Category Archives: Entertainment

“Footloose” Dances Onto Black Box Stage

Westport’s very talented Cynthia Gibb — herself a Staples High School grad — has been hard at work this summer, molding a teenage Continuing Education troupe into a foot-stomping cast.

“Footloose” — the dancing/rock musical — will be performed tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday (July 28-29), at 7 p.m. in Staples’ Black Box theater.

Tickets are available at the door.

The "Footloose" cast.

The “Footloose” cast.

 

Pasek And Paul In “La La Land”

Broadway loves Pasek and Paul.

Songwriters Benj Pasek and 2003 Staples High School graduate Justin Paul have earned raves, for productions like “A Christmas Story,” “Dogfight” and — moving to Broadway this fall — “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Soon, Hollywood audiences will love Pasek and Paul too.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone sing their lyrics in “La La Land.” The musical — about a love story between a jazz pianist and a would-be actress — opens in movie theaters this December.

In the trailer below, Gosling sings “City of Stars.” The music is by Justin Hurwitz.

(Hat tip: Lynn Flaster)

“Bye Bye Birdie” Highlights Young Actors

Some kids spend the summer at camp. Some travel. Some work.

And some put on a show.

Westport Summer Teen Theatre — in conjunction with Westport Continuing Ed — presents “Bye Bye Birdie” today and tomorrow. (It opened last night, to rave reviews.)

The actors and tech crew — from both middle schools, and rising Staples sophomore “mentors” — worked hard on the production. Well-known former Staples Player Ryan O’Neill directs.

Show times are today (Friday, July 15, 7 p.m.) and tomorrow (Saturday, July 16, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.), at Bedford Middle School.

"Bye Bye Birdie" cast members "Put on a Happy Face."

“Bye Bye Birdie” cast members “Put on a Happy Face.”

Weedles, Zubats, Ekans And More: Pokemon Go Floods Westport

The tagline for “06880” is “where Westport meets the world.”

Right now, Westport — and the world — are going gaga over Pokémon Go.

I don’t know a Squirtle from a Jynx. But I do know that Pokémon Go has been downloaded more times in a week than Tinder has in 4 years. (No value judgments, mind you.) So I figured I’d capture the local angle.

Tom Bruno is my Pokémon Go go-to guy. As the Westport Library‘s new director of knowledge curation and innovation — Bill Derry’s old gig, more or less — the game is in his wheelhouse.

The library itself is not a Pokestop or Pokegym, he says. But several are nearby.

Three Pokestops are actually sculptures. There’s Carol Eisner’s “Walter the Sculpture,” outside the library’s main entrance; the big sculpture on Jesup Green, and the Post Road bridge sculpture at the Taylor parking lot entrance.

The library encourages patrons to find those sculptures by setting Lures (which of course attract rare and unusual wild Pokémon that patrons can catch).

Bruno says, “Depending on where you are in the building, you can also catch some of these Pokémon in the library as well.”

Bruno and his colleagues realized that the Levitt Pavilion stage Pokestop is on the route for the library’s annual first-ever StoryWalk along the Saugatuck River (which, happily for this publicity, kicks off Monday). Bruno took a shot of a wild Pokémon perched atop one of the signs.

Pokemon - Westport Library

The library is also placing Lures at all of those Pokestops, to help generate buzz for the giant book sale this weekend.

Though Niantic — the company responsible for Pokémon Go — is not taking requests for new Pokestops or Pokegyms, Bruno says it would be exciting to have the library community battle for control of the gym in that building.

The library is also working to add Pokémon Go to its popular “Anyone Can…” technology 101 classes. “We’d like to help people who are curious about the game get started, and join in what will almost certainly be the big summer activity,” Bruno says.

Finally — in a stroke of luck akin to finding a Charizard — the library long ago planned a partnership with Barnes & Noble on a Pokémon card game tournament. Amazingly, it’s this Saturday (July 16, 4-6 p.m.) at the Westport store.

Because — like Pokémon Go — “06880” is all about community, we’d like to hear your stories and tips. If you’ve got any game-related news, click “Comments” below. Please use your real name, not a Pokémon alias.

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Finally, if you thought the only thing local officials care about are mill rates and 8-30g applications, think again. Yesterday, they posted this on the town’s official Facebook page (courtesy of the New York Police Department):

As PokémonGo fever hits Westport, we want to remind you of some simple safety tips. As you battle, train, and capture your Pokémon just remember you’re still in the real world too! Around the country the PokémonGo craze has seen reports of accidents, injuries and even crimes where suspects have set-up fake Pokéstops.

Be careful out there!

Be careful out there!

So as you set out to capture them all:

1) Be alert at all times
2) Stay aware of your surroundings
3) Play in pairs or as a group to ensure your safety
4) Do not drive or ride your bike, skateboard, or other device while interacting with the app…you can’t do both safely
5) Do not trespass onto private property or go to areas you usually would not if you weren’t playing Pokémon Go.

Have fun AND stay safe. Good luck in your quest, and happy hatching, trapping, and training at the Pokémon Gym!

Levitt And Dodie Pettit Honor Kevin Gray

In theater, the show must go on.

Staples Class of 1976 grad Kevin Gray went on more than 8,500 times, on Broadway and national tour performances. He was the youngest “Phantom” of the Opera ever. He starred in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The King and I” and “The Lion King.” He performed at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and on “Law and Order” and “Miami Vice.”

Despite severe thunderstorms this afternoon, tonight’s tribute to Kevin — who died in 2013 — went on as scheduled, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Dodie Pettit, on the Levitt Pavilion stage.

Dodie Pettit, on the Levitt Pavilion stage.

His wife, Dodie Pettit — who met Kevin when she joined “Phantom” in 1989 — opened the show in stirring fashion. She sang a duet, with his recorded voice.

Class of 2016 grad Adam Riegler — Young Shrek and Pugsley on Broadway — sang, backed by Kevin’s Hartt School of Music students. He was accompanied by his mother Lynn on piano. She too is a Staples ’76 grad.

Members of that class — celebrating their 40th reunion this weekend — were out in force. They — and the large audience, enjoying clearing skies — were entertained by many of Kevin’s Broadway friends and colleagues.

Also on stage: Kevin’s former Orphenian member Tery Eldh, who played Carlotta and ensemble roles nearly 3,000 times on Broadway with “Phantom.”

The show indeed went on. And it was great.

Part of the large Levitt Pavilion crowd.

Part of the large Levitt Pavilion crowd.

The weather WAS fit for man and dog.

The weather WAS fit for man and dog.

Another view of a great night.

Another view of a great night.

Alisan Porter Honors America

The 36th annual “Capit0l Fourth” celebration — a star-studded outdoor concert at the US Capitol, attended by tens of thousands and broadcast nationally by PBS — kicked off tonight with a stirring version of the national anthem.

The star who sang it? Westport’s own Alisan Porter — better known now as the most recent champion on “The Voice.”

Alisan Porter - Capitol 4th

She was followed by Smokey Robinson. Then Alisan returned, for a rousing rendition of “America the Beautiful.” She was accompanied by the Ministers of Music, and a gorgeous video tribute to America’s national parks — this year celebrating their 100th anniversary.

Alisan Porter - Capitol 4th - 2

Alisan sounded great. Maybe next year she’ll do it again — this time at our Compo Beach fireworks?

John Miller: One More For Rio

Sunday’s “06880” post about Westporters’ NBC Sports/Rio connections missed one very important name.

John Miller is chief marketer of the network’s Olympic coverage. He’s in charge of making sure American eyeballs are glued to the correspondents who live here (and elsewhere).

Miller is no stranger to the task. This is his 12th Olympics.

And he’s no slouch. On Thursday, he receives the Clio Sports’ Stuart Scott Lifetime Achievement Award.

John Miller

John Miller

Miller has been with NBC since 1982. His entertainment marketing chops include “The Cosby Show,” “Cheers,” “Family Ties,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” “Friends,” “E.R.” and “Mad About You.”

He helped coin the “Must See TV” campaign, recently named one of the Top 11 of all time.

Most recently he was chief marketing officer of their Sports Group.

At this stage, he told Adweek, awareness is higher than for the 2 previous Olympics, in London and Beijing. He credits NBC’s marketing — but also acknowledges publicity about the Zika virus.

Miller can’t control insects. But he handles every other aspect of NBC’s Olympics sports marketing. If he succeeds, Rio will be this summer’s “must see TV.”

 

 

Dodie Does The Levitt

Each summer, the Levitt Pavilion presents at least 50 nights of free entertainment. I can’t imagine how hard it is to schedule all those comedians, kids’ performers, rock and country and reggae and military bands, and the occasional Willie Nelson, Buckwheat Zydeco and Orleans.

It’s like Ed Sullivan 6 days a week. All that’s missing is Topo Gigio.

But at least Ed was in New York. Snagging every act on their way to or from Westport must be a monumental task.

Occasionally though, the Levitt features homegrown talent.  That’s the case next Thursday (July 7, 8 p.m.). And what a talent she is.

Kevin Gray and Dodie Pettit, near the Levitt.

Kevin Gray and Dodie Pettit, near the Levitt.

Westport’s own Dodie Pettit — a veteran of 3 Tony Award-winning Broadway shows — hosts an evening of Broadway songs. They’re dedicated to her husband, Staples graduate Kevin Gray. One of Broadway’s brightest stars, he died 3 years ago. He was just 55.

Joining Dodie are several former “Phantom of the Opera” castmates (including Phantoms Cris Groenendaal and Craig Schulman); recent Staples graduate Adam Riegler, who played Pugsley in “The Addams Family,” and Kevin and Dodie’s students from the Hartt School and Rollins College.

Kevin performed over 8,200 times on Broadway, starring in “Phantom,”  “The King and I,” “The Lion King” and “Miss Saigon.”

The free concert coincides with the 40th reunion of Staples’ Class of 1976. Kevin graduated that year.

Every night at the Levitt is special. This will just be a little more special than most.

Ed Baer: Westport’s Record-Setting Good Guy

Ed Baer is a good guy.

Back in the day though, he was really a Good Guy.

A young Mick Jagger sports a WMCA Good Guy sweatshirt.

A young Mick Jagger sports a WMCA Good Guy sweatshirt.

If you grew up in the tri-state area in the 1960s, you remember the name. Ed Baer was a WMCA disc jockey. He and his colleagues — Joe O’Brien, Harry Harrison, Dan Daniel*, B. Mitchel Reid, Gary Stevens and the rest — were the Good Guys.

They battled WABC (the All-Americans: Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie…) for radio supremacy. It was a legendary time in music history, and Ed Baer was part of some of its most exciting moments.

WMCA was a New York station, but he grew up in Westport — and lived there when he was a Good Guy.

Ed lived here after WMCA went all-talk too. He then worked at WHN, WHUD, WYNY, WCBS-FM. He broadcast 2 shows — 7 days a week — from his home studio, for Sirius.

He’s still here. Still as sharp and smooth-talking as ever. And still active.

Ed’s latest project takes shape in that home studio. With his 3 teenage grandsons — Kyle, Ryan and Trevor Baer — he’s selling his entire record collection. There are astonishing LPs, 45s and 78s, with amazing stories.

Trevor, Kyle and Ryan Baer with their grandparents, Ed and Pearl Baer.

Trevor, Ryan and Kyle Baer with their grandparents, Ed and Pearl Baer. A photo of Ed — from his WMCA days — hangs on the wall.

But before you hear them, here’s the back story.

Ed’s parents moved here in 1945, when he was 9. His dad opened a candy store and soda fountain at Desi’s Corner, across from the train station. Ed worked there before graduating from Staples High School in 1954. CBS newsman Douglas Edwards — a Weston resident — was a regular customer.

Ed wandered into radio broadcasting at the University of Connecticut. When his father had a heart attack, Ed transferred to the University of Bridgeport. Westporter Win Elliot — the New York Rangers announcer — helped him grow.

When he served at Ft. Dix, his radio background helped. A sergeant who liked music allowed Ed to travel home Thursdays through Sundays. He brought the latest records back to base, thanks to a friend who worked at Columbia Records’ pressing plant in Bridgeport.

After discharge, Ed worked at 50,000-watt KRAK in Sacramento. He returned home after his father died. Dan Ingram — his former WICC colleague now at WABC — helped “Running Bear” land a job at rival WMCA.

The rest is history. Ed was there as the station moved from Paul Anka and Bobby Darin to the Beatles, Stones, Supremes and Doors.

They were wonderful years. When the Beatles played Shea Stadium, Ed sat in the broadcast booth and played the same records the Fab Four were singing. It sounded better than the concert. He’s got the only existing reel-to-reel (now CD) copy of that night.

Ed Baer still has this 78 from 1952. It's the Staples Band -- directed by John Ohanian -- playing "American Folk Rhapsody."

Ed Baer still has this 78 from 1952. It’s the Staples Band — directed by John Ohanian — playing “American Folk Rhapsody.”

One day, he saw John Ohanian at Oscar’s. Westport’s legendary music director had taught Ed clarinet in 4th grade (he later switched to tenor sax).

“I hear you’re playing all that rock ‘n’ roll,” Ohanian said. “I thought I taught you better than that.”

He paused. “But I hear the money’s great.”

There’s so much more to Ed’s career: The concerts he hosted. Calling OTB races, and picking horses (very well) for the New York Post. Those Sirius shows (5 days of ’50s and ’60s music; weekends were country).

Which brings us back to Ed Baer’s vinyl collection.

He has no idea how many records he’s amassed, in his long career. His grandson Kyle — a civil engineering major at Duke University — estimates 10,000.

They line the walls of the studio. There are never-opened LPs by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Bing Crosby singing Stephen Foster. Show tunes. Comedy. Many are rare DJ promotional editions, or have never been opened.

And so many come from the WMCA days.

Ryan — who graduated the other day from Staples, and heads to the University of Southern California this fall — casually picks up a Beatles record.

Ed Baer's unpeeled copy of "Yesterday and Today." The letters "PROM" -- for "promotional copy" -- can be seen in the upper right corner.

Ed Baer’s unpeeled copy of “Yesterday and Today.” The letters “PROM” — for “promotional copy” — can be seen in the upper right corner.

It’s “Yesterday and Today.” The original cover showed the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. After protests, it was quickly recalled. A simpler photo — the Beatles in steamer trunks — was pasted over it.

Most owners peeled off the top, ruining both covers. Ed has not 1, but 2, of the very rare, unpeeled versions.

Kyle, Ryan and Trevor (a rising junior at Hamden Hall) are hearing stories like this as they help their grandfather sell his collection. They’re learning music history (who was Harry Belafonte? the Four Seasons? What was Motown?) and radio history too (what was the deal with transistor radios?).

The teenagers always knew their grandfather was a good guy.

Now they understand exactly how much of a Good Guy he really was.

(Kyle, Ryan and Trevor have set up a website: www.westportrecords.com. They add new records daily, and handle all shipping too. For questions or offers, email westportrecords@gmail.com)

Ed Baer, relaxing in his home studio. A WMCA poster hangs on the wall. A few of his many records line the shelves.

Ed Baer, relaxing in his home studio. A WMCA poster hangs on the wall. A few of his many records line the shelves.

* Dan Daniel died last week. Click here for his obituary.

Levitt Pavilion Drones On

The Levitt Pavilion kicks off another 50 nights of free concerts tomorrow (Sunday, June 26) with the Eagles’ tribute Desert Highway Band.

Free tickets are all sold for that event. The rest of the summer, you can just stroll on in.

If you can’t make it tomorrow — or just want a unique view of Westport’s riverside outdoor amphitheater — check out John Videler’s drone shot:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/John Videler)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/John Videler)