Tag Archives: Ogunquit Playhouse

A Powerful Musical In Ogunquit

From Here To Eternity: A New Musical
The Ogunquit Playhouse

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

James Jones was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He had enlisted in the U.S. Army before the war and was stationed in Hawaii in what seemed like a world away from the war raging in Europe that threatened to include the United States. Army life even before the war was not easy. Many of those who enlisted were living very difficult lives in Depression Era America and looked at the Army as being a way out.

Derek Carley and Company
(Photo Credit: Gary Ng)

Jones wrote about his experiences during this time in the novel From Here to Eternity, which was later made into an Academy Award winning movie. The novel was a no holds barred look at Army life during that period. It was not pretty. The movie shows much, but not all, of what Jones wrote. Now, a musical play with lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Stuart Brayson, and book Donald Rice & Bill Oakes presents us with a work that is much closer to the original novel. It is a painful story but it is told with understanding and sympathy for those involved. All the characters are based on people James Jones knew while serving.

The set at the Ogunquit Playhouse is atmospheric. With large palm trees and multiple levels with lattice work that reaches to the ceiling the beauty of Hawaii is felt but with a dark overtone. Subtle set changes along with images being projected on the walls are used to set the different moods and they are used well.

Kevin Aichele and Company
(Photo Credit: Gary Ng)

The score is outstanding and hits hard and fast with the opening number G Company Blues. The choreography is tight and very physical, conveying the hard life these men lived. Other songs such as Thirty Year Man, Don’cha Like Hawaii, and I Love The Army. Something In Return is an amazing number that was superbly done. It allows us to experience the hope and despair of those stationed on the island as well as the women who share this difficult life. These women include prostitutes and the wife of an ambitious and cruel officer.

Those familiar wth the book and/or movie will quickly recognize most of the characters. If not, they will quickly become known to you. The outstanding cast plays each as their own, and with their solid acting and beautiful voices make this a very powerful work indeed.

The story of cruelty and the misuse of power hardly seems the material for a musical but it works and works well here. With an outstanding cast led by Derek Carley as Private Prewitt and Kevin Aichele in the role of Sargent Warden the pain and struggles of these individuals is brought to life in a way that is both painful to watch but done with tenderness and compassion.

Robyn Hurder plays Karen Holmes the abused wife of the ambitious but weak Captain Dana Holmes played by Bradley Dean. They make the ugliness of such a marriage almost too real, but it is necessary. We do get to see the tender side of Karen in her scenes with Sargent Warden with whom she is having an affair. And for those who might be wondering how the famous beach scene from the movie is recreated, I will just say this is not a staging of the movie; however, the emotions from that iconic movie movement are captured here.

Michael Tacconi and Reed Campbell
(Photo Credit: Gary Ng)

The wise cracking Private Angelo Maggio has been cast perfectly with Michael Tocconi in the role. His rendition of I Love The Army is heart wrenching. Reed Campbell returns to the Ogunquit stage after his outstanding performance in Bullets Over Broadway, and proves that he was no one shot wonder. He again shows his amazing talent as the sadistic Sargent Fatso Judson. By the time Judson gets what is coming to him there is nobody in the house who feels sympathy for him.

Jenna Nicole Schoen plays the prostitute Lorene that Private Prewitt falls for. She has a beautiful voice and is wonderful in her part. Ms Schoen captures in her character a loving woman who has had to turn her feelings off in order to survive in a hard world. Private Prewitt manages to break through the wall she has put up. Jodi Kimura as Sandra, the madame of the local brothel, conveys the combination of a jaded life along with
compassion and understanding.

The finale with the attack on Pearl Harbor is spectacular with slow motion sequences from the actors as well as magnificent use of the projection equipment that brings the audience into that infamous day. It also shows us how life has been transformed by world events and the tragic consequences of people who wield their power, no matter how small, over others with cruelty that result in such horrific consequences. The song The Boys of 41 which is reprised at the end of the play is poignant and moving as we see the names of those who gave their lives projected onto the walls of the theatre.

I do have to mention the amazing job Richard Latta has done with the lighting for this production. The subtle changes are so very effective in setting the mood for the different scenes.

From Here To Eternity at the Ogunquit Playhouse is truly an experience not to be missed. Artistic Director Brad Kenney has closed out the Playhouse’s 85th season in spectacular fashion.

Just a final note. This is not a play that would be appropriate for children. It does handle the serous themes in a tasteful way but I believe it could be disturbing for children.

From Here To Eternity: A New Musical
The Ogunquit Playhouse
Ogunquit, Maine
Through October 29
ogunquitplayhouse.org
207.646.5511

Ogunquit Playhouse to Stage From Here to Eternity

North American Rollout Of New Musical 

Runs October 4 through 29

The Ogunquit Playhouse is honored to be part of the North American rollout of the new musical From Here to Eternity, on stage October 4 through 29. The musical is based on the acclaimed novel (which also became a multi-Academy Award-winning film), by James Jones with lyrics by Tim Rice, book by Donald Rice and Bill Oakes and music by Stuart Brayson. As part of its development path to Broadway, Sir Tim Rice is collaborating with the Ogunquit creative team to mount this compelling new musical set in Hawaii in the weeks before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. “The epic story by WWII veteran James Jones, From Here to Eternity, is one of the most searing, honest and romantic views of the men and women who served our country during World War II. The way in which this story had to be told more than 60 years ago due to censorship, softened some of the reality of military life at that time. Today, we are able to tell the story as it was originally intended, revealing the grit and intrigue of military life that Mr. Jones experienced. It has been a great honor to collaborate with Sir Tim Rice, Donald Rice, Brett Smock and our entire creative team on this new musical adaptation to tell this iconic American story in a new way,” said Ogunquit Playhouse Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney.
This epic tale follows the powerful story of two U.S soldiers, the soulful Private Prewitt played by Derek Carley and ardent Sergeant Warden, played by Kevin Aichele, as they embark on doomed and dangerous love affairs with the wrong women. The sultry wife of G Company’s commanding officer, Karen Holmes, is played by Robyn Hurder, and Lorene, the beautiful escort who is looking to make a better life for herself, is played by Jenna Nicole Schoen. As the infamous date of December 7th approaches, the claustrophobic world of the four lovers and the desperation of the soldiers of G Company splinter amidst an escalating war. The compelling story of men at war along with a fantastic new score is not to be missed.
Returning to the Ogunquit Playhouse is Bradley Dean as Captain Dana Holmes, commanding officer of G Company. Mr. Dean last appeared in 2016’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame as Frollo, for which he was nominated for an Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Actor in a Musical. On Broadway he has starred in numerous productions including Dear Evan Hansen, A Little Night Music, The Last Ship, Doctor Zhivago, Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Story of My Life, Evita, and Man of La Mancha.

Kevin Aichele (First Sergeant Milton Warden) most recently portrayed Warden in the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival production of From Here to Eternity. Some of his selected credits include, Sam in Mamma Mia!, Captain Von Trapp in Sound of Music, and Javert in Les Miserables. Derek Carley (Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt) regional credits include Ghost, Daddy Long Legs, Titanic, Big, and Gay Bride of Frankenstein, and he was in the first National Tour of Flashdance. Robyn Hurder (Karen Holmes) returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse after previously starring as Norma Cassidy in 2015’s Victor/Victoria. On Broadway she has performed in Nice Work if You Can Get It, Grease, Chicago, Wedding Singer, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Ms. Hurder starred in NYCC Encores! productions of The New Yorkers, and Paint Your Wagon, as well as Off-Broadway in Play It Cool. She was in the National Tours of A Chorus Line, Monty Python’s Spamalot, and Starlight Express. Jenna Nicole Schoen (Lorene) recently appeared in the National Tour of Jersey Boys. Her regional theatre credits include CATS and Monty Python’s Spamalot at Pittsburgh CLO, Theory of Relativity at Goodspeed Opera House, and La Cage Aux Folles at Theatre By The Sea. Michael Tacconi (Private Angelo Maggio) is reprising his role from the Finger Lakes production of From Here to Eternity, and recently portrayed Nick in New World Stage’s Bare. Mr. Tacconi has also appeared on television on ABC’s The Family, and LMN’s I Love You…But I Lied. Reed Campbell returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse as Sergeant James Judson. He was seen earlier this season in his critically acclaimed performance as the hit-man “Cheech” in Bullets Over Broadway. Mr. Campbell 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.
www.ogunquitplayhouse.org 207-646-5511.

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.

The Hitmen Have A Hit In Ogunquit

Bullets Over Broadway

Ogunquit Playhouse

Through July 29

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Early in Bullets Over Broadway now playing at the Ogunquit Playhouse playwright David Shayne and a group of artist friends are discussing a hypothetical situation; If a building was burning down and the choice had to be made to save a person or the last remaining copy of the works of Shakespeare what would you choose to do? Shane and most of his friends said they would save the Shakespeare, as art was more important than the life of just one person. Later in the play he would be tested on this question and find the decision to be a bit more complicated.

Photo by Jay Goldsmith

Bullets Over Broadway is adapted from the 1994 Woody Allen film of the same. It has been turned into a musical, and after seeing both the movie and this fine production I have concluded it should have been a musical from the outset.

It does not have an original score. The music consists of catchy tunes from the period between World War I and II. Some of the songs will be familiar to the audience and some are fairly obscure. The music adds an atmosphere that was missing in the movie. It works and works well.

Playwright David Shayne, played with just the right amount of angst and comedy by the very talented John Rochette, has agreed reluctantly to compromise some of his artistic integrity by allowing the girlfriend of mob boss Nick Valenti to have a role in his play in exchange for having the gangster bankroll the production. Vincent Pastore, reprising his role from the original Broadway version of Bullets, is ideal as the man who takes time between musical numbers such as Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You sung to his ditzy girlfriend Olive played by Jemma Jane, to order hits on his enemies.

Photo by Gary Ng

Ms Jane is a hoot when she sings The Hot Dog Song, a saucy piece filled with double entendres and some interesting moves on her part. She appears to relish her role as the not so bright Olive. It is all such fun.

Reed Campbell is positively outstanding as Cheech, (“Not Mr. Cheech, it’s just Cheech.”), Valenti’s top hitman, who has been charged with keeping an eye on Olive as she attends rehearsals for the play. Cheech still finds time to make a hit while tending to Olive. There is an interesting scene where he and an accomplice take a victim for a ride while singing Up A Lazy River. Sure, it’s morbid, but it is also very funny.

Meanwhile, Shayne seems to be at peace with the deal he has made now that leading lady Helen Sinclair (Michele Ragusa) has agreed to star in his play. That peace is soon disrupted when he hears Olive rehearsing her lines with a voice that makes him cringe. He lights up the stage with I’m Sitting On Top Of The World. Mr. Rochette shows great chops as a song and dance man as he moves about the stage. He is very good.

Ms Ragusa does a fabulous job as the aging diva with a touch of Sunset Boulevard mixed in. Using an overly dramatic theatrical voice she is funny without becoming a caricature. She and Mr. Rochette are delightful singing There’s a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway.

This is musical theatre at it’s best. It is the Ogunquit Playhouse at its best.

One of the high points of the play, and there are many, is when Cheech and his fellow gangsters perform the song and dance number, Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do, Reed Campbell was absolutely fantastic with this high energy number and had many in the audience on their feet by the end. Campbell is an amazing talent who time and again wowed the crowd at the Playhouse.

In this interesting and funny story we see Cheech taking over authorship of the play as Shayne has to deal with having compromised his artistic integrity. Along the way we are treated to dancing hot dogs, an amazing set consisting of New York City rooftops, a train, vintage car, an actor who is also a compulsive eater who gives new meaning to growing into a part, and wonderful lighting. We are also gifted with the amazing Sally Struthers as Eden Brent who appears with her dog who also displays great acting ability. Ms Struthers take the stage in Ogunquit each season and never disappoints. She is the master of comedic timing.

This production is directed by Jeff Whiting who worked closely with Susan Stroman on the original production. He has recreated that direction and choreography for this show.

I want to add that both John Rochette and Reed Campbell are extraordinarily talented young actors. Having them share the stage with such experienced actors as Vincent Pastore and Sally Struthers is great to see. Both of these men have promising careers ahead of them. I could also say this about the entire cast. Everyone was wonderful. You could just feel the energy and excitement as it spilled into the audience. This is musical theatre at it’s best. It is the Ogunquit Playhouse at its best.

I rarely am disappointed by a show at the Playhouse, though there have been a few that aren’t on my see again list. But, the vast majority are extremely good. Bullets Over Broadway ranks as one of the best I have ever seen there. I strongly recommend you get to Ogunquit and see this production. I have a feeling tickets will be selling fast so I would not hesitate.

Oh, David Shayne finds he has a different answer to the question of whether or not to choose Shakespeare over the life of a human being when he is faced by the choice Cheech makes with dealing with Olive dragging the play down. It turns out Cheech has more artistic integrity, but David has found his humanity.

Bullets Over Broadway
Though July 29
The Ogunquit Playhouse
Ogunquit, Maine
ogunquitplayhouse.org
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

 

 

Abba Dabba Do!

Mamma Mia! Is Great Fun In Ogunquit!

Mamma Mia!
Through July 1st
The Ogunquit Playhouse

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Angie Schworer, Jodie Langel, Kate Chapman, and Cast
(Photo: Gary Ng)

You know summer will soon be here when the stage at the Ogunquit Playhouse raises its curtain for a new season. And this year for their 85th anniversary they have kicked it off with the very popular jukebox musical Mamma Mia! With an energetic cast led by Jodie Langel as Donna and Patrick Cassidy as Sam it is a fun evening of music and laughs that has the audience on its feet singing and dancing along.

 

The story about Sophie (Briana Rapa), Donna’s daughter who was born out of wedlock twenty-one years earlier, takes place as she is preparing for her wedding day in Greece where she lives with her mother Donna who runs a local taverna. Sophie desperately wants to find out who her father is and has, by peeking into her mother’s diary, narrowed the possibility down to three men all of whom she invites to the wedding. This leads to some confusion and much laughter as she tries to figure out which of the three is dad.

…an evening filled with laughs, music, and great dancing…

The story is a great vehicle for the music of Abba, and that is what it was written to be. But this is not an Abba tribute show. It is an evening filled with laughs, music, and great dancing, all set on a beautiful stage meant to be the Greek seaside. The story is fun and touching, filled with vivid colors and loaded with energy. Those colors and the changing sets along with beautiful lighting, had me feeling the sea breezes of the Mediterranean. Of course, it helps being within a stone’s throw of Ogunquit Beach.

Oh, did I mention this is fun? The music is fun, the dancing is fun, the story is fun. Seeing dancers performing wearing huge yellow swim fins is, well, fun. There are so many moments like that. The Playhouse has given us all a welcome to summer gift.

Brianna Rapa, Mike Heslin, and Cast
(Photo: Gary Ng)

This is not Chekov or O’Neil, and you won’t leave the theater contemplating the mysteries of life. It is simply a nice story that will have you feeling good. You will  leave the theater feeling happy, with a lot of music dancing in your ears. After an evening of Mamma Mia! at the Ogunquit Playhouse you will be more than ready for summer. This is a production that calls out “Take A Chance On Me”, and will have you saying,”Thank You For The Music”.

Mamma Mia!
Through July 1st
The Ogunquit Playhouse, 207.646.5511
Ogunquit Maine
ogunquitplayhouse.org

The International Hit Sensation Mamma Mia! Kicks off the Ogunquit Playhouse’s 85th Anniversary Season

Runs From May 17th through July 1st

The Ogunquit Playhouse kicks off its 85th Anniversary Season with the international smash hit Mamma Mia!, dazzling audiences on stage from May 17 to July 1. Over sixty million people from around the globe have fallen in love with the characters, the enchanting story and ABBA’s timeless music which makes Mamma Mia! the ultimate feel-good show! This sunny, funny, international sensation unfolds on a Greek island paradise when on the eve of her wedding, a young woman’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited twenty years ago. Non-stop laughs and explosive dance numbers, along with the magic of ABBA’s hit songs that include “Super Trouper,” “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Thank You for the Music,” “Money, Money, Money,” “The Winner Takes It All,” and “SOS,” combine to make this enchanting show a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget!

A cast of Broadway veterans will headline the show including Kate Chapman, Jodie Langel, Angie Schworer, David Engel, Fred Inkley, and star of stage and screen Patrick Cassidy.

Starring as Donna is Jodie Langel, who is making her Ogunquit Playhouse debut. Langel has performed on Broadway and National Tours as Cosette in Les Miserables, as the youngest ever Grizabella in CATS, and as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Her many regional theatre credits include Evita as Eva Peron, and Funny Girl as Fanny.

Angie Schworer returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse to star as Tonya. Schworer was last on the Ogunquit stage as Roxie in 2010’s Chicago and as Irene in 2007’s Crazy for You. On Broadway, Schworer has appeared alongside Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane as Ulla in The Producers, and received an Astaire Award nomination for her performance in Catch Me if You Can. She’s been seen on television in “Law and Order,” “CSI,” “As The World Turns,” and “Smash.” She has also appeared in the film version of The Producers.

Starring as Rosie is Kate Chapman, who hails from Broadway to make her Ogunquit Playhouse debut. Most recently, Chapman starred in the cast of Mary Poppins on Broadway, and was a part of the original 2006 revival cast of Les Miserables. Chapman starred as Ms. Claus for five seasons on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and was a part of the ensemble in the films Chicago and Nine.

Briana Rapa is making her Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Sophie, following her international tour as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Patrick Cassidy

Star of stage and screen, Patrick Cassidy makes his Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Sam. A veteran of Broadway, film and television, Cassidy most recently appeared in A Little Night Music at A.C.T. in San Francisco and starred opposite Patti Lupone in Annie Get Your Gun. He also had the honor of recreating the role his father, Jack Cassidy, originated on Broadway in the Dallas Theater Center’s production of It’s a Bird It’s a Plane It’s Superman. Cassidy won the 2002 National Broadway Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in Elton John’s Aida, and was nominated for an Emmy for his performance on the TV Miniseries “Dress Grey.” In addition to his lauded performance as Julian Marsh in 42nd Street, Cassidy originated the role of Balladeer in Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins at Playwright Horizons, and appeared in Lady in the Dark at City Center’s Encores! On television, Cassidy has guest starred on “Law & Order SVU,” “Castle,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Without a Trace,” “According to Jim,” “CSI Miami,” and “ER,” among many others.

Returning to the Ogunquit Playhouse to star as Harry is David Engel, who was last seen at the Playhouse as Gomez in the 2014 hit, The Addams Family. Engel most recently appeared on Broadway in Putting It Together and Seussical, as well as the original production of La Cage aux Folles. Engel created the role of Smudge in the original New York production of Forever Plaid, and again in Plaid Tidings and Forever Plaid: The Movie. In addition to his work on the stage, Engel shared an on-screen romance with RuPaul in the award winning musical short film Zombie Prom.

Fred Inkley stars as Bill in his Ogunquit Playhouse debut after his lauded tenure as Valjean in Broadway’s Les Miserables. Inkley received a Helen Hayes and Jeff Awards nomination for his performance as Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as well as a Jeff Award nomination for his touring performance as Valjean in Les Miserables. Inkley appeared as a Guest Artist for the Boston Pops in 2013.

Box Office: 207.646.5511

ogunquitplayhouse.org

 

 

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 Is Rocking Ogunquit

Million Dollar Quartet At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Through November 6th

reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Photo Credit: Gary Ng
Photo Credit: Gary Ng

Last year the Ogunquit Playhouse had a huge hit with Million Dollar Quartet, the fictionalized account of the day in December, 1956 when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash all happened to drop into the Sun Records studio and proceeded to participate in a memorable session of music and talk. The show was so popular Playhouse Artistic Director Brad Kenney decided to bring it back to cap off what has been a truly incredible season.

While the meeting between the four legends did indeed take place, and it was the only time they ever performed together, the authors of the play decided that instead of recreating that day song for song, they would give us a look at what went on over a longer period. While doing this they include some very interesting history of the early days of rock and roll, a music many never expected to last more than a short while. We get to know Sun founder Sam Phillips, a man who had an amazing eye for talent, but the inability to hang on to those performers once he got them started. Without Sam Phillips there probably would not have been rock and roll.

While the history lesson is important and well done, Jason Loghlin is outstanding in the role of Phillips, it is the music that electrifies the stage in Ogunquit. This show puts the heat in those Great Balls of Fire that blaze across the stage.

This show puts the heat in those Great Balls of Fire that blaze across the stage.

Nat Zegree is frenetic and a real wild child in the part of Jerry Lee Lewis.He is one damn good piano player as well as an acrobat who uses the keyboard as his personal pummel horse. At times I was looking for the wires that I thought must be attached to him as he was flying through the air so much, but he performed with no strings attached and burned up the stage from beginning to end.

Nat Zegree is a real wild child in the role of Jerry Lee Lewis.

James Barry portrays the legendary Carl Perkins brilliantly. He not only was note perfect on the guitar, but he conveyed a respect for the man who it can be argued was the father of rock and roll. Barry gives us the music and the man. The public should never forget Carl Perkins and his importance in the history of rock and roll. James Barry is seeing that they never will.

James Barry portrays Carl Perkins brilliantly.

While it is unclear whether or not Johnny Cash actually joined in on the original jam session, it is a fact that he was a major player in the early days of Sun Records. With Scott Moreau cast as the young Cash, we see him again with his deep voice and haunting look. Moreau should consider doing a tribute show dedicated just to Johnny Cash. He captures him beautifully.

Oh, there was another musician there that day. His name was Elvis Presley. Elvis had moved on from Sun Records and had hit the big time, but his heart was still in the Memphis studio. Beau Cassidy takes on the young Elvis, and, contrary to what many believe, it is a difficult part to play. How do you capture the amazing talent and charisma of the 1956 Elvis without looking campy and exaggerated? Mr. Cassidy is not an Elvis impersonator. He does not stand on the stage and do a take off on Elvis. Instead, he gives us a look into the heart of the man who, while he has made it big, is still very much at home in the small studio with old friends and a new talent. Cassidy captures Presley with his eyes more than his hips and it works very nicely. Oh, you will not be disappointed in his renditions of the music as he gets it right on every number.

Photo Credit: Julia Russell
Photo Credit: Julia Russell

Mr. Kenney has assembled his own million dollar quartet with the performers he has found for the parts. Each is an accomplished musician who can also act. They play well separately and are rock solid when performing together. They are backed up by Nathan Yates Douglass as Carl’s brother Jay on bass and by David Sonneborn on drums.

Bligh Voth plays Elvis’s girlfriend and she also sings two numbers, the very, very hot Peggy Lee hit Fever and the rocking I Hear You Knocking. Voth almost just about makes this a million dollar quintet.

it is hotter than a summer heatwave at the Playhouse.

The weather may be cooling as the season changes, but it is hotter than a summer heatwave at the Playhouse. I highly recommend Million Dollar Quartet. This show will leave you with a whole lot of shaking going on.

The Original Million Dollar Quartet
The Original Million Dollar Quartet

Million Dollar Quartet now through November 6th.
Ogunquit Playhouse, Ogunquit, ME
ogunquitplayhouse.org
207.646.5511