Tag Archives: Ogunquit Playhouse

Oh What A Night With “Jersey Boys” In Ogunquit

Jersey Boys

At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Through October 28

The Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit, Maine



Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Photo credit: Gary Ng

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

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

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

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

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

…a super high energy evening of music and theatre.

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

Photo credit: Gary Ng

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

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

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

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


“Jersey Boys” Comes To The Ogunquit Playhouse

Northeast Regional Premiere

Runs September 5 Through October 28

The multi-Tony Award-winning, international sensation that took Broadway and the world by storm, makes its Northeast premiere at the Ogunquit Playhouse, on stage September 5 through October 28. Jersey Boys takes audiences on an exhilarating journey behind the music of mega-stars Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The musical was penned by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. It follows the incredible story of four guys bound by one dream, who worked their way from the streets of New Jersey to the heights of stardom. Audiences around the world have gone wild over the electrifying performances of the golden greats that took these hometown boys from Jersey all the way to the top of the charts: “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Dawn,” “My Eyes Adored You,” and many more. 

Jonathan Mousset

Starring as Frankie Valli, lead vocalist of The Four Seasons is Jonathan Mousset. He has performed in many regional theatres across the U.S. in such shows as Newsies, In the Heights, and Godspell. Mr. Mousset has also performed in concerts at New York City venues including 54 Below, the Times Center, and the Town Hall. Matthew Guy Magnusson makes his Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Tommy DeVito, lead guitar player of The Four Seasons. Mr. Magnusson has numerous regional theatre credits including Grease, Spring Awakening, American Idiot, and Ring of Fire. 

Performing as Bob Gaudio, songwriter behind The Four Seasons is Andy Christopher. Mr. Christopher has performed as Buddy Holly in the National Tour of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and in many regional theatres across the U.S. including Bucks County Playhouse, Flat Rock Playhouse, West Virginia Public Theatre, The Muny, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Great Lakes CFA, Fulton Theatre, Maine State Music Theatre, Casa Mañana, and the Ogunquit Playhouse where he got his start in 2012. Returning to the Playhouse to star as Nick Massi, The Four Seasons bassist is Matthew David Amira. Mr. Amira was last seen at the Ogunquit Playhouse in the 2016 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. His many regional theatre credits include Madame Defarge, She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof, and South Pacific among others.

207.646.5511  ogunquitplayhouse.org 

Sally Struthers and Hal Linden To Appear In “Grumpy Old Men The Musical” At The Ogunquit Playhouse

To Run  August 8 to September 1

Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a grumpy ride! The Ogunquit Playhouse is proud to produce the U.S. premiere of the new musical-comedy, Grumpy Old Men the Musical on stage from August 8 to September 1 — just in time to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the hit film that starred Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret. This hilarious new show was penned by Dan Remmes, with music by Neil Berg and lyrics by Nick Meglin. Director for the Ogunquit production of Grumpy Old Men the Musical is Matt Lenz.

Two aging neighbors, Max (Ed Dixon) and John (Mark Jacoby), have been feuding for more than fifty years until the beautiful and charming Ariel (Leslie Stevens) moves in across the street — raising the rivalry to new heights! Get ready for non-stop laughs when two great masters of comedy step on stage – Emmy and Golden Globe winner Sally Struthers, and the Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor Hal Linden will team up with a cast of Broadway veterans to add to the fun! Don’t miss this laugh-out-loud story of family, friendship, love and romance in a fresh new musical that’s guaranteed to delight!
“We are thrilled and proud to produce the U.S. premiere of this hilarious new show. We are most excited to share Neil Berg’s fantastic musical score that is in an upbeat Broadway style. And, the work of Dan Remmes and the late Nick Meglin is a very adult and hysterical production that is perfect for our audiences. Because of the themes of family, romance and hilarity, all wrapped up in a fun uplifting musical, we hope we have created something new that will have a long life in the U.S. and beyond,” stated Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney.

Hal Linden

The Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to announce that that star of stage and screen, Hal Linden joins the cast as Grandpa Gustafson. Perhaps best known for his portrayal of police precinct captain Barney Miller in the hit television series of the same name that aired on ABC from 1975 to 1982, Mr. Linden has earned multiple Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony nominations over his career. He hosted ABC’s “FYI,” a sixty-second information series in the 1980s, for which he received two Emmy Awards. His third Emmy in 1984 was for his portrayal of a rabbi on the CBS series “Schoolbreak Special.” In 1971, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in The Rothschilds, and to date, he has performed in more than 20 Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.
Two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award-winner Sally Struthers joins the cast as the new-to-town Punky. She is probably best known for her role as Gloria in the groundbreaking TV series All in the Family. She has also starred in the Fox television series 9 to 5 and her own CBS series Gloria, as well as recurring roles on the CBS comedy Still Standing and the CW network’s highly acclaimed Gilmore Girls. Ms. Struthers joined the Gilmore Girls cast for Netflix’s new four movie limited revival,

Sally Struthers

which premiered in the fall of 2016, and recently guest starred in the acclaimed IFC comedy series Maron. Sally Struthers has performed many roles at the Ogunquit Playhouse including last season’s Bullets Over Broadway as Eden Brent, as Evangeline Harcourt in Anything Goes, the Duchess Estonia Dulworth in Nice Work If You Can Get It, Mama Morton in Chicago, Paulette in Legally Blonde and as Felicia Gabriel in The Witches of Eastwick.
Ed Dixon and Mark Jacoby lead the cast of Grumpy Old Men the Musical as the two feuding (and very grumpy) neighbors. Portraying Max is Ed Dixon, who won the 2017 Drama Desk Award for Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose, which he wrote and starred in. On Broadway he has been featured in Anything Goes, Mary Poppins, Sunday in the Park with George, and Les Miserables, among others. Mark Jacoby joins Grumpy Old Men the Musical as John. On Broadway he has performed in Elf, Sweeny Todd, Man of La Mancha, Ragtime, The Phantom of the Opera, and Show Boat for which he received Tony, Outer Critics, and Joseph Jefferson Award nominations. Recently he starred in the 2017, Oscar-nominated film, The Post.
For info: www.ogunquitplayhouse.org 207.646.5511

“An American in Paris” The Ogunquit Playhouse July 11 Through August 4 

The Regional Premiere of An American in Paris to Open at the Ogunquit Playhouse 

 One of the most captivating musicals ever to be adapted for the stage, An American in Paris, makes its regional premiere at the Ogunquit Playhouse July 11 through August 4. This exquisite musical is inspired by the Academy Award-winning film that starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron and features music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin with book by Craig Lucas. The Ogunquit Playhouse is proud to be the first regional theatre in the U.S. to produce this new musical, which won four Tony Awards in 2015. The stunning combination of iconic music, timeless love story, breathtaking ballet, energetic tap dancing and an all-new design created exclusively for the Ogunquit Playhouse results in a spectacular musical that includes the Gershwin songs “I Got Rhythm,” “Liza,” “’S Wonderful,” “But Not for Me,” “Stairway to Paradise,” and orchestral music including “Concerto in F,” “2nd Prelude,” “2nd Rhapsody,” “The Cuban Overture,” and “An American In Paris.” 

An American in Paris tells the romantic story of World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan (Clyde Alves) who, hoping to start a new life, chooses newly-liberated Paris to make a name for himself as a painter. His life becomes complicated when he falls for Lise (Julie Eicher), a young Parisian shop girl, only to learn he is not her only suitor. This lavish new musical is guaranteed to sweep you off your feet, and into the arms of a story you’ll never forget.

Starring as Jerry Mulligan is Broadway’s Clyde Alves in his Ogunquit Playhouse debut. Mr. Alves’ numerous Broadway credits include Bullets Over Broadway, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Anything Goes, Wicked, Hairspray, Oklahoma!, On The Town, for which he received an Astaire Award nomination, and The Music Man, for which he won an Astaire Award for his performance as Tommy. 

Co-starring as Lise, the mysterious Parisian shop girl who catches Jerry’s attention, is Julie Eicher who is also making her Ogunquit Playhouse debut. Ms. Eicher was in the National Tour of Phantom of the Opera, and has performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago in Carousel, and Theatre by the Sea in Young Frankenstein. She has also performed with the Nashville Ballet, Dayton Ballet, Ballet Neo, and Artisan Dance Company as well as on television’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” This fall she will be joining the National Tour of Miss Saigon.

www.ogunquitplayhouse.org   207-646-5511.

“Oklahoma!” At The Ogunquit Playhouse Is More Than Okay


Directed by Fred Hanson
Through July 7
The Ogunquit Playhouse
Ogunquit, Maine

Stephen Mark Lukas and Cast
(Photo: Gary Ng)

It has been seventy-five years since Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein collaborated on their first play and changed musical theatre forever. Oklahoma!, with a bit of refreshing, has held up well and the latest production now playing at the Ogunquit Playhouse gives this great work the respect it deserves.

The play about the growing pains of the soon to be 46th state takes place, with the exception of the final scene, in one day. There are two romantic stories, the one between Curly (Stephen Mark Lukas) and Laurey (Taylor Quick), and Ado Annie (Chessa Metz) and Will (Colby Dezelick), as well as the conflicts that arise as two groups, the cowboys and the farmers have to learn to live together and share the land. There is also the matter of Judd (Timothy John Smith), the brooding and scary loner, who doesn’t fit in.

As the overture plays, beautiful scenes are projected on the curtain that give us a sense of the vastness of the Oklahoma territory. The opening scene, which was a departure from usual theatrical formula at the time in which the play first hit Broadway, shows Aunt Eller (Susann Fletcher) churning butter while, from offstage Curly begins singing Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’, which is as effective now as it must have been in 1943.

The sets which include a cabin, windmill, cornfield and a backdrop that seems to go on forever are constant reminders of the vastness of and challenges faced by those building a community on this new land.

The Farmer and the Cowmen
(Photos: Gary Ng)

The score is still as fresh as the morning dew on the cornfield. Stephen Mark Lukas and Taylor Quick in the leading roles combine the acting chops and voices that their parts demand. It is said that Rodgers and Hammerstein would cast singers who could act rather than the usual model of finding actors who could sing. I’m not sure what formula was used here, but it certainly works.

This production is based on the 1998 London revival, which ironically did not transfer directly to Broadway because Actors Equity demanded only American actors be allowed to play in it. The choreography by Susan Stroman is the same used in that revival, and is led here with some additions by choreographer Ginger Thatcher who has worked with Stroman. It is important this was handled well as Oklahoma! is as much a dance piece as it is the musical, and Ms Thatcher gets it done darn well.

The dream sequence ballet ending Act I is breathtaking.

The dream sequence Out Off My Dreams-Ballet ending Act I is breathtaking. Ms Thatcher along with this amazingly talented cast have given audiences a scene that will be talked about for years. Atmospheric, emotionally jarring, and just magnificent. At the performance I attended the audience was in awe as they stepped out for intermission.

The play, that at moments teeters on the brink of sentimentality but never goes over the edge also has a dark side to it. The character Judd who comes across as creepy and threatening, and with good reason, never fits in with the others. In all of the pieces I have read about the play I have not read any that show sympathy with him. In this production Timothy John Smith gives us all of the darkness of Judd, but also an undercurrent of how things may have been different if the others had made an effort to understand him. I’m reminded a bit of Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. Could a sympathetic ear have made a difference? After all, early in the play it is Curly who shows a dark side when, in jealously over Judd’s escorting Laurey to the box social, he visits Judd and attempts to convince him to commit suicide (Poor Judd His Daid). While the song is funny it is also quite disturbing, and the Calibanish Judd sees through it. Not exactly an invite to join in with the community. Mr. Smith brings more complexity to this character then I have seen before, and he does it very subtly. Quite impressive.

All of the musical numbers are memorable with People Will Say We’re In Love, The Farmer And The Cowmen, The Surrey With Fringe On Top, and the finale Oklahoma! being particularly outstanding.

Taylor Quick and Stephen Mark Lukas
(Photo: Jay Goldsmith)

Oklahoma! is a wonderful musical but it is more. The story has many levels to it, and it is one that can make us think about the challenges of working together to build and maintain a community. In a way we are all farmers and cowmen who have to work on being friends. It is also a reminder that being able to get along does not mean not having differences, but instead to respect those differences. It also means striving to understand the outsider.

With cornfields that literally reach out to the actors, an unbeatable score, a cast that abounds with talent, lighting and scenery that are beyond impressive, this is a theatre experience not to be missed. Director Fred Hanson has pulled it all together and the Ogunquit Playhouse stage is the perfect theater to witness it in.

Every so often I like to remind my readers that the Ogunquit Playhouse is not summer theatre. It is a full blown theatrical company that rivals Broadway in quality. As is seen in Oklahoma!, you get top talent with a production team that knows how to out on a play. And, it all takes place in a beautiful and comfortable theater. If you haven’t been before, don’t hesitate to take a drive up to beautiful Ogunquit, Maine and see for yourself. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein would be pleased. You’ll leave the theater saying “Oklahoma!, You’re Okay!”

“Oklahoma!” Opening At The Ogunquit Playhouse

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Bursts Onto the Ogunquit Playhouse Stage Just in Time to Celebrate its 75th Anniversary! 

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great American classic Oklahoma! bursts onto the Ogunquit Playhouse stage June 13 to July 7. The Playhouse is thrilled to create an exciting new production of this beloved classic as part of its 75th Anniversary since first opening on Broadway. This groundbreaking musical was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration, and in many ways their most innovative, having set standards for musical theatre that are still being followed today. The lively musical features the timeless classics, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey with the Fringe On Top,” “I Cain’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and of course the triumphant “Oklahoma!”

“Now, with Oklahoma! celebrating its 75th Anniversary, it seemed the perfect time to bring this beloved classic to our stage. The Ogunquit Playhouse production will feature the original designs from Cameron Mackintosh’s London and Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, and Susan Stroman’s choreography, which will be tailored for our production by Susan Stroman’s Associate Ginger Thatcher. Our show will be helmed by Fred Hanson, who together with an outstanding cast will create a fresh, lively and exuberant Oklahoma!,” stated Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney.

The high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys living in Western Indian Territory at the turn of the twentieth century, provide the colorful setting for Curly, the confident cowboy, (Stephen Mark Lukas) and Laurey, the beautiful, head-strong farm girl, (Taylor Quick) to play out their love story. Throw in a fierce rival vying for Laurey’s attention, one flirtatious fiancée, a reluctant suitor, magnificent choreography and one of the most beautiful musical scores ever written and you have a recipe for a rip-roaring good time! 

Individual tickets are on sale now with prices starting at $52. Three and four-show packages are also available for the current season. Gift certificates are also on sale. For tickets visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org, the Box Offices located at 102 and 10 Main Street, Ogunquit or call 207-646-5511.

The Ogunquit Playhouse Announces Schedule For Backstage Tours


Walk In The Footsteps Of Legends

By Bobby Franklin

If you have enjoyed sitting in the audience at the Ogunquit Playhouse marveling at all the happens on stage, don’t miss out on the chance tossup behind the scenes. The Playhouse has announced this seasons schedule for backstage tours.

I have taken the tour and it is something you will not forget. Walking in the footsteps of such legends as Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Walter Matthau, and Steve McQueen I could feel the presence of these and so many other greats who have performed on the stage in Ogunquit over the past 86 years. 

The guided tour will give you a chance to learn the history of the Ogunquit Playhouse which includes how it survived through the Great Depression and went on to become America’s foremost summer theatre. You will be up close to where it all happens from wig design to sets and costumes, and get to visit the dressing rooms where the stars prepare before stepping onto the stage. You’ll be surprised by some of the things you’ll see.

The tours are scheduled for the following dates: Fridays, June 22, August 3, 24, 31, and September 14, 21, and 28; Sundays, June 3, July 15, August 26, and September 16 and 30; and Mondays, June 4 and 18, and July 30. A 90 minute tour is $10.00. The abbreviated 60 minute tour is $5.00 Contact the Box Office at 207.646.5511 for more information.

I highly recommend doing this. It is a chance to step into theatre history.

(Photo Credit: Neil McMahon)

New York Bound Smokey Joes Cafe Set to Open the Ogunquit Playhouse 2018 Season

New Version Of The Hit Musical Opens May 16

 The Ogunquit Playhouse kicks off its 86th season with the all-new incarnation of the sizzling song and dance celebration Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller on stage May 16 to June 9. This exuberant production of the record breaking Broadway smash hit is directed and choreographed by Emmy Award-winner and Tony Award-nominee Josh Bergasse who will bring new life to more than 30 classic songs including “Stand by Me,” “I’m a Woman,” “Hound Dog,” “Fools Fall In Love,” “On Broadway,” “Yakety Yak,” “Pearl’s a Singer,” “Treat Me Nice,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Love Potion #9,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Spanish Harlem.” The all-new production heads to Stage 42 (422 West 42nd Street, NYC) following its Ogunquit run. 

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the original producing team to create this fantastic show,” stated Executive Artistic Director, Bradford Kenney. “It has been our honor to work with Jack Viertel who conceived Smokey Joe’s Cafe with Stephen Helper and the New York producers, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Steven Baruch, and Marc Routh, who have made this collaboration possible. It has also been our honor to bring this incredible creative team to Ogunquit led by Director/Choreographer Josh Bergasse and Tony Award-winning designers Beowulf Borwitt and Jeff Croiter as well as Costume Designer Alejo Vietti and Sound Designer Peter Fitzgerald.” 

The original production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller made history as Broadway’s longest running musical revue, earned a Grammy Award and multiple Tony Award nominations. The show celebrates the best songs of the legendary songwriting duo, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and their generation-defining songs that climbed the Billboard charts and provided hit after hit for icons like Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, The Coasters, and The Drifters.

The cast of this all-new production features Broadway and Off-Broadway veterans including, Dwayne Cooper, who appeared on Broadway in Motown and Hairspray, and the National Tours of Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Showboat, and Seussical The Musical; Emma Degerstedt who was most recently seen in the lead role in the Off-Broadway musical, Desperate Measures; John Edwards, whose credits include the Broadway production and National Tour of Jersey Boys, In the Heights at The Kennedy Center and the National Tour of Hairspray; Dionne D. Figgins, who began her career as a member of Dance Theatre of Harlem, and has been seen on Broadway in Hot Feet, Memphis, Leap of Faith, and Motown. Also joining the cast are Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, who made her theatre debut as the leading lady in the Off-Broadway parody, Spamilton; Kyle Taylor Parker, who was most recently seen on NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” and the original Broadway productions of Kinky Boots and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Jelani Remy, who most recently starred as “Simba” in Broadway’s The Lion King; Max Sangerman, who starred in the first National tour of The Lightning Thief, as well as Blue Man Group Off-Broadway; and Alysha Umphress, who performed on Broadway in On the Town, American Idiot, and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, among others.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe is directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and features scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Alejo Vietti, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Peter Fitzgerald, original vocal arrangements by Chapman Roberts, and orchestrations by Steve Margoshes and Sonny Paladino. Music Supervision and new arrangements are also by Mr. Paladino. 

Box Office located at 142 Main Street, Ogunquit, 207-646-5511 or online at www.ogunquitplayhouse.org

Ogunquit Playhouse Adds Jersey Boys To Its 2018 Season

Also Receives 17 IRNE Award Nominations
For 2017 Season

By Bobby Franklin

It is an exciting time for theatre goers who will be traveling the short distance to Ogunquit, Maine this summer to attend performances during the 86th season at the legendary Ogunquit Playhouse. In addition to an already fabulous lineup that includes productions of Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Oklahoma!, An American In Paris, and Grumpy Old Men, Executive Artistic Director Brad Kenney has announced that the Northeast regional premiere of Jersey Boys will cap off the season. The hit show featuring the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons will run from September 5 to October 28. Tickets will certainly be in demand for this one.

This is as fine a lineup as I have seen from the amazing creative team at the Playhouse and will certainly be an enjoyable way to mix the theatre experience in with all of the other wonderful things the Ogunquit area has to offer for summer fun.

I’ve been covering the Ogunquit Playhouse for a number of years now, and while no theater is able to bat 1000, the creative team under the very able leadership of Brad Kenney hits the ball to the fences much more often then not and has a very strong record of home runs to its credit. This is as close to Broadway quality as you will find outside of New York City, and I have to say some productions I have seen surpass those on the Great White Way.

Vincent Pastore (Nick Valente) and Reed Campbell (Cheech) With Ensemble

The Playhouse has received 17 award nominations from Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) for 2017. Five nominations go to Bullets Over Broadway. It been nominated for Best Musical, In addition, Reed Campbell is up for Best Actor for his role as Cheech, and Sally Struthers for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Eden Bent. Jeff Whiting is up for two awards, Best Choreography and Best Director.

Christopher Ash has been nominated for Best Production Design for his work on From Here To Eternity.

Cast of Ragtime
(Photo: Gary Ng)

Ragtime has been nominated for eleven IRNE Awards including Best Musical, Best Ensemble, and Best Director to Seth Sklar-Heyn. Jeffrey Campos for Best Music Director, Kevin Heard for Sound Design, and Jesse Robb for Best Choreography. Kirsten Scott is nominated as Best Actress for her role as Mother, and Best Supporting Actor nomination goes to Julian Decker for his performance as Little Brother. Josh Young and Darnell Abraham both have been nominated for a Best Actor Award parts, Decker for his role as Tateh, and Abraham for Coalhouse. And finally, my favorite, Tyler Wladis who has been nominated as Most Promising Young Performer for his outstanding performance as The Young Boy.

Brad Kenney

Bradford Kenney, Executive Artistic Director at the Ogunquit Playhouse said, “To be recognized once again by the IRNE nominating committee alongside some of New England’s leading theatres is a great honor. We are extremely proud of our beautiful production of Ragtime, the hilarious Bullets Over Broadway and of our regional premiere of From Here to Eternity. Congratulations to our exceptional creative teams and casts who made our 85th Anniversary season a success. We want to extend our congratulations to all nominees who have been recognized by the IRNE Awards.”

The awards ceremony will take place on April 23 at the 1200 Hotel in Brookline, Ma and will be an exciting time for all involved. Pass the envelope please.

www.Ogunquitplayhouse.org  207.646.5511

A Powerful Musical In Ogunquit

From Here To Eternity: A New Musical
The Ogunquit Playhouse

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

James Jones was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He had enlisted in the U.S. Army before the war and was stationed in Hawaii in what seemed like a world away from the war raging in Europe that threatened to include the United States. Army life even before the war was not easy. Many of those who enlisted were living very difficult lives in Depression Era America and looked at the Army as being a way out.

Derek Carley and Company
(Photo Credit: Gary Ng)

Jones wrote about his experiences during this time in the novel From Here to Eternity, which was later made into an Academy Award winning movie. The novel was a no holds barred look at Army life during that period. It was not pretty. The movie shows much, but not all, of what Jones wrote. Now, a musical play with lyrics by Tim Rice, music by Stuart Brayson, and book Donald Rice & Bill Oakes presents us with a work that is much closer to the original novel. It is a painful story but it is told with understanding and sympathy for those involved. All the characters are based on people James Jones knew while serving.

The set at the Ogunquit Playhouse is atmospheric. With large palm trees and multiple levels with lattice work that reaches to the ceiling the beauty of Hawaii is felt but with a dark overtone. Subtle set changes along with images being projected on the walls are used to set the different moods and they are used well.

Kevin Aichele and Company
(Photo Credit: Gary Ng)

The score is outstanding and hits hard and fast with the opening number G Company Blues. The choreography is tight and very physical, conveying the hard life these men lived. Other songs such as Thirty Year Man, Don’cha Like Hawaii, and I Love The Army. Something In Return is an amazing number that was superbly done. It allows us to experience the hope and despair of those stationed on the island as well as the women who share this difficult life. These women include prostitutes and the wife of an ambitious and cruel officer.

Those familiar wth the book and/or movie will quickly recognize most of the characters. If not, they will quickly become known to you. The outstanding cast plays each as their own, and with their solid acting and beautiful voices make this a very powerful work indeed.

The story of cruelty and the misuse of power hardly seems the material for a musical but it works and works well here. With an outstanding cast led by Derek Carley as Private Prewitt and Kevin Aichele in the role of Sargent Warden the pain and struggles of these individuals is brought to life in a way that is both painful to watch but done with tenderness and compassion.

Robyn Hurder plays Karen Holmes the abused wife of the ambitious but weak Captain Dana Holmes played by Bradley Dean. They make the ugliness of such a marriage almost too real, but it is necessary. We do get to see the tender side of Karen in her scenes with Sargent Warden with whom she is having an affair. And for those who might be wondering how the famous beach scene from the movie is recreated, I will just say this is not a staging of the movie; however, the emotions from that iconic movie movement are captured here.

Michael Tacconi and Reed Campbell
(Photo Credit: Gary Ng)

The wise cracking Private Angelo Maggio has been cast perfectly with Michael Tocconi in the role. His rendition of I Love The Army is heart wrenching. Reed Campbell returns to the Ogunquit stage after his outstanding performance in Bullets Over Broadway, and proves that he was no one shot wonder. He again shows his amazing talent as the sadistic Sargent Fatso Judson. By the time Judson gets what is coming to him there is nobody in the house who feels sympathy for him.

Jenna Nicole Schoen plays the prostitute Lorene that Private Prewitt falls for. She has a beautiful voice and is wonderful in her part. Ms Schoen captures in her character a loving woman who has had to turn her feelings off in order to survive in a hard world. Private Prewitt manages to break through the wall she has put up. Jodi Kimura as Sandra, the madame of the local brothel, conveys the combination of a jaded life along with
compassion and understanding.

The finale with the attack on Pearl Harbor is spectacular with slow motion sequences from the actors as well as magnificent use of the projection equipment that brings the audience into that infamous day. It also shows us how life has been transformed by world events and the tragic consequences of people who wield their power, no matter how small, over others with cruelty that result in such horrific consequences. The song The Boys of 41 which is reprised at the end of the play is poignant and moving as we see the names of those who gave their lives projected onto the walls of the theatre.

I do have to mention the amazing job Richard Latta has done with the lighting for this production. The subtle changes are so very effective in setting the mood for the different scenes.

From Here To Eternity at the Ogunquit Playhouse is truly an experience not to be missed. Artistic Director Brad Kenney has closed out the Playhouse’s 85th season in spectacular fashion.

Just a final note. This is not a play that would be appropriate for children. It does handle the serous themes in a tasteful way but I believe it could be disturbing for children.

From Here To Eternity: A New Musical
The Ogunquit Playhouse
Ogunquit, Maine
Through October 29