All posts by Bobby Franklin

A Weigh-In Or A Sideshow

The Weigh-In

By Bobby Franklin

Robinson and LaMotta

Fighters have always weighed in before a fight. This ritual used to take place the day of the fight, usually in the early afternoon. With heavyweights it wasn’t as important as with the other divisions as there is no limit on what weight the big guys can fight at. In the other categories it used to be watched closely because if a fighter did not come in below the limit for his division he would be forced to shed the extra pounds within a couple of hours. If he didn’t, the fight could be canceled, he could agree to pay a fine, or, if it was a title fight, the two camps could agree to go on with the bout without having the championship on the line. 

Schmeling and Louis 1938

With the heavyweights, it was more of a case of seeing what kind of shape the fighters were in. It was a bit like predicting earnings before a company makes its quarterly financial report. If a company exceeds expectations, its stock will rise, if not, the stock will take a hit. In a heavyweight fight a fighter coming in overweight, or even too light, could have an effect on the odds.

Today, the weigh-in is quite different. While in the past it was expected the fighters would enter the ring weighing pretty close to what the scales said earlier that day. Now fighters step on the Toledo a day or two before the bout and can put on as much as ten, fifteen, or more pounds by fight time. Quite often you will see one fighter who looks much bigger than another. That’s because he is.

Another difference is in how the ritual of the weigh-in is conducted. Throughout most of boxing’s history it was a fairly serious affair. Both fighters would appear and take turns stepping up to be weighed while the other looked on. A doctor would give each a brief examination, and then the two would shake hands and wish each other luck while photographers snapped pictures. With rare exception, great sportsmanship was displayed as each showed respect for the other.

Gene Fullmer and Ray Robinson 1957

Somewhere along the line, probably starting with Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston in 1964, this ritual began to take on a circus atmosphere. While what happened that day in Miami was very unusual for the times, and remained rare for a number of years, it has now gotten even worse and has become the norm. Fighters hurl obscenities at each other while pushing, shoving, and throwing wild punches. It has devolved into something more like pro wrestling. It’s also interesting to see today’s fighters standing on the scales and striking body builder poses, another thing taken from wrestling. At its best it is silly, but it is more often childish and demeaning to the sport and its participants. 

I suppose it is just another reflection of the changes we see in society. As for me, I would like to see a return to the old decorum that made us look with respect upon the athletes who were going to step into the ring that night. Clowns may be funny in a circus, but for those of us who looked at boxing as a serious profession, it is depressing to witness. Could you imagine Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Ray Robinson, or the hundreds of other great champions behaving like that?  

Raw and Powerful Jazz Musical Cabaret to Open at the Ogunquit Playhouse

Come to the Cabaret, your table’s waiting! Decadent nightlife meets dangerous times at Berlin’s alluring Kit Kat Klub in the iconic Broadway musical Cabaret, on stage July 17 through August 10. Set in the cabaret underworld on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power, the Ogunquit production is based on the searing Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall musical recently revived on Broadway and is staged by BT McNicholl, who directed the Playhouse production of Cabaret back in 2006. This unforgettable musical stars stage and screen actors Randy Harrison as the Emcee and Kate Shindle as Sally Bowles. The Ogunquit production also features Billy Harrigan Tighe as Cliff Bradshaw, Mariette Hartley as Fraulein Schneider, John Rubinstein as Herr Schultz, Noah Plomgren as Ernst Ludwig, and Katrina Yaukey as Fraulein Kost. The Ogunquit production features the Broadway set based on the original design by Robert Brill and the Broadway costumes by William Ivey Long. 

Cabaret tells the story of Cliff Bradshaw, a young American writer newly arrived in Berlin, who falls in love with cabaret singer Sally Bowles. Their romance sizzles amid the back room culture of the cabaret and the tumultuous atmosphere of pre-Nazi Germany. Cabaret is a raw and powerful jazz musical that explores the dark life of Berlin’s natives and expatriates as Germany slowly yields to the emerging Third Reich. The show has had numerous Broadway and London revivals, features a book by Joe Masteroff and is the winner of multiple Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score for John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb’s (lyrics) compelling musical numbers which include, “Willkommen,” “Money,” “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret.”

Immerse yourself in the show with stage-side table seating. Contact the exclusive Cabaret concierge line to learn more, 207-646-5511 ext. 328. This production of Cabaret contains adult subject matter, a review of the content advisory online is recommended before purchasing tickets. To learn more about becoming a Playhouse member, subscriber, or to purchase tickets and gift cards, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call the Ogunquit Playhouse Box Office at 207-646-5511.

 

 

 

 

Review: “The Sound Of Music” Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

The Reagle Music Theatre

Of Greater Boston

Is Alive With A Beautiful

Sound Of Music

 

The Sound Of Music

Through July 21

Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston

Waltham, MA

Directed and Choreographed by Daniel Forest Sullivan

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Aimee Doherty
Photo: Herb Philpott

The Sound Of Music was the last musical written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Mr. Hammerstein died nine months after it opened on Broadway in 1959. The play, based on the story of the von Trapp family and their escape from Austria on the eve of the Anschluss (Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938), is still as touching, warm, and fresh as when it debuted. This makes it a perfect production for The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston where classic Broadway musicals are given the respect they deserve.

“You will be hard pressed to find a better production of The Sound of Music anywhere.”

This was my third time at the Reagle, and I am still very impressed by how much of an authentic Broadway experience is created there. The full orchestra under the direction of Dan Rodriguez is a big part of this, as is the talent on stage as well as the direction, choreography, lighting, and sets that all make for an evening of great musical theatre.

Aimee Doherty is simply sublime as Maria. She captures the innocence as well as the instinctive worldliness of the young postulant who has entered Nonnberg Abbey in pursuit of the religious life only to find out she will travel a different road. Ms Doherty’s stage presence is as warm as her voice, and listening to her performing such great songs as My Favorite Things, I Have Confidence, and the title song is a delight.

Aimee Doherty and Children
Photo: Herb Philpott

The von Trapp children played by Emma Heistand (Liesl), Wade Gleeson Turner (Friedrich), Jane Jakubowsksi (Louisa), Ryan Philpott (Kurt), Fiona Simeqi (Brigitta), Addison Toole (Marta), and Libby Sweder (Gretl) are wonderful. Each one is a star and left me impressed and smiling as I watched them perform with Ms Doherty on Do-Re-Me and The Lonely Goatherd. So Long, Farewell is performed twice by them and I was happy for that, as once was not enough for these talented young thespians.

Mark Linehan
Photo: Herb Philpott

Mark Linehan, last seen on the Reagle stage in Mame, once again showed why he is so popular with audiences. He portrays Captain von Trapp, and his character is strict and a bit cold at first as the Captain struggles with the loss of his wife. Mr. Linehan really hits his stride when he takes his character from authoritarian patriarch to warm father under the influence of Maria. This transition is where he excels as he brings his heart into the role. Linehan’s rendition of Edelweiss is lovely and deeply moving. Midway through this farewell song to his homeland he is choked with emotion when he is joined by Maria who gives him strength. It is a beautiful moment that captures a family in its struggle not to become a part of the darkness that is overtaking their home. Set in front of a red curtain with two swastikas projected onto it, the contrast between good and evil is clearly conveyed.

Mara Bonde and Aimee Doherty
Photo: Herb Philpott

Yewande Odetoyinbo (Sister Bertha), Sara DeLong (Sister Margaretta), Margaret Felice (Sister Sophia), along with Mara Bonde (The Mother Abbess) make up the nuns of Nonnberg Abby who grapple with how to solve a problem like Maria. Ms Bonde performs a stirring rendition of Climb Every Mountain as she encourages Maria to follow her heart. She reaches deep down and has the audience cheering as she hits the final notes.

The Reagle is known for showcasing young talent, and a great example of this is when Emma Heistand (Liesl) and Max Currie (Rolf) step onto the stage with Sixteen Going On Seventeen as the teenagers pursuing their first kiss. Set around a garden bench the two glide gracefully about the stage while their lovely voices fill the theater.

Max Detweiler is played by Robert Orzalli while the role of Elsa Schraeder is taken on by Janis Hudson. Mr. Orzalli as Captain von Trapp’s friend and agent is always looking to make a deal that usually includes getting himself invited to fancy parties. Elsa is from an aristocratic family and Ms Hudson portrays her with the air of her high social status while also allowing her character to display a depth of understanding.

Emma Heistand and Max Currie
Photo: Herb Philpott

After seeing and reviewing the Reagle’s Mame last month, I went into this current production trying to keep my expectations a bit low as I didn’t think they could reach that high bar twice in a row. I was mistaken. Under the direction and choreography of Daniel Forest Sullivan and the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Robert J. Eagle, The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston proved they are capable of reaching even greater heights.

With the talent assembled on the stage in Waltham, MA I have no reservations about saying you will be hard pressed to find a better production of The Sound of Music anywhere.

There are four more performances of The Sound Of Music scheduled starting this coming Thursday. It would be a mistake not to take one in.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

617 Lexington Street

Waltham, MA

781.891.5600

www.reaglemusictheatre.org 

The Calamari Sisters Come To Greater Boston Stage Company

GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY CELEBRATES SUMMER WITH THE CALAMARI SISTERS’ SAUSAGEFEST 

Once you’ve finished the meat you’ve grilled for the Fourth of July, come on over to Greater Boston Stage Company where the Calamari Sisters’ will be serving up sausages like you’ve never seen before. Celebrate summer with these sassy, brassy broads and their newest all-singing, all-dancing, and all-cooking show, The Calamari Sisters’ Sausagefest. The Calamari Sisters bring on the heat July 18 – 21, 2019 for six scrumptious performances. Wickedly naughty, Delphine and Carmella Calamari cook up a deliciously hilarious show. Whether you’re a sausage-lover or not, you’ll laugh until your sides ache. Get ready for a raucous good time because this is a bratwurst, not a little wiener! 

GBSC’s Box Office: 781-279-2200, or visit www.greaterbostonstage.org. 

Where Are The Gloves From The Dempsey/Willard Fight?

Could The King Tut’s Tomb Of Boxing

Be At 50th Street And Eighth Avenue?

By Bobby Franklin

Are These Gloves Buried In NYC?

One hundred years ago, on July 4, 1919, in Toledo, Ohio, Jack Dempsey won the Heavyweight Championship of the World from Jess Willard. The fight, which took place under a blazing sun, is remembered for many things. It ushered in the Dempsey era and the making of a legend. The footage of the fight, which is amazingly clear, shows Jack giving the champion a vicious beating. Though he was outweighed by nearly sixty pounds, Dempsey tore into Jess like a hungry lion. He decked Willard seven times in the first round and Jess was on the verge of being counted out when he was saved by the bell. Willard managed to stay on his feet for two more rounds and fought back gamely before retiring as the bell rang for round four. 

In 1963 Jack Kearns, who had manage Dempsey at the time he won the title, wrote an article that was published in Sports Illustrated saying Jack’s gloves were loaded when he fought Willard. Dempsey vehemently denied it and sued the magazine for publishing the article. They settled out of court. 

There had been bad blood between Kearns and Dempsey for years, and  Kearns died not long after he wrote the article. It was as if he wanted to get one last shot at the great champion before he shed his mortal coil. He certainly did  hat and the controversy has raged on for years.

Much has been written about whether on not Dempsey went into the fight having an unfair advantage, and I am not going to rehash those arguments now. I do want to bring up another mystery that is connected to that day.

In all of the arguments over whether or not Jack’s gloves were loaded that day, one thing that was never done was for there to have been an examination of those gloves. In fact, nobody seems to know for sure what happened tom them.

Not long after the Kearn’s story appeared, former Bantamweight Champion Babe Herman announced that he was in possession of the gloves. He said they were given to him years earlier by a seaman, though he said he couldn’t remember the man’s name. He claimed the man was a close friend of Dempsey’s and also friend of his. He didn’t say how the man got them and didn’t offer and convincing evidence of their authenticity. Babe said that Dempsey knew he was in possession of the gloves and even suggested they be put in a glass case at his restaurant in New York. 

Jack Dempsey Burying The Gloves From The Willard Fight?
(Photo Courtesy Of The Great Spesh)

This doesn’t add up as there is a newspaper photo that was taken on December 10,1934 that shows Jack Dempsey placing what he claims are the gloves from the fight under the cornerstone of his soon to be built restaurant at the corner of 50th Street and Eight Avenue in New York City. This was directly across from the old Madison Square Garden. In the photo he is accompanied by his wife Hannah and Mayor LaGuardia along with a number of other people. Did Jack forget about this when he was talking with Herman, if indeed such a conversation actually took place.

One of the reasons for examining the gloves would have been to see if there were traces of plaster of Paris in them. Kearns claimed he soaked Dempsey’s taped hands in the substance before the fight. That claim has been pretty much debunked, but checking the gloves would completely rule out that possibility. 

Of course, the gloves in the photo very well may not have been the the ones Jack wore that hot July 4th afternoon. It is possible they were just an old pair of boxing gloves and the whole thing was staged for publicity for Jack’s new restaurant. It does seem odd he would bury the gloves rather than put them on display. Perhaps he was getting rid of the evidence, though that wouldn’t have added up since this was almost thirty years before Kearns wrote the story that got things stirred up.

Still, it would be interesting to uncover the gloves. Jack eventually moved the popular restaurant to between 49th and 50th Streets. It doesn’t appear the gloves went along for the ride. 

Could they still be buried at that location? It’s very likely. Are they the gloves Jack wore when he beat Willard? I doubt it, but it is possible. There is only one way to find out. Recovering them would be one of the great finds in the archeology of boxing. I say an archeological dig should be ordered for the site. It is time to recover this rare artifact from the reign of one of the greatest kings in the history of boxing. Can you dig it?

 

The Sound Of Music Opens A Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston July 11

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE!

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston Presents

 The Sound of Music

July 11-21, 2019 – 8 performances with 4 matinees!

Starring Elliot Norton and IRNE Award Winner Aimee Doherty as Maria and IRNE Nominee Mark Linehan as Captain Von Trapp

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s 51st Summer Season continues with The Sound of Music from July 11-21, 2019. This beloved family musical features Elliot Norton and IRNE Award winner Aimee Doherty as “Maria” – a free spirit who is struggling in her commitment to become a nun; when she is sent to look after the seven children of a widowed Navy captain by the Mother Abbess, she brings joy and music into the family’s home and changes all she comes in contact with. IRNE nominee Mark Linehan is featured as Captain Von Trapp. Directed and Choreographed by Daniel Forest Sullivan, Music Director Dan Rodriguez, Produced by Robert J. Eagle.

This Tony and Oscar-winning musical features beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein songs including “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss,” and “Do-Re-Mi.”  Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Suggested by The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp. Presented through special arrangement with R&H Theatricals.

The Sound of Music runs for 8 performances with four matinees over 2 weekends; Fri & Sat at 7:00 pm, Thurs & Sun matinees at 2:00 pm.  Performance Schedule:  Thurs, July 11th at 2:00 PM; Fri, July 12th at 7:00 PM; Sat, July 13th at 7:00 PM; Sun, July 14th at 2:00 PM; Thurs, July 18th at 2:00 PM; Fri, July 19th at 7:00 PM; Sat, July 20th at 7:00 PM; Sun, July 21st at 2:00 PM.

Tickets for Reagle’s 51st summer season can be purchased at www.reaglemusictheatre.org, by calling the box office at 781-891-5600, or at the theater box office at 617 Lexington St, Waltham, MA, 02452.

Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., with extended hours from 9:00 am to curtain on performance days.

Aimee Doherty

The full cast of The Sound of Music includes: Aimee Doherty as Maria; Mark Linehan as Captain Von Trapp; Mara Bonde as The Mother Abbess; Janis Hudson as Elsa Schraeder; Robert Orzalli as Max Detweiler; Emma Heistand as Liesl; Wade Gleeson Turner as Friedrich; Jane Jakubowski as Louisa; Ryan Philpott as Kurt; Fiona Simeqi  as Brigitta; Addison Toole as Marta; Libby Sweder as Gretl; Max Currie as Rolf Gruber; Sara Delong as Sister Margaretta; Margaret Felice as Sister Sophia; Yewande Odetoyinbo* as Sister Berthe; Allyn Hunt as Franz; Tracey O’Farell as Frau Schmidt; Doug Gerber as Herr Zeller; Anelise Allen; Jacqueline Breines; Ian Costello; Joseph Duda; Doug Dulaney; Audrey Flowers; Nikki Kelder; Helen L. Kemeny; Lenni Kmiec; Lindsay Kraft; Stephanie Kreutz; Sujinna Mariella Kuenghakit; Lauren Marlow; Amanda McGranahan; Julie McNamara; Conor Meehan; Marian Rambelle; Simon Rogers; Tyler Shore; Nora Sullivan; Joey Thordarson.  * Appear through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

Mark Linehan

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston (RMT) has been bringing Broadway-quality musical theatre to the greater Boston area for 51 seasons.  Under the creative direction of Robert J. Eagle the non-profit theater company’s professional productions have earned IRNE and Moss Hart Memorial Awards as well as rave reviews from critics.  Reagle’s productions have attracted Broadway stars and legendary performers including Patti LuPone, Sally Struthers, Vicki Lawrence, Andrea McArdle and Shirley Jones.  RMT is also committed to supporting arts education for area youth through Youth Education workshops and by using theatre techniques to support the Waltham Public Schools’ curriculum.  For the latest information on Reagle Music Theatre’s programs and performances see www.reaglemusictheatre.org, and follow RMT on Facebook (ReagleMusicTheatre), Twitter (@ReagleMusicThtr), and Instagram (@reaglemusictheatre).

“Disney’s Freaky Friday” Opens At North Shore Music Theatre July 9

NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE PRESENTS

‘DISNEY’S FREAKY FRIDAY!’

A NEW MIXED-UP/SWITCHED-UP FAMILY MUSICAL

July 9 – July 21, 2019

Bill Hanney’s award-winning North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) continues the 2019 Musical Season with Disney’s FREAKY FRIDAY, a brand-new mother/daughter body swap musical playing for two-weeks only from Tuesday, July 9 thru Sunday, July 21, 2019.

“Last year, the executives from Disney invited me to attend a special screening of their new television adaptation of the recently developed stage version of the Freaky Friday story. Before the lights came up, I knew I wanted to put this brilliantly written show on the stage for North Shore Music Theatre audiences,” said Bill Hanney, NSMT owner and producer. “I am committed to developing a younger theatre audience and with this endearing family show we will have both the younger and older audiences entertained by this universally relatable story about learning to see life from another person’s perspective.”

Disney’s FREAKY FRIDAY is the new madcap body swap musical about an overworked mother and teenage daughter who magically spend a day in each other’s shoes. Katherine and Ellie face a variety of challenges trying to get through the day as each other and ultimately learn a lot about what life is really like on the other side of the generation gap. A beloved classic story, Disney’s FREAKY FRIDAY has been given a contemporary fairy tale spin with a hilarious new book by Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) and a pop/rock score by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then).

The cast of Disney’s FREAKY FRIDAY will be led by Laurie Wells (Katherine) and Lindsay Joan (Ellie), along with Lindsey Alley (Torrey), Gerald Caesar (Adam), Annabelle Fox (Savannah), and Sean Hayden (Mike), with Jake Ryan Flynn and AJ Scott sharing the role of Fletcher.

 Performances are July 9 – July 21, Tue – Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, matinees Wed, Sat and Sun at 2 pm. For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200, or visit the box office at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA. www.nsmt.org 

 

 

Review: 42nd Street At The Ogunquit Playhouse

A Broadway Lullaby That

Will Keep You Awake 

In Ogunquit

42nd Street

Through July 13

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit, Maine

Directed and Choreographed by Randy Skinner

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Photo Credit: Gary Ng

At the height of the Great Depression Hollywood produced many feel good musicals that were a source of escape for people struggling through very difficult times. One of the most popular of these was the Busby Berkeley film 42nd Street that starred Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, with music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. In 1980 Gower Champion and David Merrick brought a stage version of it to Broadway. The play was a huge hit and has been revived repeatedly since then, most recently in London’s West End where it was directed by Mark Bramble with choreography by Randy Skinner.  

The latest revival has just opened at the Ogunquit Playhouse with original sets from the London production. Randy Skinner is directing and choreographing this production. Unfortunately, Mark Bramble passed away earlier this year. 

The backstage musical about aspiring hoofer Peggy Sawyer having to step in when leading lady Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle during rehearsals for the play Pretty Lady is the standard “the show must go on” theme that was popular in the 1930s. What is so special about this piece is it has many great, if corny, lines, some of the greatest songs ever written for a musical, and stunning dance numbers. 

This is one of the largest casts ever assembled on the Ogunquit Playhouse stage, and the sound of all those tapping feet is intoxicating.

It really is all about the dance, and who better to make that happen than Randy Skinner who worked on the original Broadway production in 1980. The dance numbers here are simply exquisite. This is one of the largest casts ever assembled on the Ogunquit Playhouse stage, and the sound of all those tapping feet is intoxicating. 

Jessica Wockenfuss as Peggy Sawyer, the starry eyed kid from Allentown, PA who’s golly gee demeanor belies her drive to make it in the city that never sleeps is outstanding. She puts it all together with her lovely singing voice, delivery, and amazing dancing feet. She is a Peggy Sawyer to remember. 

Steve Blanchard is Julian Marsh, the hard driving director who gives more pep talks than the manager of a baseball team playing in the World Series. He delivers his lines in rapid fire without missing a beat; “You’re going out there a youngster, but coming back a star”. His performance  of  Lullaby of Broadway is marvelous. You can just taste the theatre district of old New York as you listen to him sing the lyrics.

In Shadow Dance, Rachel York as the snooty and aging star Dorothy Brock, dances in front of a large curtain on which her shadow is double cast. Ms York and Ms Wockenfuss perform a lovely duet on the classic About a Quarter To Nine. It is one of those great Broadway tunes and gets a bit of a modern arrangement here. 

Tenor Billy Lawlor is played by Con O’Shea-Creal. He and Ms York perform another favorite in You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me. Mr. Con-Creal gives a convincing  happy-go-lucky Lawlor filled with enthusiasm.

Sally Struthers is Maggie Jones and, as always, brings her wonderful comedic timing to the Playhouse stage. Along with Cliff Bemis as Abner Dillon, Dorthy Brock’s sugar daddy, and Ryan K. Bailer as her not so secret paramour, there is a stage full of talent performing here.

While the story is fun and fast moving, if predictable, 42nd Street is all about the singing and dancing. The numbers are spectacular. We’re In The Money is performed with giant dimes being rolled on stage (They are Mercury heads in keeping with the time frame). Shuffle Off To Buffalo with Kilty Reidy as Bert and Megan McLaughlin as Lorraine, a couple heading off on their honeymoon, is sweet and fun. 

Photo Credit: Gary Ng

The best is saved for last when the stage is filled with dancers on rows of lit stairs tapping away to the title song. Signs with the names of theaters, shows, and performers hang above them while they sing and dance. It is an outstanding number that brought the audience to their feet. It has been said there is a broken heart for every light on Broadway, but these lights bring happiness. 

Last month I got to experience the new lighting that was installed at the Playhouse when I saw Jersey Boys. It is an investment that is paying great dividends. Of course, it takes more than lighting to make for great theatre, and those ingredients are in abundance at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Artistic Director Brad Kenney proves over and over again he knows how to choose great plays, find the best talent, and bring in the finest creative teams available. It is all on display in 42nd Street. 

If you love a fast paced, toe tapping, Broadway musical filled with some of the best songs ever written, you will find it playing now in Ogunquit, Maine. I loved it and can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t.

For information:

ogunquitplayhouse.org 

207.646.5511

Ogunquit Playhouse Reaches Major Milestone – Jersey Boys is the First Show in its 87 Year History to Celebrate 100 Performances on the Legendary Stage!

For the first time in Ogunquit Playhouse history a show hit the 100 performance milestone! Congratulations to Jonathan Mousset (Frankie Valli), Matt Magnusson (Tommy DeVito), Andy Christopher (Bob Gaudio), and Matthew Amira (Nick Massi) and the entire Ogunquit cast, creative team, and crew for reaching this exciting moment! Jersey Boys opened in the fall of 2018, and ran for an unprecedented 8 weeks to close the season (for decades the Playhouse season was only 10 weeks long!) –Jersey Boys returned to open the 2019 season for another 5 weeks!  Over the last decade the legendary theatre has grown from a traditional summer stock theatre to a true regional theatre that operates over twenty-six weeks each year. 

 

Review: “Mame” At The Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston

Mame At The Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston

Is A Satisfying Banquet

Don’t Miss Out

 

Reviewed By Bobby Franklin

Through June 23 At The Reagle Music Theatre Of Greater Boston

617 Lexington Street

Waltham, MA

781.891.5600

www.reaglemusictheatre.org 

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Ensemble With Leigh Barrett
Photo: Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott

One of my favorite lines from Mame is “Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving”. The production of Mame now playing at the Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston in Waltham is a delicious feast of this classic Broadway musical. It will nourish your theatrical soul.

Led by uber talented Leigh Barrett as Patrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame, the entire cast is solid and tight. Ms Barrett who thrilled audiences in last year’s Lyric Stage production of Gypsy has met, or I would argue, even exceeded that performance here. Leigh Barrett delivers what is best described in the words of the great theatre critic Kenneth Tynan, “a high definition performance”. She is stage presence personified. 

This is the story of the “live life to the fullest” Mame who has taken on the care of her nephew Patrick Dennis. Mame faces many obstacles in watching over young Patrick, including threats to have him taken away from her for her unconventional lifestyle, as well as financial ruin (the play is set in the 1920s and 30s when the stock market crash destroyed many people’s finances), but you can’t keep her down.

While Ms Barrett’s performance is something to behold, she is not on the Reagle’s stage by herself. In fact, she is accompanied by 38 other highly talented actors who light up the theatre along with a full orchestra, a rarity today and such a pleasure, led by Dan Rodriguez. Upon entering the theatre I could hear the musicians tuning up. This lends an air of anticipation and excitement to the evening. 

Ben Choi-Harris and Leigh Barrett
Photo: Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott

Regarding the other performers; well, there are too many to mention by name and any omissions are in no way a slight against any of them. Eleven year old Ben Choi-Harris who pays young Patrick Dennis is a rising star who more than held his own playing opposite Leigh Barrett in the first act. I had to check to make sure this wasn’t a fifty year old veteran actor heavily disguised to look like a boy, as Ben looks as if he has been on the stage for years. The duet between Mame and young Patrick on My Best Girl is just beautiful. Their warmth and love are fully conveyed to the audience. Mame’s nephew also makes a fine martini.

Katie O’Reilly takes on the role of the homely and lovable Agnes Gooch, who learns to open up and let go; well, a bit too much. In Gooch’s Song, Ms O’Reilly shows incredible comedic timing while keeping her character real and sympathetic. 

Mark Linehan, seen last year at the Reagle as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, plays Beau, the Southern Gentleman who falls for Mame and takes her hand in marriage bringing her love and wealth. He also ends up taking another fall, literally, while traveling with his new bride. Mr. Linehan has appeared on the Reagle’s stage eight times and once you see him you will understand why they keep bringing him back.

Mame’s house servant Ito is played by Simon Rogers. Mr. Rogers brings a depth to this loyal character while not sinking into caricature. The laughs are never at him, but with him. He, along with Vera, Mame, Patrick, and Miss Gooch are all family.

Maureen Keiller and Ensemble
Photo: Reagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott

Speaking of Vera Charles, this has to be a dream role for many actors, and Maureen Keiller is having her dream come true. Ms Keiller is hysterical as the “world’s greatest lush” and dear but difficult friend of Mame’s. In fact, they are Bosom Buddies which they sing together in one of the many well known songs from the play. Ms Keiller also gives a hilarious performance on the number The Man In The Moon Is Lady. 

At the beginning of Act II the role of young Patrick transitions to the older Patrick played by Will Burke. The reprise of the song My Best Girl is begun by young Patrick and moves smoothly to older Patrick. It’s a touching moment.

Mame is directed and choreographed by Eileen Grace and the stage is filled with music and dance. The large cast is always in synch, and if you love dancing you will not be disappointed. It is a treat to see and hear them work the boards.

If He Walked Into My Life Today is one of the better known songs from Mame, but it is often not heard in context and is usually thought of as a romantic song about lost love. Seeing it sung here by Ms Barrett you fully grasp the feelings of doubt and regret Mame has over whether or not she has made the right choices in how she raised Patrick. Every parent feels this way at one time or another. 

Maureen Keiller and Leigh Photo: BarrettReagle Music Theatre/Herb Philpott

The title song, which closes the first act, is a lavish musical number that fully allows the audience to see what a classic Broadway Musical looks like. The stage is filled with dancers and singers all moving about effortlessly while performing their hearts out. As I was exiting the theatre I could hear people singing and humming the tunes. That’s a nice feeling.

Artistic Director Robert J. Eagle founded the Reagle Musical Theatre of Greater Boston fifty-one years ago and it is a gift to have his creation still going strong after all that time. I suspect it easily has another fifty ahead of it. If you haven’t yet been there, well, what are you waiting for? If you have, I’m sure you won’t want to miss the current production. Mame is playing through June 23 and the theater is easy to find and has plenty of parking. 

As the Mame household reminds us, there are times We Need A Little Christmas, and I couldn’t think of a better Christmas present with which to begin your summer.