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Fire alarm steals spotlight at final show of Ogdensburg Command Performances’ 50th season


OGDENSBURG — Oh what an afternoon at Ogdensburg Free Academy on Sunday, when the fire alarm interrupted Ogdensburg Command Performances’ “Oh What a Night! A Musical Tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons,” the final show of their 50th season.

Theatrical smoke leaked into the hallways of the school and set off a smoke alarm just 10 minutes into the 3 p.m. performance.

The Ogdensburg Fire Department responded to the alarm.

“Apparently, they performed a test prior to that, making sure the smoke doesn’t ooze down the hallways further into other detectors, but once some of the doors were opened, it allowed some of the theatrical smoke to go further down and activate it,” Assistant Fire Chief Ray J. LaRock said.

Mr. LaRock said show coordinators had part of the alarm deactivated before the show started, but hadn’t notified the fire department.

“We were not notified that a portion of that alarm system was offline,” he said. “Anytime a fire alarm system is offline, they’re obligated to notify the authority having jurisdiction, which would be us. I’m not sure on the wording, whether a small portion can be shut down without notifying us or not, but that’s something we have to look into.”

Mr. LaRock said that in the past, Ogdensburg Command Performances usually notified them in similar situations.

Before firefighters arrived, the audience was encouraged to remain in the building and persuaded that the alarms were only triggered by theatrical smoke.

Mr. LaRock said that upon the department’s arrival, no evacuation was taking place in the auditorium, but other sporting activities going on in other parts of the building had evacuated.

“I’m not sure what was communicated to the audience, but it was something along the lines of being told they did not have to leave the building,” he said.

Mr. LaRock said better communication is just the start of ensuring this doesn’t happen with future performances.

“Evacuation is mandatory when an alarm system is activated in a place of assembly,” he said. “It’s a good idea to evacuate a building when the alarm’s going off whether someone has indicated there’s no need to or not. If the alarm’s going off, people need to get out.”

The alarms were silenced and the two-hour, sold-out show did go on after about 15 minutes.

The “Jersey Boys” revue that featured popular songs like “Oh What a Night,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” premiered in Las Vegas five years ago and was created, produced and directed by Michael Chapman.

The show closed out the 2013-14 season a few months early, as renovations to the arts center at OFA will begin next week.

Ogdensburg Command Performances Administrator Sally F. Palao said the construction funded by the state will take approximately 10 to 12 months and will create a bigger venue, potentially adding 135 seats.

“I try to bring the best of the touring companies that will fit on our stage,” she said. “Part of the renovation is to increase the size of the stage because there are shows now that I can’t accommodate because they’re too big.”

This season was shorter than most, with only six shows crammed into a shorter period of time, but almost every one sold out, according to Ms. Palao.

She said a normal season goes through May and consists of about eight or nine shows.

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