Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Willy Chirino returns!!!

The legendary cuban entertainer Willy Chirino returns to the Bergen Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 8:00 PM accompanied by the founders of Cubaton, Maxima Alerta.  

Willy Chirino masterly combines the musical traditions of Cuba with American rock and jazz, helping to create the “Miami Sound” of Salsa music. The Cuban-born and South Florida-based vocalist and bandleader boasts a musical repertoire of over 100 songs and 30 albums, making Chirino one of the most emblematic Tropical music acts around.

Opening for Chirino is the cuban musical group Maxima Alerta, which recently arrived in the US and it is now based in NYC.  The orchestra is known for its fusion of Cuban Music, as well as their energetic performances.

Knowing the outstanding musical prowess of Willy Chirino, we recommend this concert, most especially to lovers of good Cuban music.

Willy Chirino in concert
with special guests MAXIMA ALERTA

Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 8:00 PM

@ Bergen Performing Arts Center
30 North Van Brunt Street
Englewood, NJ 07631. 

Ticket price:  $129 (post-show meet & greet), $69, $59, $39, $29

For tickets, call:
Bergen PAC Box Office:  201-227-1030
Ticketmaster: 1-800-745-3000

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Best, the Bad, the Horrible of NYC cabaret rooms

The Best...
The best cabaret venue in NYC is Don't Tell Mama's located in the heart of midtown.  At "Mama's" as locals call it, on any given night patrons can mingle with a very diverse mix of folks, from Broadway show cast members unwinding after a show to tourists carrying on as though they were in Vegas.  "Mama's" has two cabaret rooms, a happening piano bar, and a restaurant.  In the cabaret rooms you'll find everything from Broadway veterans testing new material to novice performers trying things out.  The mood in the venue is always jovial and fun.  The staff, made up of performers themselves, keep the mood on an up-swing.  However, the best thing about "Mama's" is its booking agent, the legendary Sidney Myer. Mr. Myer, is loved by everyone in the cabaret community, and no other booking agent in NYC has the charisma and professionalism.  "Sidney", as everyone calls him, is nurturing to new performers and extremely accommodating to the more seasoned ones. 

The bad... 
The Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Cafe.  Centrally located on 42nd Street and right off Ninth Avenue, the place seems as though it's a simple jaunt.  However, once you enter the West Bank Cafe, you are instructed to cross the length of the restaurant past the unlooking patrons having their dinner... annoyed by your disturbance; then you pass the open kitchen with yelling cooks, as you dodge waiters that sneer at you; then you head down to what I can only describe as dungeon stairs, and yes, you head down to the basement ("the dungeon")... a fire trap to doubt.  At the bottom of the steps you are greeted by the beast known as Kenny Bell the host & booking agent who growls at you as though he has not eaten for months.  This hysterical queen kills your every intention of enjoying the show.  The wait staff is nice enough, the frozen dinners are ok too, the room is tight and you constantly get hit in the back of the head each time "Kenny the beast" hurls by with yet another sucker... please do not dare turn your chair for he will spew his venom all over you.  The ceiling feels as though it will fall on you at any time.  "Where's the fire exit? Oh, yes there!  But wait, it is being blocked by the comedians changing in the hallway!"  I had to exit half way thru the show... a terrible one called "Scandal".  For the cost, I'll go back to a storefront lower Est Side theatre... or hell, pay Broadway prices.  The Beechman with "Kenny the Beast" is a downer. 

The Horrible!!!
The Edison Ballroom, located at 240 West 47th Street in NYC, has a long and colorful history. It was originally opened in the 30’s as the grand ballroom for the Hotel Edison. It was constructed in the classic “art deco” design, and offered dining and dancing to its patrons, while featuring many famous bands and singers from the “Swing Era.” The venue also included a separate bar and restaurant called “the Green Room” which often offered musical accompaniment to diners. A generation later, the Edison Ballroom was converted to the Edison Theater, where various Broadway theatrical productions were offered.  Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) production in the Edison Theater was “Oh! Calcutta!”, which ran at this venue for 13 years (beginning in 1976). After 5,959 performances “Oh! Calcutta!” was for a brief time the longest running musical in Broadway history. But during the past few years, under the embarrassing and incompetent leadership of its booking agent, Sean Campbell and its main office "manager", William Kaelblein, the venue has become an empty cavernous and uninviting place.

Monday, October 15, 2012

“Cuba: Punto X” Extremely Relevant Theatre

Perhaps the most important and relevant Spanish language play in the last decade graced the New York City stage this fall.  “Cuba: Punto X” by Ivan Acosta played at the Producers’ Club in the heart of Times Square to uplift the mediocrity of much of the disappearing independent theatre movement in the heart of the City.  

“Punto X” succeeds in great part due to its wonderful dialogue, but more so because of all the other components that make this an excellent theatrical work.  Acosta himself, who has a long and distinguished career in film and theatre, and most notably with the very successful and popular play and film, “El Super”, masterfully directs the play. He has a strong cast to direct which makes his job that much easier, and the outcome that much more interesting, and in this case powerful.  

Alfonso Rey in the role of “Eulalio” demonstrates much depth and authority.  He appears a bit young for the character, but his acting chops makes one oversee that shortfall.  Lucio Fernandez in the role of “Adrian” is a talented and meticulous actor.  He demonstrates how a fine actor can deliver the subtlest of performances while delivering a multi-faceted one. His was acting in the first order.  Dalia Davi in the role of “Yari” was perhaps the weakest of the three actors.  She lacked the emotional depth a more seasoned actress may have brought forth.  In one scene where “Eulalio” is delivering a long heartfelt monologue, Davi dances around the stage aimlessly without even the slightest glimmer of passion.  It is obvious she does not comprehend the whole Cuban Santeria dance rituals.  Davi squandered what could have been the performance of her lifetime.  She was served a great character in a silver platter, but was unable to deliver. It was a missed opportunity to shine within a great role. 

The entire production was first rate, especially considering the limitations of the venue. The set design was a dark tree-filled scenario placing the three characters in the confines of a hidden “bosque” in the midst of the Sierra Maestra Mountains in Cuba. The lighting although simple was very effective.  The sound design by Frank Rodriguez was right on point. The entire design gave the audience a feeling of the world closing in on the three characters, and if this is what the Acosta had in mind, it worked beautifully and effectively.

“Cuba: Punto X” produced by MeLu Communications Group and Latin Jazz USA Productions, with OLLANTAY Center for the Arts at the Producers’ Club Theatre in New York City for a limited engagement was a complete theatrical hit.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joey Infante in "Babalu"

Friday, December 2, 2011 @ Don't Tell Mama

Joey Infante stormed into the smaller room at Don't Tell Mama in NYC with an admirable performance in his show "Babalu".  The audience made up of mostly friends gobbled up everything Joey served.  He opened the show with a short potpourri featuring the Latin favorite "Cumbanchero" to great delight.  However the show needed more of an entrance for Joey... a fan fare... something.

The show featured a nice mix of music from Broadway to Latin.  Joey does not have the most expansive vocal range, but what he does have is heart.  The band under the direction of Barry Levitt was wonderful and the show as a whole was very polished.  I only wished I could have learned just a little more about this charming man.  Maybe at his next offering.

I felt the show needed more of a closer.  As the "closer", Joey sang well the show's title song "Babalu", then disappeard to the back of the house having left the audience waiting for something more, but that "more" never came.   Jillian Laurain credited with the direction should have created a more dynamic opening and more punctuated closing.  However, it was a very engaging evening.

Lucio… Less Cuban Than Ever

Razzle-dazzle with heart

By Peter Gottlieb

The show “Lucio… Less Cuban Than Ever” presented at The Laurie Beechman Theatre can be best described as razzle-dazzle with heart. In this one hour and twenty minute extravaganza the audience is treated to a most delectable and appetizing musical cabaret feast. 

The show starring Lucio Fernandez along with three dancers and a nine-piece band is a hugely entertaining and colorful show.  The energetic and charismatic Fernandez takes to the tiny Beechman stage as though he was performing for a hundred of his best friends.  And for that night, they were.  The audience ate up everything this talented entertainer put forth, listening to every note and chuckling to every comic story. 

Lucio sang beautiful heartfelt renditions of “Tonight” from West Side Story and “Who Can I turn To” from the Roar of The Greasepaint, but his haunting delivery of “Anthem” from Chess dedicated to the memory of his Father, was awe inspiring.  His interpretation of “Where or When’ was also noteworthy.  However, the piece de resistance for me was when he sang the classic bolero “Como Fue”.  His romantic tenor voice filled the Beechman with romance, and when on the bridge, he danced with an imaginary partner, one could hear a combined sigh from the audience.

The dancers performed heroically on the reduced stage, and Lucio too delivered exceptionally well in this category.  The band under the direction of Mark Goodman was wonderful; the direction by cabaret staple Lennie Watts was tight; and the choreography by Megan Fernandez, Lucio’s real life wife, was inspired.

Cuban culture has always been intriguing to American audiences, however what’s served here is not your run of the mill palm tree-filled folklore with straw huts and rum and Cokes.  This show is slick and elegant and with a ton of heart.  A must see! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Forbidden Kiss LIVE

I'm not sure I would call "Forbidden Kiss" an erotic show, but a fun show at times it is.  With that said, however, it is not for the prude.  This is a slightly steamy and somewhat sexy once-a-month show that features original material by a very diverse ensemble of writer/performers.
Call it erotica with a twist... some funny sketches, songs, burlesque, spoken word, and one or two steamy monologues.

Spearheaded by the theatre's artistic director, Cheryl King, "Forbidden Kiss" features some regulars and some new performers, all showing off their original erotic work.  The show is fun an inexpensive theatre.  What's more, the space is cozy and full of good energy, and everyone including the performers seem to have a wonderful time.  Think theatre in your living room warm.  A great place to hang out and support decent actors.

Head down to Stage Left and hang with some cool people.  Stage Left Studio is located at 214 West 30th Street, 6th floor, between 7th and 8th Aves.