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North Castle Daily News

Charlie Lagond Band Delights Large Crowd at Wampus Brook Park
By Jackson Harrower


July 26, 2016
The Charlie Lagond band took the stage at Wampus Brook Park at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night as the brookside lights flickered on and hundreds of concert goers settled into their lawn chairs and blankets. The band opened with a lively and warm rendition of “Soul Serenade” by King Curtis to the great appeasement of the crowd, then proceeded for the next hour and forty five minutes to take the audience on a musical journey through the history of soul. The band covered it all, from early classics including Junior Walker’s “Sweet Soul” and Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me” to modern hits by Aloe Blacc and Robin Thicke. The crowd was enthusiastic and engaged the whole night; audience members even came out of their chairs to dance with Lagond as he played the saxophone on the lawn in front of the gazebo. It was a fun filled night for all ages.

Saturday night’s concert was presented by The Small Town Theatre Company and sponsored primarily by The Town of North Castle. The New Rochelle Opera will be performing on Saturday August 6 at 8 p.m.. Hager, Ibarra, Schulman, Spielman, and Johnson will be presenting broadway classics on Saturday August 20 at 8 p.m.. All concerts are free and free pastries are provided by Beascakes Bakery.


Mr E Bandmembers at the Ridgefield Playhouse
Ridgefield Playhouse Band Jam

May 2, 2016
Three Byram Hills High School seniors will compete with two bandmates from North Salem in this year’s Ridgefield Band Jam Competition at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Sunday May 15 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mr. E, their rock band, is one of five high school bands chosen to compete.

The band survived two prior elimination rounds to make it to the finals. Mr. E will play two songs before a panel of judges and will be scored on their overall sound, stage presence, and technical ability. The winner will be announced at the end of the evening. Prizes include gift cards to Guitar Center and studio time for the winning band.

Mr E. band members are: vocals is Ari Perakis, on drums is Tess Condron, and on keys is Vic D'Angelo, all of Armonk. On guitar is Justin Giacchetto and on bass is Kevin Giacchetto.
 
Tickets may be purchased by calling the Ridgefield Playhouse: 1-203-438-5795 or online. All proceeds go towards supporting the Ridgefield Playhouse. It’s suggested to buy tickets in advance as past shows have sold out.

Former Police Chief Performs Tonight at Gavi 


August 8, 2014
Bobby D’Angelo is doing it his way at Gavi Restaurant this Friday night starting at 8:00 p.m. 

Growing up in North White Plains, D’Angelo started playing drums in a band when he was 17 years old. He studied voice at the White Plains Academy of Music and started singing in his early twenties. His favorite songs are Frank Sinatra’s and his favorite Sinatra song is My Way. “The greatest thrill I ever had,” says D’Angelo, “was attending a wedding in New Jersey with my parents when I was very young. I sat next to Frank Sinatra’s mother.”

In January 2013, D’Angelo retired after 40 years with the North Castle Police Department and 21 years as Chief. He has crooned many listeners over the years, including at his retirement party. D’Angelo especially enjoys singing the oldies of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Anthony Newley, Larry Chance, Dion DiMucci,… “because people like that, it brings back nice memories of the past.” 


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Concert Opens Summer Season at Wampus Brook Park


July 13, 2014
As the evening of live music on Saturday July 12 was winding down, the stunning full-moon supermoon rose as a backdrop to the live performance of Dynamite Di and Destruction. More than 100 guests were entertained at the first of the outdoor summer concerts presented in Wampus Brook Park, produced by Sam Morell and his Small Town Theatre partner, Donna Garr. The show lasted for more than two hours with a mix of rock and blues from the five-piece band while the sun set and gave way to an evening by the brook with some cool music.

The collaboration of bluesy rock and jazz was an intimate show with Jerry Scaringe on the upright bass and harmonica, Dave McDowell on the saxophone, Chris Vitarello on guitar, George Morales on the drums and Diane Cricchio as the lead vocal who intermittently played a plugged-in acoustic guitar. The group was upbeat and entertaining; some of the audience was receptive to dancing while others gathered around for coffee and donuts during intermission. The musical motif of swing and easy sounds, mixed with the giddy laughter and the fun gestures of the lead vocalist, captured everyone's attention and made for an enjoyable evening.

Residents said they were grateful to Morell for his community effort to gather support from the town and local businesses such as Beascake Bakery, Hickory and Tweed, John Meyer Consulting, Moderne Barn and Town Center Pharmacy. Although the concert was free, concert goers donated towards the expense of the production. A drawing gave away a few items to some lucky winners.

This season is the third that the Small Town Theatre has produced concerts in the park, although last year was an off-year due to the poor condition of the gazebo. This year for the first time the Town of North Castle has provided a small budget to support the concerts. "Everyone should also be grateful to the Town for taking 'the show must go on attitude'," said one resident, "especially after the recent collapse and demolition of the gazebo."  

The gazebo has been the platform for performances and special events in the park for almost 50 years. Although the “showmobile” stage used Saturday evening is not as charming as the landmark gazebo, the platform was lit-up as a stage for the rhythm and blues concert, and will be for the succeeding concerts in the summer series. North Castle’s Town Administrator, Joan Goldberg, was instrumental in getting the Town’s insurance company to quickly investigate the collapse of the gazebo and to pick up the tab for a temporary stage that was rented from the Town of Greenburg. Matt Trainor, the Recreation Supervisor, coordinated the delivery of the movable stage. The construction of the new gazebo is planned to be done in time for Armonk’s Frosty Day at the end of November.

Saturday's outdoor concert was the first for this summer that Morell has produced, and is the first of four concerts that will take place on every other Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. until August 28. During June, Morell, through the newly formed North Castle Arts Council, also produced two afternoon concerts at Armonk Square. Residents, guests and visitors have commented positively how they welcome the live entertainment at the various venues around town.

Visit Small Town Theatre for the schedule of the summer concerts in the park.

Comment 


Byram Hills Grad Seeking Votes for “The Voice” Audition
By Solange De Santis

May 7, 2014
Liam O’Brien freely acknowledges that when he was three years old and singing at the top of his lungs, he was sometimes called a “show-off.” Now 19 and a graduate of Byram Hills High School, he’s “showing off” professionally and seeking votes for a trip to Los Angeles and a chance to audition for the singing competition TV show, The Voice.

“There are just two days to go. It’s been a lot of hard work and support from family and friends could put me on the show,” he said in an interview. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. PST on May 9.

“Basically, it would be a short cut” to an audition, as opposed to having to wait on a long line outside a TV studio for a possible appearance, Liam noted. “Getting to L.A. in the first place is the hard part. This would bring me to L.A. for a private audition,” he said.

Liam’s already ahead – his video was chosen by Extra for its website along with eight others submitted from Miami. As of midday on May 7, Liam and one other contestant in the regional competition were neck and neck in the voting, but both were way ahead of the rest of the pack.

Now a student at the University of Miami studying the music business with a minor in songwriting, Liam graduated from Byram Hills in 2012. “I have been performing since I was 10 in musicals in the Byram school district and other venues as well,” he said. Favorite parts included Judah in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, André in Phantom of the Opera, Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Danny Zuko in Grease.

Liam has drawn on his parents’ love of music from that early age. His dad, Bill O’Brien, was a band singer. “He would sing around the house a lot and when I was young, I guess I wanted to be like him,” Liam said.

His mom, Anita Tumminelli, guided Liam and his brother Daniel and sister Tania toward piano lessons. “She said, ‘You can quit when you are 13,’” Liam recalled, however he went on to add drums, guitar, harmonica, ukulele and “other random instruments” to his skills.

In high school, he didn’t think he wanted to pursue music, but started writing songs and performing. “People said, ‘Why are you not doing this regularly?’” he said.

Now, Liam’s tenor voice can be heard singing rock and pop tunes with bands in the Miami area at events such as weddings. The songs he’s thinking of practicing should he get The Voice audition are “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz or “Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé. His voice has been compared to those of Mraz, Bublé and Justin Timberlake.

Should he get on the show, the coach he would choose would be Adam Levine. “I’ve been a fan of [Levine’s band] Maroon 5 since I was 10 years old,” he said.

If winning the contest alone depended on his passion for singing, Liam might be an easy winner. “Singing gives me a thrill that can’t be defined. Sure, I’m singing for people to hear and for me to enjoy myself, but when I sing, it makes me feel good like when you eat food when you are hungry. It gives me something beyond any other feeling.”


Armonk Players
Armonk Players Presents a "Who Dunit" Musical
 
November 8, 2013
If you enjoy Agatha Christie's murder mysteries, you'll love Armonk Players' latest performance of Something's Afoot at Whippoorwill Hall.  
 
The scene is set in an old English manor on an island, as house guests arrive shortly before a storm. The island's bridge becomes impassable and Lord Dudley Rancour's ten guests are cut off from the outside world. Lord Rancour is soon discovered dead. But who dunit?
 
The eerie clashing of explosions and booming thunder is part of the booby-trapped, multiple-murder mysteries which ensue; they’re caused by fiendishly concocted devices used by the murderer.  The live musical accompaniment keeps the audience engaged as the characters render line-after-line of amusing anecdotes, as they fall prey to booby-trapped murders.
 
Who did it and who's next? Everyone becomes a suspect before they all eventually get caught in the direct line of fire and drop, one by one. The elderly Miss Tweed, an amateur detective, reveals a wealth of clues of the malice and mayhem during this engaging and witty performance.
 
Something's Afoot opens November 8 and runs through November 16. Schedule and ticket information can be found at http://www.armonkplayers.org

St. Thomas Orchestra
Armonk Musicians Present Benefit Concert April 20
By Solange De Santis

April 18, 2013
Armonk violinists Lori Horowitz and George Drapeau, both members of the St. Thomas Orchestra, are involved in a special benefit concert for the STO on Saturday, April 20. The STO is a community orchestra that brings great music to Westchester and mentors young musicians.

Horowitz, who is the STO's concertmaster, will play with a chamber group consisting of STO Music Director and cellist Bernard Tamosaitis, violaist Monica Gerard, pianist Sayuri Iida and violinist Ray Iwazumi. They will perform Dvořák's Piano Quintet in A Major.

Drapeau, the STO's board chair, noted that the Dvořák is "a beloved piece of music" and that audiences will also hear two brilliant young pianists on Saturday night

Alex H. Tiratsuyan and Melody Hsu, both of whom study at the Westchester Conservatory of Music in White Plains, already have blossoming performance careers.

Tiratsuyan, 14, will perform Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2, Movements 2 & 3, with guest pianist Stella Simakova Jones performing the orchestral reduction. Tiratsuyan won two gold medals at the AADGT International Young Musicians festivals in 2010 and 2011 and attends Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan where he also studies oboe.

Hsu, 15, is a sophomore at Rye Country Day School and a winner of the Cecilian Young Artist Competition. She also teaches piano at two organizations for children who have inadequate resources to seek professional teaching. She will perform Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in F minor.
Tiratsuyan and Hsu together will play Milhaud's Scaramouche.

The location is the concert salon at Faust Harrison Pianos, 214 Central Ave., White Plains, the nation’s largest independent retailer of fully restored vintage Steinway pianos. A reception will follow the concert and tours of the Faust Harrison restoration factory will be available.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert is at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 per person, $85 per couple, available at www.showtix4u.com or at the door. To reserve, call 1 (917) 379-2260. The benefit supports STO’s musical and educational activities, including its spring concert on Saturday, May 18 in White Plains. Information may be obtained at www.storchestra.org.

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Despite the weather, Guys and Dolls at Byram Hills High School to run March 7-9
By Solange De Santis

Adam Shatraw, the director of Guys and Dolls at Byram Hills High School, is doing the theatrical equivalent of walking a tightrope without a net: tonight's dress rehearsal has been cancelled due to an impending winter storm, but opening night is to go on as scheduled at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 7.

However, after 11 years at the helm of the Byram Hills theater program, along with choir directing and other arts electives, Shatraw says he doesn't get particularly upset "over things I can't control" - like the weather.

Guys and Dolls will be performed on March 7 at 7 p.m., Friday March 8 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 9 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the school on 12 Tripp Lane in Armonk. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors. For further information, e-mail stagetkts@byramhills.org.

Shatraw has been waiting for several years to get students involved in this classic show, based on New York writer Damon Runyon's stories of the gangsters and molls of Broadway, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

"It's one of those shows every theater student should perform. It's got good characters, great songs, the full range of experience," Shatraw says. Loesser's timeless score includes "Luck Be A Lady Tonight," "Fugue For Tinhorns," "If I Were A Bell" and "Adelaide's Lament."

However, since the show premiered in 1950 and Runyon was writing in the 1920s and 1930s, some background is necessary for today's teenagers, Shatraw notes. "I do a lot of work with character development, talking about the pop culture of the day, societal norms, how people related," he says, noting that he himself read Runyon's stories as a young person only because of Guys and Dolls.

Including cast, crew and orchestra, about 110 students take part in the musical, one of three Byram Hills shows during the school year gathered under the name Stage 2013. Shatraw says theater is more than just fun and games for many students. "The kids develop an ability to communicate, to advocate for themselves. In the jump from middle school to high school, sometimes they don't know what to do; they're scared of their teachers," he says. Expressing themselves as another person - a character - helps those communication skills.

Shatraw is only the third director of the theater program, following Joy Varley and founder Gene P. Bissell. Like his predecessors, he has seen drama activities change young lives.

"We have a couple of boys who are seniors who have never done a show. They said they wanted to do it, but didn't want to audition or do a lot. I said, 'OK, I'll make you gamblers.' Then they said, 'Maybe we want to be fully committed.' These guys have become the icons of this production," Shatraw says.

In fact, he adds, John Febbo and Mike Prisco have become role models to younger cast members, working with them on scenes, showing up on time for rehearsals and following the director's instructions "better than anybody."

The Byram Hills musical has become a "great community experience," Shatraw says, and theater alumni return - as was seen last January when illustrious graduates such as actor Peter Gallagher and Radio City Music Hall musical director Grant Sturiale returned to Armonk for a benefit evening.

Parent groups are involved with multiple tasks such as publicity and chaperoning and restaurants such as The Beehive feed cast and crew after rehearsals. "Over the years, we've developed a big partnership with our community," Shatraw says - and with legions of young performers.

David Harbour
Bravo To The Stage Performers of the Byram Hills Alumni Concert

On January 14, The Byram Hills High School auditorium was filled with students, parents, alumni, and guests watching former students perform and reminisce on the stage as a tribute to the Byram Hills theatre community. The alumni and current students shared their love of performance as they took to the stage, some of them for the first time in four decades, to raise $7,000 from ticket sales and donations for the Stage 2013's March production of "Guys and Dolls.”

Peter Gallagher (1973) and Grant Sturiale (1975) performed "I Can See It" from "The Fantasticks" and "Luck Be a Lady" from "Guys and Dolls.” Gallagher, who has an impressive list of credits from film, television, and stage, including a TONY Award nomination, said his first Byram Hills appearance was for Byram Hills High School Stage 1971's presentation of "Fantasticks," although he never got to sing in that performance.  "I've been waiting a long time to sing that song. If you keep at it, you can actually get the part that you got passed over the first time. Stay with it, keep showing up and trying," said Gallagher, who played the role of Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway in 1992.

"We are here tonight because of those teachers who made a big difference along the way," said Gallagher.  "I have had great teachers like Mr. Bissell. Mr. Gene P. Bissell directed all of Byram Hills musicals like his life depended on it and we were proud to be part of them. We learned so much." Mr. Bissell introduced Gallagher to the theatre and "taught me so much that I still carry him with me on every entrance I make as I enter the stage on my upstage foot. I have no idea why, other than the fact that Mr. Bissell told me to do so forty years ago."

Gallagher's first time to sing a note in public was on the stage of Byram Hills High School. He said that he has since performed in over two thousand Broadway and Off-Broadway plays and musical performances, 50 movies, a ton of television and a few audio recordings, and jokes that he is still “desperate for attention.”

Grant Sturiale accompanied a couple of performers on the piano, including presenting one of his own original compositions, "Follow Me" from the movie "Under Fire,” sung by Lauryn Ciardullo (2004). Sturiale has conducted over a thousand performances of the Radio City Christmas shows as their music director. Working with great musical stars, Grant composed, wrote, and arranged music for many Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.

“Byram Hills stage experience is a place to step in to become totally different,” said Richie DeFilippo (2003). He observed that it changed many students' life with the anticipation and reaction to cast lists, rehearsals, hell week, shared pizza and Chinese food as all part of the theatre program. Since 1968, when Byram Hills High School performances began, everyone has felt welcomed and appreciated. DeFilippo said he still holds onto the nervous habit of scratching behind his ear, which he began while under the direction of Pia Haas in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." As part of the Byram Hills stage performances, DeFilippo said he learned that crew, costume, production, makeup, and ticket sales were also important parts of the production. DeFilippo surrounds himself with his passion for theatre and sees his fellow Byram Hills' alumni grace the stage where he is the Box Office Supervisor for the Providence Performing Arts Center and Veteran's Memorial Auditorium, in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Byram Hills Alumni Show began with a drop-down screen of alumni video presentations. Although pre-taped, the feeds felt live, especially when Master of Ceremony's Gus Jacobson (2008) was video presented on the screen interacting with the performers and proceeded to introduce participants and sing. Jacobson is working both as an actor and as the Assistant Director for the Byram Hills Stage Program.

During the show, Gallagher mentioned that years ago students raised funds to buy the piano on stage under the guidance of Gene Bissell. It was on that same piano that Jason Loffredo (1996) accompanied most of the singers. Loffredo, the Musical Director of the show, is a Broadway and Off-Broadway music director, pianist, arranger, orchestrator, and composer.

Joy Varley, Byram Hills Fine Arts Director, said,  "We have social media to thank for the success to help put the program together, find people and get the rehearsal organized." She noted that it has been an honor and privilege for her to be part of the Byram Hills program since 1987 as a director, producer, mentor, and advisor for the program’s 88 productions.

David Harbour (1993) whose credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, Public Theatre and television, dramatically performed Shakespeare's lines from Hamlet's soliloquy: "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!"

The school’s current Theatre and Chorus Director, Adam Shatraw, noted that the endurance of the theater students are tested as they spend 15 hours a week on average, 30 weeks out of the school year, running full steam ahead starting the second week of September until the end of May. He said, "The students are dedicated and passionate and their parents, the community and the faculty all support them and work as hard as they do in order to bring us spectacular events."

There were over two dozen alumni performers with long, impressive lists of accomplishments, too numerous to mention here. All got their first opportunity on the Byram Hills’ stage, where they were encouraged to believe in themselves.

A link to the Bobcat TV video production of the evening's performance will be provided here when available.

Renowned Beatles Tribute Band Coming to Westchester County

September 7, 2016
The nationally renowned look-alike, sound-alike Beatles tribute band, HEY JUDE, will perform a concert Friday, September 16 at 8:00 p.m. at the state-of-the-art Lasdon Theater in The Walker Center for the Arts located at The Harvey School, 260 Jay Street (Rt. 22), Katonah, NY.  The concert will include an Exclusive VIP Meet-and-Greet for fan photos and autographs with “John,” “Paul,” “George” and “Ringo.” The band will also have merchandise available for purchase.

HEY JUDE’s FAB members are Tom Raider (John Lennon), Rick Bedrosian (George Harrison), Brad Jarvis (Paul McCartney), Don Ackerman (Ringo Starr), and the fifth Beatle, keyboardist Rich Coogan. HEY JUDE’s family-friendly performance showcases authentic costumes; instruments (Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Hofner and Epiphone guitars, Vox amps and Ludwig drums); and witty British stage banter. The band concentrates on the early songs from 1963 and 1964 with tunes such as "She Loves You,” "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "A Hard Day's Night.” HEY JUDE’s repertoire also includes hits from later albums such as “Help!” “Rubber Soul,” “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “The White Album” and “Abbey Road.” The audience is encouraged to participate in singing, clapping and dancing along to all of their FAB favorite Beatles hits!

Experience HEY JUDE LIVE at The Walker Center for the Arts! To purchase general admission tickets for $45, visit harveyschool.org, or contact (914) 232-3161, ext. 161 for more information. Limited seating.


Mr E

Mr. E Rocks the Ridgefield Playhouse
By Jackson Harrower

June 2, 2016
High School Rock Band Mr. E has won the High School Division of the Ridgefield Band Jam. The band consists of Byram Hills High School seniors Victoria D’Angelo, Tess Condron, and Aristides Perakis, along with North Salem High School senior Kevin Giacchetto and his sophomore brother Justin.

The band will receive Guitar Center gift cards and studio time, as well as increased exposure from their victory. Drummer Tess Condron notes, “Two hours of free studio recording time means a lot because studios are really expensive, and simply getting our name out there is the best thing for a band.” The group of five was formed recently for the competition, but Condron says that the members have been playing music together for years. Watch out for future Mr. E dates coming this summer! www.youtube.com


Animals Out of Paper Shows in Armonk
By Jackson Harrower

May 14, 2016
Animals Out of Paper
by Rajiv Joseph chronicles origami master Llana’s journey back to folding after her life falls into shambles with the estrangement of her husband and the loss of her dog. Her journey begins with an unexpected visit from Andy, the treasurer of the American Origami Society, and a request that Llana mentor a troubled but brilliant high school senior named Suresh.

What follows is two hours of delicate, thoughtful and well balanced conversation and three unique progressions. Jenny Sheffer Stevens keeps Llana’s development sincere and demonstrates great awareness of the timing of Llana’s emotional shifts. Michael Guagno injects a heartwarming balance of nerdiness, devotion and subtle humor into Andy’s quest for the love of his life. Adit Dileep takes on the role of Suresh with energy, commitment and an acute awareness Suresh’s rapid changes in mood.

The play requires patience and a pinch of suspense of disbelief as the script dives continuously deeper into the personal struggles of each character, but the ending leaves the reader with a feeling of wholesome acceptance and serves as a reminder that the world does not have to work in perfect harmony for life to be worth the journey.

The Hudson Stage Company will have its final two showings of Animals Out of Paper today at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. this evening in the Whippoorwill Hall Theatre at the Armonk Library.

Godspell WBT
Godspell is a Heavenly Treat
At Westchester Broadway Theater
By Barbara Solomon Josselsohn

July 24, 2015
If you think that listening to Bible parables is hardly the best way to spend an evening on the town – think again. Spirits are soaring at Westchester Broadway Theater this summer, where an energetic and talented cast of players is performing that unique, Bible-themed musical Godspell.
    
Originally a thesis project conceived by John Michael Tebelak at Carnegie Mellon University in 1970, Godspell is an amalgam of vignettes that dramatize stories and teachings from the New Testament. But this is no ordinary Bible class! The inclusion of clown-like costumes, vaudeville-like dance numbers, a lively script and stunningly memorable songs have made Godspell an audience favorite since its off-Broadway debut in 1971. It opened on Broadway in 1976 and was revived in 2011.
    
The current WBT production does not disappoint. The ensemble cast is delightful, with each cast member showing enormous personality and versatility. The show moves fast, and contemporary-themed jokes (which include references to the Kardashians and Obamacare) make the musical feel fresh and relevant. Performers routinely dance along the aisles and occasionally engage with audience members, which gives the show a fun, festival-like atmosphere.
    
While all the players have lovely voices and great comic delivery, a special shout-out goes to Gilbert D. Sanchez, who makes for a particularly charismatic Jesus. He and Xander Chauncey, playing the role of Judas, are an amazing song-and-dance duo in the number “All for the Best.” In addition, Greta Kleckner shows great comic instinct throughout the show; and Sarah Smithton gives a heartfelt rendition of “Day by Day,” which became a 1970s pop classic.
    
Godspell is a perfect choice – rollicking and tuneful – for a midsummer theatrical treat. It runs through August 9. For more information call the box office at 914-592-222 or visit www.BroadwayTheatre.com.

Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
Documentary of Inmates from Bedford Correctional Facility Presents Amazing Grace at Congregation B’nai Yisreal

April 5, 2015
Amazing Grace
, a documentary about the making of the first and only musical ever staged inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, will be shown on Thursday April 16 from 7:00 p.m to 8:30 p.m. at the Congregation B’nai Yisrael, 2 Banksville Avenue in Armonk.

The Amazing Grace production was produced under the auspices of the Katonah-based non-profit organization Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA). The musical grew out of a writing class for inmates led by RTA facilitators Phyllis Ross and Anne Twomey Lloyd, the Tony-nominated actress. Asked to write autobiographical pieces, the inmates turned in such eloquent and poignant stories that composer-songwriter Michael Minard, also an RTA facilitator, was inspired to add original melodies in the favorite styles of the authors—rock, salsa, rap--and turn those words into more than a dozen songs. The resulting musical, in July 2013 in the prison gymnasium, drew roof-raising applause from other inmates and invited guests.

RTA was founded by Katonah resident, Katherine Vockins, in 1996 as a small theatre group in Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. Today, RTA’s volunteer facilitators teach dance, creative writing, music, visual arts and theater in five New York State correctional facilities in the Hudson Valley.

As the Amazing Grace film demonstrates, RTA is a transformative program that uses the arts to teach critical life skills to men and women behind prison walls. RTA changes the lives of its incarcerated participants, their families and the communities to which they return.

In accordance, the program provides a vehicle for inmates to move forward and accept responsibility. “Inmates have to choose to change their life and stop blaming the system,” said Vockins.

And that attitude has a definite effect inside. “A study done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice proves that people who are in our programs have less disciplinary problems and better coping skills,” says Vockins.

A study by SUNY Purchase shows that RTA students are more likely to finish their GED and enter college while still in prison. Providing a leg up upon finally getting a foot out the door, RTA’s recidivism rates for alumni far outclass peers. “Our approximate average is 10% and the national rate is above 50%,” says Vockins.

The inmates prefer not to see the results so mathematically. “They say the workshops give the opportunity to see themselves in a different light and build self-awareness,” Vockins conveys.

Even so, there must be times when the walls don’t seem so safe for an outsider. “The first time I went into a women’s prison, a correctional officer put me in a room with twenty women I had never met, walked out and closed the door behind her. That was the only time I was ever scared,” she says.

Otherwise, the program provides a security all its own. “The trust and relationship that is built is mutually exclusive, and people in our program will always cover your back,” she says.

The April 16 showing of the documentary includes over six months of rehearsals and interviews with cast members. There is no admission charge, but donations to RTA are welcomed.

Richard Monetti contributed to this article

The Rockin’ Thomas Paolo

March 19, 2015
Growing up in Scarsdale, music, especially playing the piano, was everything to Thomas Paolo. Vadina Bond, his mother, introduced him to the love of music and classical piano. At the young age of eight, Paolo studied piano with Martha Livingston, a retired teacher from The Juilliard School.  

When he was a teenager, he moved to Armonk and started playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band and wrote song lyrics.  In the mid 1960s his band performed on the “Disc-O-Teen.” The program was an afternoon teen dance show hosted by Zacherley. Zacherley was known as a television horror-film host of Chiller Theater and other horror-movie programs.

After hearing The Monster Mash hit song, Paola paired up with Marie Captain and John Rella to write and perform the halloween thriller The School at the Top of the Hill. Paolo says the song has seen some airtime during Halloween on radio shows. The group cut the single into a CD of the same title that can be heard on YouTube: https://youtu.be/6V_qQmF2Ibw

Paolo says he was also influenced by two legendary artists: the late Joe Cocker and Bob Dylan. He enjoys singing their hits, karaoke style on the Empire City Casino stage.

In 2014, Paolo cut another CD, The Rockin’ Reverend, in which he is the solo artist and songwriter on A Beautiful Thing and The Almighty Glory.  

“Music and piano playing became my whole life,” Paolo says in the sleeve of his latest CD.

Afternoon Jazz Performed at Armonk Square
By Louise T. Gantress

June 22, 2014
The second day of summer welcomed about 50 visitors that enjoyed the stylistic jazz vocals of Alma Micic to the musical accompaniment of Rale Micic on guitar and bassist Steve LaSpina, joined by the young jazz musician from Armonk, Zach Berro on alto sax.

The weather could not have been more favorable for the Alma Micic Trio to perform in Armonk Square on Sunday, June 22. The audience was serenaded by Alma’s soulful renditions of jazz classics including “Blue Moon,” “Girl from Ipanema,” “That Old Feeling,” and “At Last” among others during the hour-and-half of delightful music on the Square.

Micic was born in Belgrade, Serbia. In 1995 she received a scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA where she graduated in 1999 with a BM in Jazz Performance. According to Micic's website: www.almajazz.com, Micic received numerous awards such as the Cleo Laine Award for Outstanding Musicianship and the BRIO Award from the NY Arts Council.

This was the first concert of the summer series of free concerts in Armonk Square under the auspices of the North Castle Arts Council (NCAC). “It’s street performing. People stop, listen, move on,” said Rodd Berro, a founding member NCAC.

Armonk Square developer Dom Dioguardi, a 30-year Armonk resident, says that when he, his brother John and partner Alan Zaretsky planned the Square this was “exactly the kind of thing we had in mind.”

Amy Ansehl of Chappaqua says, “Armonk has done a great job with their town square.” And Armonk residents shared her sentiment. Neal Baumann says, “This is a great idea and a perfect space for music; the acoustics are very good. The band is excellent.” Alice Feldman agreed. “They are very good. It’s a lovely day in downtown Armonk.” A shopper from DeCicco’s says she “just came by to listen,” and hadn’t known about it in advance.

This summer there will be more live musical performances in Armonk. “We need to promote what exists and encourage more events,” says Berro, who also serves as President of the theater group Armonk Players.

Next Sunday, June 29 at 3:00 p.m., the North Castle Arts Council will continue to feature live music at Armonk Square, introducing Bandjango, a gypsy jazz band at 3:00 p.m.

Sam Morell introduced the concept of NCAC as a collaborative effort for all of North Castle’s theatrical groups. Morrell, along with Donna Garr, are the founders and producers of the Small Town Theatre that sponsor the summer concerts at the gazebo in Wampus Brook Park. The first outdoor concert is July 12, and the concerts will continue every other Saturday on July 26, August 9 and August 23. They will start at 8:00 p.m. For more information visit www.smalltowntheatre.com

Bryam Hills students visit Caramoor
Byram Hills Strings Students Work with Caramoor Musicians

November 26, 2013
Byram Hills High School string orchestra students are benefitting from some professional advice, thanks to a recent visit by musicians from the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts.

The Dover Quartet, musicians in residence at Caramoor for the 2013-2014 season, worked with 45 members of the high school string and concert orchestras as they prepared for next month's concert.

“Caramoor’s student strings program provides students with a unique opportunity to hear and work with professional string quartet artists,” said Aaron Lockwood, the orchestra director. Nicole Kim, a sophomore violinist, said that she was "impressed with how emotive their sound was when they performed for the class. My goal is to strive for that in my playing too."

The four professional musicians performed with the students last week, and also worked with them in smaller groups. The afternoon concluded with the quartet helping members of the high school’s Festival Orchestra prepare for the Hallelujah Chorus, which will be performed at the Byram Hills High School Winter Concert on December 16th.

The Byram Hills Cultural Enrichment Program sponsors the annual Caramoor visit to the high school orchestra program.

Armonk Restaurant Opus 465 Presents Lively Weekend Music
By Solange De Santis

June 6, 2013
You don't have to tell singer/guitarist John Leonardi that playing music feeds the soul, but the life of a local musician sometimes struggles to feed the body. That's why he praises the spirited weekend music scene at restaurant Opus 465 on Main Street in Armonk.

"This place supports a lot of musicians. It's a small community of musicians around here," said Leonardi, speaking during a break in his Friday night set. On this particular evening, Leonardi was performing a solo acoustic set, playing such classics as the Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and The Clash's version of "I Fought the Law."

He often appears on Fridays from 6 pm to 9 pm as one-half of the John and Vinny Acoustic Happy Hour, joined by cousin Vinny Leonardis (yes, it's nearly the same name, but with one additional letter). After the break, Leonardi had a double shift, performing with guitarists Leonardis and Gary Morreto as Cousin with some amplified numbers such as "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?".

Leonardi mentioned Opus 465's Thursday Acoustic Jam, usually featuring guitarist Geoff Hartwell. On Saturdays, a variety of bands is showcased, recently including The Shaves, Gil Parris Band and Robin and the Hoods.

"There's always good acts playing here," said Opus 465 patron Wayne Clark, a friend of Leonardi who also said he enjoyed the calamari special, also mentioned by two other people at the bar.

Owned by the Mazzarulli Group, a food service, catering and restaurant enterprise headed by executive chef Marc Mazzarulli, Opus 465 offers contemporary American cuisine with an Italian flair. Established in 1998, the restaurant was recently renovated and features a ground floor dining room, patio and an upstairs dining room/banquet room in addition to the bar/performance area.

In an interview, Mazzarulli said the restaurant has been booking bands for about 14 years, or nearly its entire life. "We like supporting the local guys. The music adds a nice and different vibe to the bar scene," he said. Since Opus 465 has several dining areas, patrons who don't want quite as "robust" a music experience can choose to sit upstairs or on the patio, he said.

The acoustic sets are booked for Thursday and Friday happy hours, when patrons want to chat and wind down after the work week, he added. The amplified sets rock out on Friday and Saturday nights - prime party time.  

The Big Splash
The Big Splash
By Robert Schappert

June 27, 2011
In the late 1950's more and more of the residents of Armonk wanted a public swimming pool. Many wanted it but nobody wanted it in their neighborhood and it became a dilemma.  To dramatize the situation The North Castle Players, Armonk's theatrical group, turned the situation into a musical that was performed at the then new auditorium at North Castle Jr. High School in 1960. The musical was named The Big Splash.
 
George Thorn, an Armonk resident in the recording business known as the Thorn Creatives, had a recording studio on Whippoorwill Road. He was also a member of the North Castle Players, and made live recordings of the songs from The Big Splash. Recordings were done in the North Castle School auditorium on rehearsal nights for the best possible acoustics and sound quality.

Thorn's son George Fragos says, "My father wrote a number of hit songs. The most famous was I Hear A Rhapsody, words and music by George Fragos, Jack Baker and Dick Gasparre. It was recorded by virtually every famous artist from Frank Sinatra on down."
 
A record album of The Big Splash was pressed and made available at a modest cost to residents.   The sound quality of the original vinyl, 50-year-old album is still quite good despite a few scratches.   
 
Armonk finally did get a public swimming pool, thanks to Anita Louise Ehrman, who donated the funds to the town specifically for the pool. The efforts by the North Castle Players in 1960 may have helped. 

The Hudson Valley Fellowship Band

July 23, 2011
Bernie Williams and The Hudson Valley Fellowship Band held an outdoor concert at Wampus Park. They played some tunes from his CD, "Moving Forward", cover tunes of smooth jazz and a sample of the tunes they played at the Hudson Valley Fellowship Church. The concert was sponsored by the Small Town Theatre and North Castle Parks and Recreation Department.

                                       
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How to Bury a Saint
“How to Bury a Saint” is Leading in the Polls!

June 13, 2016
“How to Bury a Saint,” currently on stage at The Schoolhouse Theater in Croton Falls is a winner. Theatergoers have only four more performances to see this hot new play by Janice Maffei (now through June 19). 

Saint is a Mambo Italiano as Patsy wants in at the Bocce Club-it's men only...her grandson Louis wants out of the funeral biz, but that would mean growing up. Her daughter Lucy wants her mom's meatball recipe-and some respect. Through the voices of three generations, this comedy looks at the gravitational pull of the Colasuanno family and its traditions--think Moonstruck but set in Mahopac. There's even a midnight malocchio ritual from nanooch to keep out the evil eye.

For tickets, go to schoolhousetheater.org or call 914-277-8477.


Holiday Spirit With the Grace Notes

December 17, 2015
Although there’s no winter wonderland yet, last year’s rendition of “Sleigh Ride” from the Grace Notes during a Candlelight Advent and Caroling Service at the Middle Patent United Methodist Church should put you in the Christmas spirit.

Rhythm and Harmony Sizzle the Stage of Whippoorwill Hall


September 22, 2014
Charlie Lagond and Friends performed a variety of Afro-Cuban, jazz fusion and funk on Saturday night. The group of world class musicians were Bill O’Connell on piano, Lincoln Goines on bass, Robby Ameen on drums, and Charlie Lagond on saxophone and clarinet.

The theme of the evening was 1970s when jazz was the scene at nightclubs in New York City. A video montage of large photographs was the backdrop on stage, which reminded us of the time when drugs, sex and rock n’ roll were prevalent on the streets of New York. The performance was a throwback to the time when excellent jazz was performed at clubs from the West Village to Harlem.

The talented group blended an evening of original arrangements from O’Connell’s CD of “Rhapsody in Blue,” to Lagond’s “Funkifying the Clave” with covers of some great artists, including Carlos Santana.

The group closed out the set with an encore and the audience was appreciative with three standing ovations.


Local Student to Drum in the Battle of the Bands


March 26, 2014
Byram Hills High School sophomore and band member of “Plethora of Nothing," Tess Condron, will compete in the BandJam at the Ridgefield Playhouse on April 27. “Plethora of Nothing” was one of the eight bands chosen from 50 bands that entered into the competition. 

“It was quite a try-out production--with an American Idol feel to it with three judges,” says Tess’ Mom, Pamela Condron. 

Tess is the drummer of the four-person band; the other band members--bass player, singer and guitar player--are not from the Byram Hills school district. The final eight bands from four middle schools and four high schools will compete for the BandJam title starting at 4:00 p.m. Comedian Christine O’Leary is the Master of Ceremonies. For tickets call the Ridgefield Playhouse at (203) 438-5795.


Music Conservatory of Westchester
12th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic Ends on a High Note
By Ryan Raichelson

On Monday, June 24, the Music Conservatory of Westchester hosted the 12th Annual Golf & Tennis Classic at the Whippoorwill Club in Armonk. The daylong event featured golf and tennis competitions, a silent auction, and musical performances. Two prominent musicians, former Yankee Bernie Williams and bandleader Peter Duchin, were honored. 

The Conservatory established the event to promote the importance of music education. The purpose of the organization, according to Conservatory executive director Jean Newton, “is to make music available to everybody who desires to be surrounded by it.”  Comprehensive music education programs are currently limited in public schools because of decreases in federal funding. The Conservatory, by providing private and group lessons for all age students, enables young people to begin and advance their proficiency on instruments.

The Golf & Tennis Classic provided a day of competitions and activities including the “Shotgun for Golf,” a tennis tournament, and a silent auction. In the evening, guests relaxed in the dining area with cocktails and the smooth stylings of the Teen Conservatory Jazz Band. To conclude the festivities, guests had the opportunity to watch two acclaimed musicians, Bernie Williams and Peter Duchin, perform. After entertaining the audience, the two were honored for their outstanding accomplishments in their respective fields. Mr. Williams, the retired New York Yankee, received the Community Vision Award for his notable achievements.

Williams has turned his passion for music into a second career. After picking up a guitar at age eight, he soon discovered how rewarding making music could be. He expressed his love for music by comparing it to his other “hobby.”  “Baseball is a game of quick moments,” Williams explained. “The happiness that accompanies a home run lasts five seconds. With my music, I can sit back and enjoy myself.” He acknowledged the importance his own mentors played in his development, while praising the Conservatory for its work.  

Peter Duchin, pianist and bandleader, was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to musical excellence. Duchin demonstrated his concern over the current state of musical exposure for children. He emphasized that without organizations like the Conservatory, classical styles of music are endangered and could become a “lost art.”  Duchin advised parents to surround their children with all types of music to cultivate their interest. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Manhattan School of Music and is a lifelong proponent of musical education.

The funds raised at the Golf & Tennis Classic help the Conservatory maintain and develop its innovative programs.The Conservatory is committed to encouraging music appreciation for all members of the community. In addition to its regular schedule of music instruction, the Conservatory recently began a daytime music series for senior citizens. Attendees can listen to live productions and engage directly with the composers.  Currently, the Conservatory is designing a musical therapy program specifically for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan War.

The Conservatory serves 3,000 students: 900 in its White Plains facility, and 2000+ public school and disabled students who participate in its outreach programs.

The Music Conservatory of Westchester is located at 216 Central Avenue, White Plains, NY 10606; 914.761.3900. For information about the Conservatory and any of its classes of programs, visit www.musicconservatory.org or email info@musiced.org.

Last Summer Concert in the Park


August 22, 2014
The Swingaroos bring Jazz and Swing to Wampus Brook Park on Saturday August 23 at 8:00 p.m. The admission is free and all are welcome to bring family, friends, and neighbors along with lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets.

This NYC/Westchester jazz group, will entertain you with their original 1930-40's inspired tunes as well as oldies, but goodies by world-famous bandleaders Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw. Their jive is hot swing with Hollywood class and a Vaudeville spirit.

A big thank you goes out to the co-sponsors of the summer entertainment in the park: Small Town Theatre; North Castle Parks and Recreation; and a handful of local businesses.

The Swingaroos are Kimberly Hawkey (vocals/tenor banjo/washboard/mouth "trumpet"), Assaf Gleizner (piano), Chris Conte (bass/vocals), Mike Gordon (drums), Dan Glaude (saxophone/clarinet), and Nat Ranson (trombone). Together, they have performed for fine establishments such as the Hudson Hotel, Under St. Mark's Theater and the Art Deco Society of NY.


Armonk Players Present its First Shakespeare, A Comedy

December 5, 2014
The Armonk Players deliver hilarity from its production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The blend of a quick pace and the high gear under the direction of Christine DiTota trumpeted a tormented tale of mixed-up young lovers. The Players’ interpretation of the magical story transform the audience with its mischievous tales of lust. You are sure to be wooed by their swords and won by their love.

The play opens at the intimate Whippoorwill Hall Theatre of the Armonk Library at 1 Kent Place on Saturday December 6 at 8:00 p.m. There will be six performances through Sunday December 14. Tickets are available online or at the door 45 minutes prior to curtain.


SOS Students Rock and Roll

April 17, 2013
Standing Ovation Studios is a destination for kids to share experiences, freely express themselves and support one another through healthy, organized activities. The kids keep coming back and the choices are endless: theater, rock-n-roll, voice and film. It's a great social venue to meet other like-minded kids, to have fun and just to hang out.

The story was loud and clear at Standing Ovation Studio's "Rock-n-Roll" open house. It was a opportunity for them to experiment with new instruments and continue pursuing their passions.

Everyone seemed to love the new studio space in Armonk. Nat started coming to Light House Theatre, the theatre division of Standing Ovation Studios, four years ago. Jill Kirschen, his mother from Eastchester, said performing in a band can be a humbling experience. It's an alternative experience for kids who aren't sports-minded. Nat and his friend, Jack, sang a vocal duet of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" that was both fun and entertaining.

As a parent, this interaction makes you feel good, said Jill. Music is poetry that tells a story and it's a win-win for the kids. It reinforces what they learn in school, but it's hands-on experience, rather than sitting in a classroom. Her son, Nat, comes to the studio three times a week. He's following in the footsteps of his Dad, who happens to be a drummer. The kids jam, make friends and it's not just about a culmination of a performance, said Jill, although her son has enjoyed his share of leading roles, including playing Oliver in the show, "Oliver."

Parent Tamara Lanza from Cross River said the kids approach music from a different place. Her 12-year-old son Jack had also originally participated in the musical theatre program at Light House Theater and was now ready to expand his experience by experimenting with drums. And he had rhythm! Drum and keyboard lessons are definitely in Jack's immediate future.

John Finalli Lighthouse Youth Arts Center
New Armonk Performing Arts Studio Unveils Rock-N-Roll Program

April 9, 2013
Standing Ovation Studios, a brand new state-of-the-art performing art studio in Armonk, announces an Open House on Sunday, April 14th showcasing a new SOS Rocks program. The Open House follows the closing of Standing Ovation Studios’ sold-out and highly acclaimed extended run of In the Heights at the Westchester Broadway Theatre.

Owner John Fanelli expands his 20+ years of performing arts education in Westchester County into the rock arena with a completely equipped rock studio and private music instruction rooms for musicians and singers of all ages.

Top professional local musicians serve as instructors with classes and band practice available for every aspiring musician from beginner to advanced. Bands can also rent the studio by the hour or the night to rehearse in a sound-proof space equipped with keyboards, drums, microphones and amps.
Anyone interested is welcome to attend the Open House on Sunday, April 14th, from noon to 4:00 p.m. Standing Ovation Studios is located at 1 Labriola Court in Armonk. For more information, go to www.standingovationstudios.org or call 914-741-4205.


A New Youth Center for the Arts Opens in Armonk

January 27, 2013
The Standing Ovation Studios has found a new home in Armonk. The Lighthouse Youth Theatre, After School Rocks, Talented Toddlers, S.O.S. Fitness and Prima Voice Studio all fall under the umbrella of the Standing Ovation Studios. The Armonk studio is outfitted for many aspects of theatrical productions, including a classroom for performance and lectures; a studio for video productions; another studio for acoustics in rock and roll for the "After School Rocks Programs"; an 1,800-square-foot dance space for the rumba, power pilates and cardio fitness; and finally, a small booth for private voice instruction.

John Fanelli, the founder and the artistic director of the Lighthouse Youth Arts Center, graduated from the University of California at San Diego, with a bachelor of arts degree in theatre. He moved east and arrived in Westchester County after losing a family member in 9/11. The incident brought his family together to create the Lighthouse Youth Arts Center.

It didn’t take Fanelli long to realize that he wanted to be more than the director running the show. "I'm a good boss,” he said proudly. Fanelli worked with a few youth theatre groups, including Westchester Broadway Theatre, where he is directing the musical In the Heights that opens February 7 and runs through March 17.

Seven years ago, David Pope, a member of the Generosa Pope Foundation in Tuckahoe, was instrumental in acquiring the 501 non-profit status for Standing Ovations Studios.
 
Fanelli moved to three different studios in Thornwood before he landed in Armonk. He currently sublets a space from C.W. Brown, a construction management company located at 1 Labriola Court. In fact, when the Brown girls  were younger, they attended Fanelli's theatrical youth program in Thornwood.

"People love the program," Fanelli said, "the parents of the attending students raised $300,000, which enabled the move to the new space." The possibilities are endless for the 200 kids that come through their doors year-round. It’s also a great place for kids to hang out after school. In fact, during the recent open house, a bunch of kids had already found a spot to gather outside, under a tree.  

"The kids have a great time here creating lifetime friendships and experiences that they will never forget," Fanelli added. 

Byram Hills Graduate Tom Kitt Makes it Big on Broadway

Updated April 12, 2010
By Amanda Boyle and Michelle Boyle


A Long Island piano teacher warned Judy Kitt that she was verging on stage mother territory.  Mrs. Kitt, an Armonk resident, had brought her five-year-old son in for lessons.  But Mrs. Kitt was not an overzealous and blindly proud mother, she knew her son Thomas had real talent.  At four Thomas had been stringing together notes and chords on his own; he needed special attention to grow.  She insisted that Gloria, the teacher, at least listen, and when she did, Thomas’ natural talent was undeniable. 

And then last week, Tom Kitt won two Tony Awards.  Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) written for the Theatre – “Next to Normal” Music: Tom Kitt, Lyrics: Brian Yorkey and Best Orchestrations - Michael Starobin & Tom Kitt, “Next to Normal”. This second Tony was awarded as a tie with Martin Koch, “Billy Elliot”. A third Tony award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical has been added to their treasure.
Read more


Tom Kitt
Mr. Kitt visited Byram Hills High School last October and spent a day speaking with high school music students.  Photo submitted by Boces.
Image: 
First-time Broadway producers Jed and Bronna Canaan Seek a Hit in "Matilda"
By Solange De Santis

April 5, 2013
When "Matilda The Musical" opens on Broadway next Thursday (April 11), Armonk couple Jed and Bronna Canaan will mark their first time as Broadway producers, first Broadway opening night -- and the first time they've seen the show.

Isn't it a little unusual for producers not to have seen some version of the show that's eating their hard-earned cash? "It's highly unusual!" said Jed Canaan in an interview.

However, it's also a measure of the faith the couple has in a musical version of Roald Dahl's much-beloved book of the same name, featuring an irresistible story about a precociously intelligent girl who uses her wits and telekinetic powers to triumph over the idiotic adults in her life.

Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company (which has co-produced musicals since "Les Misérables" 25 years ago) bought the rights in 2009. Musician and comedian Tim Minchin wrote the music, playwright Dennis Kelly crafted the book and Matthew Warchus (Tony winner for "God of Carnage") was hired to direct. When the musical opened in London in November, 2011, Canaan took notice.

"I had read the book many years ago. My wife and I loved it. I wrote to the RSC and said if they ever brought it to New York, I'd like to raise money to produce it," he said.

The Canaans may be new to Broadway producing, but they aren't theater novices. Their decade-old company, Theater Extras, makes free show tickets available to a paid membership when producers are seeking to fill unsold seats. Their producing arm is called North Castle Theatricals.

They and their two daughters, who are 13 and 10, have been based in Armonk for six years, "love it" and have seen local theater such as the Armonk Players.   

Canaan's instincts about "Matilda" were spot-on, as the British say. The show was a huge hit in London, winning seven Olivier Awards (including Best New Musical) and moving to a larger theater to accommodate demand.

Capitalizing the New York production at $16 million, the producers -- now including long-time Broadway players The Dodgers -- received a number of expressions of interest from producing groups. The Canaans were among those chosen to be co-producers, contingent upon raising funds from other investors.

Putting in some of their own money, the Canaans "picked up the phone," calling people they knew with the means to invest a minimum of $25,000 and understand the risks of Broadway, where eight in ten shows lose money.

"I had to reach out to some heavy hitters. Basically, you sell the show a lot and beg just a little. But you have to believe in the project. One of the guys who invested saw the show in London and loved it, and that helped," said Canaan.

They reached their target and next Thursday, Jed, Bronna and seven couples will walk the red carpet at the Shubert Theatre and celebrate at the opening-night party.

However, the Canaans are already looking further ahead. "We're considering [investing in] 'Tuck Everlasting,' which opens in Boston this summer, and 'Diner', from the movie," said Canaan.

Byram Hills Graduate Looks for Support of Independent Film Feature

November 4, 2013
Vincent Morrone graduated from Columbia University's Masters in Fine Arts film program and is working on his first independent feature film, titled, At Night All Birds Are Black. Vincent is part of a team who is raising money to produce the film. "The independent film world continues to be successful because of the community support it receives," says Morrone.  As a resident of Armonk, he is reaching out to the North Castle community for support.  

Morrone grew up in Armonk, graduated Byram Hills High School, Class of 2004. He was an Eagle Scout in Troop 94 and may have even served you lunch once or twice as a waiter at Route 22.

"Over the years filmmakers like Federico Fellini and David Lynch have fascinated me through their depictions of their respective cultures," says Morrone. "Worlds full of fables and mystery, magic and surrealism, both wondrous and fantastic.  In an age of blockbusters these types of films are no longer being made and it's an unfortunate loss to the film culture. My goal in making my first film is to bring back this style of filmmaking while bringing a fresh perspective to it."

At Night All Birds Are Black is a fantasy film about a theater troupe that travels through a post-apocalyptic America performing under the full moon.

The production group is using www.indiegogo.com as a platform to raise awareness for the film. Visit the website and search At Night All Birds Are Black to learn more about this film and how you can be a part of it. Contact Vincent via email with any questions:
atnightallbirdsareblack@gmail.com.