Tag Archives: Dan Sklar

“13” + 2

“13” opened on Broadway in 2008. That makes the musical — about a New York boy whose upcoming bar mitzvah is upended by his parents’ divorce, and his move with his mother to Indiana — 14 years old.

But it lives on. “13” — the movie, starring Debra Messing and Rhea Perlman — debuted on Netflix earlier this month. The cast includes a host of young teenagers. dancing and singing about becoming a man, middle school, crushes and first kisses.

Of course, you can’t get 40 kids to actually sing and dance in a movie. So Jason Robert Brown — who adapted the film from his own original music and lyrics — recruited 8 actual 13- and 14-year-old to provide vocals for the big number.

And — this being musical theater-crazy Westport — 2 of those teenagers are from right here.

Andrew Maskoff and Ari Sklar met at Coleytown Middle School. Andrew wrote the script for a short film, for the 2021 Coleytown Company Revue. He and Ari spent hours editing it in the piano room at Ari’s house.

During breaks, they tore through every Broadway score on the shelf, Dan says. (He’s an actor, along with a rabbi and cantor; his wife Shirah is a rabbi/cantor too.)

From left: Dan Sklar and Ari Sklar. They performed together last fall in Music Theater of Connecticut’s “Falsettolands.”

“It was amazing to watch these kindred spirits make music together,” Dan notes. “They’re 2 years apart in school, so Ari can’t wait to meet up with him at Staples next fall.” (Andrew — a member of Staples Players — will be a sophomore this fall. Ari is a rising 8th grader.)

Neither knew that the other had sent an audition tape to Brown’s request for backup vocalists.

Ari and Dan were the first people to arrive at the New York studio last summer. The next singer was Andrew. The boys stared at each other in disbelief.

When Brown showed up, he had an impish grin. He knew they would know each other. He had wanted their meeting to be a surprise.

Ari Sklar and Andrew Maskoff, during a break from recording “13.”

The boys were “pros in the studio,” Sklar says. “It was a power session of over 8 hours.

“Jason and Georgia Stitt (his wife, and a noted composer and music director) couldn’t have been kinder to the kids. Jason is a mensch of the first order. He even gave a shout-out to them all in a blog post (click here). 

Backup vocalists for “13” include Ari Sklar (5th from left) and Andrew Maskoff (far right).

“13” had special relevance for Ari. While singing backup vocals for the movie, he was preparing for his own bar mitzvah, held this summer in Israel.

Mazel tov to both him and Andrew!

(Click below for a clip from “13.” Actor Eli Golden is lip synching; vocals for all the others was recorded by Andrew Maskoff, Ari Sklar and 6 others.)

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Roundup: Lacrosse, Blood Drive, Dog Licenses …

Tyler Clark’s dramatic goal 3:45 into overtime gave Staples’ boys lacrosse team a 9-8 victory over Ridgefield in last night’s state tournament semifinal.

The victory vaults the Wreckers — ranked #2 in the state L (large schools) division — into the final. They’ll face perennial powerhouse Darien, ranked 1st and 16-9 victors over Fairfield Prep in the other semi.

Coach Will Koshansky’s Staples squad is shooting for their first-ever state crown. The game is set for 3 p.m. this Sunday (June 12), at Sacred Heart University.

Tyler Clark’s winning goal for Staples, in yesterday’s state tournament semifinal. (Photo/Chris Greer, courtesy of The Ruden Report).

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The next Joseph J. Clinton VFW Post 399 Red Cross Blood Drive is Tuesday (June 14, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). It’s sponsored by the Charley With A Y Foundation, in memory of Marine lance corporal Charles M. Rochlin USMC.

Click here for an appointment, or call 800-733-2767, Use this sponsor code: VFWWestport.

LCPL Charley Rochlin

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Allison Russell is the latest performer signed to the Levitt Pavilion’s “Stars on Tours” series.

The Grammy-nominate artist/activist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/founding member of Our Native Daughters and Birds of Chicago Allison Russell will appear on Sunday, August 21.

Allison made history at the 2022 Juno Awards as the first Black artist to win for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year.

The record was named the #2 Best Album of the Year by the New York Times after its release in 2021, and Allison’s song “Nightflyer” made Barack Obama’s annual list of favorites.

The member pre-sale is live now. The public sale begins tomorrow (June 10) at noon.

Allison Russell

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Congratulations to Music Theatre of Connecticut.

They’ve been nominated for 11 Connecticut Critics Circle awards. Four are for the musical “Falsettoland” — and 2 have a Westport connection. The father-son team of Dan and Ari Sklar are up for “Outstanding actor, musical” and “Outstanding debut.” Both live here.

Though based in Norwalk, MTC has strong Westport roots. Broadway actors Mia Gentile and Jacob Heimer, plus noted songwriter Justin Paul, all performed there often.

Dan Sklar

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Speaking of theater: Summer is almost here. Which means the Westport Country Playhouse annual gala is not far away.

The event returns live — after a 2-year COVID hiatus — on September 17. The guest artist is Renée Elise Goldsberry: the original Tony Award-winning Angelica Schuyler from “Hamilton.” She’ll perform a high energy concert of Broadway, pop and soul.

Ticket details will be announced soon. t’s sure to sell out quickly.

Renee Elise Goldsberry

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June is dog license month.

Licenses good from July 1 to June 30, 2023, may be obtained online from the Town Clerk’s department, starting now. All dogs over 6 months old must be licensed.

Click here to license your dog online (desktop only; no mobile devices allowed). Have your spay/neuter and rabies certificates available to upload as a PDF. If these are not available, contact your veterinary office to obtain digital copies.

Paper applications accompanied by a check payment are also accepted. Mail or the drop box at the rear of Town Hall are preferred methods of delivery. Dog licenses can be processed in the Town Clerk’s offfice for those who need in person assistance.

Mail the application, payment, and required certificates (all certificates will be returned with license), and a self-addressed stamped return envelope to: Westport Town Clerk, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06881. Click here to download the application. Visit Westportct.gov/dogs for all information related to dog licenses in Westport.

For more information, call 203-341-1110 or visit Westportct.gov/dogs.

“Before we play: Send in my license, please!” (Photo/Amy Schneider)

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“Senior Night” at the Remarkable Theater has been moved to has been moved to June 22 (8 p.m.). It’s a special showing of a 70-minute video, highlighting the Class of 2022’s unique 4 years at Staples High School.

Click here for tickets.

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Speaking of animals: The Gorham Island swan has not abandoned her nest. She was spotted sitting pretty yesterday morning, enjoying the sunshine and her motherly duties.

(Photo/Mary Stewart)

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Today there are 2 of these “Westport … Naturally” rabbits.

Tomorrow there will be many more. Naturally.

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

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And finally … did you know that the inspiration for songwriter Paul Vance’s classic “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” came from his 2-year-old daughter?

Neither did I, until I read his obituary. He died May 30 in Florida, at 92.

I also did not know that singer Brian Hyland — who recorded the #1 song — was just 16 at the time. Go figure

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Father-Son “Falsettoland”

In 1994, Staples Players staged an entirely student-run production of “Falsettos.”

Directed by senior Ari Edelson, the Tony Award-winning musical — dealing with hot-button issues like AIDS, homosexuality and religion — was a smash. Audience members were in tears; cast members called it “life-changing.”

But the show was not produced at the high school. Administrators — unnerved by the themes — forced the show off campus. The Westport Country Playhouse welcomed it to their historic stage.

Shirah Lipson Sklar remembers it well. She was a Staples student then; her friends acted in the show, and played in the pit. The 4 sold-out performances were momentous events.

Now the senior rabbi at Temple Shalom in Norwalk, she’ll revisit it again next month. “Falsettoland” — the 2nd act of “Falsettos” — runs weekends at the Music Theatre of Connecticut.

It will be especially poignant for Shirah. Her son Ari plays Jason, who is preparing for his bar mitzvah.

Dan Sklar — Shirah’s husband, and Ari’s father — is in the cast too. He’s Marvin, Jason’s father. In the show he suffers from a mysterious, undefined illness. The audience knows it is AIDS.

Ari Sklar

Acting and singing come naturally to Ari, a Coleytown Middle School 7th grader. Shirah sang beautifully as a Staples Orphenian under director Alice Lipson — her own mother. Dan was an actor more than 20 years ago, but stopped performing when he entered rabbinic school.

Still, Ari was surprised when he learned that his stage father would be his real father. Dan is proud that Ari has long been an advocate for social justice. And he realized that as Ari prepares for his own, actual bar mitzvah, sharing the stage in a show like this was too good to pass up.

Ari did not know that Dan auditioned with director Kevin Connors. A 12-year-old boy may not be thrilled about being in a musical with his father, Dan admits. But now that they’re rehearsing — sharing the process of putting together a very important play — Ari is enjoying their new on- and off-stage roles.

Dan calls the show “an old friend.” He knew “Falsettos” well in his performing days. Many actor friends were gay; he helped raise money through work with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Dan Sklar

“There are so many layers to this play,” he notes. “As we go through dark, tough times, with another disease, it’s important to have ‘up’ moments like these.”

As rehearsals continue, Dan sees his son through new eyes. “He’s an amazing kid — well, not really a kid anymore,” he says. “We’re proud he’s growing up in a town that celebrates people for who they are. Every day he teaches us about acceptance, affirmation, and the changing world.

“I might be completely overwhelmed at the end, at the bar mitzvah scene. I just hope I can say my lines to him.”

After this, the proud father says, Ari’s real bar mitzvah in June will be a breeze.

(“Falsettoland” will be performed November 5-21: Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk. Click here for tickets and more information.) 

Roundup: Dan Sklar’s Sh*tshow, Young Woman’s League Wine, More

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Dan Sklar is a beloved rabbi, cantor and musician.

Now he’s an author too.

All those identities come together in “Sh*tShow: A Memoir & Mixtape: The Tales of a Reluctant Rabbi.” It’s an insightful, deeply human expression of past and present.

This past year has been challenging for everyone. Sklar was particularly affected. “Reluctant Rabbi” explores how inherited family trauma — and trauma experienced first hand — shape the people we become.

A Spotify playlist of 29 songs that provoke and inspire accompanies the book (you’ll see when and where to play the tracks). Artists include Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett, Theodore Bikel, the Indigo Girls, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Rascal Flatts — and Sklar himself.

Click here for the paperback. Click here for the Kindle edition. Click here for the Spotify playlist.

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It’s called “Galentine’s: Wine Night and Bingo Fundraiser.” It’s sponsored by the Westport Young Woman’s League.

But you don’t have to be a woman to participate in this virtual event. All are welcome!

“Galentine’s” (February 4, 7:30 p.m., Zoom) raises funds for local charities. Last year, the WYWL handed out $90,000 to organizations that end hunger, and promote education and health.

The League has partnered with the female-owned vineyard Aquila’s Nest. The $65 ticket price includes 2 bottles of wine, bingo spot and fun surprises. Click here to purchase a ticket, and for more information.

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And finally … happy 53rd birthday to rapper/producer/actor/author/ entrepreneur/Kennedy Center honors winner LL Cool J.

Which, I just found out today, stands for Ladies Love Cool James.

 

Roundup: Pride And Prejudice, Night Music, Field Hockey, More


Who doesn’t want to escape 2020? The early 1800s sound great!

This Sunday (November 8, 6 p.m.), Staples Players’ radio play series continues with “Pride and Prejudice.” Jane Austen’s tale of romance and matchmaking gone awry is great family entertainment. Just like the old days! (Though there were no radio plays in the 1800s, of course.)

Sophie Rossman plays Elizabeth Bennet. She calls this “unlike anything we’ve done in the last 4 years.” Sophie admires Elizabeth’s “drive to make decisions and defy gender stereotypes to achieve her aspirations.”

Emily Desser adds that “audiences will love all of the characters in each of these shows. Each of them is entertaining in their own way, and cast members find such interesting ways to bring them to life.”

Gruel Brittania joins the fun. The Fairfield restaurant offers Pemberley’s Prime Rib Supper with Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower and broccoli cheese, roasted parsnips and carrots, pan gravy and horseradish sauce, and sticky toffee pudding with custard. To order, click here.

To enjoy the free livestream, click on www.wwptfm.org.

Seniors Sophie Rossman and David Corro rehearse “Pride and Prejudice.” (Photo/Kerry Long)


Temple Israel cantor Dan Sklar, local favorites The Sweet Remains, Staples High School senior Camille Foisie and Camp A Cappella highlight an evening of great music on Saturday, November 14 (7:30 p.m.).

It’s all for a great cause: the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project. Email norwalksistercityproject@gmail.com.

Camille Foisie


The Staples field hockey team celebrated Senior Day in a big way in their last regular season game, scoring against Norwalk within the first minute. The rampage continued, all the way to 6-1.

The undefeated (8-0) Wreckers advance to the Central Division semifinal, Saturday at home.

(Photo/JC Martin)


And finally … as Election Week continues …