Tag Archives: Maine Theatre

There’s Good Rockin’ In Ogunquit!

Heartbreak Hotel
Ogunquit Playhouse
Through September 30th

reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The early years of Elvis Presley are too often overlooked. Most Presley impersonators portray the Elvis of the Vegas stage years wearing capes and sequined jump suits. At this later point in his life the drug use was really beginning to show, and the rock icon was becoming a tragic figure. The hard living would result in his untimely death at the age of 42. It is unfortunate it is this Elvis who is most often portrayed

Photo Credit: Gary Ng

While the Las Vegas Elvis fits into the much too often tragedy of a great talent taken down by his own success, the more interesting story lies in his early years. This is where Floyd Mutrux, the creator of the Tony Award winning Million Dollar Quartet, which played to sold out crowds at the Ogunquit Playhouse the past two seasons, has stepped in to tell the truly fascinating story of Presley’s early life.

Heartbreak Hotel is a prequel to Million Dollar Quartet and focuses on the Sun Records years of the young truck driver who would skyrocket to fame overnight.

The world premiere of Heartbreak Hotel is now playing at the Ogunquit Playhouse. It is an interesting production to watch as it is still a work in progress. The music is positively outstanding with all of the actors playing their own instruments.

Clendening captures the persona of the young Elvis.

Eddie Clendening who originated the role of Presley in the Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet is not an Elvis impersonator. He brings much more to the stage than just imitating the rock icon. Clendening captures the persona of the young Elvis. Most impressively, he is able to rock out with the raw energy of Presley while always retaining that shyness that made him so charming. While ripping out on songs such as Good Rockin’ Tonight with hips swiveling and lip twitching we see that young boy who still seems just a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight even while he is thriving on it. Clendening really pulls this off and it is no easy task to do so. This is as close as you will come to experiencing the young Elvis, a paradoxical figure who was shy and yet craved attention.

Photo Credit: Gary Ng

The story is not just about Elvis but also about the era. It was an amazing and transformational time in music and there are cameos from many of the other great performers of the time. These include Wanda Jackson (Brenna Bloom) and Sister Rosetta Tharpe played by Terita Redd who deserves an Amen! for her amazing rock/gospel singing.

Geno Henderson nearly steals the show playing numerous greats including Chuck Berry and Nat King Cole. Mr. Henderson moves seamlessly through his parts.

The interplay between Colonel Tom Parker (Jerry Kernion) and Sam Phillips (Matt McKenzie) creates a tension with Parker seeing Presley as a product and Phillips recognizing him as a great artist. It leaves us wondering just what would have happened if Presley had decided to remain with Phillips.

Yes, this play is a work in progress with the musical numbers, the sets, the lighting, all outstanding. I don’t think this time of Elvis Presley’s life has ever been captured so well. Where the production is weak is in the book. The early life of this seemingly simple southern boy is a very complex story. It is a huge challenge to try to capture even a very condensed version of all that went on in those early years while still focusing on the music. What I saw on the stage in Ogunquit is a great start to what can be a wonderful and important story. It will be interesting to see how it all develops.

There are more than a couple of reasons to see Heartbreak Hotel. First, watching Eddie Clendening as the young Elvis is a truly great experience. He really gets it. Second, while this is a work that is still being developed it is fascinating to be a part of the process as I am sure the writer and director are taking the pulse of the audiences. It might not be a bad idea for them to have suggestion boxes placed at the exits. I know I would have contributed a few.

Heartbreak Hotel takes us back to one of the most incredible eras in the history of American music. It is just amazing when you realize how fast things changed. It was an exciting time that lives on in music through this day. It’s rather ironic that Colonel Parker chose to take Elvis to Hollywood and Vegas as he didn’t believe Rock N Roll was going to last. Sam Phillips knew better.

ogunquitplayhouse.org  207.646.5511

 

Ogunquit Playhouse Set to Stage the World Premiere of Heartbreak Hotel

The Story Of Elvis Presley’s Early Years To Run August 30 though September 20

From the creator of Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet, the Ogunquit Playhouse is proud to produce the World Premiere of Heartbreak Hotel, as part of its 85th anniversary season, on stage August 30 to September 30. This brand new musical tells the story of Elvis Presley’s journey from an unknown musician to the cusp of his super-stardom. This new musical features hit songs from the King himself, as well as the legends who influenced his iconic music, with chart-toppers including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Tutti Frutti,” “That’s All Right,” “Shake Rattle and Roll,” and, of course, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Executive Artistic Director Bradford T. Kenney stated, “Throughout this year I have had the privilege of working very closely with Floyd Mutrux, the creator of the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet on its prequel, Heartbreak Hotel, now making its premiere on our stage. It has been an incredible journey working hand in hand with Floyd, the commercial partners, and Authentic Brands Group/Elvis Presley Enterprises, to bring the rich story and music of Elvis to life. Elvis became one of the great icons of our popular culture. He made a lasting imprint on our society, and his career changed the course of popular music, not only in our country, but around the world – all during a time of great change in America. I am thrilled that Ogunquit audiences will be the first to see this exciting new show.”

Eddie Clendening

This brand new tribute to the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” features actors who also play all their own instruments. It stars Eddie Clendening in the role of Elvis Presley, as well as Co-Musical Director. Mr. Clendening originated the role of Elvis in the Broadway production of Million Dollar Quartet, which he played for 1500 performances, and later Off-Broadway for 523 performances. He will recreate the role for this tender story that follows Elvis Presley in the early years of his bourgeoning career as he and Sam Phillips create the music that will forever change their lives. As Elvis’ career skyrockets, both lifting and shattering the lives of those he loves, a secret love story is revealed, a betrayal is discovered, and “Colonel” Tom Parker changes the course of history. When describing the show, Writer/Director Floyd Mutrux explained, “This is the story of 18 months of the life of a truck driver, and how he and his music impacted the world around him.”

Jerry Kernion makes his debut at the Ogunquit Playhouse as Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s long-time manager. Mr. Kernion has performed around the world with The Reduced Shakespeare Company for the last 15 years; many regional and international productions including Cirque du Soliels’ The Beatles, LOVE, Cirque du Soliels’ Banana Shpeel; and various shows at regional theatres including Laguna Playhouse, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and many more.

Joining the cast as Sam Phillips, the record producer who founded Sun Records and is credited with discovering Elvis Presley, is Matt McKenzie. He recently debuted on Broadway in Monday After the Miracle with Jane Alexander, directed by Arthur Penn. He’s played leading roles at many regional theatres across the country. In the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters, he played Colin Clive opposite Sir Ian McKellan.

Also returning to the Ogunquit Playhouse is Christopher Sutton who will portray Dewey Phillips, one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s early disc jockeys. He was last seen on the Ogunquit stage as Prince Herbert in Spamalot.

Los Angeles music scene veteran Geno Henderson serves as Co-Music Director and also appears as B.B. King, Ike Turner and Chuck Berry in this production. Mr. Henderson is a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, who has toured, recorded and/or made television with: The Gap Band (featuring Charlie Wilson), The Pointer Sisters, Billy Preston, Roberta Flack, James Ingram and Patti Austin (at Carnagie Hall), Smokey Robinson, Sly Stone, and many others. In 2011, he made his Broadway debut originating the role of Jocko Henderson in the musical Baby It’s You.

Bassist Nathan Yates Douglass returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse as Bill Black, one of the pioneers of Rock ‘n’ Roll music and bassist in Elvis Presley’s trio in the early days of his career. He was last seen on the Ogunquit stage in the 2016 production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Million Dollar Quartet. His National Tour credits include The Buddy Holly Story and The Tammy Wynette Story, and Off-Broadway On the Bum.

Drummer Jamie Pittle will perform as DJ Fontana, a drummer for the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcasts and Elvis Presley’s drummer for fifteen years. Mr. Pittle appeared Off-Broadway in the US Premiere of Missed Connections and Requiem for a Lost Girl. In regional theatres he has appeared in Million Dollar Quartet as Fluke, and The Buddy Holly Story as Jerry Allison. Guitarist Matt Codina will make his acting debut in Heartbreak Hotel as Scotty Moore, the guitarist and recording engineer who was known for backing Elvis Presley in the first part of his career, up to the beginning of Elvis’s Hollywood years.

Brenna Bloom portrays Marion and the queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson. She has performed Off-Broadway in One Day and in regional theatres in such productions as Spring Awakening, Chicago, Grease and A Chorus Line. Erin Burniston plays Elvis’ girlfriend Dixie Lock. She recently performed in the National Tour of Spring Awakening and in regional theatre productions of Gypsy, La Cage Aux Folles, Hello, Dolly!, George M!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and many more.

Director and writer for Heartbreak Hotel is Floyd Mutrux, who is the co-author of the Tony award-winning Million Dollar Quartet and the co-author/director of the Tony nominated Broadway production of Baby It’s You!

Individual tickets are on sale and prices start at $52 each.  www.ogunquitplayhouse.org  Box Office: 207-646-5511.

Vincent Pastore and Sally Struthers to star in Bullets Over Broadway at the Ogunquit Playhouse

Open July 5th And Runs Through July 29th

Vincent Pastore (Nick Valente) and Reed Campbell (Cheech) With Ensemble

The Ogunquit Playhouse takes audience on a hilarious trip back to the Roaring Twenties with their production of the musical adaptation of Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath’s madcap film, Bullets Over Broadway on stage from July 5 – July 29. Hailed by Time Magazine as “Musical Theatre Gold!,” Bullets Over Broadway is the side-splitting musical comedy about the making of a Broadway show, filled with tap dancing gangsters, saucy showgirls, big laughs and colorful characters. A young playwright who is in desperate need of financial backing for his next show accepts an offer he can’t refuse from a gangster looking to please his ditzy, talentless girlfriend. Stage and screen star Vincent Pastore is cast as the mobster Nick Valenti, joined by Emmy-winner Sally Struthers who returns to the Playhouse as the dog-toting Eden Brent. Loaded with songs that made the ’20s roar, this six-time Tony-nominated musical features hits from the decedent decade, including “Let’s Misbehave,” “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” and “There’s a New Day Comin’!”
Vincent Pastore makes his debut at the Ogunquit Playhouse reprising the role of Nick Valenti, which he originated in the Broadway production of Bullets Over Broadway. He is best known for his long running performance on HBO’s The Sopranos, as well as his work on HBO’s 1996 television movie, Gotti and ABC’s The Practice. His numerous film roles include Goodfellas, Revolver, Made, and The Hurricane. On stage, he has played the role of Amos Hart in Chicago. His Off-Broadway roles include Queen for the Day and Lampost Reunion.

Two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner Sally Struthers joins the cast as the dog-toting Eden Brent. She is probably best known for her role as Gloria in the groundbreaking TV series All in the Family. She has also starred in the Fox television series 9 to 5 and her own CBS series Gloria, as well as recurring roles on the CBS comedy Still Standing and the CW network’s highly acclaimed Gilmore Girls. Ms. Struthers joined the Gilmore cast for Netflix’s new four movie limited revival, which premiered in the fall of 2016, and recently guest starred in the acclaimed IFC comedy series Maron. Sally Struthers has performed many roles at Ogunquit Playhouse including last season’s Anything Goes as the socialite Evangeline Harcourt, as the Duchess Estonia Dulworth in Nice Work If You Can Get It, as Louise Seger in Always, Patsy Cline, Mama Morton in Chicago, Paulette the hairdresser in Legally Blonde and as Felicia Gabriel in The Witches of Eastwick.

John Rochette is making his debut at the Ogunquit Playhouse as young playwright, David Shayne. On Broadway, he starred as Norm Waxman in Jersey Boys. Off-Broadway, he’s performed with Blue Man Group at Center Blue Man and some of his many regional credits include Elvis in Million Dollar Quartet, as well as Sir Lancelot in Spamalot and Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror Picture Show. He has performed on television on NBC’s Guiding Light, and on ABC’s One Life to Live and All My Children.

Joining the cast is Reed Campbell, in his Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Cheech. He was Cookie McGee in the National Tour of Nice Work If You Can Get It, and performed off-Broadway in Important Hats Of The Twentieth Century at the Manhattan Theatre Club, in The Comedy Of Errors at The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, and regionally as Judas Iscariot in Stage 773’s The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot. On television, he’s starred as C.O. Will Frank in Netflix’s hit series Orange Is The New Black and on NBC’s The Blacklist: Redemption. He is the co-creator of BROdway and Broadway Late Night on The Broadway Channel.

Reprising her role from the First National Tour of Bullets Over Broadway as Olive Neal is Jemma Jane. Her overseas credits include Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Texas in Cabaret, and as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Kenny Morris is making his Ogunquit debut as Julian Marx, the producer that enlists the help of a wealthy gangster to help pay for David Shayne’s play. On Broadway, he’s starred in Hairspray, Les Miserables, and the 20th Anniversary of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. He was a member of the National companies of Kinky Boots, Hairspray, Sunset Boulevard, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He was nominated for a Barrymore Award for Best Supporting Actor for his regional performance in Funnyman at Arden Theatre. He can be seen on film in Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick, and on television on ABC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent and NBC’s Third Watch.
John Paul Almon joins the cast as Warner Purcell. His Broadway and National credits include, Karpathy in the Kennedy Center’s My Fair Lady, Tussaud in The Scarlet Pimpernel, and as a performer in the past twelve seasons of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Regionally he was in the World Premiere of The Bridges of Madison County at Williamstown, and in the Carbonnell Award-winning, Romeo and Bernadette at Paper Mill Playhouse.

Joining the cast as Helen Sinclair in her Playhouse debut is Michele Ragusa. On Broadway, she’s starred as Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein, as Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime, and as Pennywise in Urinetown, among others. Regionally she’s performed in Mame, Hello Dolly, Monty Python’s Spamalot, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Into the Woods, Marry Poppins, and Boeing, Boeing, as well as headlining with numerous symphonies across the country.
Bridget Elise Yingling returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse as Ellen, after last being seen on the Playhouse stage in 2015’s Sister Act. She is a recent graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and has starred as Little Red in Into the Woods, and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The ensemble members includes Blaire Baker, Jake Corcoran, Elizabeth Dugas, Carissa Fiorillo, Dan Higgins, Justin Jutras, Patrick Lavallee, Will Mann, Brian Martin, Vanessa Mitchell, Corinne Munsch, Kaylee Olson, Joey Ortolani, Kelly Peterson, Lexie Plath, and Ian Saunders.

Helming Bullets Over Broadway for the Ogunquit Playhouse is Jeff Whiting, who is recreating the original direction and Tony nominated choreography of five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman. He was associate director and choreographer on the Broadway production of Bullets Over Broadway alongside Stroman, and was director on the National Tour. Other Broadway credits include twelve-time Tony nominated The Scottsboro Boys, Big Fish, and Young Frankenstein as well as the National Tours of Hairspray and The Producers. A member of Disney’s Creative Team, he’s provided television direction for Disney’s Magical Moments Parade, as well as numerous shows and events such as Disney’s Very Merry Christmas, Disney’s 100 Years of Magic, and Disney’s Magic Mirror.
www.ogunquitplayhouse.org.  207.646.5511

 

 

The Venerable Ogunquit Playhouse Celebrates its 85th Anniversary Season with a North American Premiere, a World Premiere, a Global Sensation and Broadway Hit Shows!

Ogunquit Playhouse

The Ogunquit Playhouse, one of the Northeast’s cultural jewels and a cornerstone of America’s theatrical heritage, is celebrating its 85th Anniversary Season, and, true to its legacy, the 2017 season will be filled with the newest and brightest musicals, world and national premieres and a timeless classic, all complete with top-notch professional casts and creative teams direct from Broadway, Los Angeles, and London. The milestone season runs from May 17 to October 29 and will feature the American and the world premieres of two brand-new musicals, From Here to Eternity and Heartbreak Hotel. It also includes one of the biggest international hit sensations of all time, Mamma Mia!, which will run for an unprecedented seven weeks. Rounding out the 2017 season are Bullets Over Broadway, the delightful and hilarious musical based on the acclaimed Woody Allen film, and Ragtime, one of the most powerful musicals ever adapted for the stage. The season will stretch to the holidays once again with the return of the hit show White Christmas in collaboration with The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

“As we enter our 85th Anniversary Season, we are very focused on the legacy we are proud to preserve and its future so that it endures for generations to come. We are thrilled to bring a mix of pure entertainment along with some of the most compelling stories ever created for the stage, including two exciting new shows to American audiences,” said Ogunquit

Playhouse Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney. “This year seems to be the perfect time to share one of the greatest stories ever adapted for the stage, Ragtime. With its beautiful score, it tells the emotional story of three families set against the turmoil and swiftly changing culture of early twentieth century America, when immigrant families were striving to find their place in a new world. Heartbreak Hotel tells the story of a young Elvis Presley and the groundbreaking music he brought to the popular culture during the height of the civil rights movement. It is a true rags to riches tale set within a time period when America was once again challenged with changing times. And, we are so very honored to be working with the great Tim Rice on the development of his musical adaptation of one of the most influential World War II stories, From Here to Eternity.”

10 Main Street (Rte 1)Ogunquit, ME 03907 207.646.5511
ogunquitplayhouse.org

Million Dollar Quartet Returns To Ogunquit Playhouse

Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis Back by Popular Demand 
in the High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll Musical Million Dollar Quartet 
at the Ogunquit Playhouse through November 6th!

2015_MDQ_Robert-Britton-Lyons-Carl-Perkins-Sam-Weber-bass-David-Sonneborn-drums-Nat-Zegree-Jerry-Lee-Lewis-Jacob-Rowley-Elvis-Presley-Scott-Moreau-Johnny-Cash_photo-by-Jay-Goldsmith_pressThe Ogunquit Playhouse is bringing back the most popular show in its history, the Tony Award-winning musical Million Dollar Quartet, on stage October 5 through November 6. This high voltage rock ‘n roll show, with book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, is inspired by the electrifying true story of the famed recording session that brought together music icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for one of the greatest jam sessions of all time. Featuring timeless hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Fever,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Hound Dog” and more, this thrilling musical brings audiences inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock ‘n’ roll band for one unforgettable night.
This exciting show features an incredible score of rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, R&B and country hits, performed live onstage by world-class actors who play their own instruments, as well as sing and perform. Returning as the energetic Jerry Lee Lewis is Nat Zegree, who had audiences jumping to their feet with excitement in the 2015 production. Over the last year he has performed at Arena Stage Company in the brand new Pasek and Paul musical Dear Evan Hansen and recently performed multiple sold out concerts at 54 Below, The Laurie Beechman, and Don’t Tell Mama’s in New York City. Scott Moreau is also returning to the Ogunquit stage to once again play Johnny Cash. He recently performed the role in Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas and in the first National Tour. Mr. Moreau has also performed in National Tour of A Christmas Carol as well as many regional theatres throughout the U.S. in such shows as Ring Of Fire, Johnny Guitar, Mary Poppins, Oliver!, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Ragtime. He has also appeared as Young Jim Neary in the series finale of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Making his debut at the Ogunquit Playhouse as Carl Perkins is James Barry. Mr. Barry has performed on Broadway in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as well as the National Tour of Million Dollar Quartet. His many New York and regional theatre credits include Pump Boys & Dinettes, These Paper Bullets and The Buddy Holly Story. Joining the cast as Elvis Presley is Beau Cassidy who is also making his Ogunquit Playhouse debut. He is the third member of his family to perform at the historic theatre; his uncle Shaun Cassidy appeared on stage in 1982 and his grandfather Jack Cassidy in 1973. His regional theatre credits include A Hatful of Rain, Proof and The Wedding Singer, and he has appeared on television’s The Voice. He was most recently seen as Mickey Johnston at Feinstein’s/54 Below’s concert of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. Mr. Cassidy is also an accomplished songwriter, penning multiple charted pop songs.

The role of Sam Phillips is played by Jason Loughlin who is also returning after playing the role in the 2015 production at Ogunquit Playhouse. Mr. Loughlin was most recently in The Audience with Helen Mirren on Broadway. His other recent credits include the Broadway production of Machinal directed by Lyndsey Turner and the National Tour of War Horse as Major Nichols. Bligh Voth also returns from the 2015 production to play Elvis’ girlfriend Dyanne in the production after spending last year playing Dyanne regionally and internationally. She has performed in regional theatres throughout the U. S., including Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Lyric Theatre and Boston Conservatory.

www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call the Ogunquit Playhouse Box Office at 207-646-5511.

A Dancing Feast At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

Through October 1st

reviewed by Bobby Franklin

I have to say I was not particularly excited by the thought of seeing Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. It has never been high on my list of movie musicals, though when it was released in 1954 it was a hit and earned an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical and a nomination for Best Picture. In 1982 it was staged on Broadway but did not last long. It has been revived a number of times over the years with changes being made as it went along.

Frank (Jeff Smith) Challenge Dance Photo: Jay Goldsmith
Frank (Jeff Smith) Challenge Dance
Photo: Jay Goldsmith

The production now playing through October 1st at the Ogunquit Playhouse has original choreography by Parker Esse, a man with no shortage of talent. And it is the dancing that makes this an enjoyable evening of theatre. Oh, the scenery, as usual at the Playhouse, is lovely, and the cast is strong, especially Analisa Leaming as Millie playing opposite Nathaniel Hackman as Adam.Ms Leaming is tall and beautiful with a lovely voice

Ms Leaming is tall and beautiful with a lovely voice

and she knows how to command the stage. Mr. Hackman fits the part of the strong and stubborn mountain man in search of a wife with his deep and full voice. But it is ultimately the dancing that makes this worth seeing.

A nice touch is having members of the orchestra come out onto the stage in costume for a number of the songs. The very lively Challenge Dance number is outstanding with amazing physicality. It is really something to see the potential brides being tossed over the heads of their suitors. The dancers were in perfect sync.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw, but I should never underestimate what the team at the Playhouse can accomplish with  Artistic Director Brad Kenney in charge. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a terrific old fashioned musical that makes for a fun time at the theater. This is one for the entire family to enjoy. It will make you feel like dancing down the aisle on the way out of the theater.

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers at the Ogunquit Playhouse
Directed by BT McNicholl
Through October 1st.
Box Office: 207.646.5511
OgunquitPlayhouse.org