Tag Archives: Levitt Pavilion

Remembering Chuck Berry

I only saw Chuck Berry perform live once.

It was in 2002, at the Levitt Pavilion’s annual fundraiser.

He was on a double bill with Little Richard.

Neither was very good. Both were well past their sell-by dates.

Chuck Berry — who died yesterday at 90 — was already 75.

Yet looking back, it’s very impressive that he was still performing — and still doing a (modified) version of his famed “duck walk.”

And how cool that I — and the rest of Westport — could see one of the true legends (and founders) of rock ‘n’ roll, right in our back yard.

That’s my only live memory of Chuck Berry.

But this is “06880,” where “Westport meets the world.” Our town is probably filled with people who played or recorded with, went into business with, or otherwise knew Chuck Berry well. (Weston too: I’m thinking of you, Keith Richards.)

Click “Comments” below, to share your memories.

PS: Roll over, Beethoven! And tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Photo Challenge #113

Some photo challenges can be figured out by current Westporters, and those who lived here many years ago. The anchor by Ned Dimes Marina — installed in 1958 — was a great example, 3 weeks ago.

But you need to live here now — or have visited in the past 2 summers — to know last week’s image. John Videler’s shot showed the tile ramp at the “new” Levitt Pavilion, leading down to the lawn. If you’ve never seen it, be sure to stop by next summer — it’s a beauty! (Click here for the photo.)

Congratulations to Eileen Lavigne Flug, Marc Hartog, Cheryl McKenna, Nancy Wilson, Seth Braunstein, Fred Rubin and Seth Goltzer. If there was a prize, you’d get a season’s pass to the Levitt. Oh, wait — it’s free for everyone!

Today’s photo challenge was inspired by tonight’s Academy Awards. Here’s a hint:  It has nothing to do with the Oscars.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

If you think you know where in Westport you’d find this beauty, click “Comments” below. Winners won’t get a prize that looks anything like this.

They’ll get something better: Their name on “06880,” next Sunday.

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.

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.

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)

 

Oh My 06880 – Photo Challenge #76

Most “06880” photo challenges show familiar scenes of Westport — ones that have been around a while, so even ex-pats have a chance.

Not so last Sunday.

If you haven’t been here a while, you wouldn’t recognize the “new” Levitt Pavilion. Opened 2 years ago (at a cost of $9 million), it’s a handsome upgrade from the original, 40-year-old version.

Last week’s photo challenge showed one of the lamps above the concession stand. Yes, they sell food there now too — it’s really become a legit entertainment venue.

Steven Alter answered correctly, just 4 minutes after the image was posted. Kathleen Burke and Beth Orlan Berkowitz followed soon after. Congrats to all 3. (To see last week’s photo challenge, click here.)

Now we’re back to photos that even former residents should — well, can — recognize. If you think you know this one, click “Comments.” Then add whatever info about it you know.

Oh My 06880 - June 12, 2016

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

 

UPDATE: Staples Pops Concert At Levitt Sold Out

At this time, no tickets remain for the free “Staples Pops at the Levitt” concert. This status may be updated on Friday, May 27 — check back by clicking here or calling 866-811-4111 then!

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The Staples High School music department is famous for its professional-style concerts.

That’s not hyperbole.

For the 1st-ever “Westport Pops Concert at the Levitt” (Thursday, June 9, 7 p.m.), the symphonic and chamber orchestras, jazz band and Orphenians vocal ensemble will be joined by a pair of Broadway notables.

James Naughton

James Naughton

James Naughton emcees the all-star event. The Weston resident and 2-time Tony Award winner has a long history as a narrator and soloist with orchestras like the Boston Pops, New York Pops and Rhode Island Symphony.

He’ll feel right at home. The Staples event is modeled on the Boston Pops’ Esplanade concert series (right down to the riverside setting).

Meanwhile, Andrew Wilk — executive producer of “Live from Lincoln Center” and a 5-time Emmy-winning director, writer and producer of TV programming — is consulting on the production. Staples students and alum will capture all the action for a Cablevision special.

Wilk — a Westporter and father of a Staples grad — worked with Naughton several years ago, on “Lincoln Center.” He says the emcee will add “real elegance and sizzle” to the evening.

From right: Andrew Wilk and Adele Valovich meet with Staples senior Emma Cataldo and Elon University junior Katie Shannon, for a Levitt Pavilion pre-production session. The 2 students will be part of the camera crew for Staples' pops concert June 9.

From right: Andrew Wilk and Adele Valovich meet with Staples senior Emma Cataldo and Elon University junior Katie Shannon, for a Levitt Pavilion pre-production session. The 2 students will be part of the camera crew for Staples’ pops concert June 9.

Selections range from “Rodeo” and “Phantom of the Opera” to “I Got Rhythm,” “Shenandoah” and a rousing finale.

It Won’t Be Long…

…until the Levitt Pavilion opens for another season.

This guy at the Westport Arts Center — across the river — can hardly wait.

WAC with Levitt in distance

And The Winner Is…

…Marc Litvinoff, and the Levitt Pavilion.

Recently, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce put out a call for photos. The winner would grace the front covers of the new Visitors Guide/Membership Directory and map.

Here’s what you’ll see:

Levitt - Marc Litvinoff - Chamber of Commerce cover

The shot of the new Levitt Pavilion was taken from Grace Salmon Park, on Imperial Avenue. It also shows the west bank of the Saugatuck River — and a stunning sky.

Litvinoff’s photo was chosen from over 600 entries, by dozens of Westporters.

“We had to make some tough choices. There were so many we could have used. But in the end, we felt this one said ‘Westport,'” says Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell.

The guide will be released in May. The Levitt kicks off its new season in June.

The view that Litvinoff captured so well is available every day of the year.

Tess’ Bench

The other day, I posted a few of Lynn U. Miller’s photos of the library Riverwalk, at dusk. 

I was struck by their beauty. Many “06880” readers were too. But for Suzanne Tanner, one picture was especially poignant. She wrote:

I want to thank Lynn for capturing such a profound and welcoming photo of my daughter’s memorial bench on the grounds of the Westport Public Library.

The bench was inspired by and appropriated with a memorial fund started in my daughter’s name to establish points of figural beauty in and around one of Tess’s favorite places in town — our riverfront library.

Library bench sunset - Lynn U Miller

I want to remind others how important it is to pause and reflect on all of the love that is given to us in life, be it the warmth of a child’s hand in ours or the generosity of a singular smile resonating in the crevices of time’s travel. It always pleases me to see another appreciate the beauty in the structure of the bench and the delightful setting for all to share.

A portion of Tess’s fund has been allocated to the Levitt Pavilion to continue the effort. I am currently searching for outdoor sculptures, favoring any with the essence of poetry, discovery, mythology and hummingbirds to create a Riverwalk Sculpture Garden in Tess’s honor.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please contact either myself (suzannetanner@aol.com) or the Levitt (levitt@westportct.gov). I welcome the energy and opportunity to share in the journey of remembering a most delightful spirit with an inspiring path along the riverwalk.