Category Archives: Entertainment

Sam Wilkes Has “The Voice”

At Staples, Sam Wilkes was all music, nearly all the time. He played in the band, jazz band and orchestra. (He also took as many English courses as he could: 4 in senior year.) In high school, he says, “I learned how to learn.”

After graduating in 2009, Sam headed to the University of Southern California. He was in the 1st class of the new Popular Music Performance program.

Sam Wilkes

Sam Wilkes

That’s where he met Rozzi Crane. The singer-songwriter has been a background vocalist for Don Henley and Sergio Mendes, and was featured on the Maroon 5 song “Come Away to the Water.” She was the 1st artist signed to Adam Levine’s 222 Records label.

Sam is her bassist, and her band’s musical director. Which is how — last Tuesday — he found himself, with Rozzi, on “The Voice.”

“We nailed it,” Sam says. “They used the 1st take.” It was a great learning experience, he says. Making music on TV was unlike anything he’d ever done before.

As Rozzi rockets to fame, Sam is right beside her. But he’s also playing in a chamber ensemble, and with the likes of Jason Collier and “Quincy Jones Presents.”

If Staples indeed taught Sam Wilkes “how to learn,” he studied very, very well.

 

Westporters Remember Ben E King

Ben E King — who died yesterday in New Jersey at 76 — is being remembered for his smooth baritone, debonair style and classic love songs.

He was also, apparently, a really great man.

In 2013, Drew McKeon was a drummer with (coincidentally, fellow Westporter) Michael Bolton. They were booked for a charity gala at the Bushnell in Hartford.

King performed 2 songs with them: “Stand By Me” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

The legendary solo artist and former Drifters front man shook everyone’s hand with a smile, and repeated their names. “He was elegant and dapper,” recalls McKeon, a 2000 Staples grad. “We all immediately liked him.”

During a “Stand By Me” sound check, one of McKeon’s bandmates asked King which guitar part to play. “Whatever you’re doing sounds fantastic,” he replied. “Play whatever you feel. You’re a wonderful musician — all of you are.”

McKeon calls King “easily one of the sweetest and most humble people I’ve ever played with.”

The star told McKeon “the incredibly personal back story of wheelchair-bound Doc Pomus. He was inspired to write ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’ after watching his brother twirl Pomus’ newlywed wife from the sidelines at his own wedding.

“We’d done our homework on the tunes, so it went well,” recalls McKeon, a 2000 Staples grad. “But he acted as if it was better ‘service’ than he deserved. He was super gracious. He inspired me to play my best for him, like a true Little Drummer Boy.”

McKeon is not the only Staples alum with memories of King. Ryan O’Neill — who graduated in 1997 — did “Clash of the Choirs” with (again) Michael Bolton, and performed with the legendary artist.

“Mr. King was a generous and kind man,” O’Neill recalls. “He offered stories about his songs and his life. It was an honor to share the stage with such an icon.”

Ryan O'Neill and Ben E King

Ryan O’Neill and Ben E King

Kyle Martino’s Latest Kick

Westporters have always expected big things from Kyle Martino.

In 1999, the Staples senior was named Gatorade National High School
Soccer Player of the Year.

He went on to become Major Soccer League’s 2002 Rookie of the Year. On the Los Angeles Galaxy, he played alongside — and hung out with — David Beckham.

1999 Staples grad Kyle Martino on NBC Sports

1999 Staples grad Kyle Martino on NBC Sports

Martino earned caps with the US national team. After retiring from professional soccer, he joined ESPN as a color commentator. Now he’s seen every weekend as a studio analyst on NBC Sports‘ highly regarded broadcasts of Premier League matches.

Plus, he’s married to beautiful actress Eva Amurri.

But — despite his education at the University of Virginia — no one here quite expected Kyle Martino to end up with the New York Times.

Apparently, there’s nothing he can’t do.

The paper announced today that Martino will join Kristen Kish — only the 2nd female “Top Chef” winner ever — as co-hosts of “36 Hours.”

That’s a new venture the Times and Travel Channel are bringing to television.

In each 1-hour episode, Martino and Kish arrive in a new city. They’ll have 36 hours to “explore the most delicious foods and hot spots, meet fascinating local insiders, and experience the best attractions unique to each destination.”

New-York-Times-LogoEpisodes will coincide with new or updated Times “36 Hours” newspaper columns, in the Sunday Travel section. Companion editorial and video content will appear on NYTimes.com and Travel Channel digital properties.

Martino is only 34 years old. We know he’ll be kickin’ it for many years to come.

Now Playing: Westport’s Latest Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee

As reported last December, Mark Naftalin was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The longtime Westporter played keyboard for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The legendary seminal blues-rock group joined Ringo Starr, Green Day, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers as members of the “Class of 2015.”

The induction ceremony took place Saturday night, in Cleveland.

If you weren’t there — and no jokes about Cleveland, please, they’re very sensitive folks — here is the band’s “Born in Chicago” jam:

The clip below is a lot longer. It’s the induction speech itself, beginning with words from Mark:

Want even more? HBO airs a special on the entire evening. But you’ll have to wait — it’s on May 30.

 

[UPDATE] Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Linda Fiorentino’s Real Estate Dealings, Thanks To In-Depth Media Reporting

(A Westport realtor has just emailed the news that Linda Fiorentino’s house was withdrawn from the market last Friday [April 17]. He says it was first listed on November 14, 2014 for $1,250,000, then reduced to $1.1 million on January 16. Oh well…it’s an interesting story anyway.)

I hate getting scooped by TMZ.

But — because the “06880” tagline is “Where Westport Meets the World” — I have to pass along the news they breathlessly (and exclusively!) posted today:

“Men in Black” actress Linda Fiorentino knocked it out of the park as Laurel Weaver in the hit movie … she’s about to hit another homer with her farmhouse.

Our real estate sources say Fiorentino — who also played Jesus Christ’s last living relative in “Dogma” — is looking to turn her 2-bed, 3-bath 1679 sq. ft. Westport CT colonial into over half a million in profit.

The house owned by Linda Fiorentino, which TMZ is so excited about. Must be a slow news day. (Photo/Jillian Klaff Homes)

The house owned by Linda Fiorentino, which TMZ is so excited about. Must be a slow news day. (Photo/Jillian Klaff Homes)

We’re told Fiorentino bought it in 1997 for $578k — the same year as MIB. It was worth the price just for the beach house and 1/2 garden. She just sold it for $1.1 mil.

If you snag this crib, you could be MIB on the reg too … Makin’ It to the Beach. (sorry, we couldn’t resist)

Hard to believe, but in the media frenzy over Fiorentino’s real estate dealings, the journalism in New York Post‘s Page Six is much more sophisticated.

Though more salacious:

This time, Linda Fiorentino won’t be home for a “Last Seduction”-style open-house scene.

In 2006, when the sultry “Men in Black” star was selling her Upper West Side apartment, she was in the shower, unaware her broker had scheduled an open house.

Hearing voices, she ran out in only a towel to be confronted by 10 wide-eyed possible buyers.

Linda Fiorentino

Linda Fiorentino

Now, Fiorentino’s $1.1 million summer cottage and art studio in Westport, Conn., will be empty during showings.

Some sale proceeds will be donated to the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve, created after locals blocked a developer from building condos by the beach. The listing broker is Jillian Klaff of William Raveis.

I have no idea where they got that “condos by the beach” story, BTW.

(Hat tip: Rich Stein)

Extra! Extra! Adam Kaplan Performs At The White House!

The Easter Egg Roll is a 137-year-old White House tradition.

“06880” records are incomplete, but next Monday’s event might mark the 1st time a Westporter has performed at the largest White House gathering of the year.

Adam Kaplan — a 2008 Staples grad — will be part of the cast of “Newsies,” his Broadway show, performing on the “Rock ‘n’ Egg Roll Stage.”

Adam Kaplan (carrying a fellow actor on his back) strikes the same pose as shown on the Nederlander Theater door. This shot was taken the day the poster went up.

Adam Kaplan (carrying a fellow”Newsies” actor on his back) strikes the same pose as shown on the Nederlander Theater door.

He’ll be joined by DJ Fussyman, Diggy Simmons, Fifth Harmony, MKTO, Sesame Street and “So You Think You Can Dance” All-Stars. None of that means much to me, but I’m sure it does to the thousands of little egg rollers and their minders, who will pour onto the South Lawn.

This year’s event features sports and fitness zones, cooking demonstrations (including Bobby Flay), and classics such as the egg roll and egg hunt, plus storytelling and (cue “Newsies”) live music.

And you thought nothing ever got done in Washington!

Real Pugsley Pumps Up Coleytown’s “Addams Family”

What do you do after you’ve acted in 2 huge New York musicals: “The Addams Family” and “Shrek”?

You help middle school kids put on those same shows.

And — if you’re Adam Riegler, in Westport — that’s hardly a comedown.

Adam Riegler (right) in "The Addams Family." (Photo/Joan Marcus for Broadway.com)

Adam Riegler (right) in “The Addams Family.” (Photo/Joan Marcus for Broadway.com)

Riegler’s the Staples High School junior who — while still at Saugatuck El — played young Shrek, then followed up as Pugsley (he did online schooling and tutoring in lieu of Bedford Middle).

It was a fantastic experience. But Broadway roles for teenagers are rare, so Riegler is now a normal 11th grader.

He’s known Ben Frimmer — the director of Coleytown Company — for years. Last year, when “Shrek: The Musical” became available for schools, Frimmer asked Adam to help.

The duo clicked. So this year, as Frimmer prepared for “Addams Family,” the partnership was a natural.

Riegler’s official title is “associate director.” He helps run rehearsals, and works with individual actors.

A pair of Pugsleys: Adam Riegler (right) works with Coleytown's Oscar Hechter.

A pair of Pugsleys: Adam Riegler (right) works with Coleytown’s Oscar Hechter. (Photo/Kerry Foley)

Oscar Hechter — Coleytown’s Pugsley — is a 6th grader. “That’s young!” marvels 5-years-older Riegler. “I’m helping him bring out his character. Like, his song at the end of Act I — it’s really emotional, but in a comic way. We talk about how to do that.”

“Addams Family” includes several scenes with fathers and daughters. “These kids have no experience with being old,” Riegler notes. “Mr. Frimmer and I are working on making it natural — not ‘acting.'”

The middle schoolers have heard that Riegler was on Broadway, but most of them don’t really understand how impressive that is. One boy did — and said he was glad not to have known that before his audition.

The best educations work both ways. Riegler says he is learning too: how to work with children, with actors in general, and how to be a director.

Riegler is keeping busy in other ways too. He’s going for film and TV auditions, hoping for his next big role.

This weekend though, he’ll be in the Coleytown auditorium, as proud as any parent in the house.

(Two other Staples students are working on the Coleytown show: Johnny Donovan is assistant director, while Jane Schutte is assisting with choreography. “The Addams Family” is performed this Thursday, Friday and Saturday [March 27, 28 and 29, 7 p.m.], at Coleytown Middle School. For tickets and more information, click on http://www.showtix4u.com [search for “Westport”], or call 203-341-1666.)

Coleytown Company's "Addams Family" cast includes (clockwise from left): Anella Lefebvre (Morticia), Georgia Wright (Gomez), Maggie Foley (Wednesday) and Oscar Hechter (Pugsley).

Coleytown Company’s “Addams Family” cast includes (clockwise from left): Anella Lefebvre (Morticia), Georgia Wright (Gomez), Maggie Foley (Wednesday) and Oscar Hechter (Pugsley). (Photo/Kerry Foley)

A Memorable Staples-Broadway Connection

Staples Players is in the midst of another this-is-like-Broadway run. “Sweeney Todd” wowed audiences last weekend. Tickets may sell out soon for this weekend’s final shows.

Audience members awed by the teenagers’ performances say to themselves, “If only I had enough talent to get on stage…”

Rondi Charleston at 19 -- the year she auditioned for "Sweeney Todd."

Rondi Charleston at 19 — the year she auditioned for “Sweeney Todd.”

One Westporter does more than just think it. She remembers vividly the day 36 years ago when she auditioned for that very show.

In 1979, Rondi Charleston was a 2nd-year student in Juilliard’s drama department. She was called to audition as an ingenue in the original production of “Sweeney Todd” on Broadway.

Charleston sang for the casting director. The next day she was called back to sing for director Hal Prince, in a big, historic theater.

Prince liked what he heard. She was called back again. This time, Stephen Sondheim was there.

Charleston was not nervous. “I was young and naive,” she laughs.

Charleston made it to one of 3 finalists. Eventually the role — Johanna, a classic Sondheim ingenue — went to someone a bit older and more seasoned.

Rondi Charleston and Emma Ruchefsky.

Rondi Charleston and Emma Ruchefsky.

Charleston is enjoying watching the current Staples Johanna — and not just because she almost played it herself.

One of the double-cast roles is Emma Ruchefsky — Charleston’s daughter.

“Life has come full circle,” the former actor says. “I couldn’t be happier or more thrilled that she is getting the chance to put her stamp on this role. I have so much respect for the work that all these kids do!”

Congrats to Emma, and Rondi — a “stage mother” everyone can love.

(Staples Players performs “Sweeney Todd” this Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21. For tickets and more information, click on StaplesPlayers.com.)

Johanna (Emma Ruchefsky) and Anthony Hope (Jack Baylis). (Photo/Kerry Long)

Johanna (Emma Ruchefsky) and Anthony Hope (Jack Baylis). (Photo/Kerry Long)

 

Westport’s Newest American Idol

Millions of viewers across the US have seen Randy Jackson’s replacement on “American Idol”: Scott Borchetta.

A dozen or so oldtime Westporters probably say “hmmmm…”

Back in the day, the Post Road was filled with mom-and-pop grocery stores (think Calise’s, without the hot foods). The owners worked hard, and served their neighborhoods well.

One — near Old Road, about where the Lexus dealer and Anthropologie are now — was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Borchetta.

Scott Borchetta

Scott Borchetta

Their son Mike graduated from Staples in 1961, then went off to California. He became a noted record promoter for labels like Capitol, RCA and Mercury.

Later Mike moved to Nashville, to start his own independent record promotion company.

Scott is Mike’s son. He was a race car driver, then founded Big Machine Records and discovered Taylor Swift.

Now he’s “American Idol”‘s house mentor. The show, of course, is all about hard-working, unknown people trying to make it big.

Sounds like 3 generations of the Borchetta family, right?

(Hat tip: Dick Alley)

Nicole’s Harpcam

It’s not often a high school drama troupe tackles “Sweeney Todd.”

It’s even rarer for a high school orchestra to include a harp.

But the curtain goes up tonight at Staples on “Sweeney Todd.” And there in the Players’ pit is junior Nicole Mathias, playing that beautiful — but exceedingly difficult — instrument.

Nicole’s father Mark attached a webcam to her harp, for last night’s dress rehearsal. Click below to hear “Not While I’m Around” — and see a view of a show no one ever gets.

Plus Nicole’s great, proud smile at the end.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)