All posts by Bobby Franklin

Ogunquit Playhouse Production Of “Annie”Comes To The Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH

An All-Star Cast to Perform in the Ogunquit Playhouse
Holiday Production of Annie at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The Music Hall and Ogunquit Playhouse are thrilled to announce the cast and creative team of the beloved musical Annie, on stage November 27 through December 22 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Music Hall is located at The Historic Theatre, 28 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth, NH.

Annie is the story of a spunky, red-headed orphan who lands a holiday stay with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a billionaire trying to do good. This delightful musical has become a worldwide phenomenon and is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The acclaimed book and score by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin feature some of the greatest musical theatre hits ever written, including “Tomorrow.”

The Ogunquit Playhouse production is helmed by Broadway Director/Choreographer James A. Rocco. Leading the all-star cast are Josie Todd as Annie, Emmy nominee Robert Newman as Oliver Warbucks, Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sally Struthers as Miss Hannigan, and Broadway veterans Angie Schworer as Lily St. Regis, Jeffry Denman as Rooster Hannigan, and Gail Bennett as Grace Farrell.

Starring as the lead character Annie is Josie Todd who is making her Ogunquit Playhouse debut. She recently performed in Because of Winn Dixie at Goodspeed Musicals and Annie at Casa Mañana. Her many theatre roles include Beauty and the Beast as Chip, The Music Man as Gracie Shinn, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as Maxine, and Freaky Friday, Jr. as Monica. 

Joining the cast as Oliver Warbucks is Robert Newman who is perhaps best known for his 28-year run as Joshua Lewis on the longest running program in broadcasting history, Guiding Light.(which he also directed).

Sally Struthers returns to the seacoast to reprise her role as Miss Hannigan. Ms. Struthers is a two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner for her performance in the groundbreaking TV series All in the Family.

Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to welcome Gail Bennett back to the stage in the role of Grace Farrell. Ms. Bennett has performed in the Ogunquit productions of My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle opposite Jefferson Mays, The Sound of Music as Maria opposite Rex Smith, and as the title role in Mary Poppins on both the Ogunquit and The Music Hall stages.

Joining the cast as Rooster is Jeffry Denman who has performed, directed, and choreographed at Ogunquit Playhouse. He returns to the seacoast after directing/choreographing the highly acclaimed Ogunquit Playhouse 2018 production of An American in Paris, for which he won an IRNE award as Best Choreographer.

 Rescue dog, Macy, will be playing Sandy. Macy was adopted by guardian and trainer Bill Berloni from Rocky Spot Rescue of Oklahoma City, OK in December of 2009 at the age of 18 months after seeing her on Petfinder.com. Sandy’s first production of Annie was in the summer of 2010 and since she has starred in dozens of productions nationwide. On Thanksgiving Day 2011, she was seen on NBC during The National Dog Show, sharing spots with John O’Hurley.

Bill Berloni is the top recognized trainer for theatrical animals in the U.S. He received a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre in 2011, honoring his 30 years of rescuing shelter dogs and humanely training them for a career in the entertainment industry. He is also the recipient of 2014 Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award and the 2017 Drama League Award for Unique Contribution to the Theater. Bill Berloni’s animals have appeared in hundreds of Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions, tours, movies and television shows all starting with Annie in 1977. 

Box Office Hours and Info

Monday – Saturday, 12pm – 6pm

28 Chestnut Street – Portsmouth, NH 03801

(603) 436-2400

www.themusichall.org 

“Murder On The Orient Express” Comes To The Lyric Stage In Boston

The Lyric Stage Company Of Boston Presents

Agatha Christie’s

Murder On The Orient Express

Opening November 22

Adapted by Ken Ludwig

Directed by Spiro Veloudos

 Award-Winning Actor Remo Airaldi

Takes on the Role of Hercule Poirot

With a Cast of Boston Favorites.

Performed in a witty new adaption by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor),

Written expressly at the request of the Agatha Christie estate.

Just after midnight, a snow storm stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The famous train is full, minus one passenger — an American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, his door locked from the inside. Director Spiro Veloudos has assembled a locomotive full of suspects – all with an alibi.

It’s the perfect mystery for none other than famed detective Hercule Poirot, n’est-ce pas?

Featuring: Remo Airaldi, Michael John Ciszewski, Scot Colford, Sarah deLima, Kerry Dowling, Marge Dunn, Will McGarrahan, Davron S. Monroe, Celeste Oliva, Rosa Procaccino the production will run from November 22 through December 22 at the Lyric stage at 140 Clarendon St., Copley Square, Boston.

Box Office: 617.585.5678 Website: lyricstage.com 

“Miracle On 34th Street” To Open At Greater Boston Stage Company

GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY RINGS IN THE HOLIDAYS WITH 

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET 

Greater Boston Stage Company cheerfully presents Miracle on 34th Street based on the much-loved motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Ilyse Robbins, Miracle on 34th Street reminds us that if you really believe, anything can happen. Performances run November 29 – December 22, 2019.

“The miracle of 34th street is that people learn to believe – both in oneself and in the kindness of others. It is about faith. Not necessarily in the religious sense, but rather faith in what is possible,” shares Robbins. She continues, “Stories about kindness and goodness are needed now more than ever. There is such importance simply in the telling of stories like these.” 

The cast features Barlow Adamson, Juliet Bowler, Margaret Ann Brady, Sara Coombs, William Gardiner, Sarah Gazdowicz, Arthur Gomez, Jade Guerra, Michael Jennings Mahoney, David Jiles, Jr., Gary Thomas Ng and Emme Shaw. As part of The Young Company Meets Mainstage program, the cast also includes Young Company actors Mia Galego, Shea Killeen, Graham Layton, Addison McWayne, Gwendolyn Symes, Norah Symes and Young Company Alum Stephen Zubricki IV, making his GBSC Mainstage debut. 

Miracle on 34th Street celebrates the season by taking us to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the 1940’s where Kris Kringle steps in as a last-minute replacement. When he claims to be the true Santa Claus, he needs to convince the doubters, including a little girl longing to find something to believe in. 

Greater Boston Stage Company is dedicated to fostering an inclusive and accessible environment for all. A sensory-friendly performance of Miracle on 34th Street will be offered on December 21, 2019 at 2:00 pm. The sensory-friendly production will be a performance dedicated to creating a more welcoming space for individuals with sensory-input disorders. There will be modifications throughout the theatre that create a friendly and supportive environment, encouraging patrons to experience the magic of theatre in their own way. Families, friends and caregivers of individuals with sensory-input disorders are also encouraged to attend. Please visit https://www.greaterbostonstage.org/sensory_friendly.html for more information. 

Box Office: (781) 279-2200
Box Office Hours: Mondays – Fridays, 11am to 6pm; Saturdays, 1pm to 6pm Location: 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA 02180
Website: www.greaterbostonstage.org
  

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Great Punchers, Great Boxers

Great Knockout Artists 

Great Defensive Boxers

It Was Hard To Stop These Guys

By Bobby Franklin

Barney Ross

Recently, I wrote about Tony Canzoneri and argued that even though the stats did not show him to have an overabundance of knockouts, I still consider him to be a harder puncher than Roberto Duran. Of course, people will say if he was such a tremendous puncher why didn’t he have more kayos? The answer lies in the competition from the era in which he fought.

I’ve taken a look back at the Ring Magazine rankings of the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight divisions during the 1930s. I choose these three divisions because many of the contenders in these weight classes fought in all three divisions during their careers. It is an impressive lot.

What is striking is the amount of all time great talent that was competing at the same time in these divisions. Even more striking is the fact that they did not avoid fighting one another. On top of this, it is amazing to read how often they fought and the total number of fights they had over their careers. 

Even more amazing is how rare it was for any of them to be knocked out. You are not looking at the records of fighters who were being fed stiffs. No, these guys were the best and they were consistently fighting the best. When any fighter during that era became a champion, he was truly a champion. Being a ranked contender was a feat in and of itself.

Henry Armstrong vs Fritzie Zivic

So who were these men? Looking through the rankings the names that show up are incredible. Men such as Tony Canzoneri, Lou Ambers, Henry Armstrong, Fritzie Zivic, Charley Burley, Cocoa Kid, Baby Arizmendi, Sammy Angott, Petey Sarron, Ceferino Garcia, Jimmy McLarnin, Holman Williams, Kid Chocolate, Andy Callahan, Sammy Fuller, Billy Petrolle, Teddy Yarosz, Fidel LaBarba, Johnny Jadick, Lou Brouillard, Battling Battalino, Andy Martin, and Louis Kid Kaplan. While there are a lot of names here, it is only a partial list and only includes top ten contenders and champions. There were also dozens of fighters competing on a level just below the top ten who were incredible fighters. After all, in order to get into the top tier a fighter had to wade through those guys. 

Looking at the records of the boxers on the list provides some interesting data. As I have pointed out with Canzoneri, many of these fighters were terrific punchers but did not have stunning knock out percentages the way many of today’s fighters do. Why is that? Because while today’s fighters are being fed a diet of stiffs to build up their records, the fighters from the 30s were fighting each other which meant they were fighting the best talent in the history of the sport. 

Another thing they had going for them is they knew how to practice the art of boxing. They had defensive skills, were highly experienced, knew how to keep calm and were able to fight while hurt. These men were professionals in every sense of the word. Even beyond that, that were highly talented artists and craftsmen. 

Something else to remember when taking their knockout percentages into account is the fact that these men were rarely kayoed themselves. When you have fighters of such high caliber fighting each other the odds of one stopping another go way down. 

Charley Burley

In the list of 23 fighters I have compiled above, they have a combined total record of 3,154 bouts. Out of that huge sum there were only 55 fights where they lost by kayo. Boxers such as Barney Ross, Charley Burley, and Fidel LaBarba were never stopped. Others, such as Teddy Yarosz (127 fights), Lou Brouillard (133 fights), Battling Battalino (88 fights), Sammy Angott (131 fights), Petey Sarron (139 fights), Jimmy McLarnin (69 fights), and Canzoneri (171 fights) were only stopped once. The highest amount of losses for a fighter by kayo was 6. One was Johnny Jadick (6 out of 153 total fights) and the other was Ceferino Garcia (6 out of 120 fights). 

Henry Armstrong had 183 fights and was only stopped twice. One of those was in his first pro fight. He was stopped one other time, by Fritzie Zivic. Zivic had a total of 232 fights and only lost four times by kayo. 

These are astounding numbers, made even more so when you look at the level of competition these men were facing. But if you think more deeply about what was going on, then it isn’t surprising to see these statistics.  

Teddy Yarosz

To begin with, none of these fighters entered the ring assuming they were going to win by knock out. They were always ready to go the distance. They would score a kayo if the opportunity presented itself, which was rare when facing such talented opposition. They also had great defensive skills. Fighting often, as did Canzoneri when he fought 13 times in 1930 alone, they were always sharp. On top of this, when in the gym they were sparring with seasoned pros. They studied the sport and knew it in depth. 

These great fighters also knew how to keep their wits about them in a fight. When hurt the kept their composure. They knew how to tie up an opponent and take time to clear their heads. They also knew not to get wild when they had an opponent hurt as often a hurt fighter could be more dangerous, and getting wild with punches would leave give that opponent an opportunity to land a shot that could turn the fight around.

When comparing fighters from today to the greats of the past it is important to look at more than just knock out percentages. You have to take into account the level of opposition. When you do that there is no comparison. Just spend some time watching these old masters at work and you will see how superior they were. 

Tony Canzoneri, Forgotten Great

Tony Canzoneri

Forgotten Great

From The Golden Age Of Boxing

By Bobby Franklin

Tony Canzoneri

I recently did a search on the internet to see what I could learn about the great three title holder Tony Canzoneri. I was quite amazed to see that very little has been written about this man who ranks among the greatest fighters of all time. There is some footage of him on YouTube and quite a few photographs but not much more. 

In 2012 boxing historan Mike Casey wrote a fine tribute about Canzoneri that gave a lot of insight into this interesting man who died at the age of 51. Mike’s well researched piece is definitely worth reading.

Tony Canzoneri, who looked like a cross between Babe Ruth and Edward G. Robinson, was born in Slidell, Louisiana on November 6, 1908. From an early age he wanted to be a boxer and began an amateur career while living there. As a kid he met the great bantamweight champ Kid Herman, and was fascinated by the old boxer.  When he was 14 he and his family moved to New York. It was there that Tony really got down to the business of perfecting his craft.

Canzoneri was a great observer and would watch other fighters and learn from them. He developed his own unique style. Benny Leonard said of Tony that he had a style that could not be copied as it only worked for him, but it made him a great fighter.

Canzoneri and Ross

Tony went on to win world titles in the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions. He was the NBA featherweight champion. During his career he fought 18 world champions and 6 hall of famers. He fought some of the greatest fighters of all time including Kid Chocolate, Barney Ross, Lou Ambers, Jimmy McLarnin, Billy Petrolle, Jackie Kid Berg, Benny Bass, Al Singer, and Bud Taylor. 

In a career spanning 175 fights he was only stopped once, and that was in his last fight when he took on Al Bummy Davis. Considering the opposition he faced, that was a remarkable feat. In fact, his record is awe inspiring. He had 137 wins against just 24 losses with 10 draws. 

Tony Kayos Kid Chocolate

Tony was a tremendous puncher and a great counter puncher. He carried his left hand low in a usually successful ploy to set up his right hand. His jab was powerful. He was a very hard puncher. One example of his power was when he kayoed Kid Chocolate in the 2nd round in 1933. It was the first time the Kid had been kayoed in 100 fights, and only one of two times the great Cuban champion had been stopped in 152 bouts.

Today’s fight fans would probably look at Tony’s record and say he couldn’t have been much of a puncher because knockouts only accounted for 44 of his 137 wins. What they don’t understand is the opposition he was up against. The great fighters of that day were next to impossible to kayo. 

You had opponents of Canzoneri such as  Kid Chocolate who was only stopped twice in 152 fights, Jimmy McLarnin lost only one fight by KO out of 69. There was Lou Ambers, stopped only twice out of 104 fights, and Barney Ross who never lost by stoppage in 79 fights. Benny Bass went through a career consisting of 195 fights and was only stopped twice. 

In that era having a big punch wasn’t enough. You had to know how to box. The great fighters all had great defensive skills, were extremely experienced, and knew how to survive when hurt. In fact, many of them were more dangerous when they were hurt.

I am a great admirer of Roberto Duran and have called him the last of the old school fighters, but I would argue that Tony Canzoneri was as hard, if not a harder puncher than the great Panamanian. If Duran had faced similar opposition his knock out percentage would be much lower.

McLarnin vs Canzoneri 1936

Canzoneri is exciting to watch in action. His fights against Jimmy McLarnin and Lou Ambers which are on YouTube are. Studying these great fighters really forces you to put things into perspective when comparing boxers from the different eras. The subtle moves, the ring savviness, the footwork they exhibit is something to behold.

As Benny Leonard observed, Canzoneri had a very unique style. He could do it all in there. 

In 1939, after fighting for 14 years, Tony hung up the gloves. A string of bad investments and high living left him broke after a few years, but he remained popular with the public and loved talking boxing with his fans. 

Gentleman Tony

Did he have any regrets? In Mike Casey’s article he quotes the Champ as saying, “I often wonder whether it was worth it. But I don’t have to wait long for the answer. Every day strangers stop me in the street and say, ‘Aren’t you Tony Canzoneri?’ Lots of times, little kids who weren’t even a gleam in their father’s eye when I was fighting, ask for autographs or just to shake my hand. It’s a wonderful feeling to be remembered after all these years. Sure it was worth it, every drop of blood and every stitch of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

It’s sad to think how few people recognize his name today. 

“An Iliad” Returns To ArtsEmerson In Boston

AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE BRINGS DENIS O’HARE BACK TO BOSTON 

ARTSEMERSON PROUDLY PRESENTS 

AN ILIAD 

AWARD-WINNING ADAPTATION OF HOMER’S EPIC POEM RETURNS A HOMER’S COAT PRODUCTION IN ASSOCIATION WITH OCTOPUS THEATRICALS
——
FOUR PERFORMANCES ONLY
NOVEMBER 20 – 24, 2019
EMERSON PARAMOUNT CENTER
ROBERT J. ORCHARD STAGE

Denis O’Hare
Photo: Joan Marcus

Six years after its original Boston run, ArtsEmerson is delighted to welcome back Tony Award-winning actor Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson with their Obie Award-winning adaptation of Homer’s classic, An Iliad. 

An Iliad spins the familiar tale of gods and goddesses, undying love and endless battles told through the eyes of a single narrator, whose enigmatic experience of the war reverberates with today’s headlines. Peterson’s acclaimed, cutting edge work as a theatre director here combines with O’Hare’s inimitable range as an actor to create a tour-de-force performance of this sweeping account of humanity’s unshakeable attraction to violence, destruction and chaos. 

A visceral and breathtaking encore performance, An Iliad plays four performances only, November 20 -24, 2019, at the Emerson Paramount Center’s Robert J. Orchard Stage. Tickets may be purchased at www.ArtsEmerson.org, by phone at 617.824.8400 or at the box office.”We are really looking forward to returning to ArtsEmerson, where we built the tour of An Iliad,” says director and Homer’s Coat co-founder Lisa Peterson. “We have very fond memories of the Boston audience.” 

“Denis O’Hare’s performance in An Iliad remains an indelible high-water mark in our first decade, and from the moment the lights went down on his first show at ArtsEmerson we began talking about bringing him back for an encore,” says ArtsEmerson artistic director David Dower. “That was in our third season, and ArtsEmerson has since gone on to establish a reputation for memorable solo storytelling– Daniel Beaty’s Mr. Joy, Melinda Lopez’ Mala, Thaddeus Phillips’ 17 Border Crossings, Alex Alpharoah’s Wet, and Isabella Rosellini’s Green Porno all followed. Denis and director Lisa Peterson delivered a powerful and thoroughly gripping adaptation of Homer’s epic text, and the intimacy and immediacy of the performance itself knocked us out. Our desire to share this experience with a wider Boston audience actually gave rise to the animating idea of our 10th anniversary season– bringing back five iconic moments from our first nine seasons and coupling them with five brand new commissioned works.” 

“A Christmas Carol” Opens At North Shore Music Theatre December 6

NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE PRESENTS

THE 29TH ANNUAL PRODUCTION OF

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

A MUSICAL GHOST STORY

14 PERFORMANCES ONLY

December 6 – 22, 2019 

Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) will once again present the area’s most beloved production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL This award-winning, original musical adaptation was created solely for North Shore Music Theatre in 1989 and cannot be seen anywhere else. A CHRISTMAS CAROL will play 14 performances from Friday, December 6 thru Sunday, December 22, 2019. 

 

“It is hard to believe we are already at the time of year where we are getting ready to deck the halls and start telling this wonderful holiday story once again,” said NSMT’s owner and producer Bill Hanney. “Every year, I meet so many patrons who look at our production of A Christmas Carol as a cornerstone in their Christmas celebration with their families. Along with their introductions, a patron will almost always let me know immediately how many times they have seen the show, and how many generations of their family have enjoyed it since its first performance in 1989. It is always an honor to produce a show that means so much to so many people.”

 

David Coffee and Cheryl McMahon
(Photo: Paul Lyden)

Based on the Charles Dickens classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is an original adaptation by former NSMT Artistic Director Jon Kimbell and members of the NSMT staff, following Ebenezer Scrooge through a series of strange and magical ghostly encounters, where he ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season. With dazzling special effects that have grown even more exciting over time, traditional and original songs, and colorful costumes, A CHRISTMAS CAROL has become a holiday favorite throughout New England having been seen by more than one million people since 1989.

NSMT audience favorite, David Coffee, returns for his twenty-sixth year playing Ebenezer Scrooge. A CHRISTMAS CAROL also features Leigh Barrett (The Ghost of Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit), Peter S. Adams (The Ghost of Christmas Present, Gentleman 1), Michael Gaudio (The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, Young Scrooge), Alex Puette (Jacob Marley), Tommy Labanaris (Narrator), Russell Garrett (Bob Cratchit), Dale Elston (Pearlie), Drew Porrett (Pearlie), Allsun O’Malley (Belle), Andy Tighe (Fred), Cheryl McMahon (Mrs. Dilber/ Mrs. Fezziwig), J.T. Turner (Mr. Fezziwig/Gentleman 2), Bernie Baldassaro (Ensemble), Michael Brennan (Dick Wilkins, Ensemble) Matthew Chappell (Old Joe, Ensemble), Cecilia Snow (Ensemble), Kate Turner (Meg, Ensemble), and Janelle Yull (Ensemble).

The cast of 27 actors will also feature many local young performers including Jack Baumkind (Tiny Tim), Ciaran Mohan (London Boy), Grace Olah (Belinda Cratchit), Asher Navisky (Peter Cratchit), Amanda Padre (Fan), Dylan Prime (London Boy), AJ Scott (Boy Scrooge), and Emilia Tagliani (Martha Cratchit).

A CHRISTMAS CAROL  performances are December 6 – December 22, 2019 (Evening shows December 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 at 7:30pm; Matinees December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 2pm). Tickets can be purchased by calling the North Shore Music Theatre Box Office at (978) 232-7200, via the website at www.nsmt.org or in person at 62 Dunham Road (Route 128, exit 19), Beverly, MA. 

Throughout the run of A CHRISTMAS CAROL NSMT will be collecting toys in the lobby for Tiny Tim’s Toy Drive.  NSMT will be accepting unopened, unwrapped toys for boys and girls ages 2 – 12.  All toys will be donated to Toys for Tots.

ADDITIONAL FREE AUDIENCE ENRICHMENT EVENTS:

OUT at the North Shore, an evening for the LGBTQ+ Community with a post-show reception on Friday, December 13 after the 7:30 pm performance. OUT at the North Shore is sponsored by North Shore Pride.

 

Seaglass Performing Arts Announces Holiday Program

Seaglass Performing Arts Presents

 “On Earth, Peace”

This Holiday Season

As part of the Christmas Prelude program in Kennebunkport, Maine, Seaglass Performing Arts Chorale will be performing a program of music ranging from Gospel Spirituals to Mozart’s Magnificat in C Major. 

This heartfelt expression through music of the desire for Peace on Earth this holiday  season will be performed at South Congregational Church, Temple Street, Kennebunkport, Maine on Saturday December 7 at 7:00 PM, and at the Holy Family Catholic Church, 66 North Ave., Sanford on Sunday December 8, 3 PM.

Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and for students ages 12 to 18. Tickets purchased in advance are $12 for everyone ages 12 and up. Children under 12 will be admitted free of charge.

Tickets available online CLICK HERE, at Morse Hardware in Wells, and at the door (cash only at the door).

Dates and locations 

Saturday December 7, 7 PM

South Congregational Church, Temple Street, Kennebunkport, Maine, 04046

Sunday December 8, 3 PM

Holy Family Catholic Church, 66 North Ave., Sanford, Maine, 04073

About Seaglass

Founded in 1993 by Artistic Director Jean Strazdes, the Seaglass Chorale is a non-auditioned adult choral group of 50-60 voices that has established itself as a voice to be heard! The chorale represents some 20 southern Maine communities and regularly performs throughout the area, with concerts in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Sanford, Saco, and other regional venues. We are well supported by our longtime accompanist, Kimberly Karchenes.

Internationally acclaimed, Seaglass Chorale has traveled to Europe twice, performing in Rome, Venice, Innsbruck, and Budapest. In September of 2004, choristers proudly led the musical prelude at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

The uniqueness of Seaglass events stems not only from the quality of its performances and the generous response of the community, but from its demonstrated connectivity to the community through its benefit concerts. Benefiting organizations include Habitat for Humanity, St. Thomas School in Sanford, the Sanford/Springvale Food Pantry, York County Shelters, Wells Historical Society, Noble High School, Child Abuse Prevention Council, and many others.

The chorale is often called upon in celebration of such diverse community events as the Nasson College Community Center dedication, Franciscan Monastery Anniversary, Laudholm Farms Building Inaugural, Holy Family Church (Sanford) Jubilee, and the Sanford Mainers baseball team playoffs.

In short, no other regional group integrates more fully in its diversity of intended audiences, music, events, and venues – always with its mission focus of performance opportunities through community service.

 

Review: “Admissions” At The SpeakEasy Production Company, Boston

Talking The Talk

Not Walking The Walk

Admissions 

At SpeakEasy Stage Explores Privilege, Values, Snobbery,

And Hypocrisy

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Nathan Malin Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

A few years ago I was watching a news program featuring a story about a successful inner city high school where most of the graduates were going on to college. It was an uplifting story, but one part stuck in my mind to this day. A young African American girl was asked why she wanted to go to college. She responded, “So I can be better than other people.” My heart sank when I heard those words.

In watching Joshua Harmon’s newest play Admissions, now at the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston, those words kept echoing in my head. The play which takes place far from the inner city, at a second tier, on the verge of being first tier, prep school in New Hampshire, deals with what happens when white liberals who are in a position of power, in this case expanding minority admissions to the school, talk the talk of making their school more inclusive and diverse and then have to face the reality of walking the walk when it turns out it means giving up their own privilege. 

Sherri Rosen-Mason is the Head of Admissions for Hillcrest Prep School. Her husband Bill is the Headmaster, and their son Charlie is a senior who’s dream has always been to attend Yale. He has worked hard toward that goal and has the grades and test scores to show for it. Things don’t work out as planned when Perry, Charlie’s close friend who is biracial is accepted at Yale while Charlie’s application is deferred. Charlie believes it is his skin color that has made the difference.

Cheryl McMahon and Maureen Keiller
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

I have seen three of Joshua Harmon’s plays, and he is a master at writing dialog. In the opening scene of Admissions the back and forth between Sherri Rosen-Mason (Maureen Keiller) and Roberta (Cheryl McMahon) who works in development at the school is both funny and telling. Roberta is working on the school catalogue and Sherri is critiquing her work for not showing how racially diverse the school is. It becomes a numbers game about how many students of color attend the school and if they are properly represented in the catalogue. More so, are minority kids made to feel comfortable when perusing it. 

The conversation between the two on who qualifies as black enough becomes awkward for Sherri as Roberta cuts to the quick with just what Sherri is trying to say. While funny, the conversation can also make many in the audience feel uncomfortable as while the goal of being more inclusive is good, the discussion of putting people into boxes based on ethnicity has ugly overtones.

This combination of humor and questioning of values is also evident in Charlie’s diatribe when he confronts his parents about why he wasn’t accepted at Yale. Nathan Malin as Charlie is positively outstanding when he goes on about what he sees as the absurdity of figuring out who qualifies as a minority and who doesn’t.  Sherri and Bill (Michael Kaye) are stunned by what their son has said. Bill, “It looks like we successfully raised a Republican”. Oh! The horror! 

Marianna Bassham and Maureen Keiller
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

Another awkward moment occurs when Perry’s mother Ginnie (Marianna Bassham) is sharing her joy over her son being accepted to Yale when she realizes Sherri is implying he only made it because of his skin color. Later in the play Ginnie captures the difficulty her son and so many others have to face because many people feel that way. Marianna Bassham is terrific as always.

The part of the play I found most revealing was where Charlie had decided to take things into his own hands and walk the walk that his parents talked, and made his own decision about where to attend college. Bill launches into a revealing screed about how his son will now have to do such low level jobs as “tossing pizzas and bussing tables”. He also can’t contain his disgust for community colleges. It really does all come down to being better than other people. 

While the play is meant to make people look at their own privilege, in this case white privilege, it is about much more than that. No matter how well intentioned people are, when it comes to getting ahead, or having their children get ahead, are they ever going to cede their connections and power to make things happen? 

White liberals will see this play and feel appropriately guilty. But how many of them will be willing to have a minority student take the seat at the table they reserved for their son or daughter? And is that really the solution?

Michael Kaye and Nathan Malin
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

As with other Speakeasy Productions, I would love to see a more politically diverse audience attend and participate in a discussion. Joshua Harmon knows how to raise questions. He is not afraid to make people uncomfortable, and I would assume this includes himself. And, unlike so many of today’s authors, he does not preach. The audience has to grapple with these questions on their own. 

Sherri’s words are very telling, “If you don’t have a school like a Yale or Harvard on your resume, that actually puts a ceiling on what’s possible in your life. And our son is smart enough to see that. Going to Yale means your life contains all the possibility in the world. Not going there, or one of a handful of schools like it, means there are tables you will never get to sit at, tables whose existence you may never know about.” 

Keeping the table small means always putting limits on what people can achieve. Maybe it’s time to find new places to sit.

While it is easy when hearing about Admissions to put it in a box as a play by and for liberals, it should not be dismissed as such. This is an excellent work and a superb production. The talented cast is outstanding. The set which smoothly transitions from campus office to family kitchen is perfect. No matter your political beliefs, I would strongly urge you to pull up a chair to this table at the SpeakEasy.

Admissions

By Joshua Harmon

Directed by Paul Daigneault

Through November 30

SpeakEasy Stage Company

South End, Boston

speakeasystage.com

617.933.8600

Review: “Marie And Rosetta” At The Greater Boston Stage Company

The Godmother Of Rock And Roll

Receives The Respect She Is Due

In 

Marie And Rosetta

At The 

Greater Boston Stage Company

Reviewed By Bobby Franklin

Lovely Hoffman
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a major influence on rock and roll music. She was a favorite of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many other top names from the early days of rock music. Beginning in 1940 Sister Rosetta began using electric guitar in her Gospel Music performances. Her unique style would influence Chuck Berry and Elvis. Just last year she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Still, most people have not heard of her. With the advent of Youtube, videos of her performances are now available for the general public to view. 

In Marie And Rosetta, playwright George Brant has attempted to tell the story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. This is done by setting the play in a funeral home where Tharpe and her young protege Marie Knight are having their first rehearsal, as they are joining together for upcoming performances. Why a funeral home? The story takes place in 1946 in Mississippi and the Jim Crow South wasn’t exactly accommodating to black performers traveling through the area. Since they could not stay at the local hotels, they were dependent on friends finding them a place to stay. On this night it happened to be a funeral home. Toward the end of the play that symbolism will play into the story.

Lovely Hoffman and Pier Lamia Porter
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Pier Lamia Porter as Marie and Lovely Hoffman as Sister Rosetta both deliver terrific performances and have amazing voices. Ms Hoffman’s interpretation of Tharpe brings the soul of her being to life at the theatre in Stoneham, MA. This is not impersonation or caricature, but rather an exploration of a dynamic and powerful woman. Accompanied by Marquis Lewis on guitar and musical director Erica Telisnor on piano, (Ms Hoffman and Ms Porter go through the motions on muted instruments) the musical numbers are outstanding.

Pier Lamia Porter and Lovely Hoffman
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Not all of Sister Rosetta’s hits will be familiar to most audience members, but you will leave the theatre wanting to hear more. From Gospel songs such as Were You There, to This Train, and Didn’t It Rain to the smoking Tall Skinny Papa and rocking Up Above My Head, there is never a dull musical moment. 

Ms Hoffman, who said she grew up in the church (her father was a minister) knows her Gospel music. She, as Sister Rosetta did, is able to combine the spiritual with a rocking and soulful influence to recreate the sound that was at the root of the early rock era. While she is not actually playing the guitar, her movements with it show how much Tharpe influenced the early musicians. I was very much taken with her performance and was left wanting more.

Ms Porter as Marie is at first seen as shy and reluctant to step into the spotlight but quickly gains confidence with Tharpe’s encouragement. Her interpretation of Were You There is marvelous, as was her take on Peace In The Valley. 

Lovely Hoffman and Pier Lamia Porter
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Both Hoffman and Porter were outstanding when singing together, most notably on Didn’t It Rain, Up Above My Head, and Tall Skinny Papa. The two had just worked together in Little Shop of Horrors at the Lyric Stage and actually began prepping for Marie and Rosetta while still there. If there was any strain with working together through two shows without a break, it didn’t show here.

The music is the strong part of this production, and while Sister Rosetta’s story is a fascinating one, the dialogue gets a bit muddy and drawn out at times. This is not a major flaw and certainly is no reason to pass on this wonderful show. I just wish it had been a bit stronger. I think what is a very good story could be made into a fantastic one with a little touching up. 

The Sister Rosetta Tharpe story is an important one to tell. She is known as the Godmother of Rock and Roll, and is certainly deserving of that title. Seeing Marie and Rosetta at the Greater Boston Stage Company is a fine way to be introduced to this musical legend. As was the case with me, you will find yourself wanting to hear more of her music. You will also want to learn more about this amazing woman who said “I brought a little club to the church, and a little church to the club”.  

I recommend you head up to Stoneham to see this solid and very enjoyable musical play, not only because it is very good, but also because it is important to get to know Sister Rosetta Tharpe. You’ll be glad you did.

Marie And Rosetta

Directed By Pascale Floresta

Though November 10

The Greater Boston Stage Company

In Collaboration With Front Porch Arts Collective

Stoneham, MA

781.279.2200

greaterbostonstage.org