All posts by Bobby Franklin

A Boy Named Hamnet


Arts Emerson

Through October 7

Emerson Paramount Center


Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Photo by Gianmarco Bresadola

The U.S. premiere of Dead Centre’s  Hamnet now playing at the Emerson Paramount Centre in Boston is a powerful 60 minutes of theatre. The multi media production brings us into the world, past and present, of Shakespeare’s only son Hamnet who died at the age of 11. The work is an original, creative, and very interesting look at the relationship between a father and son, and the effect that relationship, or lack of, has on the mind and emotions of a young boy.

I say past and present as the ghost of Hamnet fills the theater in what could be seen as a mix of Hamlet and Waiting For Godot. Ollie West plays the title character who brings us into his world as he deals with the struggle to understand his relationship, or lack of, with his famous father whom he barely knew. Young West is first seen live with a knapsack projected onto a large screen as he makes his way from the audience onto the stage. The screen and the projections on it will be used to incredible effect throughout the performance.

Photos by Gianmarco Bresadola

We learn right off this isn’t going to be a historical work, but instead a metaphysical exploration. While bouncing a ball off the screen Hamnet tries to explain, with the use of Google, the theory of quantum tunneling. He admits he has no idea what it means but assure us if his father were there he would know.

What’s in a name? A lot when your father is William Shakespeare. But it is not the name Shakespeare that troubles him. Hamnet is aware that his name today is most often seen as a typo, and he is trying to measure his self worth. Hamnet has many questions and turns to the audience and Google for answers. But as Vladimir and Estragon find in Godot, often times there simply are no answers. 

“Why would anyone chose not to be?” is one of those questions, and in the remarkable scene where he gets to face his father he asks that, and many others. The scene is done with the senior Shakespeare appearing on the screen with his son. Hamnet is seen both on the screen as well as on the stage itself at the same time. Shakespeare is  with him on the screen throughout most of this time, giving it a  Banquo’s ghost flavor. I’m not sure how all of this was done, but it is amazing to watch. The fact that there is a bit of the handy dandy to it does not diminish how powerful the dialog between father and son is. Whether you see the work of Shakespeare in this conversation, or Beckett, or even Bart Simpson, you will be touched by it. Can fathers and sons ever understand each other? Here, they do try, but it is emotional and awkward for them. 

Photo by Gianmarco Bresadola

Using the relationship between Hamnet and Will Shakespeare to explore so many questions does not limit us to just these two people. It speaks to all of us, and it will leave you with more questions than answers, but also with more understanding.

Ollie West, who is simply outstanding as Hamnet, will be replaced by Aran Murphy midway through this run. I highly recommend you take in this amazing production. I would even go as far as saying it would be worth seeing a second time when the cast change is made. 


Was There Almost A Rocky 2.0?

Marciano Considered Coming Back To Fight

Ingemar Johansson in 1959

Was He Serious?

By Bobby Franklin

On September 22, 1955 Rocky Marciano stepped into the ring to defend his title in Yankee Stadium against the great Archie Moore. It was a bruising fight with Moore dropping the Champion in the second round, but Rocky eventually wore down his cagey opponent and stopped him in the 9th round. While the fight was one sided in the scoring up until the stoppage, it was by no means an easy fight for the Rock. Moore was a great boxer and a powerful puncher, and he landed punches on Marciano that would have flattened other mortals. But Marciano was no mortal when he was in the heat of battle. He seemed to get stronger when he got hit, and his drive and determination were too much for the 49 men he met and defeated in the ring.

This would be Marciano’s last fight, seven months later he would retire citing his desire to spend more time with his wife and daughter. He did leave a slight window open for a return to the ring when he said “No man can say what he will do in the future, but barring poverty, the ring has seen the last of me.”

It is reported that Rocky told those close to him that the real reason for his retirement was his displeasure with his manager Al Weill and the way his money was being handled. Rocky believed he was being taking advantage of and wanted out.

I was speaking with Mike Silver, the author of The Arc of Boxing, and we both agreed that while both of these reasons are legitimate we felt that Marciano may have finally tired of the grind of training and the pain he had to go through in each of his fights. Again, while the Moore bout may have seemed one sided in the scoring, Rocky took some terrible blows in the fight and had to be feeling the effects for days afterwards. The Champ was not a stupid man and may have figured it was best to get out while he still had his faculties, a decision, sadly, too few fighters make, and one that he should be admired for.

Rocky went on to enjoy retired life, and with only a bit of a tease when he pretended to consider a comeback when made an offer by promoter Jim Norris about a year after the his retirement, he looked to be permanently out of the ring. 

Rocky Marciano Training For a Comeback In 1959

Recently, I got to view some photos of Marciano that were taken in 1959. They show a healthy but bit pudgy former champ hitting a heavy bag under the watchful eye of his trainer Charley Goldman. Was this some type of a publicity stunt? I called the expert, my friend Dan Cuoco of IBRO to ask what he knew about this. He told me that Rocky had indeed contemplated a comeback in 1959. It was to be a one bout deal for in excess of a million dollars, and he would challenge Ingemar Johansson for the title. So, what happened?

There hasn’t been a lot written about this subject, but it does appear the former champion trained for about a month in Florida and that these sessions did receive coverage. Dan sent me a copy of an item that appeared in the Boston Traveler on January 16, 1960. In the short piece penned by Bill Liston, he states that he has heard that Marciano is training for a comeback but hopes it doesn’t happen. Though he believes Rocky would have no problem dispatching the new Champion he thinks Rocky should leave well enough alone. He also theorizes that Marciano was doing this to enhance his marketability for public appearances and refereeing. 

Charley Goldman Tapes Rocky’s Hands

Others have said he was serious about fighting Johansson and only gave up on it when his back, a life long problem he had, started giving him trouble. Mike Silver told me Rocky had met the Swede and felt he would have no problem taking him. I can see how tempting the thought must have been to Marciano. Here he would stand to make over a million dollars, hit the magic 50 and 0 mark on his record, and be on top of the world again. However, Ingo lost the title back to Floyd Patterson and that would lead to a third match between the two, and another year gone by before a bout with Marciano could be negotiated, another good reason not to keep at it.

I think the real reason is a combination of the two theories. There had to be no doubt in Rocky’s mind that he could beat Johansson and he had to have thought seriously, even if just briefly, about taking him on. He also saw how this enhanced his image as so many great athletes are forgotten not long after they leave the spotlight. By doing this, Rocky was able to keep his legend alive and his name in the news. he would go on to host a popular television show and continue to be in demand for public appearances.  In a second item sent to me by Mr. Cuoco, an AP story dated January 15, 1961, once again Marciano teased the public a bit about a possible comeback. When asked about how he would do against Liston or Patterson Rocky states “ I’m not the boasting type, I don’t want to say I could whip them. But then I don’t want to lie about it either.” He seemed to be enjoying tantalizing his fans with the thought they could see him in the ring again.

Rocky would eventually return to the ring in a futuristic and bit eerie way. The Rock and Muhammad Ali sparred a number of rounds together and the footage of that sparring was pieced together to make a computer created match that was shown in theatres across the country. The sparring was filmed in 1969, just a few months before Rocky’s untimely death in a plane crash. It was shown in 1970. It is strange that Marciano’s comeback, such as it was, would happen after his death. The computer had the Rock winning by knock out in the 13th round.

This article first appeared in the Boston Post Gazette on March 20, 2015 in slightly different form.

“Between Riverside and Crazy” Life As A Poker Game

At The SpeakEasy Stage

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Octavia Chavez-Richmond, Tyrees Allen, and Lewis D. Wheeler
Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios

Walter “Pops” Washington (Tyrees Allen) is a former N.Y. City police officer who is living in a rent controlled apartment. He is no longer on the force because he was shot six times by a rookie cop. The shooting took place at an after hours bar when Pops was off duty. Pops is black, the cop who shot him is white.

Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgiis does not fit into a narrative of a racist white cop shooting a black man. It gets much more complicated as the story moves along. Pops is sharing his apartment with his son Junior (Stewart Evan Smith), an ex con who is trying to turn his life around, though it appears he may still be a bit stuck in his old ways. Along with Junior is his girlfriend Lulu (Octavia Chavez-Richmond), who is pregnant and might be working as a prostitute, and Oswaldo (Alejandro Simoes), a friend of Junior’s who has been doing his best to stay clean and sober. 

Alejandro Simoes, Stewart Evan Smith, and Tyrees Allen
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

While the relationship between Junior and Pops is strained, Oswaldo appears to understand the cantankerous Pops and the opening dialog between the two is both funny and revealing. The elder Washington displays a degree of bitterness as he spends most of his days sipping whiskey. He is not only angry about having been shot, but also over the loss of his wife who died after a long illness. He spends time sitting in her wheelchair and you can see that he’s also dealing with the guilt of not having been the ideal husband. 

He filed a law suit against the city eight years earlier and is seeking $5 million dollars in damages, but the city has not settled because of the circumstances of the shooting, which we learn more about as the play progresses. He is also receiving eviction notices.

As I said, this is not a play about police shootings. It is about how people play the game and play a bit fast with the truth to get what they want. While at times it seems underhanded, it never really goes over the top. How the rules are bent is in the eye of the beholder. 

It is also a play about relationships. Pops finds it difficult to show affection to Junior, while he is  more comfortable getting closer to Oswaldo and Lulu, both of whom he shows much empathy to.

Pops former partner Detective O’Connor (Maureen Keiller) and a Lieutenant Caro (Lewis D. Miller) visit Pops for dinner one evening. It doesn’t take long to realize there is an ulterior motive for the meeting as Caro attempts to get Pops to agree to a deal with the city. The smarmy Caro, the smarminess is overplayed here, is not so much looking out for Pops as he is advancing his own career by helping the city put this lawsuit behind them. Pops, as well as the audience, quickly sees through this game. 

There are a number of other stories playing around all of this including Junior’s relationship with Lulu as well as how he seeks to receive words of affection from Pops, Oswaldo’s own issues with his father and his set back with staying clean. All are interesting, but I found a certain depth lacking in the way these stories are portrayed. While good, I thought there was so much to work with here that was left not fully developed.

There are two scenes where things seemed to really catch fire. When tempers flare between Pops and Caro over settling the lawsuit, it appears things are really going to get moving. It is a powerful scene, but the action fades shortly thereafter.  It does regain steam later, but it felt to me like momentum was lost.

Celeste Oliva and Tyrees Allen
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

The other scene is when the Brazilian Church Lady (Celeste Oliva)  comes to visit Pops. She is filling in for another caregiver, and like many of the characters in the play, is looking to get something for herself. It is quite the perfomance, both steamy and funny, Ms Oliva plays it outstandingly. Its a scene you will not forget.

Towards the end of the play Pops finds out Lieutenant Caro likes to play poker, and this is when we see how much of what is going on is like a giant poker game, with each player looking at his cards and seeing just how much he can bluff.

The play ends on an interesting note as the characters are pretty much revealed and while we may be tempted to judge some, if not all of them, harshly, just think about how you may have acted if you were in any of their positions.

Yes, I think this play could have been better, but it is definitely worth seeing. Tyrees Allen’s portrayal of Pops is a pleasure to watch. His humor, his anger, his human weaknesses, and his quest to find what he considers justice is well served in the hands of Mr. Tyrees, who does a wonderful job in the role. You’ll feel much the way Junior does when watching him. He will aggravate you, frustrate you, anger you, but you won’t be able to resist liking him.

I would also like to say that Alejandro Simoes is touching as Oswaldo. It is heartbreaking to see how bad things engulf good people. You will be rooting for him to make it and overcome the demons in his life. People make bad choices, but that doesn’t mean they are bad people. Smith’s Oswaldo shows us that. 

I would recommend not approaching this play as a commentary on the ills of society, but rather to look at it through  more personal lens. I believe in doing so, you will develop a more sympathetic view of people who play life’s poker game while keeping a few cards up their sleeves.

 Just a note for those considering taking children to this play. It has much adult language and situations.

Between Riverside and Crazy

By Stephen Adly Gurgis, Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene

At The SpeakEasy Stage Company, Calderwood Pavillon, 527 Tremont Street, South End, Boston.

Through October 13 


Broadway Legend Chita Rivera To Appear At  Huntington Theater’s  Calderwood Pavillon 

One Night Only

October 13

Chita Rivera

Three-time Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and dancer Chita Rivera performs for one night only alongside music director and host Seth Rudetsky on Saturday, October 13 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA at 5pm and 8pm.  Produced by Mark Cortale Productions, the performance is the first in the new “Broadway @ the Huntington” series.

The show is an unscripted mixture of music and intimate, behind-the-scenes tales of Ms. Rivera’s career, prompted by questions from Mr. Rudetsky, who hosts “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” and “Seth Speaks” on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s “On Broadway” channel.

Ms. Rivera will perform hits from her vast musical theatre repertoire, which includes originating the roles of Anita in West Side Story (prem. 1957), Rose Grant in Bye Bye Birdie (1960), and Velma Kelly in Chicago (1975).  She also has appeared in Broadway productions of Can-Can (1953), Bajour (1964), Merlin (1983), Jerry’s Girls (1985), and Nine (2003), as well as her autobiographical show Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life (2005).  Ms. Rivera earned 10 Tony Award nominations and won Tony Awards for her performances in The Rink (prem. 1984) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993).  She most recently originated the role of Claire and was nominated for a Tony Award in the Kander-Ebb-McNally musical The Visit, which premiered on Broadway in 2015.  Ms. Rivera received the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2018 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009.

Chita Rivera and Seth Rudetsky

“I’m delighted to welcome Chita Rivera, a true Broadway legend, to the Huntington,” says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Her career spans the modern Broadway history, and she has created so many iconic roles in the musical canon. This show is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear theatre history from a woman who, quite literally, helped make it.”

Saturday, October 13, 2018 at 5pm and 8pm

The Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts , 527 Tremont Street, Boston

 617 266 0800

Huntington Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Ave. and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont St.

The Roommate Featuring Adrianne Krstansky and Paula Plum Opens At The Lyric Stage October 19

Written By Jen Silverman and Directed By Spiro Veloudos

Runs Through November 18

Paula Plum and Adrianne Krstansky

Sharon, middle-aged and recently divorced, needs a roommate to share her Iowa home.  Robyn needs a place to hide and a chance to start over.  But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets while sharing music, books, and an occasional toke, she discovers a deep-seated desire to transform her own life completely.

It’s a subversive, absorbing comedy about what it takes to re-route your life –and what happens when the wheels come off.

Written by Jen Silverman, this production is directed by Spiro Veloudos. 

The Roommate runs from October 19 through November 4.

Lyric stage, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston

Box Office: 617.585.5678 

When Eddie Ran Into Ingo’s Toonder

Machen vs Johansson Took Place 

60 Years Ago

What Really Happened?

By Bobby Franklin

In 1958 Eddie Machen was the leading contender for the heavyweight championship held by Floyd Patterson. Machen was undefeated and held victories over such men as Joey Maxim (twice), Nino Valdes, Bob Baker, and Tommy Jackson. Of course, having a strong claim to a title shot during the reign of Floyd Patterson was a sure way of never receiving one. The leading contenders of the day were routinely bypassed in favor of inferior opposition.

While the top contenders included men named Liston, Valdes, Pastrano, and Folley, Patterson’s manager Cus D’Amato opted instead for bouts with the likes of unranked Roy Harris, Pete Rademacher (he was making his pro debut in his title shot), Brian London (whose ticket to Floyd was a loss to a young Henry Cooper), and Tommy Jackson (Floyd had already defeated him before becoming champion). It was truly a dark time for the heavyweight championship. 

Meanwhile, over in Sweden a young star was making some waves. His name was Ingemar Johansson and he was undefeated. Ingo was scoring knockouts with a lethal right hand that was known as “Ingo’s Toonder”. His record was impressive but not his opposition. He had won the European Heavyweight Championship when he kayoed Franco Cavicchi in the 13th round. 

His other notable wins were a 10 round decision over Brit Joe Bygraves, a one round kayo of Hein Ten Hoff, a 5th round knockout of Henry Cooper, and a decision win over American Archie McBride. None of these opponents were near the quality of Machen, Liston, or Folley. Also, Ingemar had not been seen by fans in the U.S., so he was truly an unknown quantity. On top of this, ever since Tommy Farr had given Joe Louis a very tough go of it in his title challenge, European Heavyweights had not been taken seriously.

What happens next in the heavyweight division is something that is worth looking into. It is 1958 and we have Eddie Machen as the top contender. He is undefeated in 24 fights with 15 knockouts. In any other era he would have received a well deserved title shot. But the title is now controlled by D’Amato and he is having nothing to do with signing Floyd to fight a serious opponent. Machen now signs to fight number two contender Zora Folley, another deserving contender. The two fight to a draw. Meanwhile, Patterson bypasses both men and takes on Harris and London instead. A disgrace.

After the Folley fight Machen is offered a match against Ingemar Johansson in Sweden. The fight doesn’t make any sense for Eddie other than it would be a decent payday, but number one contenders do not look for decent paydays, as the ultimate payday is winning the crown. Why would he take on an unknown quantity such as Johansson in Ingo’s home town and risk everything, while having nothing to gain?

For years it was thought Machen took a dive in the fight. When I was young that was the word among all the knowledgable fight people. The story was that D’Amato’s people, and he had some very shady people around him, had told Machen that if he lost to Johansson they would guarantee him a title shot later on. This was not unprecedented. Jake LaMotta had agreed to such a deal when he fought Billy Fox. He threw the fight and did get a title shot in return.

Why would D’Amato want Ingo to win? In Ingo he saw the potential for a big draw with little risk of Floyd losing. He had heard Johansson was another slow moving European heavyweight who would pose no threat to Floyd. His undefeated record would make good copy for publicity, and a win over Machen would give him number one contender status, a status none of Floyd’s previous challengers had ever come near to having.

The story gets really interesting here. Machen travels to Gothenburg and is knocked out in one round. Word in the States is Eddie took a dive. Movies of the fight were not distributed here so the rumors were easy to believe. It wasn’t until decades later that footage of the bout made its way to the U.S. 

Looking at it you see that not only did Ingemar legitimately kayo Machen, he nearly killed him. At the opening bell both fighters came out tentatively. Machen was standing straight up in a classic boxer’s stance throwing left jabs. Johansson was moving very quickly on his feet and circling Eddie while pawing with his left jab. About a minute into the fight, Ingo landed a tremendous right hand that dropped Machen. Eddie struggled to his feet and was dropped again by an Ingo right. He went down hard but managed to get to his feet. The fight should have been stopped here, but the “courageous” referee let it continue. Machen was driven to a corner and sank half way down while Johansson pummeled him mercilessly. The referee stood idly by. Finally, Machen fell to the canvas unconscious. It was as brutal a knock out as you will see. 

It looks as if this proves the fight was not fixed, right? Well, no. The fight could have been fixed and at the same time Johansson could have legitimately knocked out Machen. You see, Eddie would have been planning on losing a ten round decision. He would fulfill his end of the bargain and eventually get a title shot, though I very much doubt that would have happened. At the same time, Ingo proved to be much better than anyone believed and he was too much for Machen. His Toonder was the real thing. It ends up Machen ws knocked out before he could throw the fight.

Now, another question arises. If D’Amato was so hell bent on avoiding serious competition for Floyd, why would he now agree to have him defend against Johansson? Not only did Ingemar prove he could fight, he also showed he had one of the hardest right hands in heavyweight history. Cus would have taken Floyd and run for the hills to get away from him. If things had followed their usual M.O. it would have been Machen who would have been more likely to get a title shot after having been destroyed.

I believe D’Amato never saw a film of the Machen v Johansson bout. He believed Machen lost as planned, though made his exit sooner than exoected, and still figured Ingemar was an inferior opponent. Looking at how Cus managed Patterson it makes no sense he would have signed to fight Johasson after what he did to Machen. This was one time when Cus outsmarted himself, as Ingo took the title from Floyd in his next fight. Not only did he win the title but he destroyed Patterson in much the way he did Machen, only in this bout it ended in the third round. 

There is one final question that begs to be answered. If Machen was going to take a dive anyway, why didn’t he just stay down after the first knockdown? That’s easy to answer. Eddie was a pro with tremendous heart. He was seriously hurt when he went down the first time. It is likely he no longer knew where he was and began fighting on instinct, and his instincts were those of a courageous fighter. If you look at the film of the fight you will see Machen sitting in his corner after being stopped. He is seen mouthing the words “What Happened?” When his seconds respond you can read his lips again and see him saying “Really?”

And what did really happen? We’ll never know for sure, but I think the evidence backs up my theory.

Oh What A Night With “Jersey Boys” In Ogunquit

Jersey Boys

At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Through October 28

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit, Maine 


Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Photo credit: Gary Ng

Jersey Boys debuted in 2005 and was an immediate hit. I am probably one of the few people who had not seen it before taking it in at the Ogunquit Playhouse the other night. As the old saying goes “Good things come to those who wait”, and what I witnessed was beyond good.

Of course, being of a certain age, I was very familiar with the music of the Four Seasons. Their unique sound was something I grew up with and have never tired of hearing. That music is all included in Jersey Boys, along with the very interesting, and very 1950’s, story of how the group came to be. It is a story that takes us from the street corners of New Jersey to clubs, bowling alleys, the back seats of cars, recording studios, and the Brill Building. Disc jockeys, gangsters, loan sharks, and record producers are all part of the story. 

Director Holly-Anne Palmer points out in the program that a Rashomon approach is taken to telling the story, with each member of the group taking a turn giving their version of events. The segments where each member takes over the narration are divided by season, with wisecracking Tommy DiVito (Matt Magnusson) starting things off in Spring. He is followed by song writer Bob Gaudio (Andy Christopher) in Summer, Nick Massi (Matthew Amira) bringing us Fall, and Frankie Castelluccio, make that Frankie Valli (Jonathan Mousset) ending with Winter. Each actor brings us the differing personalities of the four members of the group along with the varying views of events each had. It makes for a fascinating story, or perhaps I should say stories.

While the tale of the four young men from New Jersey who escaped from a criminal past and dealt with financial troubles, conflicts among themselves, and family tragedy, is told with much depth, emotion, and humor by these fine performers, it is the music that evokes a tremendous audience response. No, this is not a tribute band performance, and don’t get me wrong, the story is a major part of what makes this so good to see. The songs contain even more power when enhanced by learning how it all came to be.

I was very much taken with the constant energy displayed during the production. Set changes happened without a pause as props were moved on and off the stage without the action skipping a beat.

…a super high energy evening of music and theatre.

Nearly three dozen songs are performed and each one is enhanced by the amazing lighting and framing the production team has put together. The colors are amazing. Neon style signs, wonderful costumes, and terrific choreography add a strong touch of the spectacular to songs such as , Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, and Rag Doll.  Jonathan Mousset really brought the house down with Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. In fact, the audience leapt to its feet after many of the numbers during the show. I could feel the anticipation people had before each song began, and their excitement as soon as the first few notes were played. This is a super high energy evening of music and theatre. 

Photo credit: Gary Ng

Jersey Boys brings us back to a different time without getting overly nostalgic or sappy. While the story is predictable, what works here is the way the actors give us the strong insight into each of the character’s personalities. By the end of the play you will have experienced how we all see things through our own individual lens. It is also interesting to see how people with so many differences can still work together to accomplish great things. There was a synergy between the cast and the audience that filled the theater with excitement all evening.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had a very original sound that has held up through the decades. While their music is in the “Golden Oldies” category, there is nothing moldy about it. Listening to it performed live reminded me of just how fresh and original it still is. 

The Ogunquit Playhouse is closing out its 86th season, one of its best, in great form. Jersey Boys is not to be missed. You would be hard pressed to see a better production of this very exciting play anywhere. I do know tickets have been selling strong for this all summer. Fortunately, it runs through October, so you can take advantage of the off season rates if you want to stay in Ogunquit. Fall is a beautiful time in southern Maine.

When it comes to summer in Ogunquit Let’s Hang On To What We’ve Got! And there’s no better way to do that than with Jersey Boys. 


Marvelous Marvin Hagler’s Toughest Fight

The Night  Marvin Took 

On “The Beast”

By Bobby Franklin

Boxing:Marvin Hagler vs John Mugabi (Orig. Cov. Date 3/24/86)
Credit: Manny Millan
SetNumber: X32793 TK1 R9 F20

Things never came easy for Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Joe Frazier once said to him “You’ve got three things going against you; You’re black, you’re a southpaw, and you are good”. Joe was right. Marvin had to do it the hard way. 

Even before he won the title Hagler was taking on the toughest middleweights in the world, and he was doing it for short money.

Even before he won the title Hagler was taking on the toughest middleweights in the world, and he was doing it for short money. In his fourth fight he took on local rival and outstanding amateur star Dornell Wigfall over whom he won a decision. He would win by a knockout in a rematch. 

In his 15th fight he beat Olympic Gold Medal winner Sugar Ray Seales. In a rematch in Seales’s hometown Marvin would be given a draw in a fight Marvin won easily, and in a third match in Boston Hagler removed all doubt by destroying Seales in one round.

Marvin would go on to beat the undefeated knockout artist Johnny Baldwin. After that fight, promoter J. Russell Peltz invited Hagler down to Philadelphia to try his hand against the best fighters the City of Brotherly Love had to offer. He took on Bobby Boogaloo Watts and lost a highly disputed decision. Next was Willie The Worm Monroe who beat Marvin fair and square though Hagler would come back to kayo Monroe in two rematches.

There were more victories against the likes of the murderous punching Eugene Cyclone Hart, Bennie Briscoe, Mike Colbert, Kevin Finnegan, and Doug Demmings. Remember, these fights were all before the Marvelous One had won the title. 

In fact, it wasn’t until his 55th bout that Hagler finally got a shot at the title only to be the victim of a terrible decision when, after clearly winning over fifteen rounds, the judges called his bout against Vito Antoufermo a draw.

Hagler would have to wait a year before getting another title shot, this time against the new champion Alan Minter. Marvin left nothing to chance by destroying Minter in the third round and finally, finally taking possession of the title.

Marvelous Marvin would successfully defend his title 12 times against the best and only Roberto Duran was able to last the distance with him.

Out of those defenses the one most talked about was his war against Tommy Hearns in which Marvin stopped the Motor City Cobra in the third round of one of the most exciting fights in history.

After that fight Hagler would make one more defense of the title before his showdown with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987. It is that fight against John “The Beast” Mugabi that has somehow become lost when talk of Marvin’s career comes up. That is a shame because it very well may have been his finest hour. It also may give some clues to why Marvin fought the way he did against Leonard.

John Mugabi, from Uganda fighting out of England, was a natural boxer/puncher. He had incredible power in both hands and was also blessed with a chin made out of iron. He had earned a shot at Halger by beating a number of other up and coming middleweights and doing so in impressive style, knocking out all 25 of his opponents.

The fight took place on March 10, 1986 outdoors on a cool evening in Las Vegas. While Mugabi did not have anything matching Marvin’s experience, he did enter the ring with intense confidence and showed no fear of Hagler. 

It was just short of a year after Hagler’s war with Hearns and from the opening bell looked very much like it would be a repeat of that fight as Mugabi came out throwing bombs. There was one difference though, The Beast could also take the best Marvin had to offer and the grueling match went on for 11 rounds. While there were moments when the intensity would ebb just a bit, this was all out war.

I had seen just about all of Hagler’s fights going back to his amateur days and had never seen him rocked the way he was against Mugabi. The two traded monstrous punches round after round with Marvin staying ahead but at the same time absorbing some unbelievable blows. You saw two things in this fight that were very rare in a Hagler bout; Marvin’s head snapping back from the force of the uppercuts Mugabi was landing, and Hagler being forced to give ground. Also, Marvin’s left eye was almost completely closed by the end of the fight. But, as the saying goes, you should have seen the other guy. 

This was like an extended version of the Hagler/Herans fight.

While all rounds of the fight were exciting, it was the 6th that really stands out. In that round Hagler came out determined to end matters, and it appeared he would do just that as he unloaded with brutal blows to Mugabi’s chin. The Beast was rocked, he was forced back, he looked on the verge of crumbling, but then he came back to life and was rocking Halger with bombs of his own. The crowd was on its feet cheering as the round ended. After that it became a battle of attrition. 

Marvin was relentless in the fashion of Rocky Marciano. He wore Mugabi down and by the 11th round the effects of the punches and exhaustion put Mugabi down for the count. Marvin had dug down and showed what a champion is made of. Hagler survived punches that would have sunk a battle ship yet never was discouraged. Mugabi took monster shots from Hagler and kept coming. This was like an extended version of the Hagler/Herans fight. 

Marvin would next fight Ray Leonard who had said he saw something in the Mugabi fight that told him he could beat Marvin. He felt he could outbox him after that night.

Going into the Leonard fight Marvin was coming off two brutal wars; The battle with Hearns and the war with Mugabi. Hagler had no easy touch in between, but then again, nothing ever was easy for Hagler. 

I have always thought Marvin made a tactical mistake in the Leonard fight by not pressing Ray early. He allowed Leonard to get a rhythm and to gain confidence in the early rounds. I believe that Hagler, having just had two brutal wars, wanted to show the public he could outbox Leonard, beat him at his own game. I think if he had shown the same intensity he had displayed against Hearns and Mugabi he would have stopped Leonard. I still think Marvin deserved the decision in the fight, but once again, he couldn’t catch a break.

I do know one thing. Marvelous Marvin Hagler showed just why he was a great champion the night he stopped John Mugabi. He not only showed his talent, conditioning, punching power, and indestructible chin, he showed that indomitable “will to win” that makes for a very great champion. Marvin ranks high on the list of all time greats, and he earned that designation the hard way. We will never again see the likes of a Marvelous Marvin Hagler. 

Complete Fight:

Review: “Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Lyric Stage’s

Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Spins An Interesting Web

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin


Eddy Cavazos and Taavon Gamble

The Lyric Stage Company in Boston has kicked off its 44th season with the rarely produced Kander and Ebb musical Kiss Of The Spider Woman. The play, with book by Terence McNally, is based on Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel and the movie that followed. The Tony Award winning musical first appeared in 1993. This production is directed by Rachel Bertone who helmed last years wonderful Gypsy at the Lyric. 

The story, which takes place in an Argentine prison, revolves around Molina (Eddy Cavazos), a gay window dresser who has been imprisoned for “corrupting a minor”, and Valentin (Taavon Gamble), a Marxist revolutionary, who has been sent to jail for his political activities. Valentin is initially tortured and then tossed into a cell with Molina who nurses him back to health. Upon regaining consciousness, Valentin draws a line down the center of their shared cell marking of each’s territory (I Draw The Line). He clearly is not comfortable with the gay Molina.

Eddy Cavazos, Lisa Yuen, and Taavon Gamble

Molina has learned to cope with the horrific conditions of being in prison by escaping in his mind to the movies he used to see when he would accompany his mother (Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda) to the cinema she worked in. One actress occupies his mind, Aurora (Lisa Yuen), whose movies he replays over and over in his head. We meet Aurora in the opening number Aurora.The one role she played that terrifies him is when she played a spider woman who kills with her kiss. As we see Molina and Aurora, through his imagination reenacting scenes from her movies, the character of the spider woman reappears over again as the haunting kiss of death that the prisoners live with everyday.

While Molina is apolitical, Valentin sees in his life a mission to change society. The two learn from one another, with Valentin it is begrudgingly, and eventually form a bond that turns into love. 

The set is provocative as it reaches out to the audience giving a feeling of bringing everyone into the prison. Lighting and shadows on the floor alternate between a spider web and the outline of prison bars. It is subtle yet effective.The off stage screams of prisoners being tortured is unsettling, as it should be, and adds to the feeling of hopelessness Molina and Valentin feel. 

This was my first time seeing a production of Kiss Of The Spider Woman, and my take away is it is a work that is very dependent on having the right people in the roles in order for it to work. Eddy Cavazos is superb as Molina. His body language speaks as much to the audience as do his lines. He moves about the stage with a patience that proves very effective for conveying the depth of the character of Molina. Watching Molina as he copes with the misery and suffering around him, and that is inflicted on him, we also see how he learns to understand his value as a human being. This is a role that could easily be overplayed, but Mr. Cavazos resists that temptation.

Eddy Cavazos and Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda

Of course, this is not a one person show, and Taavon Gamble has his work cut out for him as Valentin, the angry young man who feels he will never get the chance to save the world. Valentin, who wants equal rights for all is confronted with having to face his own problems, now is having to share a cell with a gay man. Can he retain his masculinity while at the same time having feelings and caring for a gay man? It is where he learns we are defined not by what we are but rather by who we are. Mr. Gamble has done a marvelous job in bringing so many conflicting emotions to the stage in a way that we can understand them and share in his growing affection for Molina.

Lisa Yen is Aurora and she sparkles in numbers such as Aurora and Let’s Make Love. She is also haunting as the spider woman who is the ever present shadow of death. Ms Yen is joined by Katrina Zofia, who plays Valentin’s girlfriend Marta, on the song I Do Miracles. 

Molina’s mother is played by Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda. Her rendition of You Could Never Shame Me is a touching and moving love song showing a mother’s unconditional love for her son.

Taavon Gamble, Eddy Cavazos, and Lisa Yuen

While Kiss Of The Spider Woman is a story with much darkness and horrific situations, the tension is broken in the same way Molina has learned to escape from his misery; through the imagining of Aurora’s performances and show tunes, which are excellent. These breaks are much needed and make the story bearable. It is also much in the tradition of Kander and Ebb to take such dark stories and make them palatable. We can witness the suffering and misery while not being overwhelmed by it. That enables us to try to understand it and find ways to prevent it, or at least get through the suffering in life.

Today, almost everything is viewed through a political lens, particularly in theatre, and this play is political. While many will look to find comparisons with what happens in the play with what is happening in our society, it might be a good idea to look a bit further away and a bit closer to where the play is set. In Argentina there is some good news, three decades of Kirchener rule may be coming to an end, while in Venezuela the Marxist government has left the once prosperous country in a state where people are now starving to death. Cuba is still very much a prison island lacking basic human rights. Perhaps Valentin will reconsider his Marxist views in light of all this. I hope so, as he has the drive to do much good.

Kiss Of The Spider Woman

Through October 7

The Lyric Stage, Boston  617.585.5678

SpeakEasy Stage Company Presents “Between Riverside and Crazy”

Pulitzer Prize Winning Play Runs September 14 Through October 13 

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY is a dark urban comedy that explores, with both disarming tenderness and street-smart wit, the slippery nature of justice, and the grit it takes to move on.  In an effort to hang on to one of Manhattan’s last great rent-stabilized apartments, ex-cop Walter “Pops” Washington does battle with a dazzling array of outlandish characters, each one a celebration of the glorious contradictions that make up human nature.  

Mr. Guirgis is a member and former co-artistic director of LAByrinth Theater Company in New York City. His plays, which have been produced on five continents and throughout the United States, include Our Lady of 121st Street (Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle Best Play nominations); Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award, Barrymore Award, Olivier Nomination for London’s Best New Play); In Arabia We’d All Be Kings (2007 LA Drama Critics Best Play, Best Writing Award); The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (10 Best – Time Magazine & Entertainment Weekly); and The Little Flower of East Orange. His Broadway debut, The Motherfucker with the Hat (dir: Anna D Shapiro), received 6 Tony Award nominations including Best Play. 

Tiffany Nichole Greene will helm SpeakEasy’s production of BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY.  

The cast for this New England Premiere production is Tyrees Allen, Octavia Chavez-Richmond, Maureen Keiller, Celeste Oliva, Alejandro Simoes, Stewart Evan Smith, and Lewis D. Wheeler.

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY will run for five weeks, from September 14 through October 13, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

617.933.8600 or visit