their own inner madness—Chadbourne’s character wanting to embrace reality and return the household to some level of normalcy, her counterpart wanting to escape reality and move on—even with questionable guilt.  The result is a ferocious yet love-filled family fracas, an extraordinary psycho-dramatic ballet that both actors know how to dance.

Jessica Libby brings to her role as Sammy Borden the same exquisite talent and timing she’s brought to numerous characters recently in Portland’s community theater scene.  She has an innate ability to know when to hold back and deal with “heavy things” and then, on a theatrical dime, take command with rip-roaring comic precision and fill the space with shine  (Tell me if her interpretation of Sammy doesn’t channel Jennifer Coolidge or Molly Shannon).

Oh, just in case one may be wondering, The Tin Woman has no creative inspiration in the famous Tin Man of Oz fame (my first thought), although one could argue otherwise.   In one story, one loses only her heart.  In the other, one is cursed by the Wicked Witch of the East and slowly-but-surely loses every bit of flesh except his heart.  In both cases, the characters receive replacement hearts as gifts, allowing them to once again love and feel loved.

THE TIN WOMAN runs Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays at 7:30 PM and Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30 PM.  The Footlights Theater is located at 190 US Route 1 in Falmouth.  Tickets are $18/Adults, $15/Seniors 62 and older.  Call 207 747-5434 for reservations or visit


–Louis Philippe

(Writer’s Note:  In January, my Dad died.  It was not a surprise, but before truly being able to grieve, my Mom passed away in her nap on Ash Wednesday, just after getting marked with ashes.  It was 40 days, funeral-to-funeral.  There are no coincidences in the spirit world.  I was numb and unable to grieve, but praying for the day that the logjam in my head would break the dam open and release a flood of emotions that could carry me to shores I needed to explore.  Then I took on the assignments of reviewing NEXT TO NORMAL at Biddeford City Theater and THE TIN WOMAN at The Footlights in Falmouth.  Both superior productions dealing with the death of a child (in N2N, an 18-month-old baby, in TW, a 36-year-old son) and the rippling impact that the death of a loved one has on those left behind.  I am happy to say (you know what I mean) that having the opportunity to experience these two shows has been the answer to my prayers.  My grieving/healing process is well underway and I am once-again hopeful for the blessings and opportunities God has planned for me.  But honestly, I offer this as a testament to the amazing cast members of both productions who regularly touch and inspire people with their God-given talents.  Thanks to all of you for who you are and all you do!)

“THE GIFTS OF CHRISTMAS” is Perfect Maine Musical Gem

Posted in Recent Press Releases with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2015 by Ringer

Gifts of Christmas

December 2015

The Footlights Theater of Falmouth has kicked off its very ambitious Christmas season with a most delightful original Maine musical entitled The Gifts Of Christmas.

Inspired by the story and characters in O’Henry’s Gifts of the Magi, Director and Playwright Michael J. Tobin builds upon an already marvelous tale, adding even more marvelous layers of character development, a full musical component, perfectly cozy Maine elements and an expanded story line that flirts with breadth of emotions at “the most wonderful time of the year.” This only proves that Tobin’s fountain of writing talent, artistic vision and creative output continues to flow in grand fashion, not only to the benefit of local theater-goers and businesses but for the growth and development of a performing arts community that Tobin has fostered and nourished out of the Footlights barn.

The essence of the story is the same as Magi—James Dillingham Young and his wife Della are so much in love yet have no money to buy each other gifts for Christmas. Secretly, he pawns his prized possession of a gold watch (which doesn’t have a chain) in order to buy her some beautiful hair accessories. Meanwhile, she sells her golden locks of hair to buy him a gold chain for the watch. Oops.

Instead of 1905, Tobin’s adaptation takes place in the 1970s, with flashbacks to the 40s and earlier, where much of the sentimental holiday music Tobin uses was born—“You’re All I Want For Christmas” (Bing Crosby), “A Penny A Kiss, A Penny A Hug” (Andrew Sisters), “When Your Hair Has Turned To Silver” (Perry Como)—and several other Christmas standards cleverly engineered into revised story threads and gently served by Denise Calkins.

The Gifts Of Christmas is set in a small Maine town. The entire stage is filled with homey warm stuff that seamlessly make up various scenes—Jim and Della’s shabby apartment, Porter’s Book Store, Angel’s bench, Madame Sofronie’s shop, Noel’s Café, and Jameson’s Pawn Shop.

What really sells this show so righteously is the acting, the Footlights trademark of professional quality. Maura Gwyer and Mark Calkins ARE Della and Jim, perfectly paired as the young couple, giddy in love, making the very best of their humble beginnings, filled with wonder and enthusiasm for the future.

Here’s where things get really fun and interesting. In addition to Della and Jim, Tobin’s story includes 13 other characters, some from O’Henry’s tale, but most from powerful and sentimental flashbacks and tangents that wonderfully augment the story we all know and love. AND BEST OF ALL, these 13 characters are deliciously portrayed by FOUR people.

Cheryl Reynolds plays Angel, the omniscient sage/narrator and Noel, a spicy Southern belle matchmaker. Nancy Durgin plays Mary, a downstairs neighbor, Jim’s Mother, and Madame Sofronie. Cindy O’Neil plays Mrs. Dickens, Della’s Mother, Mrs. Jameson and Mrs. Porter. Stephen Wallace plays Mr. Porter, Della’s Father, Mr. Jameson and Doc Hall.

It is thoroughly entertaining to watch this stupendous ensemble cast pull out such amazing characters in quick fashion—some with completely opposite traits and attitudes—with such transparency and clarity. (Epiphany. I just defined the perfect ensemble cast: When every superlative and acknowledgement of one actor’s supreme talent and stage skills equally applies to every other cast member). These actors are the gifts of Christmas!

Without being a spoiler, I dare add that you (the reader) probably think you know the ending of this tale? Think again. You’re in for a compelling emotional twist of fate that will underscore the moral of the story that true unselfish love is far greater than possessions, and struggles of money should not dictate matters of the heart.

The Gifts Of Christmas runs until December 19th—Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 PM. For tickets, contact The Footlights Theater at 190 US Rte 1 in Falmouth at 207 747-5434 or visit


–Louis Philippe


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

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

June, 2015

“Now THAT’S a girl’s night out!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


–Louis Philippe