Category Archives: Entertainment

Come To The Cabaret — Again!

Life is a cabaret, old chum.

And every decade or so, “Cabaret” comes to Westport.

Staples Players — the legendary high school acting troupe — first performed the darkly decadent show in 1984. Directed by Al Pia, it starred David Roth as the MC. It’s a difficult role for anyone, but the senior nailed it.

Pia reprised the show in 1992.

In 2004, Players produced “Cabaret” again. David Roth was once again involved — this time as director.

He’s still at the Staples helm, and once again he’s staging the show. “Cabaret” runs next weekend — July 24 through 26 — as Players’ Summer Theatre Production.

Jack Bowman (emcee) and the Kit Kat Girls. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Jack Bowman as the emcee, and the Kit Kat Girls. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Just as every Broadway and London production and revival has been different, so too have the Staples versions.

But, Roth says, while previous Players incarnations have stuck closely to the original Joel Grey interpretation, the current production combines that version with the one now in its 2nd revival in New York. This one is “much more theatrical,” Roth says. Everything seems to take place inside the Kit Kat Club — even the scenes in Cliff’s rooming house.

And, the director adds, “the master of ceremonies is very much present throughout every scene of the play. In the other versions, the 2 worlds are very separate.” Jack Bowman plays Roth’s old role.

Still, next weekend’s “Cabaret” retains ties to the past. Besides Roth, choreographers Kat and Jess Eggart both danced in Pia’s 1992 production.

Sally Bowles (Claire Smith) and Cliff (Jack Baylis) share a moment in "Cabaret." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Sally Bowles (Claire Smith) and Cliff (Jack Baylis) share a moment in “Cabaret.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“The show has always meant a lot to me, and I’m excited to share that with the kids,” Roth says.

“Kerry and I also want to share the message with students and audiences about people being sucked into an attractive world that turns out to be far uglier than they ever imagined. That’s very important too.

“The idea of people living in a great, dreamlike world that becomes a nightmare is as valid today as it has ever been. The image of dreaming or sleepwalking runs through the entire play. And it’s very present in our production.”

Emcee (Jack Bowman) and the Kit Kat girls perform "Willkommen." (Photo/Kerry  Long)

Emcee (Jack Bowman) and the Kit Kat girls perform “Willkommen.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“Cabaret” resonates with Staples principal John Dodig too. As interim principal, he attended the 2004 production. Leaving the auditorium, he recalls thinking, “This can’t possibly be a public high school.”

He was awed by the professionalism of the voices and dancing. And, he says, “I was amazed that a suburban community would support a high school doing a show with such a dark and risqué theme.”

Dodig calls “Cabaret” the moment he first thought of applying for the permanent principal’s position.

Ten years later, Dodig is still principal. Roth still directs Players.

And another fantastic production of “Cabaret” is about to begin.

(“Cabaret” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 24, 25 and 26, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 26. Tickets are available at www.StaplesPlayers.com

Fine Arts Festival Works Out Just Fine

Up in Vermont, Edward Loedding heard the reputation of the Westport Fine Arts Festival: It was a great show, but if you were stuck on Gorham Island, you were dead. It was hot as hell, and very few people ventured over.

So for several years, Loedding did not apply for a spot. Two years ago, he gave it a try.

He was put on Gorham Island — and had a “wonderful” experience. Last year, on Parker Harding Plaza, was even better.

Westport is now a highly prized spot on Loedding’s calendar. And he’s happy wherever he’s assigned.

 

"Sunset Barn," by Edward Loedding.

“Sunset Barn,” by Edward Loedding.

Loedding — a very talent photographer and digital artist — will be in Westport this weekend, for the 41st annual Art Show. (He’s in booth #64-65, along the river.) He joins over 135 artists — 39 of them new — showing works in drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor, glass, fiber, wood, jewelry and ceramics.

Plus music, food, street performers, face painters, a magician, a balloon artist and mime.

"Don't mime me," this guy said last year at the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

“Don’t mime me,” this guy said last year at the Westport Fine Arts Festival.

Loedding loves it all — especially the art-lovers.

“A high percentage know what they’re looking for, and appreciate it,” Loedding says. “I do 20 shows a year up and down the East Coast, and that’s not always the case.”

A photographer -- and potential customer -- takes a shot of some intriguing art along the river, in 2011.

A potential customer takes a shot of some intriguing art along the river, in 2011.

Westport’s Elizabeth Marks Juviler will be there too. She’s involved in many local activities — Girl Scout leader, PAL cheerleading coach, Young Women’s League president, Historical Society board member, Westport Country Playhouse staffer — but she is also a noted artist.

Juviler has participated in the Downtown Merchants Association’s “Art About Town” event, and sells in galleries and design stores, but this is her 1st time at the summer show. “As a Westport artist who has purchased art there, I wanted to be in the Fine Arts Festival,” she says. “It’s a goal I set for myself.”

Westport — its landscapes, nature and beach — inspire Juviler’s work. Three years ago, she began incorporating recycled newspapers and magazines onto her canvases. She combines headlines, words, pictures and layers of paint to create art that is “a moment in time.”

Scores of artists — and hundreds of art lovers — will have their time this weekend. And whether they’re on the river or Gorham Island matters not at all.

(The Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival is set for this Saturday, July 19 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, July 20 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Meanwhile, across the Post Road, the Westport Library hosts its “best ever” book sale, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. both days.)

Artists relax near the work on Gorham Island, in 2009.

Artists relax near their work on Gorham Island, in 2009.

Andrew Liporace Knows When To Hold ‘Em

Last Friday — at the end of Day 3 of the World Series of Poker — just over 1/3 of the original 1,864 players remained.

And at the top of those 746 was Andrew Liporace. Yes, the same Andrew Liporace who, 10 years ago, had just graduated from Staples High School.

If he could just keep going, he had a shot at $10 million.

Andrew Liporace

Andrew Liporace at work.

The 45th annual event ended yesterday. Unfortunately, Andrew was no longer #1.

In fact, he was far down the list: #159.

I would say, “you win some, you lose some.”

But Andrew walked away with a cool $52,141.

He sounds like a winner to me.

(Hat tip to Louis Pietig)

Doobies, Meatloaf, Buckwheat And Willie Share A Westport Stage

On Sunday, Jose Feliciano lights a (figurative) fire under the new Levitt Pavilion stage.

The singer/guitarist/songwriter is a very appropriate act for the already-sold-out grand opening of the redesigned bandshell (and — be still, my heart and bladder) actual bathrooms. He’s popular, talented and a fantastic performer.

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

But the Weston resident — who is donating his fee back to the pavilion’s building fund — is hardly the 1st Very Big Name to appear at the Levitt. In fact, a look back at nearly 40 years of headliners reads like a Billboard Who’s Who.

Foreigner. Frankie Valli. The Doobie Brothers. Southside Johnny. Blues Traveler. Tom Jones. Don McLean. Kenny Loggins. Smokey Robinson. Roberta Flack. Tito Puente. Judy Collins. Al Hirt. Cab Calloway. Andy Williams. Ray Charles. Count Basie. Buddy Rich. All have performed benefit concerts (the only time the Levitt sells tickets, though some folks sit on Jesup Green and enjoy the concerts gratis).

Some artists did not have to travel far. In fact, they could have walked to the Levitt. Michael Bolton, Ashford & Simpson, Meatloaf, Corky Laing and Neil Sedaka are Westporters who headlined Levitt shows. Dave Brubeck lived in Wilton.

Keith Richards

Keith Richards

Weston’s Keith Richards made a memorable appearance at a Willie Nelson concert. (Willie drove here in his famed tour bus.) Keith ambled onstage with his guitar, said “I’ve always wanted to play with Willie,” and performed 2 memorable duets. You can’t make this stuff up.

Some of the shows were not as memorable — hey, it happens. The Drifters and Temptations may have included an actual Drifter and Tempt, but they were clearly past their sell-by date.

So were the Beach Boys, who had the misfortune of being moved to the stifling Staples fieldhouse because of bad weather.

Chuck Berry and Little Richard were the actual guys, but they too were a bit long in the tooth.

Yet those few dogs are more than overshadowed by the dozens of great shows. Not many suburban towns boast open-air, summer shows by Huey Lewis & the News, America, Dave Mason, the Four Tops, Dickey Betts, the Chieftains, Chuck Mangione, John Sebastian, Robert Goulet and Tony Bennett.

Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Zydeco

My favorite memory, though, may be Buckwheat Zydeco. It’s a long way from Louisiana to Westport, and this might have been the whitest audience he ever saw. But he and his band — with their accordion, guitar, keyboard and (my favorite) washboard — had hedge fund managers, housewives (and househusbands) dancing in the grassy aisles.

Those aisles are now re-sodded. There’s a new stage, concession stands, and (did I mention this earlier?) actual bathrooms.

On Sunday, there will also be Jose Feliciano. And the start of another 4 decades of remarkable entertainment, down by the river.

(No free tickets remain for Sunday’s Jose Feliciano concert. To join the wait list, email levitt@westportct.gov. The lawn opens to ticket-holders at 5 pm. Click the Levitt Pavilion website to see more upcoming attractions. )

 

 

 

Jose Feliciano Lights Up The Levitt

It’s been a while.

But the Levitt Pavilion — for 40 years a Westport summer treasure — is almost ready to open its new facility. The handsome bandshell (with lush new lawn) will burnish our reputation as a town that loves arts and entertainment, and is always ready to host a good time.

So it’s very appropriate that the grand opening event features a hometown hero: Jose Feliciano.

(I know, he lives in Weston. But he’s real close to the Westport border.)

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

Jose Feliciano (Photo/David Bravo)

The 9-time Grammy winner/Hollywood Walk of Fame star/namesake of New York’s Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School/Billboard Magazine Lifetime Achievement awardee/Baseball Hall of Fame honoree (for his 1968 World Series rendition of the national anthem)/and writer-singer-guitarist of “Feliz Navidad” — perhaps the most popular Christmas song ever recorded — takes the stage on Sunday, July 20 for the 1st-ever performance at the new Levitt.

And — because Jose Feliciano is not just a fantastic artist, but a phenomenal human being — he will donate his fee to the ongoing Campaign for a New Levitt Pavilion.

Doors open — okay, the restraining rope will be lowered — at 5 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony takes place at 6. And then, at 7, Jose Feliciano will light our fire.

(The event is free. However, tickets will be issued in advance, beginning Tuesday, July 8, online at http://www.levittpavilion.com and at the Pavilion office, in the Parks and Recreation Department office at Longshore.)

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan, at home in Weston.  (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Jose Feliciano and his wife Susan, at home in Weston. (Photo/Dorothy Hong for Wall Street Journal)

Kelsey Shockey Will Happily Make Your Day

Kelsey Shockey has had a tough life. But she may be the happiest girl ever to graduate from Staples.

Kelsey Shockey handled a camera at the 2012 graduation. Today, she gets her own diploma.

Kelsey Shockey handled a camera at the 2012 graduation. Today, she gets her own diploma.

The senior — who earns her diploma a few hours from now (and is a state finalist tennis player) — always has a smile. She makes each day brighter, for everyone.

Her “Happy Tips” on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show are legendary.

Last night, she took joy one step further.

She spoke at baccalaureate — and capped off her speech with a video. Produced with Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito, it shows a variety of Staples folks singing, dancing, heading soccer balls (!), and generally being happy, all to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ song of the same name.

There are appearances by students, teachers, coaches, custodians, paraprofessionals, cafeteria ladies — even principal John Dodig and superintendent of schools Elliott Landon show up.

Staples is a high-pressure, high-stakes place. But it’s also a school filled with people who care — and who genuinely want every student to feel welcome and loved. And to be happy.

Check out the video. Kelsey Shockey will make you smile. As she has done every day, for 4 years, at the school she graduates from today.

(Click to be taken directly to YouTube.)

(Every year, Jim Honeycutt produces a 2-DVD set graduation package. It includes baccalaureate, graduation, the best of “Good Morning Staples,” Homecoming, highlights of proms, plays, concerts — you name it. Ordering details will be available next week at the Staples High School home page.)

Sweet Sounds Of Summer

First came the redevelopment of Saugatuck.

Then came Saugatuck Sweets.

Now we’ve got “Sweet Sounds of Summer.” It’s a weekend concert series promoted by (cue the marketing tie-in) Saugatuck Sweets, the candy and ice cream store that is part of a sizzling new riverside scene.

The series kicked off Saturday night, on the plaza between Sweets and The Whelk. The band – Adult Swim — proves you’re never old to play rock ‘n’ roll.

Members include Westporters Karen Greenblatt, Trish Boyle and Jonathan Schwartz. They met at Fairfield’s School of Rock (which should change its tagline of “Inspiring Kids to Rock on Stage”).

Adult Swim rocks along the river.

Adult Swim rocks along the river.

The 2 female guitarists started playing a couple of years ago. Greenblatt took piano lessons as a youngster, but stage fright prevented her from even playing at a recital.

She’s now following through on a dream of playing in a band — and in public.

Public it was on Saturday. The plaza is right off Riverside Avenue. So besides the good-sized crowd, everyone walking and driving by saw and heard the music.

The Adult Swimmers have fun. But they’re serious about their craft. They rehearse once a week. They performed recently at the Acoustic Cafe in Bridgeport, and have 2 upcoming gigs at Bobby Q’s.

Their music spans several decades. It includes lesser-known songs, like the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.”

A small portion of the big crowd, after the sun went down.

A small portion of the big crowd, after the sun went down.

The concert series continues Fridays and Saturdays, with new groups and singers all the time.

How sweet is that!

(Hat tip to Fred Cantor, for the story idea and research.)

 

Westport Art, All About Town

Bad weather postponed last week’s annual Art About Town celebration.

Last night, the weather was perfect. Thousands of Westporters of all ages — including many, many kids — romped as Main Street was transformed into an art-, entertainment- and fun-filled pedestrian mall.

The street party kicked off an exhibition of art in stores throughout downtown. Art About Town is sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.

John Videler captured these great images:

Art About Town - by John Videler

Art About Town 2 - by John Videler

Art About Town - by John Videler

 

Dan and Nicole Donovan

Claveloux family

Celebrating Westport’s Tunnel Vision

Finally, Westporters have a reason to head toward — rather than flee from — the downtown pedestrian tunnel.

For decades, the walkway between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza has been as scary as the underpass in A Clockwork Orange.

Today — thanks to Miggs Burroughs’ creative eye, and the magic of lenticular photography — the passage is positively art gallery-like.

16 photos — each 32 inches square — depict Westporters “connecting” with each other. (Like a tunnel connects 2 sides — clever, huh?)

But these are no ordinary images. Gazing at a certain angle, you see one thing; take a step in either direction, and it’s a different photo entirely.

Miggs has picked his models — and photographed their images — with great care. For example, here are the 2 images of Holocaust survivor Anita Schorr, and a friend’s 8-year-old granddaughter:

Anita Schorr and 8-year-old, lenticular image by Miggs Burroughs

Anita Schorr and 8-year-old,  lenticular image by Miggs Burroughs

These shots are of Cathy Onyemelukwe, and her husband Clem:

Cathy Onyemelukwe and Clem Onyemelukwe,  lenticular image by Miggs Burroughs

Cathy Onyemelukwe and Clem Onyemelukwe,  lenticular image by Miggs Burroughs

And here’s Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge, and his wife. (Miggs calls this one “Super Nova.”)

Lee Papageorge and wife,  lenticular image by Miggs Burroughs

Lee Papageorge and wife,  lenticular image by Miggs Burroughs

The project took a year to complete. It’s sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and the tunnel’s landlord (who knew?), Win Properties.

Information about all 16 photos is available at TunnelVisionArt.com — and via a QR code at the Main Street end of the tunnel.

You’ll learn that one of the photos is of the artist himself, and his girlfriend Liz Beeby. Here he is:

Miggs Burroughs with a lenticular image of himself and Liz Beeby

The tunnel was unveiled a few minutes ago. It’s all part of the WDMA’s “Art About Town” festival, in full swing now through 8:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

Main Street is closed to traffic for the event. So park in Parker Harding, and walk through the tunnel. The destination will be as fun as the journey.

 

All The World’s Deborah Grace Winer’s Stage

Deborah Grace Winer grew up in both Westport and New York. But it was here — not the big city — that she fell in love with the magic of theater.

From a young age, she was enchanted by the Westport Country Playhouse. Everything about it — the shows, the cast, even the red benches — thrilled her.

She saw Betsy Palmer, June Havoc and Luci Arnaz. She particularly enjoyed watching her godmother — Myrna Loy — in “Barefoot in the Park.”

Deborah Grace Winer

Deborah Grace Winer

“It’s not just ‘summer theater,'” Deborah says. “It’s Grade A, right before New York. It’s big theater, for everyone.”

At 15, she apprenticed at Lucille Lortel’s White Barn Theater. She rode her bike to the magical spot off Newtown Turnpike every day.

“It was almost like a private social club,” Deborah remembers. “There were only 150 seats, for great stars who wanted to try out new work.”

The next year, at the Playhouse, she became Estelle Parsons’ dresser. Deborah has gone on to a life in theater — she’s a playwright whose work was developed at Lincoln Center, produced Off-Broadway and read at the Playhouse — but whenever she sees Parsons, now in her 80s, they laugh about that summer.

Now she’s headed back to the Playhouse. On June 3, the curtain rises on “Sing for Your Shakespeare.” It’s a world premiere — there’s that Playhouse magic again — musical revue, exploring through song, dance and verse how the popular American songbook has been inspired for decades by Shakespeare’s works.

Sing for your Shakespeare logoDeborah co-conceived the show, with Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos. It originated at the 92nd Street Y, where she’s the artistic director of the Lyrics & Lyricists concert series.

Despite moving full-time to New York, Deborah has retained her ties to the Playhouse. She was inspired by the theater’s renovation, particularly little touches like keeping wood from the old stage in the new wings. “Those are the same boards Helen Hayes walked!” she says.

She’s tremendously excited to return. She praises Lamos’ “creativity, scholarship and stature,” while describing the unlikely pairing of show tunes and the Bard.

“If he were alive now, Shakespeare would have hung out at Lindy’s, eating cheesecake,” Deborah insists. “This sort of follows up on that kind of Shakespeare. There are lots of funny and fun songs, and some surprising discoveries. Plus, the cast is fantastic.”

Recalling so many wonderful memories from her past — cookouts and beach parties with Playhouse actors and crews; taking the last train to Westport from Grand Central, filled with Broadway stars heading home — Deborah says, “I am so thrilled to come back! My whole childhood and history are there. It’s like someone gave me the keys to the candy store.”

Or, as Shakespeare said — in an entirely different context — “sweets to my sweet.”

(Click for tickets and more information for “Sing for Your Shakespeare.”)

The "Sing for Your Shakespeare" team.

The “Sing for Your Shakespeare” team.