Friday, September 14, 2012

Ogunquit Playhouse’s Brad Kenney to Direct Holiday Special at Carnegie Hall

Brad Kenney, executive artistic director at Ogunquit Playhouse, is going to Carnegie Hall (courtesy photo)

By Timothy Gillis

Brad Kenney, the executive artistic director at Ogunquit Playhouse, has been tapped to work on a new holiday special at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Kenney will be working with multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress Jane Seymour and PBS composer Tim Janis for the musical journey called “The Christmas Rose” on Thursday, November 29. A cast of 400 performers will fill the stage for an evening of music, dance, and drama. Kenney has met with producers of the show and will begin work in earnest in early November.
“It’s kind of a different genre,” Kenney said. “A mix of symphony, large choir, folkloric dancing, with a Broadway musical story.”
“The Christmas Rose” is a whimsical, family tale that follows a young orphan named Annabelle into the desert, pursued by a team of bandits. She crosses paths with everything from the three wise men and singing angels to Mary and Joseph.
“It has a spiritual, holiday feel to it,” Kenney said. “It will be very inspirational, fun, upbeat. We’re shooting for it to be an annual holiday event there.”
The show will employ Broadway-caliber talent, he said, and is very funny. “A team of bandits, led by a character named Adbul, are comic and farcical in their attempts to capture this young girl,” Kenney said. “The backstory is really about a lot of us, a universal message. She’s finding her way in the next part of her life.”
Kenney came to be involved in the mega-production when he was approached by Janis, a noted composer from York, and his producing partners. Kenney’s reputation as Ogunquit Playhouse’s artistic director is known in theater circles around the country, and they recruited him to be at the helm of this new venture in a theatrical fashion.
“We hope it’s the new Nutcracker,” Janis said.
Jane Seymour is the star of the show, set in a story-telling environment. Seymour’s husband, James Keach, who produced “Walk the Line,” will work with Kenney on the production. Kenney thinks Seymour is the perfect choice for her role.
“There’s a beautiful aura of elegance about her, for telling a story like this, on the grand scale of Carnegie Hall,” he said.
Janis and Elizabeth Demmer wrote the music and lyrics for the musical spectacular, and Janis wrote the script. The show will play for one evening only. The following evening, Janis will return for the American Christmas Carol, an annual treat at the venerable venue.
Janis has ten Billboard charting CDs, more than one million albums sold, and four national public television specials. He’s worked with some of the top artists in the music and entertainment business including Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, George Clooney and James Earl Jones. He has also conducted the Czech National Symphony, the Kwazulu Natal Philharmonic and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
“A lot of what Tim does is inspirational,” said Kenney, who has only been to Carnegie Hall once, as a patron to see a classical music concert. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s an incredibly prestigious place.”
Kenney plans to work with some familiar faces from the Ogunquit Playhouse, who will be collaborating on the project.
Kenney is in his seventh season at the Ogunquit Playhouse, and he is already looking to next year.
“Although we are working on the current production (“Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story”), we’re already working furiously on the 8th (season),” he said. “The seacoast has been a great partner with the playhouse.”
Even with people interested in their digital devices, live theater continues to grow, he said. Kenney credits “the support network, from the community, the board, and the talented actors and actresses that are drawn here. The seacoast is an incredibly cultured and intelligent community, and when you put out a strong piece, they react to it. That’s not always the case in other parts of the country.” Kenney says he repeatedly hears from actors and actresses that “the audiences are smart; they really react to the material.”
The final production of the season, “Buddy,” has some surprises in store. “The actors not only sing and dance and act,” Kenney said. “They also play the instruments.” The theater was fortunate to work with the original creators of the show from London’s West End, he said, and there will be “new songs in the show that haven’t been heard before.”
After “Buddy,” Kenney will focus on “The Christmas Rose,” which will also feature the country’s premier concert boys choir The American Boychoir, and internationally renowned and Ireland’s own Damhsa Dance Company.
The evening’s proceeds will go to benefit The Open Hearts Foundation, which encourages people to live with an open heart in the face of adversity. Tickets go on sale September 28, at the Carnegie Hall box office. Call 212-247-7800 or visit Tickets are discounted thirty percent the first four days they go on sale, from September 28 at 11 am until October 1 at 11:59 pm.

Olympian Speaks to Freshmen at Wells High School Orientation

Olympian Julia Clukey (left) speaking to a group of freshmen at WHS.   On stage with Clukey are WHS seniors Bryanna Welch and Sean Roche

Story and photo by Reg Bennett

Flying down a winding, ice-coated track on a small sled at speeds exceeding eighty miles an hour takes courage, practice and great skill.  But that is what Julia Clukey does when in competition on the U.S. National Luge Team.  To get to where she is today involved goals and the motivation to achieve them through persistence, determination and lots of hard work. 
On September 4, Clukey, a 2003 graduate of Cony High School in Augusta, was the motivational speaker for freshmen orientation at Wells High School.  She was introduced to the audience by team leader for the freshman team and math teacher Andy Bridge.
Following a short film about her sports career thus far, Clukey talked about being on the Junior Olympic Team and how, at just 17, she became a member of the Senior Olympic Team, a spot that is normally for those 20 and older. 
“This was a huge moment for me,” said Clukey to the students.  “I had reached my goal, I made the senior team.”  She indicated that this experience showed her “how important it was to work hard and how hard work was the one thing you are always going to own yourself.”
She told the audience in the WHS auditorium that her role models are her parents and that “school” came first over sports in her family.  She told the group that she has studied electrical engineering and was employed in the summer of 2012 in a marketing department creating graphic design.
Clukey has been a motivational speaker appearing at Maine high schools for the past two years. She estimates she has spoken to 10,000 students in that time period.
“Anytime I get to meet new kids it’s great,” said Clukey. “I’m always amazed by no matter where I go, there’s great kids everywhere and they all have goals of their own and I love talking to them.”
Clukey competed in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and is training to compete in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 
At Wells High School, Clukey also participated with senior class officers in panel discussions on freshman life. Between panel discussions she met students and signed posters.

York Family to Compete on Family Feud

(left to right) Megan, Alyssa, host Steve Harvey, Sandy, Meg, and Jeff, on the set of Family Feud. The Lathrop family competed on the television game show, which airs Tuesday, September 18, on the Fox channel (courtesy photo)

The Lathrop Family from York will face off against the Carlyle Family from Stillmore, Georgia, in front of a live studio audience in Atlanta with the chance to win up to $100,000 and a brand new car, along with some serious bragging rights. The show airs Tuesday, September 18 at 4 p.m. on the Fox channel. Family Feud host Steve Harvey and his no-holds-barred brand of comedy are back for an all-new season of one of America's favorite family competitions.
The Lathrop Family – which includes Meg, a stay-at-home mom; cousin Jeff, a firefighter; cousin Sandy, a librarian; cousin Alyssa, a teacher; and cousin Meg, a teacher – will be playing for big prize money plus a brand new car when they appear on the show. Since Harvey took over as host of the show, viewership has increased nearly 50 percent overall, and it's no wonder. Harvey brings down the house five days a week as he puts contestants on the spot and mines laughter from the crowd with every remark, gesture and eye roll he makes.
“I saw a story in my local newspaper about an open casting call for ‘Family Feud’ happening at Foxwoods Casino, so I immediately asked my crazy family to try out with me,” said Sandy.  “If we win we want to donate a portion of the winnings to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation in honor of my aunt and Meg’s mother.”
One of the original Kings of Comedy, Harvey brings his ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ brand of humor to center stage where he keeps audiences in stitches for the show's 14th season in national syndication. Families travel from all over the country to compete for big cash prizes on the set of Family Feud, and enjoy a great bonding experience while they’re at it. When the show is over, fans can connect for breaking news on Twitter (@FamilyFeud), find outtakes and behind the scenes footage on YouTube ( ) and even face off against friends and family on Facebook.
One of the most beloved and successful game shows in history, Family Feud is produced by FremantleMedia North America and distributed by Debmar Mercury. Gaby Johnston is executive producer; Jim Roush is executive in charge of production; Ken Fuchs is director.
To secure their spot on the show, the Lathrop Family called the Family Feud hotline to begin the process. Other contestant hopefuls can also call the show’s hotline at 323-762-8467 for an interview.