All posts by Bobby Franklin

“The Stone” Now Playing At Arlekin Players Theatre

ARLEKIN PLAYERS THEATRE REMOUNTS

GERMAN PLAYWRIGHT MARIUS VON MAYENBURG’S 

THE STONE 

New Dates Added September 13 – 29 (performed in English)

“This is our house underneath all this mildew and junk. I know every stone.”

Arlekin Players Theatre will remount German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’sThe

Wolfgang (David Gamarnik) and Hannah (Olga Sokolova).
Photo by Irina Danilova

StoneSeptember 13 – 29 performed in English at their theater at Studio 368 in Needham.  Directed by Arlekin Players Theatre’s Artistic Director Igor Golyak  (Elliot Norton Award-winning A Dead Man’s Diary), the production was performed in Russian by the same cast in May and June. Arlekin will be offering unique pre-show and post-show talks for interested groups. *See the performance schedule below. Tickets range from $45 – $65.  Arlekin will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. For more information and tickets, visit arlekinplayers.com or call 617-942-9822.

“It’s a kind of theatre that not only crosses borders but also draws from a number of performance traditions: dance, spoken word, performance art, and modern music arrangement harmoniously intertwine in our performances to create unique and memorable productions.” Igor Golyak, Artistic Director

In 1935, a young couple purchases a house from a Jewish family in Dresden, Germany. The play follows the lives of the house’s residents, who must grapple with their own identity while experiencing the reverberations created by 60 years of German history. As the house is passed from owner to owner, and generation to generation, the secrets buried in the garden and within the walls reveal themselves.

Marius von Mayenburg is a playwright, translator, dramaturg, director and one of the most widely produced German playwrights. Born in Munich in 1972, he studied Old German at University in Munich, before moving to Berlin in 1992, where he did a course in playwriting at the Hochschule der Künste from 1994 to 1998. In 1995 he completed a placement at the Münchner Kammerspiele. In 1998, he became a member of the artistic direction team at the Baracke, the studio theatre of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. In 1999 he went with Thomas Ostermeier to work as artistic director and playwright-in-residence at the “Berliner Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz”. His plays receive regular staging at Schaubühne/Berlin, Royal Court Theater/London, and other venues around the world.

The Stone Production design team features David R. Gammons(scenographer),Nastya Bugaeva(costume design), Jeff Adelberg(light design),Jakov Jakoulov(original score), Vladimir Gusev(video designer) and an eight-member cast including Jenya Brodskaia (Conductor #1), Misha Tyutyunik(Conductor #2 ),Olga Sokolova(Hannah),Viktoriya Kovalenko(Heidrun),  Darya Denisova (Witha), Rimma Gluzman (Mieze),Anna Kovalenko (Stefanie), and David Gamarnik (Wolfgang).

Arlekin Players Theatre was created in Boston in 2009 and has since toured to New York, Chicago, and Hartford, as well as to several international festivals. Arlekin takes strong pride in their emphasis on self-identity; they are a company of immigrants performing works that play on the ideas of cross-culture, home, and traditions, challenging the idea of nationality, and finding common themes that unite us all. Performances are in Russian, with simultaneous translation into English. The company makes its home in Needham, MA.  For more information, visit www.arlekinplayers.com.

THE STONE Performance Schedule

Sept 13 at 8 pm

Sept 14 at 8 pm

Sept 15 at 3 pm

Sept 20 at 8 pm

Sept 21 at 8 pm

Sept 22 at 3 pm and 7 pm (sold out)

Sept 27 at 8 pm

Sept 28 at 8 pm

Sept 29 at 3 pm

“Kinky Boots” Opens At The Ogunquit Playhouse September 18

Hilarious and Heartwarming, Kinky Boots to Open at Ogunquit Playhouse

The winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Kinky Boots hits the Ogunquit Playhouse stage September 18 through October 27. Featuring a hilarious, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner, Harvey Fierstein and a joyous, Tony-winning score by Cyndi Lauper, the Ogunquit Playhouse production is staged by Nathan Peck, and stars Graham Scott Fleming as Charlie Price, and Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola, with Tony-nominated Scenic Design by David Rockwell and Tony-nominated Costume Design is by Gregg Barnes.

The hit musical is based on the 2005 Miramax film written by Geoff Dean and Tim Firth, and tells the heartwarming story of Charlie Price who has reluctantly inherited his father’s shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, Charlie finds inspiration in the form of a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos, Lola. As it turns out, Lola is the one person who can help Charlie become the man that he is meant to be. As they work to turn the factory around, this unlikely pair find that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible… and discover that, when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. This joyous show is sure to have audiences dancing in the aisle and discovering, sometimes, the best way to fit in… is to stand out! 

Graham Fleming

Leading the cast as Charlie Price is Graham Scott Fleming. He portrayed Charlie at the Muny in St. Louis earlier this year, and was nominated for a Dora Award for Best Male Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Charlie Price in the Canadian production of Kinky Boots. On Broadway he performed in Miss Saigon, and at Papermill Playhouse in My Very Own British Invasion. In addition to Kinky Boots, Mr. Fleming starred in the Canadian premieres of Ghost and Jukebox Hero. 

Kyle Taylor Parker returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse as the fabulous diva, Lola. Last season he performed in the Ogunquit production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe that transferred to New York City, and he continued to perform in the production through its Off-Broadway run. Mr. Parker was in the original Broadway cast, as well as the National Tour of Kinky Boots for which he won an IRNE Award for Best Visiting Actor for his performance. In addition, he performed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway and the National Tour of In the Heights. He was recently featured in NBC’s smash hit Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. At regional theatres he has performed in Dreamgirls, Hair, and the world premiere of My Very Own British Invasion. 

Kyle Taylor Parker

The Ogunquit Playhouse production of Kinky Boots features Joe Coots as Don, Maggie McDowell as Lauren, Ashley North as Nicola, and John Scherer as George. Joe Coots performed in the Ogunquit Playhouse productions of The Full Monty, Crazy for You, and South Pacific. His most recent theater credits include the world premiere of Human Error and the First National Tour of Kinky Boots. Maggie McDowell returns to Ogunquit Playhouse after performing as Marty in 2014’s Grease. She has performed in Kinky Boots on Broadway, in the First National Tour, and at The Muny earlier this year. On Broadway she performed in Disaster!, and Off Broadway in The Marvelous Wonderettes, and Pinklacious. Ashley North joins the cast after recently performing in the National Tour of Kinky Boots. Her many regional theatre credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Hair, and Les Miserables. John Scherer returns to the Ogunquit Playhouse stage where he last appeared in 2001’s 42nd Street as Billy Lawlor. On Broadway he has performed in Lovemusik, By Jeeves, and Sunset Boulevard. His Off-Broadway shows include Olympus On My Mind, Dames At Sea, and Preppies.

Tickets are on sale now. Preview performances start at $36 and economy seats start at $51 each. To learn more about becoming a Playhouse member, or to purchase tickets and gift cards, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call the Ogunquit Playhouse Box Office at 207-646-5511

Review: “Little Shop of Horrors” At The Lyric Stage In Boston

Little Shop Of Horrors

At The Lyric Stage 

Will Grow On You

Review: Little Shop of Horrors

Directed by Rachel Bertone

At The Lyric Stage

Copley Square, Boston

Through October 6

lyricstage.com

617.585.5678

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Dan Prior, Katrina Z Pavao with Audrey II
Photo: Mark S. Howard

Little Shop Of Horrors, the rock and roll musical based on the 1960 cult film of the same name has shown incredible legs. It first appeared Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, moving to Off-Broadway, and then finally to a full Broadway run. It is as fresh today as it was then. The wonderful score which is based on a combination of Rock and Roll, Motown, and the girl groups of the early 1960s is the kind of music that has audiences tapping their feet and experiencing ear-worms as they leave the theatre.

Little Shop Of Horrors is an ideal musical with which to begin the 45th season at the Lyric Stage in Boston, and it gets the full Lyric treatment from Director/Choreographer Rachel Bertone. Set in Mushnick’s Florist shop on Skid Row in New York, the set, designed by Janie E. Howland, is inviting with various hues of green. Add in Dan Rodriguez as Music Director along with costumes by Marian Bertone and lighting by Franklin Messner Jr and you have a must see production that is nothing short of sensational.

Dan Prior, Remo Airaldi
Photo: Mark S. Howard

Remo Airaldi plays Mr. Mushnik, the florist who is struggling to stay in business while employing two workers, the hapless Seymour Krelborn (Dan Prior) and Audrey (Katrina Z. Pavao). Just when Mushnik is about to close up shop for good, Seymour reveals a “strange and interesting plant” he has been nurturing. The plant is put on display in the window of the flower shop and business begins to boom. There is just one problem; the plant named Audery II by Seymour, has a strange dietary requirement. The Venus Flytrap style vegetation desires human beings rather than houseflies. This all makes for an interesting story that combines Science Fiction and musical comedy all flavored by the 1960’s rock theme. This formula makes for two hours of great fun.

Chiffon (Pier Lamia), Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), and Ronnette (Carla Martinez) perform as a Girl Group version of a Greek Chorus and get things off to a strong start with the title tune. Moving through various homages to the music of the early Rock years, they touch on such memorable groups as the Ronettes and the Supremes. In both shimmering and taffeta dresses that invoke the period, they are outstanding while performing from various spots on the stage including the two balconies, one on each side. The score is well crafted and gives all the flavor of the period while also remaining original. 

Lovely Hoffman, Carla Martinez, Pier Lamia Porter, Katrina Z Pavao, Dan Prior
Photo: Mark S. Howard

Katrina Z. Pavao as Audrey, the sweet girl who has been finding love in all the wrong palces, displays wonderful acting skills along with a singing voice that delights. On Somewhere That’s Green she takes us on a nostalgic trip through the 1950s complete with mentions of Betty Crocker and I Love Lucy. Corny? Not really. Ms Pavao delivers it with a soft warmth that is touching. She brings a depth to her character that transcends the comedy. Yes, she is quite funny, but also a very sympathetic character. It would be easy to play Audrey as a ditz, but Ms Pavao takes it much further and displays wonderful talent. This is her Audrey. 

Audrey is in an abusive relationship with a sadistic dentist (is there any other kind?) played by Jeff Marcus,and a black eye and a broken arm make for some moments that are very dark. Mr. Marcus plays multiple roles and uses many different voices, not an easy task. His rendition of Be A Dentist with backup by Lovely, Crystal, and Ronnette is painfully funny as he describes taking his mother’s career advice; “Son, you have a talent for giving pain, be a dentist”. If you’re an anti-dentite, after seeing the dreaded chair and drill on stage this will only fuel your hatred. Ouch!

Dan Prior, Lovely Hoffman, Carla Martinez, Pier Lamia Porter
Photo: Mark S.Howard

Dan Prior as Seymour fits into his role as if it were a suit tailored especially for him. His timing is perfect, and his interactions with Remo Airaldi’s Mushnik work very well. As usual, Mr. Airaldi does not disappoint. I still remember his terrific performance in last year’s SpeakEasy production of Shakespeare In Love. There is a degree of abuse in the relationship between Mushnik and Seymour as well, and it is that common trait shared by Audrey and Seymour that draws them together.  They both lack in self-esteem and find love as they see the good in each other, and express it in  Suddenly Seymour. It is a touching and sweet number as the two open up to one another.

There is one other character not to be overlooked, a certain plant that eventually takes center stage and has a voracious appetite. Audrey II has four incarnations as the play progresses. The creation of puppet designer Cameron McEachern, Audrey II is simply amazing. Growing from a small potted plant sipping on blood to a full grown man-eating creature, it is a marvel to see. Tim Hoover inhabits the large version and moves it in synch with the words spoken and sung by Yewande Odetoyinbo. 

Katrina Z Pavo and Audrey II
Photo: Mark S. Howard

It is fascinating to watch Mr. McEchern’s creation in action as it swallows people whole.  After the performance I attended had concluded, audience members lined up at the stage to stare at Audrey II who was still on display. The plant that drew spectators to Mushnik Florist had that same pull at the Lyric. People were fascinated by it, I know I was. What a piece of work is this plant.

The Lyric Stage’s Little Shop of Horrors is theatrical perfection from top to bottom. Don’t miss it. I doubt a better production of it has ever been done, nor will there be one to top it in the future. 

“Menopause The Musical” Opens At Ogunquit Playhouse September 4

Menopause The Musical 

to Open at Ogunquit Playhouse

It’s time to grab your best gal pals and head to Ogunquit Playhouse for the hilarious musical comedy Menopause The Musical®, on stage September 4 through September 14. A raucous celebration of womanhood created by Jeanie Linders and inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, Menopause The Musical® applauds women who are on the brink of, in the middle of, or have survived “The Change.” The show is produced by special license from GFour Productions, the producers of MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL®, now in its 18th year, and 14th as the longest-running musical in Las Vegas history. The director of the Ogunquit Playhouse production is Tony Award®-winner Seth Greenleaf. This joyful parody of 25 re-lyricized classic hits from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s features chart-toppers including “I Heard it Through the Grapevine that You No Longer See 39,” and the disco favorite “Stayin’ Awake, Stayin’ Awake!” 

Joining the cast of the Ogunquit Playhouse production are Anise Ritchie as Professional Woman, Kathy St. George as Soap Star, Melanie Souza as Earth Mother and Roberta B. Wall as Iowa Housewife. They will be joined by television star Cindy Williams as Hostess. 

Anise Ritchie has been with Menopause The Musical® for over 10 years starting in San Francisco and is now touring around the U.S. with the show. She has also performed in many regional theatres throughout the U.S. in such shows as A Little Night Music, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Big Fish, Smokey Joe’s Café, Showboat, and Little Shop of Horrors. Kathy St. George appeared on Broadway in two productions of Fiddler on the Roof including the Tony Award®-winning revival. Her many Off-Broadway and regional theatre credits include I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, 9 to 5 the Musical, Peter Pan, The Divine Sister, Once, and Gypsy. Melanie Souza recently performed in the National Tour of Menopause The Musical®. She has also performed in many regional theatre productions including In the Heights, Bikinis, Mamma Mia!, Breaking Up is Hard to Do and Sister Act. Roberta B. Wall was part of the original Broadway cast of Sister Act, and Leap of Faith. Her First National Tours include Sister Act, and Beauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts. Ms. Wall has been performing in Menopause The Musical® since 2003 in cities across the country as both Iowa Housewife and Earth Mother. 

Cindy Williams

Joining the cast as Hostess is Cindy Williams who is most recognized for her role as “Shirley Feeney” in the TV comedy series Laverne and Shirley. She landed her first television roles on Room 222, Nanny and the Professor and Love, American Style.  Her many guest-starring roles include Law And Order: SVU, Seventh Heaven and 8 Simple Rules, The Odd Couple for CBS, A Dream Of Christmas for Hallmark Channel and Sam And Cat for Nickelodeon. Cindy’s stage credits include, the National Tour of Grease playing Miss Lynch, the National Tour of Deathtrap with Elliot Gould, The Female Odd Couple with Jo Anne Worley, Steel Magnolias as Ouiser Boudreaux. She made her Broadway debut in the role of Mrs. Tottendale in the award-winning musical The Drowsy Chaperone in 2007. Her many films include GAS-S-S-S with Talia Shire and Ben Vereen, Travels With My Aunt with Maggie Smith, directed by George Cukor, and The Conversation with Gene Hackman, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and American Graffiti co-starring with Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford, directed by George Lucas. 

The director for the Ogunquit production of Menopause The Musical® is Seth Greenleaf. He won the Tony Award® for his work on the 50th anniversary production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. A graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, his many credits include producing 9 to 5 the Musical on Broadway with Dolly Parton, co-financing the Tony Award® and Olivier Award-winning musicals The Book Of Mormon and Matilda The Musical, and directing the award-winning documentary F(L)AG Football. He currently has The Play That Goes Wrong and The Book Of Mormon running on Broadway; Tina The Musical, Bitter Wheat and SIX running in London; and Fiddler On The Roof and The Play That Goes Wrong on National Tour in the U.S. Three of his productions are currently Broadway bound: The Inheritance begins previews September 27, Tina The Musical begins previews October 12, and SIX begins previews February 13, 2020.

Individual tickets are on sale now. Preview performances start at $36 and economy seats start at $51 each. For tickets visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call the Ogunquit Playhouse Box Office at 207-646-5511.

##

“Little Shop Of Horrors” Opens At The Lyric Stage August 30

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Lyric Stage August 30 Through October 6

 Book and Lyrics by                    Music by

     HOWARD ASHMAN             ALAN MENKEN

 Based on the film by Roger Corman, Screenplay by Charles Griffith

  Directed and Choreographed by Rachel Breton

Music Director, Dan Rodriguez

This award-winning sci-fi pulp musical follows nebbishy florist-shop worker Seymour who haplessly pines after his coworker Audrey.

Suddenly, opportunity falls into his lap in the form of a mysterious, carnivorous, conniving – not to mention singing – plant that promises to fulfill Seymour’s every wish.

CAST:

Dan Prior                              Seymour Krelborn

Katrina Z Pavao                  Audrey

Remo Airaldi*                     Mr. Mushnik

Jeff Marcus*                        Orin and others

Pier Lamia Porter*            Chiffon

Lovely Hoffman*               Crystal

Carla Martinez*                  Ronnette

Lovely Hoffman*               Crystal

Yewande Odetoyinbo*    Audrey II (voice)

Tim Hoover                          Audrey II (puppeteer)

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)

August 30 – October 6, 2019

Lyric Stage Company of Boston

140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston

Box Office:  617-585-5678

website:  lyricstage.com

SpeakEasy Stage Company To Present “Choir Boy”

Choir Boy

Opens At

SpeakEasy Stage Company

September 13

From September 13 to October 12, 2019, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the New England premiere of the acclaimed Broadway musical drama CHOIR BOY.

Nominated for four 2019 Tony Awards including Best Play, CHOIR BOY is a powerful coming-of-age story punctuated by the soaring harmonies of live gospel, spiritual, and R&B performances.  For fifty years, the elite Charles R. Drew Prep School has been dedicated to the education of strong, ethical black men; its legendary choir an emblem of all it holds true.  But for Pharus Young, the opportunity to take his rightful place as the leader of these talented vocalists comes at a price.  Can he still earn his place in the hallowed halls and sing in his own key?

CHOIR BOY is the work of acclaimed writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, Oscar-winner for the film Moonlight, which was based on his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Mr. McCraney’s other plays include Ms. Blakk for President (co-written with Tina Landau), The Brother/Sister Plays, Head of Passes, and Wig Out!  Mr. McCraney is currently the Chair of Playwriting at the Yale School of Drama, and is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  His original TV series David Makes Man recently debuted on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network. 

Maurice Emmanuel Parent will direct the New England Premiere of CHOIR BOY.  An award-winning, Boston-based actor, Mr. Parent is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Front Porch Arts Collective, a new black-led theatre company committed to advancing racial equity in Boston through theatre. Mr. Parent made his professional directorial debut last season with Breath & Imagination, a co-production between Front Porch and the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, for which he received an IRNE Award nomination for Best Director of a Musical.  

Joining Mr. Parent are David Freeman Coleman, who will serve as Music Director, and Yewande Odetoyinbo and Ruka White, who will co-choreograph.  

Boston Conservatory graduate Isaiah Reynolds will return to Boston to play Pharus.  He is being joined by Jaimar Brown, Antione Gray, Dwayne P. Mitchell, Malik Mitchell, Aaron Patterson, Thomas Purvis, Nigel Richards, J. Jerome Rogers, and Richard Snee.  

CHOIR BOY will run from Sept. 13 – Oct. 12, 2019, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Ticket prices start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and people age 25 and under.  For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call BostonTheatreScene Ticketing Services at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.                

“Sunset Boulevard” Opens At North Shore Music Theatre September 24

NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE PRESENTS

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S TONY® AWARD-WINNING MASTERWORK

“SUNSET BOULEVARD”

STARRING TONY® AWARD-WINNER

ALICE RIPLEY

September 24 – October 6, 2019

Alice Riipley

Bill Hanney’s award-winning North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) is thrilled to announce complete casting for the upcoming production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterwork, SUNSET BOULEVARD, which will star the previously announced Alice Ripley as the fading Hollywood star, Norma Desmond. SUNSET BOULEVARD is on stage from Tuesday, September 24 thru Sunday, October 6, 2019.

“Producing Sunset Boulevard combines two things I am very passionate about, musical theatre and classic Hollywood films,” said Bill Hanney, NSMT’s owner/producer who also owns Entertainment Cinemas, a chain of movie complexes throughout New England. “Our team has been challenged to create a show that is so thrilling and opulent that it will take the audience’s breath away and keep them on the edge of their seats the same way the original Billy Wilder film did. From the extraordinarily talented cast being led by Tony® Award-winner Alice Ripley, to the exquisite multi-level sets being created for the show, to the glamorous costumes, audiences will need to prepare themselves for an evening of theatre unlike anything they have ever seen.”

SUNSET BOULEVARD is the magnificent tale of Norma Desmond, a faded silent-screen goddess living in her Sunset Boulevard mansion clinging to a fantasy that audiences still long for her, but in reality they hardly remember her. When an impoverished screenwriter Joe Gillis, stumbles into her reclusive domain she persuades him to help her work on her film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras again. Seduced by her and her luxurious lifestyle he agrees. Entrapped in a claustrophobic existence, his love for another woman leads him to try and break free of Norma’s web, but with dramatic consequences.

Based on the film by Billy Wilder, SUNSET BOULEVARD, features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. The Tony® Award-winning masterwork is packed with lush and swelling songs including “With One Look,” “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” “Sunset Boulevard,” and “Perfect Year.”

It has been previously announced that Tony® Award-winner Alice Ripley will take on the iconic role of Norma Desmond. Alice Ripley earned critical acclaim and won the Best Actress in a Musical Tony® and Helen Hayes Awards for her work as Diana in the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock opera, Next to Normal. Ripley received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for her work as conjoined twin Violet Hilton in the cult hit, Side Show. She also created the role of Betty Schaefer in the original 1994 Broadway production of Sunset Boulevard. She was also part of the original Broadway casts and created the roles in American Psycho, The Rocky Horror Show, James Joyce’s The Dead, King David, and The Who’s Tommy in addition to enjoying a long stay at the Imperial Theatre playing Fantine in the original Broadway production of Les Misérables. Alice Ripley is also an accomplished screen actress and recording artist.

Tickets for SUNSET BOULEVARD are priced starting from $61 – $86. Kids 18 and under save 50%. $25 Student Rush tickets are available with a valid student I.D. starting one hour prior to curtain time. Prices are subject to change without notice. Phone, internet, and other fees may be applied at time of sale.

SUNSET BOULEVARD performances are September 24 – October 6, Tue – Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, matinees Wed, Sat and Sun at 2 pm. For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200, visit nsmt.org, or visit the box office at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA.

 

Review: “Murder On The Orient Express” At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Murder, Mayhem, And Laughs

On This Express Out Of Ogunquit

Murder On The Orient Express 

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Adapted By Ken Ludwig

Directed By Shaun Kerrison 

Through August 31

ogunquitplayhouse.org

207.646.5511

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Steven Rattazzi and Christopher Gurr
Photo Credit:Jay Goldsmith

The Ogunquit Playhouse is well known for the musicals performed on its stage each year. They are consistently good and among the best to be seen anywhere. In fact, they are so good it is all they have presented for over 12 years. Why tinker with success? 

Well, this year Artistic Director Brad Kenney has decided to do just that. For the first time on his watch a non musical has been included in the lineup. Brad has chosen Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, and it is proving to be a very wise move.

Adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig and directed by Shaun Kerrison, this is a not to be missed production which may very well turn out to be the high point in what has been a very strong season at the Playhouse. 

Photo Credit:Julia Russell

The set design by Beowulf Boritt and costumes by William Ivy Long are magical. It is amazing to watch what is created on stage as the Orient Express rolls into the theater. The use of projections and the framing of scenes is spectacular, the colors are vivid, and the costumes would be the envy of Edith Head. Most of the sound effects are created through the use of music, a touch that is quite effective.

While the mise en scene alone makes this is an extremely strong piece of theatre, the actors put it over the top. Led by Steven Rattazzi in the role of Hercule Poirot, the cast is just amazing.

“Mr. Rattazzi is brilliant as Poirot”

Mr. Rattazzi is brilliant as Poirot. It is almost surreal to see how he embodies his character. His accent is impeccable, his movements purposeful yet effortless, his timing absolutely perfect, and his mustache exquisitely groomed. Agatha Christie would be very pleased.

I mentioned Mr. Rattazzi’s accent, I was also fascinated by the panoply of accents used in the play. From Swedish to French to Hungarian, to Russian, to American they are all captivating and musical. The dialog is crisp and fast with many witty one-liners that are quite funny.

Photo Credit: Gary Ng

The play is fast paced and has a rhythm to it that never skips a beat. Each player is perfectly on time with his and her lines. Anita Gillette as Princess Dragomiroff is captivating. On the night I attended Ms Gillette was celebrating her 83rd birthday, and she has the energy of a person half that age. Known for her role in Moonstruck as well as numerous stage, screen, and television roles she is the consummate professional. 

All 10 members of the cast give solid performances. Ruth Gottschall, Christopher Gurr, Kate Loprest, Stephan James Anthony, Andrew Dits, Patricia Noonan, Olev Aleksander, and Anna Tempte each put their own special stamp on the character they play. Each deserve special praise for bringing the audience such a varied array of personages who all in the end have something in common. 

The train is also a star. It is stunning when the light from it first shines through the theater. Watching the scenes as they move from the different cars is amazing. It is remarkable to see what is done on the stage at the Ogunquit Playhouse; really breathtaking. With so little downtime between productions, it is hard to comprehend how the crew was able to create such a complicated set so quickly. The people behind the scenes deserve a standing ovation for the work they do.

Photo Credit Julia Russell

While the story is intriguing and also very funny, it is about a murder, actually two murders, and it ends with a moral dilemma. Many are already familiar with the story so are aware of this, but when Mr. Rattazzi’s Poirot steps forward to address the audience about making such a choice it is quite moving and thought provoking.

Murder On The Orient Express is only playing for two weeks. Tickets will become scarce, so I suggest you don’t hesitate and get down to the station to book your seat for this incredible ride. I hope the success of this non musical will lead to another next year. I have a suggestion: Why not go with Agatha Christie again; perhaps Witness For The Prosecution. 

Murder On The Orient Express Opens At The Ogunquit Playhouse First Non Musical In Over 12 Years

Agatha Christie’s Masterpiece, Murder on the Orient Express Opens at Ogunquit Playhouse August 14

 

All aboard! Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to announce the first non-musical production at the theatre in over 12 years, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, on stage August 14 through August 31. This suspenseful play takes audiences on a delightful journey alongside a train full of suspects, each one with an alibi! There are twists and turns aplenty in this intrigue-filled story, newly adapted for the stage from Agatha Christie’s masterpiece by two-time Tony-nominated playwright Ken Ludwig. This beloved mystery unfolds in a fresh new way that takes audiences on a thrilling ride, and is complete with a professional New York and Broadway-based cast including Tony-nominee Anita Gillette as Princess Dragomiroff and Steven Rattazzi as the mustachioed sleuth, Hercule Poirot. This lavish production is directed by Shaun Kerrison and includes an original set designed by Tony Award-winner Beowulf Boritt and stunning costumes designed by Tony Award-winner William Ivey Long.

“I am very excited to produce my first play here at the Ogunquit Playhouse. I am a huge Agatha Christie fan and we have carefully chosen one of her most thrilling murder mysteries that has been newly adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. It will be seen in Ogunquit for one of the first times anywhere, live on our stage. We are delighted to share this new play with our audiences,” stated Bradford Kenney, Ogunquit Playhouse Executive Artistic Director.

This beloved mystery also features Ruth Gotschall as Helen Hubbard, Christopher Gurr as Monsieur Bouc, Kate Loprest as Countess Andrenyi, Stephen James Anthony as Hector MacQueen, Andrew Dits as Colonel Arbuthnot and Samuel Ratchett, Patricia Noonan as Mary Debenham, Olev Aleksander as Head Waiter and Michel the Conductor, and Anna Tempte as Greta Ohlsson. 

Steven Rattazzi

Steven Rattazzi leads the cast as Agatha Christie’s beloved character, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. He has performed in Indecent on Broadway, and Off-Broadway in numerous productions including Henry V with Liev Schrieber, The Black Crook, Galileo, The Tempest with Mandy Patinkin, Stunning, Dinner Party, Painted Snake on a Painted Chair, and McGurk. In regional theatres his credits include Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood, Indecent, Lempicka, David Greenspan’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Seder, The School for Wives, and Marie Antoinette. He can be seen in the film The Family and is the voice behind the character Dr. Orpheus on Adult Swim’s The Venture Brothers. 

Anita Gillette

Tony-nominee Anita Gillette returns to the Playhouse to portray Princess Dragomiroff. Perhaps best known for her performance as Mona the mistress in the film Moonstruck, or for her portrayal as Tina Fey’s mother in NBC’s 30 Rock, Ms. Gillette has had an illustrious career on stage and screen, with more than fourteen Broadway shows to her credit, including Chapter Two (which earned her a Tony Nomination for Best Actress in a Play and an LA Drama Critics Award), as well as the Off-Broadway production of The Big Meal for which she was nominated for a Lortel Award. She has performed at the Playhouse numerous times, starting in 1976 with Sabrina Fair, followed by Chapter Two in 1980, The Inkwell in 1982, Steel Magnolias in 1990, How the Other Half Lives in 1994, and Alone Together in 1998. and in guest appearances on Modern Family, Blue Bloods, Elementry, Cold Case, Sex & The City, Frasier, Law & Order, and Mad About You.

Tickets are on sale now with preview performances starting at just $36, and economy seating at $51 each. To learn more about becoming a Playhouse member, subscriber, or to purchase tickets and gift cards, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org or call the Ogunquit Playhouse Box Office at 207-646-5511.

Some Summer Reading Recommendations

 Boxing Books That Belong In 

Every Fan’s Library

 

By Bobby Franklin

This time of the year it is common to see lists of book recommendations for summer reading. Often these lists are titled along the line of “Books To Bring To The Beach”. 

That has always made me chuckle as I love going to the beach but not to read. Sitting in the sun with the beautiful ocean in front of me is not conducive to sparking a desire to read. I prefer doing my reading at home where it is quiet and the distractions are few.

The one good thing about these lists is it gives people like me an excuse to recommend favorite books. In this case the books will be some of my favorite boxing reads. It will be a brief list and is just a small sampling of titles that I think you will enjoy. I could have a much longer selection, but I decided to pick the few that I believe are absolute musts for any serious boxing enthusiast to have in his library.

My first choice is Mike Silver’s “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”. When I first read it in 2010 I was so impressed I put it at the top of my list for must read boxing books. Mike looks at boxing with the eye of an art critic. He knows the game and he understands the art. His arguments, which I find indisputable, about how and why boxing has become a lost art are measured, well thought out, and solid. If you want to know what has happened to boxing over the years, and why today’s boxing no longer even resembles what it was in its golden years, you will find the answers here. For instance, he points out the differences between a great scientific boxer and a boxer who may appear to have great skills but is relying on his physical talents instead of boxing IQ.

Next is Paul Beston’s The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled The Ring. Paul has written an overview of the heavyweight division that covers all the important events and champions over 100 years. While I have referred to it as an overview, don’t think this is just a list of champions and their fights. 

Paul Beston is an extraordinarily talented writer and his history brings the legends and the times they lived in to life. His treatment of John L. Sullivan shows just what an important figure the Strong Boy was in making boxing a mainstream sport and the Heavyweight Champ a mythic figure. 

His chapter on Joe Louis actually brought tears to my eyes as Paul gives the very great champion the recognition he deserves not only for his talent as a fighter, but also for the incredible strides he made in race relations in this country. My sadness came from the realization this great man has been all but forgotten today. Joe Louis transcended boxing and he should never be forgotten. 

Dempsey, Johnson, Tunney, Baer, Marciano and the others are included. After reading this wonderful book you will really appreciate just how unique each of these men were.

Glen Sharp wanted to be a boxer and spent time in the boxing gyms in his native California. After a brief amateur career he turned pro and had three fights, losing two of them. I can understand if this doesn’t sound like the makings of a great boxing memoir to you, but it would be a big mistake not to read his book Punching From The Shadows: Memoir of a Minor League Professional Boxer. 

The best way to describe Glen’s well written account of his time is the ring is to call it honest. His descriptions of the gyms around Stockton, California during the early 1980s and his time spent as a sparring partner for light heavyweight contender Yaqui Lopez is the stuff of novels. 

The honesty in the book comes from Glen’s openness in telling about the emotional struggle every boxer goes through but few will admit. There was never a young man that laced on a pair of gloves who didn’t somewhere in his head believe he would one day become a world champion. It is in facing the fact that you can never succeed at something you love and desire so much that makes boxing such a cruel yet valuable parent. 

I am not one to toss around the word classic, but I am also not alone in calling Punching From The Shadows one. This  is an important boxing book as well as an important book about dealing with life. 

I will finish by recommending a work of fiction that turned fifty years old this year. Leonard Gardner’s Fat City is one of the great boxing novels of all time. The story about washed up pro Billy Tully and novice Ernie Munger is set in Stockton, California, which makes it a great book to read in conjunction with Glen Sharp’s memoir.

It is a dark story but the work is more poetry than prose. In less than 200 pages Leonard Gardner paints a picture in words that will remain vivid in your mind. I read it for the second time a couple of years ago when I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Leonard. He is a fascinating man who knows his boxing. He also knows human nature and is one incredible writer. If you haven’t yet read this masterpiece, you are missing out one of the best works of fiction written by an American author. It was also made into a terrific movie directed by John Huston with the screenplay also written by Leonard Gardner.

There you have four books that I can unreservedly recommend. I’ll call them beach reading, but it’s okay if you sit in a chair at home and enjoy them. There are less distractions there.