Get ready to wig out to ‘Hairspray’



 NEW BEDFORD – With his production of the international hit “Hairspray,” Armand Marchand, executive producer and founder of New Bedford Festival Theatre, is hoping to tease the nostalgic side of theatergoers and transport them to 1962, a year when laughter, romance, music and dancing dominated the heart of every teenager.

The production will be an exclusive seven-performance New England summer 2012 presentation by New Bedford Festival Theatre and run at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford for two consecutive weekends this July.

“If you like ‘Grease,’ you’re going to love ‘Hairspray,’” Marchand said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a hot title and the music is very upbeat. It’s like going to a big party. “People will be dancing and moving in the aisles at The Z.”

Set in Baltimore, the family friendly musical comedy tangos through the life of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with an even bigger heart, who hopes to dance on the Corny Collins T.V. Dance Show, which is based on the nationally televised show, “American Bandstand.”

After winning a spot to appear on the show, Tracy morphs from an outsider to a teen celebrity overnight and leads a revolt to dethrone the show’s Teen Queen, win the affection of the cutest guy, and help racially integrate the crowd without messing up her bob.

Infused with the era’s trendiest hairstyles, dance moves and music from a variation of genres, such as Rock ‘n’ Roll, Doo-wop and Motown, the plot speaks to diversity and the acceptance of individual differences, whether based on racial, ethnic, religious or even a person’s physical appearance, as the underdogs and stereotypical outcasts are depicted as heroes.

“If we can all dance together at the end of the day, it’s a wonderful thing,” Marchand said. “And I think a lot of people will come see the show because it’s the kind of music everyone grew up on. When I was growing up with “American Bandstand,” it made me happy, even on a day that was difficult.”

For Marchand, “Hairspray” gives him the opportunity to not only relive the era he grew up in, but also a chance to pay homage to longtime “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark, a television producer who promoted musical acts of all races and was also considered a pioneer in advancing the acceptance of racial diversity on his daily teen dance show. Sadly, Clark passed away on April 18 and the entire run of “Hairspray” will be dedicated to him.

“He was an amazing man and we feel that we owe him a tribute,” Marchand said. “I’ve watched his work for more than 50 years and I’m happy that we’re able to recognize what he’s done. He’s an American show business icon.”

Marchand said he was 14 when he started watching “American Bandstand” in the late 1950s. During that time, the show was on five days a week, from 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon until 5 p.m.

Regular dancers who appeared on the show, which was filmed in Philadelphia, were from South Philadelphia High School. Three of the boys later become famous singers, including Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and Bobby Rydell.

“One of the girls in my neighborhood used to say, ‘OK. After school tomorrow, everyone can come over to my house and we can dance in front of the T.V. with ‘American Bandstand’ on,’” Marchand said. “There’s no such show anymore.”

Audiences who purchase tickets to “Hairspray” can expect the professional settings and costumes, expert sound and lighting, as well as talented performers that New Bedford Festival Theatre is known for.

While rehearsals won’t begin until early July, Marchand is excited about the cast, particularly LauraMarie Rondinella, who will be playing the part of Tracy.

“She’s an Italian girl from Jersey City, New Jersey, and she’s perfect for the show,” he said. “She’s five feet tall and has a smile that lights up the entire room. When she sings, ‘Good Morning, Baltimore,’ your day is 10 times better. I was so glad when she accepted the contract because she’s adorable and has a great personality. She’s just like Tracy and wins everyone over in the show.”

As far as other roles, Ryan Overberg, a student at Boston Conservatory, will star as heartthrob Link Larkin,  and Lizzy Palmer, who performed in a recent production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Court House Center for the Arts in West Kingston, Rhode Island, will star as Teen Queen Amber Von Tussle.

Further, Aaron Fried will play the part of Edna; John Costa will star as Wilber; and Bobby Sylvia will play Corny Collins.

The show will also feature a production staff of Director/Choreographer Michael Susko; Musical Director/Conductor Juan Rodriguez; and Artistic Director George Charbonneau. Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, who wrote music for NBC’s hit show “Smash,” composed the music of “Hairspray.”

“I’m hoping they write a sequel and show the characters’ lives in college,” Marchand said. “But, that’s not up to me. I don’t write musicals; I produce them.”

Marchand, who taught English for 35 years at New Bedford High School, said he is thrilled to be celebrating Clark during the New Bedford Festival Theatre’s 23rd season with his first production of “Hairspray,” which opened on Broadway in 2002 and ran for more than eight years.

“Dick Clark, we are not going to ‘stop the beat,’” he said, referring to the play’s final number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” “You started it and we’re going to keep it going.”

Tickets for “Hairspray,” winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, are on sale at the Zeiterion’s box office, located at 684 Purchase Street, by calling 508-994-2900 or by visiting

Showings include July 20 and July 21 at 7:30 p.m.; July 22 at 2 p.m.; July 26 at 7 p.m.; July 27 and July 28 at 7:30 p.m.; and July 29 at 2 p.m.

Guyer encourages youth to let dreams take center stage

Lisa Guyer


“Play an instrument.”

That’s Lisa Guyer’s top tip for aspiring singers, especially females.  But, it’s one of many pieces of advice the singer/songwriter plans to teach students of both genders aged 13 to 18 during her five-day music program, the Lisa Guyer’s Music Empowerment Program, which runs June 25th through the 29th at Wilton-Lyndeborough High School, located at 57 School Road in Wilton, New Hampshire.

“With all the experience I have from being out on the road learning things the hard way, I feel like I can give them the opportunity to learn about what it’s like being on stage,” says Guyer, 48, who has been performing professionally for 31 years. “We’re going to have a blast. No one’s going to be wrong unless they don’t try.”

The goal of the program, Guyer says, is to help young performers find what she and her team of three instructors call the “golden nugget,” or “it factor.” In other words, Guyer, along with Heidi Pauer, a teacher in the New Hampshire school system and also a member of Guyer’s staff of mentors, wrote the program to encourage students to forget their inhibitions and bring out their inner artists.

“Do I think you can teach ‘it factor?’ No, but I think we’re all born with a light inside us that needs to be polished and honed,” she said. “I’m going to try to help them shine.”

Guyer and Pauer, as well as Kim Riley, a fellow musician, and Linda Erb, a local teacher, will teach approximately 60 students collaboratively, as well as break them down into four groups of 12 to 15 from time to time, to guide them through various topics.

Subjects include movement, in which mentors will show students how to share the focus between playing music, feeling music and letting music “free your body;” thinking outside the box, a session designed to teach the art of improvisation as it relates to live performances; jigsaw symphony, a topic in which collaboration is the main objective, and blind inspiration, a workshop that promises to draw on the senses.

Further, Guyer intends to have a one-on-one with each student on the first day.

“It’s not going to be children sitting in class with a piece of paper and a pencil-that’s not going to happen,” she said. “It’s going to be recess all day, but structured. I’m hoping they make new friends and write a new song together.”

For Guyer, not only is it important that students have the ability to perform independently, as she says she makes half her income by playing solo shows, it’s vital that they open their minds to teaming up with other musicians, too.

In fact, after Sully Erna of Godsmack asked her to sing vocals on the song “Hollow,” which appeared on Godsmack’s 2007 release, IV, she recorded and toured with Erna for  his 2010 solo album, Avalon.

“We’ve always had a mutual admiration for each other and we got into this space where he asked me to do the solo thing with him. That became Avalon and I’m very grateful that someone in his position, friend or no friend, was very gracious with me,” she said of Erna, who she has been close with for more than 20 years.  “He gave me lead vocal appearances and back up vocals through the whole thing and for him to put me in the limelight was incredible. He’s a really great guy and a really sweet soul.”

Also, during the Avalon tour, a show at the Wilbur Theater in Boston was filmed for upcoming release. While Guyer didn’t watch the film at the time she was interviewed by Limelight Magazine, she says Erna assured her it is “beautiful,” and she was able to listen to the audio.

“It sounds amazing,” she said.

Aside from being a vocalist, Guyer plays piano and a “little bit of drums.” She’s been performing since she was four and comes from a highly musical family. As a child, she and her family frequently put on vaudevillian shows at senior centers and churches. Whether she was singing, doing comedy acts, or even taking dance classes with 18-year-olds by the time she was seven, she believes the experience helped make her a well-rounded performer.

“It gave me that confidence to do my thing,” says Guyer, who in addition to singing and writing music enjoys interior decorating, photography and gardening.

“I’m always out with Mother Nature,” she says. “It gives me peace.”

Eventually, Guyer hopes to teach her program to adults. For now, she’s focused on making sure she holds a camp every school vacation so she can give advice to aspiring young musicians.

“The industry has changed so much since I was younger and the best thing I can say is practice and work on it,” she says. “Do everything you can to be in school shows and be as diverse as you can. Get out there. Be creative. Put your music up on YouTube. Keep honing your craft. Let no one tell you that you can’t do it.”

To learn more about Lisa Guyer’s Music Empowerment Program or to enroll online, visit, call 603-554-8602 or email

Fifth Freedom ready to record first album

Fifth Freedom


“We went from being the bar cover band to writing our own songs, getting on local radio stations and then getting heavy rotation statewide,” said Alan Jones, founding member of Fifth Freedom, a hard rock/southern rock band from Portland, Maine.

In fact, they’ve earned airplay on 106.3 The Bone, 95.3 The Edge and 105.1 WTOS The Mountain of Pure Rock and have been featured on sell out shows, including 2009’s Bone Bash and multiple WTOS “School of Rock” shows.

Additionally, they’ve partnered with a group called Conquer Entertainment, an up-and-coming business that’s helping them market their music.

But, the excitement doesn’t stop there. Jones, along with band mates Nicholas Little, Mike Scarpelli and Gary Marston, recently made a website through Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, this spring. By late May, they hit their minimum goal of $5,000.

“Thank you to our supporters and fans who helped this dream start to come true,” the band posted on their Facebook page May 25.

Since they were able to raise $5,000, the band will be heading into the studio to record an album with producer Beau Hill, who has produced music for bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Twisted Sister and Ratt, to name a few.

“For us, it’s a once in a lifetime thing,” Jones said. “He happened to come across our music, and just e-mailed our manager and then called me out of nowhere and said, ‘Hey. I really like your sound but your music needs more production behind it.’ He genuinely wants to work with us. We’ve been sitting on this material for years and have more material ready to go.”

Jones, the lead vocalist, who is also one of the band’s two guitarists, formed Fifth Freedom with his younger brother, Dan Robert, in 2003. When Robert left for the Army in 2006, Jones promised he wouldn’t end the band.

“If I stop pursuing the dream he’d kick my ass,” said Jones. “We have these basic freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, freedom from hate,-and being in the band is the ultimate freedom. It empowers us. Through members coming and going, girlfriends, wives, ex wives and everything else, we’ve always had this-we’ve always had the band. It’s our outlet. We can say what we want to say and people understand that.”

Yet, there is one more thing that makes the quartet feel empowered.

According to Jones, opening for major-label acts gives them a rush like no other. A personal highlight for him was when they got to open for Adler’s Appetite, which is comprised of members from classic glam rock bands such as Quiet Riot, Faster Pussycat, Enuff Z’Nuff and, of course, Guns N Roses, as former GNR drummer Steven Adler leads the band.

“Guns was the first band that I heard that I was like, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do,’” said Jones. “They became my heroes, not just a band. Meeting him was like, ‘Whoa,’ let alone sharing the stage with him. He was the most humble person I’ve ever met. It was so refreshing to see that.”

Fifth Freedom has also shared stages with other well-known acts including Godsmack, Theory of a Deadman, Sevendust, Alter Bridge, Empathetic, Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd, among others.

To learn more about the band, as well as tour information, visit them on Facebook at or on Reverbnation at