All posts by Bobby Franklin

“Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” Opens At The Boch Center Wang Theatre December 17

 

 Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Comes To  The Boch Center Wang Theatre

December 17 Through December 29

Starring

David Elder, Kerry Conte, 

Jeremy Benton, and Kelly Sheehan

 Featuring Conrad John Schuck As The General, 

And Reprising The Role Of Martha Watson, Lorna Luft 

 

The producers of IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS, the stage adaptation of the beloved classic film, have announced casting for the upcoming National Tour, coming to the Boch Center Wang Theatre December 17 – 29, 2019.

The 2019 season will star David Elder as “Bob Wallace,” Jeremy Benton as “Phil Davis,” Kerry Conte as “Betty Haynes,” and Kelly Sheehan as “Judy Haynes.”  Also featured are Conrad John Schuck as “General Waverly,” Lorna Luft as “Martha Watson,” Brad Frenette as “Ralph Sheldrake,” Danny Gardner as “Mike Nulty,” and Cliff Bemis as “Ezekiel Foster.” Additionally, Emma Grace Berardelli and Kyla Carter will be reprising their role of “Susan Waverly.” 

Rounding out the cast of returning cast members are Darien Crago, Sarah Fagan, Drew Humphrey, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Brianna LaTrash, Stephanie Brooks Martin, Chris McNiff, Daniel Plimpton, Kristyn Pope, Sean Quinn, and Karilyn Ashley Surratt. Additional new cast members for the 2019 season include Lamont Brown, Kimberly Immanuel, Tina Johnson, Kristie Kerwin, and Chris Shin. 

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS tells the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn who fall for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, including “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Happy Holiday,” “Sisters,” “Blue Skies,” and the unforgettable title song, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

The New York Times exclaims “this cozy trip down memory lane should be put on your wish list.” And, the New York Daily News hailed IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS as “a holiday card come to life.”

IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS features music and lyrics by Irving Berlin with book by David Ives and Paul Blake and is based upon the Paramount Pictures film written for the screen by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank

Tickets are available at the Boch Center Box Office,  www.bochcenter.org, by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787), and via Ticketmaster or by calling 866-348-9738.

Wishing Sally Struthers A Speedy Recovery As Ruth Gottschall Steps In To Play Miss Hannigan In Annie At The Music Hall In Portsmouth, NH

Ruth Gottschall to Step Into the Role of Miss Hannigan in the
Ogunquit Playhouse Holiday Production of Annie at The Music Hall

Ruth Gottschall

Broadway’s Ruth Gottschall has returned to the seacoast to step into the role of Miss Hannigan in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of Annie now on stage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ms. Gottschall replaces Sally Struthers who is recovering from surgery for a broken leg which was caused by a fall on an ice covered walkway earlier this week following the recent snow storms. Ms. Gottschall will take the stage the week of December 9, and through the end of the run.

“Our Dear Sally will need to step out of Annie for the rest of the run to get herself back on her feet. But she will be nearby – so don’t be surprised if you see her sneak in to watch to the show! We are grateful that Sally is resting comfortably and feeling great right now. While we will miss her very much in this role, we want her to continue to rest and to enjoy time with her family and friends over the holidays. We of course look forward to welcoming Sally to our stage in 2020. With Sally’s blessing, the Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to announce that Ruth Gottschall, the brilliant Broadway actress who delighted Ogunquit audiences this past summer in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, has arrived in Ogunquit to take over the role of Miss Hannigan,” stated Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney.

Ms. Gottschall made her Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Helen Hubbard this past summer in the critically acclaimed mystery, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. On Broadway she has performed in Mary Poppins, The Music Man, Laughing Room Only, Cabaret, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas among others. At regional theatres she has portrayed Aunt Eller in Pittsburgh CLO’s Oklahoma!, Maggie in Bucks County Playhouse’s 42nd Street, and Mrs. Tottendale in Goodspeed Opera House’s The Drowsy Chaperone.

Annie is on stage now through December 22 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Annie is the story of a spunky, red-headed orphan who lands a holiday stay with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a billionaire trying to do good. This delightful musical has become a worldwide phenomenon and is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The acclaimed book and score by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin feature some of the greatest musical theatre hits ever written, including “Tomorrow.”

The Ogunquit Playhouse production is helmed by Broadway Director/Choreographer James A. Rocco. The cast includes Josie Todd as Annie, Emmy nominee Robert Newman as Oliver Warbucks, and Broadway veterans Angie Schworer as Lily St. Regis, Jeffry Denman as Rooster Hannigan, and Gail Bennett as Grace Farrell.

To purchase tickets call The Music Hall box office at 603-436-2300 or visit TheMusicHall.org. 

Hypothetical Matchup, Foreman vs Johansson

Thor’s Hammer

And Foreman’s Fatal Flaw

How Would Johansson Do Against Big George?

By Bobby Franklin

Ingo and Machen

Recently I wrote a column asking how well the second tier heavyweight champions would do when matched up with some of the greats when their different styles are taken into consideration. After all, even some of the best have problems with a less talented opponent because a certain technique can cause even the best difficulties. Ali always had major problems with Ken Norton, a fighter who was far from an all time great. 

While it is safe to assume the greats would have beaten the not so greats, it is interesting to try and find matchups where an upset could have occurred. 

Recently I’ve been thinking about a hypothetical matchup between Champions George Foreman and Ingemar Johansson. Johansson has never been considered an all time great, while there are many who would rank Foreman in the top ten greatest. In my opinion George is not an all time great and does not have the record to put him in the lofty company of Dempsey, Louis, Tunney, Marciano, Johnson, and Ali. But seeing that so many boxing fans do consider him to be one of the best I thought it would be interesting to consider how he would do against the Swede with the monstrous right hand.

While I believe Foreman is very overrated as a fighter, I also believe Ingo deserves more credit than he gets. George fought an incredible number of stiffs on his way up in contrast to Ingo who never faced an opponent who had a losing record. In fact, going into the first Frazier fight Foreman’s opponents had a collective record of 100 wins with 355 losses, and 48 draws. 

By contrast, going into his first title fight against Patterson, Ingo’s opposition had a collective record of 466 wins, 150 losses, and 43 draws. Quite a difference. On top of that, Johansson had some notable names among his wins. These included Joe Bygraves, Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine, Archie McBride, and most impressive of all, his destruction of Eddie Machen in one round. Machen was undefeated and the number one contender at the time and would go on to fight a prime Sonny Liston, taking the future champ the full twelve rounds while losing a very close decision. 

The most notable wins on Foreman’s record leading to to the Frazier fight were over George Chuvalo and two victories over blown up light heavyweight Gregorio Peralta who gave George all he could handle over almost 20 rounds of fighting.

The two most impressive wins in Foreman’s career part one were his victory over Frazier, though while impressive has to be considered in the light of Frazier being a shot fighter at that point in his career, and his blow out of Ken Norton. He was outsmarted by Ali and Jimmy Young, and struggled to defeat Ron Lyle in an exciting fight but not one where great boxing skills were on display.

Beyond their records it is important to contrast their styles to figure out how they would do against one another. It is here where I see Ingo being able to pull out the win. George had a serious flaw that only got worse as his career progressed. It was this flaw that would have played into Johansson’s strength.

Foreman Displaying His Fatal Flaw Against Ali. Reaching Out With Both Arms.

Early in Foreman’s career he had either gotten some instruction in parrying blows or he picked up the idea from watching footage of great defensive fighters such as Jack Johnson and Gene Tunney. The problem is, George never learned how to do it correctly. Instead of catching his opponents punches with an open hand when the fists came close to him, he would reach out and try to stop them just as they were being thrown. In doing this he also dropped his hands while his arms were extended. This left his chin exposed. Peralta, Ali, and Young all used that defect to great effect in countering Foreman. It is also the reason Lyle was able to deck him so many times. It was a very amateurish move that he never got over, in fact it got even worse as his career went on. It is also the reason any one of the great champs, and even many of the second tier ones would have beaten him. It is the reason I could not rate him as an all-time great. 

Foreman’s Flaw On Display Again

Going into a fight against Foreman, Johansson would have been very conscious of this flaw and would have exploited it. Ingo was a thinking fighter. He was quick on his feet, looked for openings, feinted well, had a tremendously powerful right hand, and knew how to set up an opponent.

In the first Patterson fight he used his left jab in a flicking manner that was employed to block Floyd’s vision so he would not see the right hand coming. The strategy worked perfectly as he destroyed Patterson and won the title. 

Ingo’s fatal flaw came outside of the ring. After winning the title he became quite the celebrity. He made the rounds of televisions shows where he would joke and sing. He loved the nightlife and his training took a back seat to the jet setter lifestyle he was living. It was this behavior that cost him the title.

In the Foreman/Johansson fight Johansson would not be a stationary target for the ponderous Foreman. Ingo, who was quite fleet of foot would be circling big George and feinting him with the jab. As he employed these feints Foreman would begin reaching out with his arms, just as Johansson would expect. This would go on for a few rounds as the Swede found the range and George became frustrated and would begin to tire. Being a patient boxer, Ingo would wait until George started pawing and reaching with both arms. At that point he would hit George with his hammer of Thor. If George got up after being floored by the punch he would get even more sloppy as he did with Lyle. Ingo, unlike Lyle, would not get wild but would continue to measure Foreman for the followup punches and would finish him off. In my opinion this would happen around the 7th or 8th rounds.

Of course, as with all of these hypothetical matchups, it is impossible to know what would have happened. The benefit of thinking these fights through is it forces you to think more deeply about the abilities of these fighters. If you had asked me a couple of years ago who I thought would win between George and Ingo I wouldn’t have blinked and gone with Foreman. However, now that I have taken the time to analyze both fighters more closely having written about each, my mind has been changed.

Review: “Annie” At The Music Hall In Portsmouth, NH

Leapin’ Lizards!

The Ogunquit Playhouse Production Of

Annie

Is Great Fun At The Music Hall

In Portsmouth

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Josie Todd as Annie and Macy as Sandy
Photo By Gary Ng

The Ogunquit Playhouse has been closed down for the winter, but the season is not quite over. Ogunquit’s Executive Artistic Director Brad Kenney has joined forces with Patricia Lynch who is the Executive Director of The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to bring a lovely holiday gift to New England theatre goers. That gift is the superb production of the musical Annie playing at the Music Hall through December 22.

Directed and choreographed by Jamie Rocco, Annie is running on all cylinders on the stage of the magnificent Historic Theater in Portsmouth. Just stepping into this beautifully restored Victorian Era theater is a breathtaking experience. Even before the curtain goes up it is impossible not to be impressed by the surroundings. And once the orchestra starts playing the overture and the actors first take to the stage it all comes together for a wonderful night of theatre

Annie first appeared on Broadway in 1977 and has lost none of its charm over the years and through many revivals. The Ogunquit Playhouse version  playing in Portsmouth has been freshened up a bit while retaining its original score and still brings smiles to the faces of the audience while tugging at the heartstrings. 
ring that dream with a very lucky audience.

This production of Annie is flawless and rivals anything you will see on Broadway. It is a top notch production that should not be missed.

Josie Todd as Annie, the orphan who sets out to find her birth parents, is feisty and lovable. She leads the other orphans in great renditions of Maybe and It’s A Hard Knock Life and takes it to the top with Tomorrow. I would imagine this is a dream role for Ms Todd and she is sharing that dream with a very lucky audience.

The orphans at the Municipal Girls Orphanage run by Miss Hannigan are played by an ensemble of young actors who are excellently choreographed and get to really show their talents in the number You’re Never Really Dressed Without A Smile. Each and every one of them performed like experienced Broadway performers.

Robert Newman brings an Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks to the stage who shows the strength and drive that made him a billionaire while conveying the warm heart that is melted by his relationship with Annie. Mr. Newman’s version of Something Was Missing is touching and lovely. 

I last saw Gail Bennett in the 2014 production of Mary Poppins at the Ogunquit Playhouse. In Annie she is cast as Grace Farrell the personal assistant of Oliver Warbucks. It was a pleasure to see her on the stage again.

Josie Todd (Annie), Robert Newman (Daddy Warbucks), and Cast
Photo by Julia Russell

The scene recreating a 1930’s radio broadcast where Oliver Warbucks takes to the air offering a reward to find the birth parents of Annie, it is filled with nostalgia. Kevin McMahon plays host Bert Healy wearing a straw hat and accompanied by a ventriloquist with a dummy, and a sound effects man (Trent Kidd) There is also an Andrews Sisters style singing group the Boylan Sisters (Karen Largerberg, Zina Ellis, and Kym Chambers Otto). The program revolves around the song You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile. It is all set in a recreated radio station. There is quite an enjoyable tap-dancing number performed by the sound effects man using  wooden shoes on a table. 

Cast of Annie
Photo by Gary Ng

This wonderful cast has another member who is truly unforgettable; Sally Struthers reprising her role as Miss Hannigan. It is more than a bit ironic that Ms Struthers who has spent her life advocating for children would be playing a character who runs an orphanage as if it were a prison. In the number Little Girls she is very funny while displaying her dislike of the children by manipulating a doll in a rather sociopathic manner. It is a scene that was suggested by Ms Struthers and could only be pulled off by her.

Sally Struthers is a regular at the Ogunquit Playhouse every year and never disappoints. In her role as Miss Hannigan she outdoes herself. I’ve mentioned it before but must do so again in saying that she has a knack for comedic timing that is rarely seen. Her pauses and glances at the audience induce laughter every time. Ms Struthers also shows what a true professional she is by never attempting to steal scenes from the other actors. She works well with everyone. Of course, she is working with a cast that is deeply talented and all enhance one another.

Ms Struthers is at her character’s conniving best when plotting with her younger brother Rooster (Jeffry Denman) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Angie Schworer). They are all wickedly funny.

What would Annie be without her dog Sandy who is played by rescue dog Macy. Macy comes close to stealing the show and captures the hearts of the audience with her beautiful eyes. She was an orphan in real life so it is only fitting she has a role in this play about orphans.

Set during the Great Depression the story has many references to figures of that era and includes a scene with Franklin D. Roosevelt (Doug Carfrae) and his cabinet joining Annie in singing Tomorrow. I’m not sure how many young audience members will be familiar with the names of these confidantes of FDR as well as the references to figures of the day such as Harpo Marx, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bernard Baruch, Herbert Hoover, and Fiorello LaGuardia, but not knowing them takes nothing away from the enjoyment. Mr. Carfrae is returning to the Ogunquit Playhouse after an absence of a mere 46 years. He still has it!

In the spirit of the season the play closes with a beautiful Christmas party. This combined with the festive decorations in the theatre and then stepping out to the streets of Portsmouth to breath in the Christmas Season is a delightful experience.

This production of Annie is flawless and rivals anything you will see on Broadway. It is a top notch production that should not be missed. I highly recommend you take in a performance. It’s a wonderful coda to this year’s Ogunquit Playhouse season. 

Many people give up on the coast of northern New England after summer, but by doing so they are missing out on a very beautiful time of the year.

Ogunquit Playhouse’s Annie at the Music Hall in Portsmouth is just the recipe for getting into the holiday spirit. You’ll leave the theatre filled with the Christmas Spirit that will have the biggest Scrooges smiling. Head north, see Annie, enjoy Portsmouth, and then continue on to Ogunquit and the many other places that put the joy in this time of the year. You’ll be glad you did.

Annie

Though December 22

The Music Hall at the Historic Theatre

28 Chestnut Street,

Portsmouth, NH

603.436.2400 themusichall.org 

Review: “An Iliad” ArtsEmerson

The Anger of Achilles

An Iliad

At Emerson Paramount Center 

Through November 24

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Denis O’Hare
Photo by Joan Marcus

The other night I saw An Iliad at the Emerson Paramount Center. Presented by ArtsEmerson, this modern take on Homer’s Iliad is funny, stirring, and thought provoking. Written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, it is directed by Ms Peterson and stars Mr. O’Hare. 

It first played in Boston the weekend after the Marathon bombings and has now been brought back for a very limited engagement. 

In approximately 100 minutes, Denis O’Hare accompanied by Eleonore Oppenheim on bass, tells the story of the Trojan War and the endless saga of man’s attraction to war and addiction to power. Mr. O’Hare is a dynamo on the stage while Ms Oppenheim adds mood and sound effects that beautifully enhance the performance.

There is a lot packed into this production, and you may feel a bit lost at moments, but you will never be bored and you will be moved. As time is running short, rather than have you spend time on more of my take on it I suggest you head over to the Paramount and see for it yourself. You’d better hurry though as there are only two performances left. Saturday at 8:00 P.M. and Sunday at 2:00 P.M.

An Iliad

Presented by ArtsEmerson In Association With Homer’s Coat

The Emerson Paramount Center

559 Washington Street, Boston

617.824.8400  artsemerson.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Box Office Hours and Info

Monday – Saturday, 12pm – 6pm

28 Chestnut Street – Portsmouth, NH 03801

(603) 436-2400

www.themusichall.org 

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

The Lyric Stage Company Of Boston Presents

Agatha Christie’s

Murder On The Orient Express

Opening November 22

Adapted by Ken Ludwig

Directed by Spiro Veloudos

 Award-Winning Actor Remo Airaldi

Takes on the Role of Hercule Poirot

With a Cast of Boston Favorites.

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

Written expressly at the request of the Agatha Christie estate.

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

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

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

Box Office: 617.585.5678 Website: lyricstage.com 

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

GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY RINGS IN THE HOLIDAYS WITH 

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Great Punchers, Great Boxers

Great Knockout Artists 

Great Defensive Boxers

It Was Hard To Stop These Guys

By Bobby Franklin

Barney Ross

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

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

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

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

Henry Armstrong vs Fritzie Zivic

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

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

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

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

Charley Burley

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

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

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

Teddy Yarosz

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

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

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

Tony Canzoneri, Forgotten Great

Tony Canzoneri

Forgotten Great

From The Golden Age Of Boxing

By Bobby Franklin

Tony Canzoneri

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

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

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

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

Canzoneri and Ross

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

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

Tony Kayos Kid Chocolate

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

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

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

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

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

McLarnin vs Canzoneri 1936

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

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

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

Gentleman Tony

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

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