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Malt Shop Music On The Eurodam

News item: There’s a theme cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam next year called the Malt Shop Memories Cruise.

On our first date, which must be close to 100 years ago, we went to a malt shop…okay, it was called The Chocolate Shop…same thing. But how many of us remember malt shops? Jukeboxes and sodas and counter service and banana cream pie…

It’s probably appropriate the cruise is on a Holland America ship, for demographic reasons. Given the diminishing number of people who know what a malt shop is (or was), it’s definitely appropriate that the cruise is sooner as opposed to later.

Neil SedakaBen E. KingNot just because of the audience's age, either.

One of the scheduled performers on the Eurodam is Neil Sedaka (left). He’s 75. Plus Chubby Checker, who’s 73. Also Sonny Turner (75), one of the lead singers for one of the groups claiming to be The Platters. And Bobby Rydell (72), Little Anthony (73), Lou Christie (71), Frankie Avalon (74), Ben E. King (76, right), Darlene Love (“He’s A Rebel”), who’s old enough (76) to have Toni Braxton play her in a bio pic now in production for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

We’ve seen some of these “old-time” acts in a variety of venues (and, yes, on PBS). We enjoyed Little Anthony and The Imperials at a street show when he was a mere child of 67. Frankie Valli at 70 wowed us at a Las Vegas hotel. As recently as this week, Darlene Love was preparing for her 29th appearance on Letterman and cutting a new album to be released in time for her tour next year!

The cruise is set for November 1, 2015. It’s a 7-day trip from Fort Lauderdale (return) to Eurodamthe southern Caribbean with stops in the Bahamas, Aruba and Curacao. Details can be found at maltshopmemories.com.

For the most part, performing is like riding a bicycle for these “old folks.” They always know how. Maybe the wheels are a little slower, and the notes not quite as high, but who better to play “them” than the originals?

In another time, they would have been playing lawn bowling, not cruise ships. They’d be thrilled to shoot their age on the golf course but most of them are too busy still performing…for music lovers who remember malt shops.

Tomorrow: Some entertainers we've enjoyed on cruise ships

Today at portsandbows.com: What's happened to Caribbean cruises

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
January 17, 2015
Houston (return): CozumelBelizeRoatan
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $38
www.ncl.com

Gambling in the 21st Century Spreading to Ships in Ports and Pool Decks on Ships

Sometime soon, which is to say in the next few months, nine of Celebrity's 11 ships will be outfitted with technology that will allow passengers to gamble on their phones and/or tablets while on a ship that's in international waters. Bringing the casino to the patrons, as it were. About the time this was announced, Bermuda's government was passing a bill allowing passengers to gamble on ships in the popular port after nine o'clock at night. If something can ever be a safe bet (pun intended), these two "gambles" qualify.

Gambling is almost everywhere in the 21st century. You can debate the social fallout long into the night, or the year, but you cannot debate the popularity. Drive by a casino at any time it is open and see how many cars are in the parking lot…any casino, any parking lot. Check out casino entertainment and note how many of the headliners are performing long after you would have expected them to retire…hello there, Frankie Valli, who's 79 and still worth the price of admission.

Casinos are part of the fabric of life now, and that's why the Celebrity decision and the Bermuda vote are safe bets. Both will be popular moves, no matter what Gamblers Anonymous might say.

The Bermuda move was more or less expected. At stake was the future of cruise ships going there.

The Celebrity strategy is unique, but maybe it shouldn't be. Our resident expert, Phil Reimer of Ports and Bows, has discovered that 40 per cent of cruise revenue comes from on-board products…and table games and slot machines play a significant part. So why wouldn't Celebrity (or any cruise line) want to find new ways to maximize that?

On ships in the Solstice Class (5) and the Millennium Class (4), here's how it will work:

1. Passengers will create a virtual wallet at the casino desk (think credit card)

2. They will download a free app, Cantor Mobile Casino, to their smartphones or tablets via WiFi

3. Table games, slot machines or video poker will be available for their Apple and Android devices anywhere on the ship.

Will this mobile gaming take people deeper into gambling? Maybe. However, if people choose to gamble nowadays, they don't have far to go, do they?

You can't always protect people from themselves.

Celebrity Constellation
12 nights
November 12, 2013
Istanbul (return): EphesusBodrumRhodes, Marmaris, SantoriniAthensMykonosCrete
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $41
www.celebritycruises.com

Expect the Unexpected on Navigator

We watched a show on the Navigator of the Seas called “The Unexpected Boys.” We had no idea what to expected, as it should be, except that it was a musical featuring the works of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. We’d seen Valli perform, live and in person at age 70. Yes, in his Fifth Season, you might say.

As it turns out, everything about this show is, well, unexpected.

For example, it has four gifted performers, in this case named Scott Pearson, Nick Celona, Doug Carpenter and Aaron Young. Even they didn’t know what to expect.

“We met,” laughs Scott, “on the gangway.”

They come from a company called Bella Notte Productions, and there are about 30 Unexpected Boys at last count. The owner is Brian Noonan, who took his Broadway credits down the street in New York and started his business in 2007.

“At one time,” explains Aaron, “there were seven groups performing on cruises. Everybody was out except the L.A. guys.”

Carpenter is the only bonafide L.A. guy in this group, because that’s home. Young is from Anchorage, Celona from Oklahoma and Pearson from Pittsburgh. The show is not connected to Jersey Boys, a Broadway performance that’s more of a tribute detailing the amazing story of the Four Seasons, and has won 76 Tony Awards doing it.

The Unexpected Boys is not the story of the Four Seasons…it’s a story of four boys, told around the familiar music. Ironically, Jersey Boys and Bella Notte are office neighbors in New York.

These Unexpected Boys, whose energy and engaging skills take cruise-ship entertainment to a high level, have taken different paths to sailing the Western Caribbean on the Navigator.

Scott Pearson, with the falsetto voice that echoes Valli’s, now lives in the Big Apple in search of a Broadway career. He once auditioned for Jersey Boys and remembers it like this:

“They said hurry up and wait until somebody gets sick. I auditioned for Jersey Boys, for Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli. I had to audition in front of Frankie Valli. He’s got a cool head of hair for 74. He’s still chasing the music. He does a solo act and he’s got four guys down in front doing all the things that the Four Seasons do. He’s a nice guy.”

That he would wind up playing Valli in a production like Unexpected Boys was…again, unexpected.

“I was not a singer or an actor,” he says. “I was a classical pianist. I taught classical piano. I still do. I give piano lessons. I have a piano and voice studio in my apartment, for survival.”

Nick Celona’s was already on the Navigator. Somewhere near the Canary Islands, he got en email asking if he’d like to stay on the ship.

“My mom taught me how to sing,” he explains. “She owns a dance studio and I go back to Oklahoma once a month to do the choreography. That’s how I pay the bills. I want to be on Broadway just once. I don’t care if the show closes on opening night. I want to hit the dream.”

Yet it’s not his passion.

“That’s golf,” he adds. “I like my job with kids because it’s after school, so I can go out and play 18 holes at nine o’clock and still be there. I’m a scratch golfer. That’s my passion. It takes a lot of work, and I don’t play much in New York. If I was in Oklahoma, I’d play every day. I’ve been playing since I was four.”

Aaron Young left Anchorage for “home.”

He explains: “I was always drawn to big-city life. I took theater in school and I got the bug. I knew I wanted to move to New York. At the University of Northern Colorado, I studied musical theater. It worked out, so I’m riding the ride. Baby steps. When I went to New York in middle school, I said ‘This feels like home.’ I don’t know how I was born in Alaska.”

The ride also includes the inevitable part-time job, as an office assistant for a marketing company with a heart — its loyalty and leniency enables Young to be gone when he needs to be, in pursuit of his dream.

“We’re all pursuing the theatrical thing,” Aaron adds. “It’s a side gig. I love traveling and working on something artistic. I do other theater shows, and I’m a cross-country runner. I enjoy New York. You can never explore everything in New York.”

From the opposite side of the country, Doug Carpenter wears the same loyalty on his sleeve.

“I’ve only been gone five days and I miss L.A.,” he says. “I want to teach voice in a college in LA. I want to stay in the sunshine. My background is in opera, but the whole doo-wap sound is timeless. Strong melodies transcend generations. So it appeals to young people, too. I like to work with kids’ opera, and I have a church job.”

Like the others, he knows this gig has a life:

“It’s part-time for everybody. It’s an unexpected call when it comes…THE Unexpected Call.”

So is the curtain call. The opening scene of the Unexpected Boys is not so much scripted as it’s customizable…and we’re not going to tell you precisely what that means because, if you ever get a chance to see this show on the Navigator (or anywhere else), we’d prefer you think that the opening is just what we thought it was.

Unexpected.

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