All posts by Bobby Franklin

Review: “Jimmy Buffet’s Escape To Margaritaville” At The Ogunquit Playhouse

You’ll Find Your Lost Shaker Of Salt

And A Lot More At The Ogunquit Playhouse 

Production of 

 Jimmy Buffet’s Escape To Margaritaville

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Photo: Nile Scott Studios/Nile Hawver

There hasn’t been a lot of sunshine so far this summer, but at the Ogunquit Playhouse everyday is a beach day with Jimmy Buffet’s Escape To Margaritaville, the 2018 Broadway hit that has now been adapted for the stage in Ogunquit. Director Richard J. Hinds was allowed freedom with the script that gives the musical the Ogunquit Playhouse magic touch, the touch that always makes things better.

The 2018 Broadway jukebox musical built around the music of Jimmy Buffet normally would not be considered very deep. However, as we are emerging from well over a year of social distancing and, for many, isolation, a work such as this allows us to laugh, sing together, and get back to what it means to share fun and music with one another. 

Jake David Smith, Cailen Fu.
Photo: Nile Scott Studios/Nile Hawver

Spending two hours with Tully ((Jake David Smith), Rachel (Cailen Fu), Brick (Matt Wolpe), Tammy (Megan Kane), JD (John Antony), Marley (Crystal Sha’nae), Jamal (Tyler McKenzie), and the rest of this energetic and enthusiastic cast allows us to have some of the much needed Changes In Latitudes, Change In Attitudes that we have been seeking.

It might seem odd to describe this musical as touching and moving, but 2018 seems like it was decades ago and songs and lines that might have seemed a bit corny back then mean much more now. It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere sure hits the spot now.

The story that begins with Tammy and Rachel visiting a Caribbean Island in the week before Tammy’s wedding brings together all these wonderful characters who end up finding much to learn from each other and what’s important in life. Rachel at first finds it hard to relax but finally lets her hair down with Tully (Son Of A Son Of  A Sailor), while Brick and Tammy connect during We Are The People Our Parents Warned Us.

The hotel/bar where Brick and Tully work and Rachel and Tammy are staying is run by Marley who has help from Jamal. Marley is quite the gossip as we learn in Coconut Telegraph. Ms Sha’nae uses a lovely patois as she sings while spreading the latest rumors. 

Matt Wolpe and Megan Kane.
Photo: Nile Scott Studios/Nile Hawver

From the opening number straight through to the close the energy of the cast was in full force . Mr. Smith when performing Margaritaville begins with a simple acoustic guitar and is then joined by John Antony, Matt Wolpe, Crystal Sha’nae, and Tyler McKenzie who were all marvelous as they build it into a terrific finale for the first act. It almost seemed a shame to have to pause for intermission. 

There are two zombie dance sequences that are quite something to see. The zombies are brought on by Brick’s anxieties, and sure make for some interesting staging. You wouldn’t mind having this gang show up at one of your barbecues. 

JD is a 76 year old beach bum who spends his days at the bar telling stories most of the people don’t believe. This changes during the touching He Went To Paris, where his life story is told and the non believers have their eyes opened. 

Being in the outdoor pavilion has not forced the team at the Playhouse to compromise on lighting and effects. While I am sure it has been a real challenge for them, they have pulled it off marvelously. The volcano eruption sequence is evidence of that. 

Photo: Nile Scott Studios/Nile Hawver

The staging is impressive and the sets are vividly colorful. I was quite impressed with the acoustics considering this is taking place in an outdoor pavilion. It rivaled what would be heard at the indoor venue. 

The show is full of high spots. A few that were even a bit higher for me were Why Don’t We Get Drunk with JD urging the audience to fill in the blank about what to do after imbibing. Come Monday with Brick and Tammy, and of course, Cheeseburger In Paradise where Tammy and Brick bring down the house. 

John Antony and Crystal Sha’Nae. Photo: Nile Scott Studios/Nile Hawver

While the audience was clearly thrilled with the production, the cast members showed by their enthusiasm how happy they were to be back on the stage. 

The orchestra, complete with steel drums, gives a solid Caribbean Island flavor to the score that makes you thirsty for a tasty margarita that is available at the bar. Situated high up on both sides of the stage it sounded great. 

I must confess, that while I grew up during the heyday of Jimmy Buffet and was familiar with some of his songs, I was far from a Parrot Head. After seeing this production I will be listening much more. At this point I’m now probably more JD than Tully, but it is still fun.

The superb cast, the delightful music, the summertime energy make this a must see show.

The superb cast, the delightful music, the summertime energy make this a must see show. With Ogunquit Beach just down the street and with ocean breezes wafting through the Leary Pavillon, you couldn’t ask for a better setting for a musical featuring the music of Jimmy Buffet. Even with all of the challenges it has faced, the Ogunquit Playhouse continues to exceed expectations. 

It’s time to enjoy life again, to smile and share and connect. Come and take a bite out of this Cheeseburger In Paradise in Ogunquit. You won’t be disappointed.

Jimmy Buffet’s Escape To Margaritaville

Through August 28

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit, Maine

ogunquitplayhouse.org 

207.646.5511

. 

  

Controversy Brews Over Ogunquit Ocean Rescue

Ogunquit Ocean Rescue

Protecting Lives

Often Not Appreciated

By Bobby Franklin 

Ogunquit, Maine is known for, among other things, the great performances staged each year at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Unfortunately, the theatrics in this beautiful seacoast town are not confined to the stage of the Playhouse. The town with a year round population of just over a thousand residents has constant drama in its government. The players seem to be continually at war with one another, and quite often these battles become highly personal. The latest one playing out has to do with the leadership of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue.

At the end of June this year the interim Town Manager Matthew Buttrick decided to replace the Captain of the lifeguards, JP Argenti, with the incoming Fire Chief Russell Osgood. Even though Mr. Osgood has no experience as a lifeguard and is not certified for the position it was felt he could handle the job. This was done without public input, and it is unclear what, if any, input the Select Board had with the decision. The Town manager has said this was done to reduce the amount of department heads responding directly to him. Others have said it was because Mr. Argenti was pushing for pay increases for the lifeguards. The possibility that this was done for personal reasons has also been floated. The Town Select Board has remained silent on the issue other than to approve the appointment of Mr. Osgood as Lifeguard Captain.

Captain Jay Argenti and Guard Jacob Leonard Keeping Watch

The upshot of all of this is that Mr. Argenti, a twenty year veteran of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue and Captain for the past eight years has been dismissed and is no longer a member of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue. An additional fifteen lifeguards have either resigned or have signaled they will not be joining the service when scheduled to do so. Among these are the most experienced members of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue. This has all been happening just as the summer season is kicking into full swing. It is also a year that is seeing a 30 year high in lifeguard shortages across the nation, and an increase in drownings throughout New England. 

Over the past ten years I have spent a lot of time on the beach at Ogunquit. It is listed as the 7th most beautiful beach in the country, and it certainly deserves that designation. It is a breathtaking seashore with magnificent sunrises and sunsets, wonderful clean water, and a river with a strong current that flows into it. It can also be a bit treacherous as the sands are constantly shifting making for unpredictable riptides. On a typical beach day upwards of 20,000 people will pour onto the 1.5 mile long beach. When staffing is at full capacity there will be 17 lifeguards looking out for the public that is visiting. This out of a full compliment of 35. Most years the guards are about equally divided between male and female. 

On a typical beach day upwards of 20,000 people will pour onto the 1.5 mile long beach.

I once remember hearing someone on the beach remark while watching the life guards that “These kids get paid to hang around the beach all day. What a racket”. I get the feeling that sentiment is felt by the leaders of the Town of Ogunquit. I hope I am wrong, as the job of Ocean Rescue is much more complicated than “hanging around the beach all day”.

Then Jet Ski

Lifeguards must be Red Cross certified. At Ogunquit under JP Argenti, they went through extensive training that continued during the season. This training includes ocean rescue techniques, using a board and rescue can, CPR, first aid, AED (defibrillator), radio traffic, numerous workouts involving running, swimming, paddling, medical rescue scenarios, rules and guidelines. 

Guards also have to deal with such things as unruly people, enforcing regulations regarding alcohol and smoking, finding lost children, administrating aid to people suffering from heat related problems and even hypothermia caused by being in the cold water too long. They help disabled people on and off the beach. While doing all of this, team members also have to keep watch for people who may be getting into trouble in the water. Riptides are a major issue that can prevent swimmers from reaching shore. The lifeguards have to keep constant watch for signs that the water may be becoming more dangerous and remain alert for the dangers caused by these changes. 

If all that isn’t enough, the members of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue also assist people out of danger and back to shore  and prevent them from entering dangerous areas. They provide patrons information, perform water testing for Maine Healthy Beaches, monitor the plovers and the dunes, while on slow days (if there can be such a thing) they clean up the beach and do workouts and more training.

When jumping in to save a swimmer in distress the lifeguard puts him/her self in extreme danger. This is where the training and proper use of equipment pays off.

On top of all that, the most dangerous part of the job is springing into action to save swimmers who are in imminent danger of drowning. This is most common near the mouth of the river where the current becomes very strong during the changing tide as the water drops off and becomes colder as it enters the ocean. When jumping in to save a swimmer in distress the lifeguard puts him/her self in extreme danger. This is where the training and proper use of equipment pays off. Knowing how to maneuver the jet ski and board is a difficult skill to acquire but pays off when the time comes. When a life is in danger these “kids” take on a whole different aura of importance. They are highly skilled professionals, well trained, with the courage to risk their lives to save others. 

In the conversations I have had with JP Argenti over the years I have not only been impressed with his professionalism and knowledge of the beach, but also how steeped in the history of Ogunquit Beach he is. His dedication to his job and love for the area runs deep. He and members of the team could often be seen there after hours when he felt their services might still be needed. 

Ogunquit Lifeguards, 1926

Ogunquit Beach has a long and colorful history. There is some evidence the first lifeguards served on the beach in 1909 as tourism began to grow. At the time they were a volunteer group. In 1925 the Village of Ogunquit took control of the beach through eminent domain and it was designated a public park. The following year the Ogunquit Village Improvement Association set up the first publicly funded life guard service. A young Bette Davis was a member of that original group of life savers and wrote about her time with them in her autobiography. 

For many years only five lifeguards patrolled the beach. They would use a lifeboat when attempting to save people, but the techniques were not what they are today. In 1946 a lifeguard drowned and with the boat in disrepair, funding was increased. 

Lifeguard Bette Davis Working At Ogunquit Beach

Another incident in 1981 led to a further increase in funding when a child was pulled out to sea and never recovered. Over the years funding has been increased, but at times it has also been reduced. When JP took over as Captain he fought to increase funding and improve training and equipment. He did this to ensure the public would be safe by having the best lifeguards possible. 

The current starting pay rate for lifeguards posted on the Town of Ogunquit website is $18.00 per hour with a maximum of $21.50. There are no benefits included. I also looked to see if any bonus was given to those who worked last year in the midst of the pandemic while the beach was still crowded and the risk of infection was high. There was none even though parking revenue to the town was at a healthy level. 

What draws a person to seek employment as a member of Ogunquit Ocean Rescue? JP told me it is a combination of working at the beach along with the camaraderie, adventure, risk of the job, an interest in the medical fields as well as the friendships that are built. The biggest satisfaction is found in knowing the role they all play in keeping people safe. 

As with any professional, they expect a good measure of respect, something that is lacking in the town.

Pay is an important factor especially among the older and more experienced lifeguards who may have families to support, but it is not pay alone that draws them. They take extreme pride in their profession. As with any professional, they expect a good measure of respect, something that is lacking in the town.

The veteran guards play a very important role in helping the younger and less experienced members of Ocean Rescue learn the profession.

The veteran guards play a very important role in helping the younger and less experienced members of Ocean Rescue learn the profession. It is vital these veterans are there to pass on their wisdom. This is very serious work and there is no substitute for the skills that have been gained by having been on the job for a period of time. It looks like most of these top lifesavers are now gone.

Well Trained And Ready To Save Lives

The revenue brought in from fees charged for parking in the lots near the beach is a major source of income for the town. The fees have been raised and the hours when they are required have increased. People who pay these charges expect to have a level of protection while on the beach. That safety net is now in question.

Those active in town politics squabble over just about anything. The old saying that it takes a village doesn’t appear to apply in this hamlet of just 4 square miles. Most of the time these arguments and the petty backbiting that goes along with them don’t mean a lot. However, in the case of Ocean Rescue, people’s lives are on the line. It is a time for leadership and full transparency in the Town of Ogunquit. I have to wonder how much time the members of the Select Board have spent on the beach observing Ocean Rescue in action? I can only hope it doesn’t take a tragedy to bring people to their senses.

Ogunquit Ocean Rescue has been an elite force for years now. You would be hard pressed to find another life guard service that comes close to how the team under JP Argenti has performed. Ogunquit was lucky to have them; it’s too bad they don’t realize this.

Joe Louis Vs Johnny Shkor

Joe Louis Got To

Know The Score 

In Boston:

Johnny Shkor That Is

By Bobby Franklin

The Greater Boston area has been home to two World Heavyweight Champions; John L. Sullivan and Rocky Marciano, neither of whom ever defended the title there. In fact, even though boxing has always been popular in Boston, there has only been one Heavyweight Title fight held in Beantown. That was the 1940 match between the great Joe Louis and Al McCoy. Interestingly, McCoy was a native of Maine and resided in Waterville though he fought often in Boston.

When it was decided Louis would travel to Boston to defend the championship there were two New England fighters who stood out has the prime challengers to take on the Brown Bomber. One was McCoy and the other was Tony Shucco, a Boston native. I’m not sure why McCoy was picked but many old timers told me they believe, because of his style, Shucco would have been able to give Joe a better fight. 

The fight took place on December 16, 1940 at the Boston Garden. A crowd of 13,334 showed up to watch as Louis handed out a one sided drubbing to the very game McCoy. The fight ended when the New England fighter was unable to come out for the fifth round. 

Al McCoy And Joe Louis Weighing In
(Photo By Leslie Jones)

The Louis of 1940 was pretty much at his peak and is still thought by many experts to have been the greatest heavyweight champion ever. While McCoy was never a threat, Boston fans did get to see the Champ in action. Nobody complained as the outcome was a forgone conclusion.

So that was the only time Joe Louis would be seen in a Boston boxing ring, or was it? Well, no. Joe never again defended the title title in Boston, But he did return for a couple of exciting appearances a few years later. His second and third visits turned out to be more exciting than his fight against Al McCoy. For even though these bouts were labeled as exhibitions, they were in fact hard fought battles. The second bout in particular.

In June of 1948 Joe Louis had his last fight as champion when he kayoed Jersey Joe Walcott in the 11th round. 7 months earlier Walcott had give Louis all he could handle for 15 rounds while losing a decision many believed he deserved to win. Joe wanted to prove he was the better fighter and did. Most thought he would retire after the fight, and Joe wanted to but he was facing financial difficulties stemming from tax problems he was having with the IRS. Instead of calling it quits he went on a barnstorming tour of “exhibitions” where he figured he could pick up some easy money. Still being champion made him more marketable.

Johnny Shkor With Manager Johnny Buckley In 1947

On two occasions during his tour Louis stopped in Boston. His opponent in both matches was tough contender Johnny Shkor (pronounced “score”). Shkor was a hard punching 6’4” battler who weighed in at around 220 pounds for many of his fights. He was originally from Baltimore but fought out of Boston where he was managed by Johnny Buckley. He had a career final record of 52 bouts with 31 wins, 19 losses, and 2 draws. 22 of his wins came via knock out. His biggest victory was a 1947 stoppage on cuts of Tami Mauriello which took place at the Boston Arena. Shkor would also go on to face two future champs, Jersey Joe Walcott and Rocky Marciano.

The first encounter between Louis and Shkor took place at the Boston Arena on November 8, 1948 before 5,518 fans. According to Boston Globe sports writer Clif Keane it was a very spirited affair. And even though they fought with 14 ounce gloves Keane wrote “…there was more action in the four rounds than in Louis’ two titular fights with Jersey Joe Walcott…” Late in the fourth round Louis received a gash over his right eye from a clash of heads as Shkor waded into him. Former champ Jack Sharkey worked Shkor’s corner and former Welterweight Champion Jack Britton was the third man in the ring. 

A year and a week later the two would go at it again, this time at the Boston Garden. At this point Joe had announced his retirement and, though he denied it, was testing the waters for a title match against the new champion Ezzard Charles. 

Johnny Shkor Has The Deck In The Second Bout With Joe Louis

Their “rematch” was scheduled for ten rounds, and again they wore 14 ounce gloves. Before 8,471 fans they picked up where they had let off. Louis came out strong and dropped Shkor three times in the first three rounds, once in the second and twice in the third. It appeared the fight wouldn’t go further than the four rounds the two went the year before, but Shkor proved tough and durable while Louis was not in top condition. The former champ coasted a bit but still had to keep Johnny in his place as the former sailor was not giving up. Again, the fans got more than their money’s worth. Louis had nothing but praise for Shkor after the fight telling reporters Johnny had improved since their first encounter and should be taken seriously as a contender.

Joe Louis

While Joe kept denying he was heading for a comeback, 10 months later he was in the ring with Champion Ezzard Charles in what was a brutal fifteen round battle won by the Cincinnati Cobra. Louis continued to fight after that but never fought for the title again. Nine fights later he would be kayoed by Rocky Marciano in a fight that is still painful to watch. The great champion stayed on too long.

Boston fans were lucky in 1948 and 1949 to see the great Joe Louis in action, especially since he was in with a guy like Johnny Shkor who gave it his all. 

(I want to thank my friend Dan Cuoco for providing me with news clippings from the bouts.)

Theatre By The Sea Reopens July 9 With Nicolas King

 

POP-JAZZ CROONER NICOLAS KING

BRINGS NEW SHOW TO THEATRE BY THE SEA

Nicolas King

Theatre By The Sea’s owner and producer Bill Hanney, who recently announced the reopening of Theatre By The Sea after a 21-month intermission, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, is ecstatic to open the 2021 Summer Concert Series with Rhode Island’s own Nicolas King on Friday, July 9 and Saturday, July 10 at 8:00 pm. 

Nicolas King has been performing since he was four years old. Having been in three Broadway productions before the age of twelve is no small feat! Aside from appearing opposite Tom Selleck in A Thousand Clowns and Carol Burnett’s Hollywood Arms, directed by Hal Prince, he was Broadway’s longest running Chip in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast. Mr. King has also appeared in dozens of national television commercials, including his award-winning “Oscar Mayer Lunchables” commercial. He has appeared on numerous television talk shows including “The View,” “The Today Show,” “Sally Jesse Raphael,” “Liza & David,” and twice on “The  Tonight  Show” with Jay Leno, (including Leno’s final week as host in 2014). Nicolas’ latest album, “Act One – Celebrating 25 Years of Recordings,” was released in 2021 with Club 44 Records and features collaborations with Jane Monheit, Norm Lewis, hit-maker Charles Calello, and longtime musical director Mike Renzi. He performed on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon for eight consecutive years live in Las Vegas, originated the voice of Oscar on Discovery Kids’ “Kenny The Shark” and is the recipient of the 1995 and 1996 Talent America Award, the 2010 Julie Wilson Award, the 2015 AMG Award for Artist of the Year, the 2012 Bistro Award for Outstanding Performer of the Year, the 2019 Legends Award for his contribution to the preservation of the Great American Songbook, and the 2021 BroadwayWorld Award for Best Swing Act. In addition to performing with artists such as Tony Danza, Andrea McArdle, Jack Jones, Lainie Kazan, Donna McKechnie, Faith Prince, Billy Paul, Jennifer Holliday, Debby Boone, and Linda Lavin, he has also performed alongside his mentor, the legendary Liza Minnelli, since he was eleven years old as her opening act from 2002-2012, touring throughout the country. Mr. King has performed on many iconic stages including concerts and appearances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Birdland, 54 Below, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and aboard Silversea and Crystal Cruises.

Accompanied by the Mike Renzi Trio, Nicolas will be performing a collection of jazz, pop and Broadway songs which celebrate the ups and downs of a year we are all happy is over. This optimistic set highlights lessons learned, new perspectives gained, and the music that got us through it all. 

Hindsight’s 2020 with Nicolas King will be at Theatre By The Sea on Friday, July 9 and Saturday, July 10 at 8:00 pm. Additional performances for the 2021 Summer Concert Series will take place on July 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31 at 8:00 pm. The theatre is located at 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield. Tickets are $29 – $52 (additional fees may apply). Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more by calling (401) 782-3800 x112. Tickets are currently on sale online 24-hours-a-day at www.theatrebythesea.com and via telephone from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday by calling (401) 782-TKTS (8587). 

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The Ogunquit Playhouse Is Back With “Monty Python’s Spamalot”

With Monty Python’s Spamalot

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Returns Us To The Bright Side Of Life

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Charles Shaughnessy as King Arthur and Mariand Torres as The Lady of the Lake

In the early spring of 2020 hope began to fade that the Corona Virus was going to recede, and the reality that life for all of us was going to be quite different for some time was setting in. At the time Brad Kenney, Executive Artistic Director of the Playhouse, had to make the announcement the 2020 Season would be canceled. Brad did this via video and the poor guy could not have looked more beaten down. His heart and soul is in the Ogunquit Playhouse and having to let the public know the curtain wouldn’t be going up last year was heart wrenching. It seemed sure the place would  remain dark for a long time. Some wondered if it would be able to survive.

Well, Brad may have been staggered and even floored, but the count never got to ten. He soon recovered and was back in the fight, a fight he was not going to lose. After having to refund over 50% of the ticket sale money for the up coming season Brad went to work on fundraising, and more importantly, keeping the flame burning at the playhouse. This began with video talks with Playhouse Alumni such as Sally Struthers. The mood was changing for the better. Next was the Playhouse Cabaret Series where performers from past seasons displayed their talents before small crowds outside the theatre in a cafe setting. So, even though the season was officially canceled, there were still performances taking place before a live audience. 

Left to Right) Jen Cody, Dwelvan David, Charles Shaughnessy, Mariand Torres, Josh Grisetti, and Daniel Lopez (Photo by Gary Ng)

As the 2021 Season approached it was still unknown if the COVID restrictions would allow for the theatre to reopen. Since it takes some time to put together full scale productions it was decided to build a pavilion next to the theatre where it would be easier to allow for social distancing and ventilation. 

With generous donations from the many loyal supporters of the Playhouse, and a huge gift from benefactors Carol and Noel Leary, the Leary Pavillon was erected and a four show season was planned.

Last Friday night the season kicked off with Monty Python’s Spamalot. As one of the tag-lines from Monty Python goes; “And now for something completely different”. Well, not completely different as this production lives up to the high standards the Ogunquit Playhouse has always adhered to.

The laughter that came from the audience in response to those lines shows the resilience people have and how, just like the Ogunquit Playhouse, we are not giving up.

It was an interesting choice as the first musical to play since the pandemic hit in that it opens with references to plague and deaths. Grim? Not at all, gallows humor is exactly what is needed at this time. The laughter that came from the audience in response to those lines shows the resilience people have and how, just like the Ogunquit Playhouse, we are not giving up. 

Charles Shaughnessy is excellent in leading the cast as Arthur the King who just can’t seem to command respect. Sent by God on a quest to find the Holy Grail, Arthur is accompanied by his faithful companion Patsy (Jen Cody). Along the way the King assembles members of his Knights of the Round Table, a motley crew who often take things Arthur says literally which causes more than a little Pythonish confusion.

Josh Grisetti as Sir Robin
(Photo by Gary Ng)

Dennis Galahad (Daniel A. Lopez) is not easily convinced to become a knight as he has the radical idea leaders should be chosen by the people and not by Divine Right. The Lady of the Lake (Mariand Torres) appears and wins over Dennis with Come With Me who now becomes Sir Galahad. Ms Torres while singing hilarious songs shows her talent as a genuine Broadway Belter with the Diva’s Lament and Find Your Grail/The Song That Goes Like This.

Jen Cody is outstanding as Patsy. Her performance of the show’s best known song Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life was pitch perfect, and she showed great comedic expressions when Mr. Shaughnessy sang I’m Alone. Poor Patsy who had stood by the King throughout thick and thin was a riot as she looked to the audience with “What about me looks?” as Arthur spun his tale of loneliness.

Jen Cody as Patsy
Photo Credit: Gary Ng

With many of the devices that make Monty Python so popular, such as a giant wooden rabbit, the huge hand, poking fun at the French, and riding on horseback sans horses, fans won’t be disappointed.

The big show tunes are a treat as well. You Won’t Succeed On Broadway (Josh Grisetti) is Mel Brooksian in its formula for it’s humorous take in what you need to produce a Broadway Show while His Name Is Lancelot (Nic Rouleau) is best described as Lancelot’s coming out song.

Music, laughter, beautiful sets, and the joy of the Ogunquit Playhouse is back. Life is good again.

By the finale the audience was fully back in theatre mode. Music, laughter, beautiful sets, and the joy of the Ogunquit Playhouse is back. Life is good again.

I’d like to say a few things about the Leary Pavilion. While it is different from the main theatre it is a very interesting setting for a play. It accommodates 75% of the Playhouse’s indoor capacity. The 25,000 square foot steel structured, fully covered, open air performance venue has a 96 foot wide stage, a full array of lighting, and much better acoustics than I expected. A major plus is having the seats arranged in “pods” of two for social distancing. This also ensures every audience member is guaranteed an aisle seat with plenty of leg room. For a fidgeter like me this is a positive delight. Site lines are clear and unobstructed. You doin’t have to crane your neck to look past people’s heads. Is the pavilion better than the indoor theatre? No. Is it worse? No. It is a different and very interesting experience, and it works very, very well. 

Brad Kenney deserves more than high praise for making this all happen. Don’t think twice about buying tickets for Spamalot and the rest of the season. Come out of your cocoon and step into the world of outstanding musical theatre at the Ogunquit Playhouse. It really feels good to be back looking at the bright side of life!

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Through July 10

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit, Maine

Box Office: 207.646.5511

ogunquitplayhouse.org 

The Ogunquit Playhouse Patio Cabaret Opens June 4

Ogunquit Playhouse 

Opens The

 Playhouse Patio Cabaret

By Bobby Franklin

In addition to the four Main Stage plays being presented this season, the Ogunquit Playhouse will once again be welcoming patrons to their Playhouse Patio Cabaret. The Patio proved extremely popular last year and will be an extra treat this season as things begin to shift back to normal in Ogunquit with the opening of the Main Stage.

The opening performance will see the return of Nat Zegree to the patio. Nat, who rocked the house in Million Dollar Quartet, will be sharing his talent and musical knowledge June 4 through 6. This will be a great prelude to the opening of the first full musical in nearly two year which takes place on June 16 with Monty Python’s Spamalot.

The Playhouse Patio Cabaret will continue throughout the summer with  total of 10 events. In addition to Nat Zegree the performers along with the plays they were in are Diana Huey(Elf The Musical) June 25-27, Jeffry Denman (White Christmas) and David Lamoureux(An American in Paris)July 23-25, F. Michael Haynie (Hunchback of Notre Dame)July 30-August 1, Alysha Umphress (Smokey Joe’s Cafe) and Jeff Blumenkrantz  (Broadway’s Bright Star) 6-8, NicoleVanessa Ortiz August (Smokey Joe’s Cafe)13-15, Kyle Taylor Parker (Kinky Boots) August 20-22, Lindsay Roberts (Ragtime)September 10-12, Jonathan Mousset Alonso (JerseyBoys) and Vince Di Mura September 17-19, and Graham Scott Fleming (Kinky Boots)September 24-26. 

With seats limited to 100 per performance, tickets will run out fast. Last years series sold out within days. Cabaret performances are On Sale Now at ogunquitplayhouse.org and through the Box Office phone lines at 207.646.5511. Seating is by table, priced as $140 for a table of two, and $280 for a table of four, limited to 100 patrons per performance. Pricing includes one complimentary drink per person.

This will be a very exciting summer in Ogunquit led by the very talented performers and staff at the Ogunquit Playhouse. You don’t want to miss out.

2021 Ogunquit Playhouse 2021 Season Announced!

The Show Will Go On

In Ogunquit!

The pandemic put a serious damper on live theatre, and last year the Ogunquit Playhouse was limited to just a few cabaret style outdoor events. Things were up in the air for this year, but the show will go on. The team at the Playhouse have worked hard to come up with a way to stage productions in a safe environment. They have been as creative with providing a new setting as they are with their stage work. It looks to be an exiting year in Ogunquit. 

Bradford T. Kenney, Executive Artistic Director stated, “When it became obvious we couldn’t produce shows indoors this year, the creative wheels began turning on how we could deliver that legendary Ogunquit Playhouse magic in an entirely new way”. Rising from the grounds of the South lawn on the campus this April is The Playhouse Pavilion, a 25,000 square foot, fully covered, open air venue designed to give audiences the greatest theatrical experience in the safest of environments. Fully wired for lights and sound, the 75 foot wide stage will dazzle socially distanced audiences seated in pods of two seats with clear sight lines for all the show stopping glitz and side-splitting laughter they’ve been without for the past year.

The 2021 Season kicks off with Spamalot,  which returns in a new 90-minute, no-intermission extravaganza. From the comedic brilliance of the mighty Pythons and their hysterically inaccurate retelling of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail, Eric Idle adapts his original Broadway script to streamline the music and laughter for a COVID-friendly environment. Spamalot will run June 16 through July 10.

Next up will be the regional premiere of Escape To Margaritaville. You’ll be dining on cheeseburgers in paradise and wasting away with this 90-minute no intermission journey through the music of the incomparable Jimmy Buffett. Kick off your flip flops for seven weeks from July 14 through August 28, as Maine’s Seacoast is transformed into a Caribbean paradise where love and laughter are the keys to growing older without growing up.

Act Three of the season will run from September 1 through October 2 with The Pavilion stage transforming into a quaint New England seacoast village for the World Premiere of Mystic Pizza, the beloved 1980s MGM romantic comedy that launched the career of Julia Roberts. Three girlfriends navigating life, love, and coming-of-age in a working class seaside pizza joint. This pizza is topped with the hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Bringing the curtain down on the season’s Pavilion stage spectacular will a new 90-minute, no intermission, side-splitting version of Young Frankenstein! Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman scared the pants off Broadway giving his 1974 cult classic creature new life on stage as a mind-blowing tap dancing monster of an experience. The creepy and kooky family will run from October 6 through, fittingly, Halloween!

While audience members are not being required to provide their proof of vaccination, Ogunquit Playhouse encourages all patrons and guests to get vaccinated for their own safety and the safety of those around them. They are also making it clear that everyone on campus — staff, artists, and patrons alike — adhere to current State and Federal CDC guidelines for social distancing. Masks will be required at all times, except when eating and drinking. Masks will be provided to those who arrive without one. And patron traffic flow will be managed to ensure the safest, most efficient arrival and departure from the campus.

It’s important to keep in mind that seating in The Pavilion is limited, so it would be wise to purchase tickets and subscriptions early. Playhouse Members will receive a week of pre-sales beginning April 19 at 10AM ET. With an annual Membership of $100 or more, you too can get a fast pass to the front of the line! General Public sales begin April 26 online at ogunquitplayhouse.org and by phone at 207.646.5511.

Knowing this Season will be completely different from what Playhouse audiences are used to, all patrons are encouraged to share their questions and concerns by filling out the comments form at https://bit.ly/3snypuR. While it is not possible to address each inquiry individually,  responses will be shared on the Playhouse Facebook page and in the weekly eNews.

For the latest information on the 2021 Season, please visit http://ogunquitplayhouse.org/ or email mstailey [at] ogunquitplayhouse [dot] org

Rest In Peace Marvelous Marvin Hagler

Marvelous Marvin Hagler

An All Time Great Champion And  Decent Man Is Taken From Us

By Bobby Franklin

Last Saturday night I was logging onto the internet to check my email when I saw on the newsfeed the headline “Marvin Hagler, Former Middleweight Champion, Has Died”. It couldn’t be true I thought. The story said his wife Kay had posted the news on Marvin’s Facebook Page. Knowing the unreliability of social media and how rife for rumors it is I assumed some person with a sick mind had started the rumor and things would be cleared up soon. 

Unfortunately, I was wrong. Soon, other media sources also reported the story. The Champ had died unexpectedly at, or near, his home in Bartlett, New Hampshire. The indestructible Marvelous Marvin Hagler, winner of 62 fights with 52 knock outs was gone. He was only 66 years old and appeared fit enough to still go fifteen rounds at a moments notice. It just couldn’t be.

In 1967 Marvin’s mother moved the family from Newark, NJ to Brockton, MA. Newark had been torn by riots and she wanted a better life for her children. Soon after settling in Brockton Marvin found the Petronelli’s gym and began a career in boxing that would take him to the National A.A.U. Championship and then onto to a spectacular professional career culminating in winning the World Middleweight Championship.

The road to the title was not an easy one. Hagler had a few strikes against him when it came to his quest for a title shot. He lacked connections, he was very good and he was a southpaw. Those at the top avoided him at all costs.

Another thing about Hagler; he was never satisfied. No matter how much he improved he believed he could be better and he kept working at it.

But Marvin had another quality, he was determined and unrelenting. He knew he would be champion some day and he kept working at it. Rising early mornings he would do his roadwork. After finishing running he would spend the day working his job at roofing and construction. Evenings he would be in the gym working to perfect his technique. Another thing about Hagler; he was never satisfied. No matter how much he improved he believed he could be better and he kept working at it.

Fighting for short money Marvin took on the likes of Bennie Briscoe, Willie Monroe, Bobby Watts, Eugene Cyclone Hart, Kevin Finnegan, Mike Colbert, Doug Demmings, Sugar Ray Seales, and Johnny Baldwin. He lost only two times and in both those cases he returned to decisively beat his opponent. And remember, this was all before becoming champion.

It wasn’t until his 49th bout and after six years of fighting that he finally landed a title shot. On November 30, 1979 he got his chance against Champion Vito Antuofermo. After fifteen rounds it appeared to all who had seen the fight that Marvin had won the crown. Unfortunately, two out of the three judges did not see it that way and the fight was ruled a draw allowing Vito to retain the title.

Hagler was crushed but he did not let it stop him. He went on to rack up three more wins and then challenged Alan Minter for the title in London, Minter’s home town. Alan had previously won the championship from Antuofermo. 

Marvin Lands A Right On Alan Minter

Marvin did not leave it to the judges this time. He destroyed Minter inside of three rounds. Finally, the title was his, but he was not allowed to celebrate. The British fans rioted and Hagler was lucky to get out of the ring without being injured or worse. He was denied the joy of being presented with the championship belt in the ring. 

Marvin would go on to successfully defend the title 12 times with only one challenger, Roberto Duran, going the distance with him. To say he was dominant would be an understatement. He had no soft touches in his title defenses. He took on the best and showed what a true champion was made out of. 

It was in his thirteenth defense that he agreed to fight Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard’s career was everything Marvin’s was not when it came to getting breaks. His first pro fight was a televised main event. He made money from day one and was carefully guided to the championship, and he was a media darling. He had retired three years earlier but decided to make a comeback when he perceived Hagler was starting to show signs of slowing down a bit. 

Hagler vs Hearns

The fight was held in La Vegas, the site of the robbery in Marvin’s challenge to Antuofermo. The terms were all set in Leonard’s favor, from the location, to having a large ring, to the distance of the fight being reduced from 15 to 12 rounds. In spite of all this and with Marvin coming off wars in his two previous fights, against Hearns and Mugabi, he appeared to have won the fight. But once again two of the three judges did not see it that way and Leonard was given the decision and the title. 

Again, Marvin was crushed by this theft. The title had been stolen from him. It was believed that he would come back and fight Leonard again, but Leonard did not immediately agree to a rematch. He decided he would leave Marvin dangling. However, Hagler did something not expected and very wise; he walked away from the game. He knew he had defeated Leonard. He had accomplished everything he set out to do in boxing. He had to do it all the hard way, but Marvin knew how to work hard. He left the sport with his head high and his mind intact and a healthy bank account. Not many do.

Hagler Victorious Over Hearns

The adjustment to a life away from boxing was at first a bit rocky, but after some struggles and a divorce Marvin found his stride, He moved to Italy where he made movies. He remarried and bought a second home in the quiet town of Bartlett, New Hampshire. The intensity with which he had to live and fight for so many years was now in the past. Watching interviews with him that were done in recent years you see a content man. He had no demons haunting. He was happily married to his wife Kay for thirty years and they had a great life together. They traveled extensively making personal appearances. The fans still admired him.

Marvin was truly the last of the great throwback fighters. He was without a doubt an all time great. He could have fought in any era and been champion. While it can be argued that some of the greats of the past could have beaten him, it cannot be said for certain that any of them would have.

Kirk Douglas and Marvin Hagler

Marvin Hagler was also a throwback in another sense. He never gave up his dignity, he was always classy and decent. Hagler never let setbacks keep him down, nor did he ever embrace a victim mentality , a way of thinking that is so common today. He was able to channel his disappointments and anger into positive forces that contributed to his successes. I doubt his like will ever be seen again, and we are the lesser because of it.

Rest In Peace Champ. You were taken too soon and will be missed. 

Jack Palance: In The Ring, On The Stage

Jack Palance 

Fought Professionally 

Played In Requiem For A Heavyweight

Took On Joe Baski

By Bobby Franklin

If looks could win fights Jack Palance would have been heavyweight champion of the world. His face appeared as if it were cut out of stone and he had the persona to go with it. While well liked, he was known as someone who didn’t pull his punches, figuratively or literally. At 6’3”’ and 200 pounds, he was built lean and hard and was an imposing figure.

He was born Volodymir Ivanovich Palahniuk on February 18, 1919 in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania to Ukrainian immigrants. At an early age he decided he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps working as a coal miner. After 39 years working in the mines his father died of black lung disease. As a young man it bothered him that his mother was forced to buy groceries at the company store when the same goods could be had for cheaper in nearby establishments. 

A natural athlete, Jack earned a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina but dropped out after two years. It was then that he decided to take up boxing. He fought under the name of Jack Brazzo and reportedly won his first 15 fights with 12 coming by way of knockout. I was unable to verify this record, but it is a fact that he took on future heavyweight contender Joe Baski in 1938 losing a four round decision. It was after the Baski loss that Palance left boxing for a career in acting. He later recalled, ”…Then I thought, ‘You must be nuts to get your head beat in for $200.’ The theater seemed a lot more appealing…”.

His career was sidetracked by WWII. He was seriously injured when bailing out of a B-24 Liberator that had caught fire. He required facial surgery for wounds he received. When later asked if the plastic surgery had enhanced his looks he responded “If it is a ‘bionic face,’ why didn’t they do a better job of it?” After the war he returned home and to the coal mines. He then enrolled at Stanford University where he earned a degree in journalism. He worked for a time as a sportswriter while resuming his acting career having now changed his name to Jack Palance.

In 1956 he got to put his boxing experience to work when he starred in the Playhouse 90 production of Requiem For A Heavyweight. Most people remember the movie version that had Anthony Quinn in the leading role. With a screenplay written by Rod Serling, another former boxer, the Playhouse 90 performance was aired live on television on October 11th of that year. Co- starring Ed and Keenan Wynn along with Kim Hunter, this version is different from the big screen production.

 

The character Quinn played was named Mountain Rivera, while Palance’s was Mountain McClintock. Palance brought a more nuanced tact to the role of the over the hill boxer who now had to find his way in the world outside of the ring. His experience as a boxer certainly aided in his being able to dig more deeply into the role. The two versions show the fighter suffering from pugilistica dementia, while also struggling with his loyalty to his manager who wants him to continue boxing even after being warned by a doctor that one more fight could kill him. It’s a touching and tragic story enhanced by the grim fact it is something that happens time and again in boxing.

While aired live, the performance was saved on film and is available on Amazon and Youtube. I highly recommend it both for the outstanding acting done by Palance and the hard-hitting screenplay by Serling. While the big screen version is an excellent movie, Quinn’s Rivera tends too much to the pathetic side and sinks into caricature while Palance’s McClintock has a depth and realism that makes for a very moving performance. While Quinn’s character remains under the spell of his manager, Palance’s McClintock struggles to break away in a pursuit to regain his self-respect. Palance brings complexity to the role, for which he won an Emmy. It is interesting to watch the two versions and compare them.

Palance went on to have a legendary career in film, while never feeling at home with the Hollywood crowd. A life long vegetarian and health fanatic he stayed fit all of his life. In 1991 while accepting the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Curley in City Slickers he brought the audience to its feet when at age 73 he dropped to the floor and did one armed pushups. 

I wish more information was available about his boxing career, but there is no doubt that any of his opponents would have felt at least a brief chill when looking across the ring at Jack Palance.

While a genuine tough guy, Jack liked to spend his free time painting and writing poetry and fiction. On November 10, 2006 Jack Palance passed away at the age of 87 of natural causes. A true original, he will never be forgotten. 

Johnny Bratton vs Kid Gavilan II

No Rope A Dope In This Fight

By Bobby Franklin

Johnny Bratton and Kid Gavilan Weigh In For Their Third Fight

Recently, I received an email from my friend boxing historian Mike Silver, the author of The Arc Of Boxing. Mike included a link to a Youtube video of the second Kid Gavilan vs Johnny Bratton fight. He described the bout as one of the best he has seen and commented emphatically, “This is BOXING.” After that ringing endorsement I had to take a look for myself. Mike certainly was right. The fight was indeed entertaining as well as a textbook example of how much boxing has devolved over the years. 

Kid Gavilan and Johnny Bratton fought three times during the period from 1951 to 1953. In their first fight Gavilan won the NBA World Welterweight Championship from Bratton.  In their third fight the Kid defended the title against Johnny. Their second fight was a ten round non-title affair. 

Rare today, non-title fights were not unusual years ago. They would take place when the fighters would come in over the weight limit of the division the title holder was in. This was prearranged and the fans knew they were not going to see the champion risk his belt. It was a way for a title holder to stay busy without risking his title. It was also an opportunity for someone not rated high enough to get a chance at fighting a champ and, even in losing, be able to enhance his reputation by showing he could stay in there with the best.

The second Gavilan/Bratton fight was a bit unusual as the two had fought for the title just six months earlier. In that fight, held on May 18, 1951, Bratton fought with a broken jaw from the fifth round on but lasted the full distance while losing a decision. Just six months later on November 11, 1951 the two would meet again, this time in a non-title fight. And what a fight it was.

Bratton Lands A Left On Gavilan

You might think Bratton would have been a bit gun shy after having taken such a licking in their first encounter, but at the opening bell he came out with guns blazing. Of course, Gavilan was their to meet fire with fire, and this led to a very “entertaining” fight. It also was a display of two ring wise boxing veterans plying their craft.

For the first three rounds Johnny tried matching Gavilan’s speedy combinations. This led to some great exchanges but The Kid was getting the best of them. In the 4th round Bratton changed tactics and started looking to counterpunch. He had more success with this strategy. Gavilan was a very rhythmic fighter and Johnny was trying to break that rhythm by making moves to throw the Champ off his game. Bratton even mimicked Gavilan’s trademark bolo punch in an effort to rattle him. In the seventh round the two tried to outdo one another while digging into their bags of tricks. Gavilan used head feints and a shuffle (yes, this move was around long before Ali trademarked it), and Bratton at one point pointed to the crowd in order to distract the Kid. Neither fell for the tactics but it is fun to watch them trying to one up each other.

Gavilan Lands A Right Counter On Bratton

There a few things that really stand out in this fight. Things that you will not see today or for that matter ever again in boxing. In the entire 10 rounds the fighters only clinched two times, and neither of these was a hug fest. They also went to the ropes on just one occasion. This fight, like so many from the age of boxing when it was an art form, took place almost entirely in mid-ring. 

It was in the eighth round when Bratton was stepping back from Gavilan that he went against the ropes. He immediately responded by neutralizing a left hook the Champ was throwing by placing his right hand on the inside of Gavilan’s elbow as he stepped away from the ropes. This was one of two times that the referee intervened, and even that action by the third man was not needed as the two were breaking on their own. 

Gavilan Beats Bratton To The Punch

It is also a pleasure to watch how these two artists used their left jabs. Today, most fighters hold their hands up against their faces in what makes them look like they are wearing ear muffs. It is impossible to throw a decent jab from that position, not that any of them seem interested in throwing jabs anyway. Both Johnny and the Kid used a classic stance where the left hand is held low and out in front of them while the right hand is kept open and held high in order to parry the opponent’s punches, their chins stay tucked into the shoulder. Having the left in this position allows for the punch to travel a shorter distance while also leaving the option of turning it into a hook or an uppercut, and for the real masters, a hook off the jab. It is also a great defensive position as Bratton showed in the 8th round when he was able to disarm Gavilan by grabbing the inside of his elbow and walking him away from the ropes. The left can also be raised in a stiff arm fashion to deflect a punch. They both employed feints in an effort to get the other to lead, knowing that a fighter is most vulnerable when he is throwing a punch. 

It’s funny, but at one point the referee took a round away from Gavilan for holding and hitting. This was odd as I wasn’t able to see anything close to holding and hitting. I think the ref was feeling unneeded and wanted to justify being paid.

At the end of the ten rounds the decision was announced as a draw. If not for the referee taking away the round from Gavilan, the champ would have won the fight. 

The two would meet one more time in November of 1953, this time for the title. Gavilan won a one-sided decision over fifteen rounds. The press reported that Bratton was thoroughly beaten by the 12th round but he held on until the final bell. 

I highly recommend viewing the second fight between these two excellent fighters. You can watch it a number of times, and as with any great work of art you will notice new things each time you see it. And Mike was right, it is a very entertaining fight.