Tag Archives: PT Barnum

Will Hamer’s Bean N’ Batter

Will Hamer is still in his early 20s.

But already he has:

  • Played rugby at Staples High School
  • Left Staples after 2 years to row for the Dublin School in New Hampshire, then rowed 2 more years at Iona College
  • Worked as a floor whip at the 2016 Republican convention
  • Joined the National Guard
  • Sold ads for a radio station and Hearst Media
  • Worked for candidates in Michigan
  • Gathered voting data throughout the Midwest (and lived out of his car while doing so).

Will Hamer, in a rare moment of relaxation.

Will loves Westport; it’s “artsy, accepting, nice and friendly.” His parents are still here. But having seen so much of the rest of the country — and meeting so many different people in Walmarts, campgrounds and other places — he knows this town is a bubble.

So when he heard about a crepe shop next to a comedy club in New Jersey that was making a killing, he had an idea for his next venture.

Ta da!  Will is now the owner of Bean n’ Batter. The waffles/granola/coffee bar opened earlier this month.

In downtown Bridgeport.

At 855 Main Street — directly across from People’s Bank headquarters — it’s already drawing raves. It’s one more piece in what Bridgeport boosters hope is the long-talked-about, hopefully-here-at-last renaissance of the once-thriving city.

Will has hopped on the Bridgeport bandwagon. One corner of the restaurant is filled with photos of the historic past, including colorful mayor P.T. Barnum, and John F. Kennedy’s raucous rally 2 days before the 1960 presidential election.

Bridgeport, in an earlier heyday.

Nearby residents and office workers alike are making Bean n’ Batter their place. They like the food, and the homey vibe.

“People are so receptive to what we’re doing,” Will says. “They like our prices — and that we’re not Starbucks.

The Crunchy: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, granola and honey drizzle.

“This is a great city,” he adds. “There’s so much going on — like the amphitheater next to Webster Bank Arena.” That’s just a few blocks away — under the I-95 overpass — from the new hot breakfast spot.

Before opening Bean n’ Batter, Will admits, he did not know much about Connecticut’s largest city — just a few miles from his hometown.

Now he urges Westporters to discover Bridgeport — and not just attractions like the Barnum and Discovery Museums, Beardsley Zoo and Seaside Park. Will has discovered fantastic restaurants like Pantanal, a Brazilian BBQ and buffet place on Frank Street.

Mayor Joe Ganim and several City Council members came to Bean n’ Batter’s grand opening. So did State Senator Will Haskell. His district does not include Bridgeport — but he was there to support a new business in a nearby city (and one opened by a fellow Staples grad).

Will Hamer (far left), Mayor Joe Ganim (2nd from right) and others celebrate the opening of Bean n’ Batter.

Which leads to one final thought: If Bean n’ Batter really takes off, it may expand.

Perhaps to Westport.

You know: the other town — besides Bridgeport — that has Will Hamer’s heart.

Justin Paul’s Next Oscar: P.T. Barnum?

2017 was quite a year for Justin Paul.

The 2003 Staples High School grad and his music writing partner, Benj Pasek, won an Oscar for “La La Land”‘s lyrics, and a Tony for “Dear Evan Hansen.”

The year is almost over. But the insanely talented duo have an ace up their sleeve:

P.T. Barnum.

Pasek and Paul contributed 11 original songs to “The Greatest Showman.” The 20th Century Fox film premieres December 20.

The Hollywood Reporter says they’ll be Oscar contenders — along with the likes of “Beauty and the Beast” (by Alan Menken and Tim Rice) and Sara Bareilles’ “Battle of the Sexes.”

Justin Paul at the Oscars.

The other day, Pasek and Paul took time out from rehearsals of Fox TV’s live musical “A Christmas Story” (December 17, with Maya Rudolph and Matthew Broderick — no, they never stop working) to talk to the Reporter.

Asked about “pushing the limits” with Hugh Jackman, Paul said:

We were, of course, intimidated because he’s such a master of musical theater, especially onscreen. But we were also inspired to write for a lead character that will be portrayed by Hugh, with all of his abilities and his vocal range and everything. It gives a songwriter such clear parameters of the playground, and with Hugh, it’s a really big one.

As for lessons learned from “La La Land,” he noted:

We view this as a window of time. Maybe it lasts for a while and maybe it doesn’t. The winds seem to shift sometimes, and we’ve obviously seen periods where people have really embraced musicals and periods where it’s really fallen out. But there are people who aren’t necessarily Broadway fanatics like we are, who still want to see a musical on Christmas with their families.

The former Staples Player and Orphenian star is no longer on stage. He explained:

As for all the [awards season] events, we definitely feel funny getting dressed up for something because we’re intentionally behind the scenes. There’s such a humbling neurosis that goes along with writing because no matter what you’ve done, the next time you go to write a song, you’re standing at a piano and there’s a high probability that you’ve struck out the first time you try, no matter what. That will never change.

(Click here to read the entire Hollywood Reporter interview.)