By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – Nicole Boulanger of Shrewsbury achieved the status known in the entertainment industry as “a triple threat”: an accomplished actress, singer and dancer. While a senior at Syracuse University majoring in musical theater, she studied and performed in London. She was returning home for the holidays Dec. 21, 1988, on Pan Am Flight 103, which was destroyed by a bomb. Sections of the plane crashed into Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 people on the ground, 16 crew members, and 243 passengers including Nicole.
In observance of the 25th anniversary of the crash, Nicole will be remembered as part of the Berlin Theatre Company's production of “The Women of Lockerbie” by Deborah Brevoort to be presented Friday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 21, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., at the Berlin 1870 Town Hall.
Directing the play is John Leslie, who first met and worked as a piano accompanist with Nicole while she was attending Holy Name Central Catholic High School in Worcester. She portrayed Brigitta von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.” Leslie was immediately impressed by Nicole, both onstage and off.
“Nicole had a lot of great qualities,” he said. “Besides being a very good actress and singer, and perfect for the part that she played, she was genuinely a nice kid. She was just meeting us adults for the first time and she was always very polite, friendly and respectful – and funny, too.”
That production's musical director, Robert Gauthier, also thought highly of Nicole. While she was in college in 1987, he hired a music studio so that she could record several Broadway and popular songs. Leslie provided piano accompaniment.
“I's sure Nicole would have had a great career,” Leslie said. “Her voice was amazingly beautiful. It wasn's just the tone of her voice, but the expression that she put in the songs was really from the heart. That would have carried her into a great career, besides her personality. She was very bubbly onstage and unafraid to take risks, especially in comedies. She was a good overall performer and a well-trained dancer, too.”
The year after that recording was made, Nicole studied in London, where her last stage performance was an original dance piece.
Leslie learned about the Lockerbie crash and its casualties from television news reports.
“There were images of Nicole's mom, Jeanine, in the airport as she was getting the news; her fainting and falling to the ground,” he recalled. “That was replayed over and over again.”
Leslie kept in touch with Jeanine over the years. Last year, he told her that he hoped to present “The Women of Lockerbie” locally to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crash. He was grateful to find a producer and venue: Cheryl Duggan, the principal of the Berlin Theatre Company. Leslie invited Nicole's parents to the upcoming performance and they plan to attend.
“This is a perfect way for them to be part of a memorial for Nicole,” Leslie said.
The award-winning one-act play tells the story of an American mother who roams the hills of Lockerbie in search of her child's remains. A post-performance reception will include a discussion between the audience and cast members. Songs from Nicole's 1987 recording will be played.
A portion of ticket sales will go toward a scholarship fund in memory of Nicole for aspiring theater students. Tickets, which will be available at the door, are $13, and $10 for seniors and students. For advance ticket reservation or information, contact 774-614-1066 or [email protected] The Berlin 1870 Town Hall is located at 12 Woodward Avenue in Berlin.