‘Hold Tight to your Mothers… Reach out to your Sons’


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When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

There’s one more weekend of performances in Armonk to see Mothers & Sons actress Misti Tindiglia, seen here with director Anthony Valbiro. The longtime friends and theater veterans have worked together frequently with much success. Photo by Bruce Apar


Mothers & Sons
by Terrence McNally
Directed by Anthony Valbiro
Through Nov. 21
Whippoorwill Hall
19 Whippoorwill East, Armonk
The Armonk Players

In his powerful one-act play, Mothers & Sons, celebrated playwright Terrence McNally gives full voice to a specific strain of intolerance. He reminds us that if hate comes easier to some more than others, it may be because of an inner sadness — call it a deficiency of happiness — that leaves the hater feeling forever alone, even when surrounded by family. That unshakable sense of aloneness, without the salve of distraction, invites resentment and even ridicule of others.

And so it is with widowed Katharine Gerard (Misti Tindiglia), a Westchester native from Port Chester (but tells folks she is from Rye), who long ago relocated — or, more precisely, dislocated — to Dallas, whose people and culture she virtually grades with a big D.

As the play opens, Katharine’s just arrived in the Big Apple to reluctantly visit her late son Andre’s lover, Cal (Adam Welsh), who now is married to Will (Brad Metz). The same-sex couple have a 6-year-old son, Bud (Nathan Ilany).

A Wall Between Them

Cal and Katharine — who’ve met only once before, at Andre’s funeral 20 years prior — are facing the audience when the lights go up. Each may as well be standing on either side of a brick wall running down the middle of the room, for all they have in common.

Cal is a money manager whose success landed him in a posh Central Park West co-op with panoramic views of the park and beyond. Given his apparent wealth, there’s no small irony in his down-to-earth sincerity placed alongside the haughty airs of Mrs. Gerard.

Without any evidence to support her suspicions, the imperious woman implicitly blames Cal for her son’s death by AIDS. She also resents Cal’s upwardly mobile fortunes since her son’s demise. In her jaded eyes, she has lost her son and suffered while Cal has taken her son and prospered.

Katharine hails not only from a different generation, but from a different universe. She admits to having difficulty “transitions,” which means any kind of change whatsoever.

‘Choice’ Words from a Mother in Mourning

To Katharine, who is emblematic of many others, being non-heterosexual is a “choice,” like choosing a place to go on vacation.

She goes so far as to say her son was not gay when he left Dallas for New York. She objects to the very word “gay” being co-opted from her comfortable context of when it meant “something good.”

Adam Welsh invests Cal with a beautifully affecting and tender earnestness as he tries valiantly and respectfully to joust with the steely Mrs. Gerard.

Veteran and versatile actress Misti Tindiglia is perfectly cast as a woman who doesn’t let anybody in and lashes out at whatever she disapproves of. As the play progresses, the skilled actress lets us see the hurt deep inside that accounts for her character’s lifetime of corrupted emotions and judgmental impulses.

Doting Father, Politically Promiscuous

As Will, who is 15 years younger than husband Cal, Brad Metz plays a doting father to Bud, and is far less concerned with being politically correct than the more self-conscious and proper Will.

Kudos too to Nathan Ilany, whose Bud is as bouncy, curious and unvarnished as you’d expect a six-year-old boy to be. He is a little like a Greek chorus, commenting on the adult activity.

The play is lovingly directed by Anthony Valbiro, a man of many roles who is a master of the theater arts. His personal note in the program is both achingly poignant and inspirational. It talks of his own life experience and relationship with his mother, which mirrors what we see on stage.

Despite the differences between him and his mother, “I never gave up,” writes Mr. Valbiro. “Gay men connect to their mothers like no other… I hope this piece speaks to you in a way that will make you forgive… love… that’s what it’s all about. Hold tight to your mothers… reach out to your sons.”

In life, as in the play, redemption is within reach, if you stretch enough.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. He writes a weekly column for several periodicals and hosts public access TV series Hudson Valley WXYZ with Bruce The Blog. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Searching for a Ray of Sunlight in the Darkness


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When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Writer-director Joe Albert Lima (right) and actor Steve Allen enjoy meeting playgoers after each performance of “A Short Walk into Sunshine,” in Ossining through Nov. 28. Photo by Bruce Apar

‘A Short Walk into Sunshine’
Written + Directed by Joe Albert Lima
Through Nov. 28
Steamer Co. Firehouse
117 Main St., Ossining
Westchester Collaborative Theater

K.C. Johnson is a charmer–on the outside. He has a knack for stylin’ and jokin’ and swaggerin’. On the make with a foxy lady, he’s liable to break into the pop song “Lean on Me.” In the talented person of highly animated actor Steve Allen, the persona rings true. Who doesn’t know someone like that?

What’s going on inside K.C. is another matter. He’s a tempest of torment and lost chances. K.C. is the first person we meet in Joe Albert Lima’s arresting drama “A Short Walk into Sunshine,” at Steamer Co. Firehouse in Ossining through Nov. 28.

K.C. is a 41-year-old recovering drug addict and psychiatric patient who’s camping out on the living room sofa of older sister Sarah Bates (played by the superb Tracey McAllister) in her Queens apartment. She took her brother in to help see him through outpatient treatment at a neighborhood clinic. Trouble is that K.C. doesn’t like going to treatment because he doesn’t want to be medicated.

Fractured Families

K.C. and the girlfriend he courts in Act I, Peaches (Maiysha Jones), are a pair of lost souls from fractured families. Having met at the treatment center, their kinship in large part stems from their history of addiction and depression mingled with a mutual struggle to clear a path to a fruitful future.

The tagline for Mr. Lima’s work is “Destiny is not a matter of chance.” In a refreshingly straightforward and concise style, he probes the proverbial influences of “nature vs. nurture” in shaping personalities and life histories.  Environments play a role in who we become, but, ultimately, it’s only our “self” who can shape personal destiny.

K.C. may have had a fraught family life, but so did sister Sarah, who is self-sufficient, disciplined and responsible. She administers tough love to K.C., but he continually chafes under her tightly-held reins. We also learn K.C. was academically accomplished, having attended Columbia University, if only for half a semester before drugs dragged him down and out.

Looking Forward to Fatherhood

It’s only when the prospect surfaces of K.C.’s becoming a father that he begins to pull himself up and act with a sense of responsibility. His entire outlook changes, as he starts to walk out of darkness and into the sunshine, as Mr. Lima poetically phrases it.

As writer and director of the slice-of-life play, Mr. Lima brings a facile way with dialogue. His words and idiomatic locutions sound like they are spontaneously spoken by real people rather than written by a disembodied dramatist.

The author told me his goal was to humanize the mentally ill, and he certainly succeeds in that pursuit. He added that, despite Sarah’s obvious good heart and love of her brother, many audience members side with K.C. against her. I guess some people just don’t love tough love.

Charisma + Naturalism

Mr. Allen and Ms. McAllister are extremely effective actors who are able to convey both stage charisma and deeply-felt naturalism at the same time. They propel the play in a way that keeps you engaged every moment, which is no small feat.

As glazed Peaches, whose hazy past of post-partum depression has left her pregnancy-phobic, Maiysha Jones is suitably fragile and frightened. In the role of Sarah’s ex-husband Max — who is opening a “healthy soul food” restaurant — Keith Bullock’s dry delivery makes him a fine foil for the firecracker that is Ms. McAllister’s Sarah.

Adding to the immediacy of this theatrical experience is the intimacy of the performance space, on the second floor of the Steamer Co. Firehouse on Main Street. You can’t get any closer to actors than here.The proximity helps glue audience members to the action, tension, and emotion — not to mention humor — that suffuses this provocative and thoughtful look at lives that matter even when they go tragically astray.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Reagan Republicans at Sea in the Desert

ODC performance-Brooke, Polly, Trip

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When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

(From left) Family Feud: Malachy Cleary as Lyman Wyeth, Davy Raphaely as Trip Wyeth, Colleen Zenk as Polly Wyeth, Brenda Withers as Brooke Wyeth, Peggy J. Scott as Aunt Silda Grauman. All photos by Rana Faure

When the stage lights come up on actress Brenda Withers as Other Desert Cities begins, she intones, “This endless sunshine. It’s so predictable.”

In those few words, writer Jon Robin Baitz packs layers of symbolism. On the surface, the sunshine is synonymous with therapeutic and geriatric Palm Springs, Calif., where the story is set, at Christmas 2004.

As familiar as I am with Armonk’s Whippoorwill Hall, both from the audience as a patron and from the stage as an actor, I barely recognized it after the magical transformation wrought by Hudson Stage scenic designer David L. Arsenault.

His gleaming set is a stunner, with a dreamy backdrop of floor-to-ceiling picture windows peering into the mountains and palms of the California desert as if you could not only touch but smell their earthy fragrance.

Lyman has a hear-to-heart with recovering daughter Brooke.

About that symbolism that Baitz baits us with: Where the Wyeth family is concerned, “endless sunshine” is about to be eclipsed by a cloud that rains down the kind of recrimination and resentment that rips apart the closest of families.

As for “predictable”… all I have to say is Ha! I dare you to predict where this story ends up. It’s as much mystery as high dudgeon drama.

The only thing that would have made this beautifully balanced, by turns light-and-dark entertainment more intriguing is if I was sitting next to a Reagan Republican (RR), or even in back or in front of one, to observe that person’s reactions.

For all I know, the silver fox who sat in front of me was an RR, though I suspect his hair was too lengthy and artsy to fit that profile.

No matter. I was more than satisfied watching the Reagan Republicans on stage, led by paterfamilias Lyman Wyeth (Malachy Cleary), a retired Hollywood B-movie star whose loyalty to the Grand Old Party earned him a coveted U.S. ambassadorship.

ODC scenic design

Hudson Stage scenic designer David L. Arsenault’s stunning set will make you believe you’re watching this compelling drama in Palm Springs, California, with the desert and majestic mountains right outside the picture windows.

If Lyman’s career arc sounds more than vaguely familiar — even presidential — you’re as right as he is to the right. He served under President Reagan, and is married to Nancy Reagan-worshipping Polly (Colleen Zenk).

Somewhat ironically, she’s a retired screenwriter, a vocation not brimming with right-wing females. Polly and sister Silda Grauman (Peggy J. Scott) were creative partners in the craft of turning out light comedies.

That explains the zingers that the quick-witted Mr. Baitz plants on their equally sharp tongues. Those are some garrulous genes they inherited.

Silda, though, would rather be righteous than right and doesn’t subscribe to her sister’s politics of pretension and bully-pulpit persuasion.

“You’re not Texan,” Silda chides Polly. “You’re a Jew.” A Jew sporting a Christmas tree, the better to hang with the blue bloods and mask her true bloodline. “Telling the truth is a very expensive hobby,” Polly warns whomever is listening.

Even the high-style home interior on stage conjured by Mr. Arsenault has a Wrightness about it–a vintage Frank Lloyd Wright Palm Springs moderne abode. It’s a gorgeous piece of stagecraft that also is coolly functional, with a sunken living room, a majestic fieldstone fireplace, and a tidy little bar that gets plenty of visits from this contentious clan, thirsting for self-medication.

The storyline by Mr. Baitz revolves around the privileged and proud Wyeth family, which includes children Brooke (Brenda Withers), a newly-successful novelist; Trip (Davy Raphaely), producer of a popular reality series, “Jury of Your Peers”; and a black sheep son, Henry, who fell in with an underground cult of anti-war domestic terrorists that blew up a recruiting office, claiming the life of a homeless veteran.

Disconsolate, Henry went off the deep end, literally, with evidence that he drowned himself by jumping off a ferry into icy waters. A suicide note was left behind.

ODC performance-Brooke, Polly, Trip

Polly is all dolled up to go shopping, while her kids Brooke and Trip are content to hang out and renew sibling acquaintances.

As the play unfolds, Brooke is welcomed back by the brood after years of hospitalization for drug addiction and depression. Her brother’s descent into oblivion became too much for her to handle. Now that she’s in full recovery, Brooke has what she thinks is exciting news: she just finished a new book.

The good news quickly turns sour when Brooke elaborates that it’s a tell-all memoir about her high-and-mighty family. The carefully nurtured veneer worn by the preening Polly and status-conscious Lyman is about to be shattered by their “leftie” daughter. It’s a tough way to find out how much mightier is the pen than the sword.

Jon Baitz proves that adage himself with razor-sharp observations that slice open nuggets of wisdom and withering criticism. “Families are terrified by their weakest member,” says Polly. “This is America. We get warm and fuzzy about war,” says Silda.

She’s not finished either: “These people driven by fear have taken ownership of an entire country just to protect the way things were,” Silda says of the Palm Springs $1000-a-plate benefit set that are Polly’s and Lyman’s bosom buddies.

Polly is so horrified by the prospect of family secrets being laid bare in the book — which will ostracize her and Lyman from their ultra-conservative friends — that she threatens never to speak to her daughter again. Silda, like an angel on the shoulder, urges Brooke not to back down: “Fight on. You have ideas. They only have fear.”

Brenda Withers’ Brooke is a relentless fireball of energy that drives the narrative and spars spiritedly with her Ice Queen mother Polly. Colleen Zenk told me in an interview that she didn’t audition for that role. Director Dan Foster offered it to her, telling Ms. Zenk’s agent he never had seen a better match between character and actor.

The actress amply fulfills Mr. Foster’s perceptive instincts with a powerful performance. A veteran of more than 30 years’ standing on legendary soap opera As the World Turns (as Barbara Ryan), Ms. Zenk’s rigid posture and haughty attitude signal what Polly avers is the “way to live… order, precision, discipline.”

Yet, we also are not blind to the deep, deep hurt that hides behind her veil of posing and carefully manicured pride.

Brooke and Aunt Silda see life differently. They fire back that Polly and her kind have no time for compassion but plenty of time to indulge in intolerance. Silda castigates her for the “zealots who have overtaken your party.”

Zenk-Apar-ODC in theater

Colleen Zenk says hello after the opening performance to Bruce “The Blog” Apar.

Malachy Cleary is outstanding as Lyman, who can kid about his best talent being the death scenes in his movies, yet still hold his own with the others, even though his mouth is not as fast on the draw as his gunslinger and gumshoe characters. Lyman arguably is the most authentic and level-headed of the bunch, taking life as it comes and enjoying it while he can, in “hail fellow well met” Reaganesque fashion.

Rounding out an impressively solid cast is young Davy Raphaely as the laconic, Manhattan Millennial, Trip. He has his mother’s charm and bluntness plus his father’s sangfroid casualness.

Along with sardonic Silda, the pair form a Greek chorus that serves as a reality check for the others. Aunt and nephew stay at just enough of a remove to comment on the proceedings without getting too wrapped up in — or warped by — the bitter brawling.

Credit cerebral director Dan Foster with shading the tragedy and comedy adroitly enough to remind us that, as with all things in life, none of these characters has a monopoly on the truth or right or wrong.

Trip puts it perfectly: “All what will have mattered when you take your last breath is how you loved.”

How you lived is left to others to decide.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887

Hudson Stage Presents
Other Desert Cities
by Jon Robin Baitz

Through Oct. 31
Whippoorwill Hall
Kent Place
Armonk, New York 10504

For ticket information… 
Visit Website

March Gladness


Bruce caricatureBRUCE THE BLOG

For our family, this is the historic week that was.

It is the week everybody welcomes spring, a date that marks my first day on earth.

The next day marks our son’s last.

This is the week a dozen years ago when the U.S. invaded Iraq.

HA 2003 NCAA Bracket

In his 2003 NCAA picks, Harrison correctly picked Texas and my alma mater Syracuse in the Final Four, but predicted Kentucky — this year’s even-money favorite to take it all — as the champion instead of winner Syracuse.

It is the week a dozen years ago when my alma mater, Syracuse, began its triumphant march to giddy madness, winning the NCAA basketball tournament (OK, so our son the sports whiz picked Kentucky, but he did put ‘Cuse in his Final Four).

This is the week in 2003 Harrison entered Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for his third open-heart surgery.

It is the same city where, in 1987, Harrison sprang to life from Elyse in Pennsylvania Hospital, the place Rocky Balboa’s son was born, in the movies. (Harrison literally came out fighting, with superficial bruises under his eyes that looked like shiners.)

Fifteen years later, we sensed serendipity in returning to the city of Harrison’s birth for a life-saving operation, scheduled, no less, on my birthday of March 20.

This is the week Harrison — whose dwarfism stopped his stature at 37 inches, 37 pounds and caused heart-and-lung disease — started a secret diary on the eve of his surgery, writing in it, we later learned, that he optimistically envisioned an outcome that would, in his words,  “… give my dad a refreshing birthday gift wrapped in flesh — a son’s healthy heart.”

Indeed, he exited the operating room with my birthday gift pulsing like new, but the brief relief was a mean tease. A day later, notwithstanding the best efforts of six puzzled doctors huddled over him in the intensive care unit, Harrison’s 15-year-old heart halted.

Our son was no more, and we were lost in lonely despair. The surgeon, his face ashen, his voice numb, sorrowfully told us our son’s rare condition put him beyond the reach of medical salvation. “I’m so sorry,” chimed in Harrison’s nurse, then broke down sobbing. We lay awake all night, doing the same, while staring into the darkest, deepest emptiness a parent can know.

Elyse and Elissa on Norwegian Dawn-Dec. 2003

In December 2003, when Elissa was 13 (pictured with mom Elyse), nine months after Harrison passed, we went on a Caribbean cruise with other families to “get away from it all,” at least for a week.

“Will daddy ever be happy again?” 12-year-old Elissa asked Elyse, as family and friends embraced a once-happy home suddenly awash in tears.

Five years later, at Yorktown High’s Senior Awards Night, from the podium, where each year we present a scholarship in her brother’s name, I proudly told our daughter, for all to hear, “The answer to your question starts with a “Y,” because You have made me happy.”

HAGC generic logo copy

The annual fall charity golf outing hosted by Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation raises money for recreation and education for the betterment of families and youth in our community.

It makes me happy to give back to the community through the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation, which we started in 2003 with the generous support of Yorktown Athletic Club (YAC) and Yorktown Police Benevolent Association.

It has taught me that when you lose a child, what you gain is the privege and duty of helping others in your child’s name.


Harrison strived hard to be just one of the guys, and pushed himself beyond his physical limits to show good things come in small packages. On the 7th grade weekend retreat at Frost Valley, he proved his true grit by stepping it up on the rappelling wall.

Harrison played and officiated baseball and basketball for YAC, to which I forever will be indebted for lifting my son’s self-esteem to where he felt 10-feet tall on the field, court, or stage.

Thanks to Harrison’s passion for sports — he competed against peers virtually twice his size — I learned the inner resolve it takes to hold your head high even when closer to the ground than everyone else.


Shaquille O’Neal (l) and Hakeem Olajuwon had a “pick-up” game with 8-year-old Harrison Apar at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Despite knowing he never would sink a basket or hit a ball past the pitcher, nobody had more fun being out there than did Harrison. Because of his severe physical limitation, he took nothing for granted; he made the most of the least.

TIme cannot heal this mortal wound, but it can help you learn to cope with the gushing gash of grief. Celebrating Harrison’s life gives us strength. If he made the most of every inch of his being, how dare those of us blessed with decent health come up short.

Within days of Harrison’s passing, 7th grader Brendan Frail (since deceased) took it upon himself to rally the town of Yorktown to rename a public park Harrison Apar Field of Dreams. Fittingly, the field has a bench in memory of Brendan.

At the foot of the field’s flagpole, a memorial plaque is posted three-feet from the ground, by design the same height as Harrison, as a reminder to kids and adults alike that the true measure of a person is not a matter of inches, but a matter of character.

Joey DiPanfilo reading plaque at Field of Dreams

Each spring on opening day of Harrison Apar Field of Dreams in Yorktown, a player for Yorktown Athletic Club reads the memorial plaque dedicating the field in Harrison’s name. The pedestal is three-feet high to symbolize Harrison’s actual height. It’s a reminder that stature is not a matter of inches but a matter of character.

Such is the legacy of a little person who continues to inspire those who knew him, and to influence those who never met him.

This is the week of the long-awaited vernal equinox, when the rites of spring are renewed in all of nature’s many-splendored glories.

March makes me glad to revel in the return of kids like Harrison to the great outdoors, hearing the joyful noise of bat on ball, seeing them cheer on teammates.


When he no longer could play basketball or baseball for Yorktown Athletic Club after heart surgery, Harrison refereed and umpired those sports. Here he officiates on Pinetree Field, which would be renamed for him, thanks to 7th grader Brendan Frail, who also passed. A bench at the field fittingly is dedicated to Brendan.

I can hear that tiny umpire voice right now on the field that bears his name, uttering two of Harrison’s favorite words: Play ball!

For all my March 20s, it will gladden my heart to know that Harrison kept the birthday promise he made 12 years ago. He gave his dad nothing less than the gift of a lifetime: His.


Bruce Apar owns and operates APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley agency for advertising, content, marketing and public relations. Follow it on Facebook. Reach him at bapar@me.com.


Harrison’s dad was privileged to share with his son historic sports moments (Yankees winning ’96 World Series against Atlanta Braves; David Wells’ perfect game in 1998) and events (1996 Atlanta Olympics).

A Show that Floats my Boat


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When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Michael James Leslie (as Joe, center) and Ensemble perform “Ol’ Man River.”

Westchester Broadway Theatre calls its current production of Showboat, a landmark Broadway musical stuffed with tuneful standards, “Our most spectacular production in years!

The only thing that bothers me about that boast is they beat me to it!

I’ve seen a lot of the mainstage productions at this regional dinner-theatre and I couldn’t agree more. This impeccably staged two-plus hours of top-deck entertainment knows how to float your boat, as the admiring audience made clear at curtain call with waves of cheers.   

No sooner does this Showboat pull into dock than you are buoyed by the energy, talent and high-stepping professionalism that washes across the stage with every exquisitely-penned and expertly-delivered number. There are more of those in this historic musical than in any 10 lesser Broadway shows combined.


The large cast of ‘Showboat.’

As long ago as Showboat was written and premiered — early 20th Century — part of its brilliant simplicity is that it feels fresh and full of life as ever.

From the poignant torch song “Bill” to the soaring romantic ballad “You Are Love” to the upbeat comic relief of “Life Upon the Wicked Stage,” the unforgettable score by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II has legs longer than the bevy of Ziegfeld showgirls.

manofmine (1800x1440)

Julie (Sarah Hanlon) center and Ensemble perform “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine.”

Showboat enjoys a unique place in musical theater history. It is the first musical of note — produced by no less a legend than Florenz Ziegfeld himself — to depart from the lighter-than-air plots that defined musicals of the day.

Until Showboat paddled into town — to widespread acclaim from critics and theater-goers alike — the books (stories) written for musicals were as mind-numbing as “boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl.” (Think 42nd Street or Anything Goes.)

Julie Steve(1440x1800)

Sarah Hanlon (as Julie Laverne) and Eric Briarley (as Steven Baker).

Showboat changed all that. Based on a novel by celebrated writer Edna Ferber (who also wrote “Giant” — movie starring James Dean — and “So Big”), it spans five decades and three generations of family, from the late 19th Century to the 1920s. Under the firm hand of director Richard Stafford, the staging is smart and dramatic at every turn, with the passage of years smoothly and clearly conveyed to the audience.

Subject matter previously considered out of bounds for a musical comedy– namely racial intolerance — is what anchors Showboat. We learn of mixed-race marriage, broken dreams, and abandonment, all handled tastefully, and with just enough gravitas to make a point and move swiftly ahead.

From the shores of the MIssissippi River to Chicago to Broadway, we see show folk, dock workers and others struggling, falling in and out of love, and staying one step ahead of the law.


Amanda Pulcini (as Ellie May Chipley) and Daniel Scott Walton (as Frank Schultz) perform “Goodbye My Lady Love.”

There’s no heavy-handed preaching or self-righteous moralizing here. There’s also never a dull moment. Ultimate credit for striking a perfect balance of story, song and acting goes to Mr. Stafford, whose mounting of this classic is as accomplished as anything we’ve seen at this venue.

As rakish Gaylord Ravenal, a riverboat gambler who weds the daughter of the showboat’s Captain Andy, John Preator brings strong acting and a rapturous tenor.

ravenal mag

John Preator (as Gaylord Ravenal) and Bonnie Fraser (as Magnolia Hawks) Perform “Only Make Believe.”

The goosebumps come out when bass baritone Michael James Leslie (as dock worker Joe) stands center stage to sing “Ol’ Man River,” and bring down the house. It is a bravura performance that rings in your head long after the show ends.

Also deserving special mention is Jamie Ross as Cap’n Andy Hawks and Karen Murphy as his wife Parthy; Bonnie Fraser as their songstress daughter Magnolia; Amanda Pulcini and  Daniel Scott Walton as vaudevillian duo Ellie May and Frank Schultz; Inga Ballard as Joe’s wife Queenie; and Sarah Hanlon and Eric Briarley as showboat headliners Julie LaVerne and Steven Baker.

Showboat-Charleston ensemble

The ensemble performs the Charleston

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.

Facts & Figures from Westchester Broadway Theatre

Reservations Call (914)-592-2222 Also at  www.BroadwayTheatre.com   

Group Reservations Discounts for Groups of 20 or More: Call 592-2225.

Luxury Boxes Call 592-8730, for private parties of 6 to 22. Enjoy dining and theatre in an elegant private box. Additional features include an expanded dinner menu, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, private powder room, and Luxury Box reserved parking. Additional cost, call for details.    

Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56 and $84 PLUS TAX depending on the performances chosen. Beverage Service & Gratuities are not included in the ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Also check the website for on-going Special Offers! More news at: www.BroadwayTheatre.com

WBT Mainstage Schedule

Showboat – Sept 24 to Nov 29 2015 and returns Dec 30 to Jan 31, 2016

Tim and Scrooge– Dec 3 to Dec 27

Always Patsy Cline – Feb 4 to Feb 28

Man Of La Mancha– Mar 3 to May 1

Happy Days – May 5 to July 17

The Million Dollar Quartet –July 21 to Sept 11

Saturday Night Fever – Sept 15 to Nov 2

Life Upon the Wicked Stage


Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

Show business deals in fables, and Theresa Rebeck deals in its foibles. The wise-cracking playwright has a sharp eye, and sharper ear, for the immature nonsense that makes the profession both frolicsome and infuriating for those in its clutches. (She created NBC series Smash.)

In “The Understudy,” now enjoying a fun and briskly-paced production at Lyndhurst under the auspices of M & M Performing Arts Company, the author posits Art and Commerce at opposite ends of the food chain. Guess which is the predator that feasts and which the easily-replaced plant life that gets eaten alive? 


(From left) Michael Muldoon as Jake, Peter Lillo as Harry, Carly Jayne Lillo as Roxanne, with a baleful Franz Kafka auditing the rehearsal, in Theresa Rebeck’s “The Understudy.”

Directed crisply by Larry Schneider, the show runs Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday through July 26 in the Lyndhurst Carriage House Theater. The charming historic space (fully air-conditioned) benefits theatrically from a newly-installed stage at one end of what had been simply a large, open room. The so-called “black-box theater” dimensions afford a physical closeness between audience and actors you don’t experience in full-scale venues. (For tickets, call 1-888-71-TICKETS or visit http://www.lyndhurst.org.)

‘Bargain Basement Star’

In the course of a fitful rehearsal for a Broadway play, insecure actors Harry (Peter Lillo) and Jake (Michael Muldoon) lock horns — and lips — with jaded female stage manager Roxanne (Carly Jayne Lillo).

B-list movie actor Jake is both co-star with, and understudy for, the play’s headliner, whom we never see, but we hear a lot about him, none of it good. He is a Hollywood action-movie superstar pulling down a cool $22 million per film even though he’s “terrible.”

Talented but obscure Harry is the new understudy for Jake, a self-described “bargain basement star” coming off a blockbuster action movie for which he was paid $2.3 million for mouthing inspired dialogue like, “Get in the truck!”

Harry has a history with Roxanne she’s trying to forget and he’s trying to renew. He pulls neurotic Jake’s chain by insincerely praising his performance in the movie and in the play. In truth, Harry both resents and envies what he calls “talent-free” stars like Jake.     

Hollywood Reputations Die Hard

Ms. Rebeck leaves little doubt what real-life celebrity she has in mind — and has an oh-so-low opinion of — by transparently naming the superstar simply Bruce, who is the target of takedowns about his insufferable egocentricity.

Those attuned to show biz gossip will appreciate her choice of name because Hollywood actors’ reputations for being difficult and unlikable tend to, you might say, die hard. “Bruce is a big star,” says Roxanne, “which means there’s always a problem… “ 

(Coincidentally, in a plausible case of life imitating art, Bruce Willis is due to star on Broadway this November in a stage version of Stephen King’s “Misery,” which was a hit 1990 movie. That makes the conceit at play in “The Understudy” uncannily timely.)

The play within the play a work of unspecified title by literary giant Franz Kafka. Ms. Rebeck uses his trademark themes of alienation and dehumanization to weave in handy metaphors about actors being treated like bugs (“Metamorphosis”) and being mocked psychologically and financially (“The Trial”).

Rest assured all of this is played out with her very light but blunt touch, in her entertainingly velvet-hammer style.

‘They Pay You Not to Act’

“You have no rights, you’re an actor,” is typical of how she drives home the life of the typical performer, who couldn’t earn $22 million in several lifetimes, let alone for a single movie. Here she is on the hapless plight of an understudy: “No one will see you, you don’t exist. They pay you not to act.”

The trio of actors bring plenty of energy and stage presence to their respective roles.

Peter Lillo once again displays his consistent knack for smooth and easily relatable portrayals. He opens the show solo on stage, pulling us in to the story by both addressing the audience and half-muttering to himself about the frustrations of his current station in life.

Tall and handsome Michael Muldoon — who is half of M & M with wife Melinda O’Brien — cuts a sleek figure on stage as self-absorbed and preening Jake, coolly attired in all black, neurotically checking his cellphone to see if he was “booked” for the big movie role he covets to climb out of his second-rank rut.

Mr. Muldoon is a polished performer who makes strong choices about his character that keep the audience engaged and entertained.


(from left) Michael Muldoon (Jake), Peter Lillo (Harry), Carly Jayne Lillo (Roxanne) star in “The Understudy” by Theresa Rebeck at Lyndhurst Carriage House.

Forceful Feline of a Stage Manager

Roxanne is the foil and the compass for both of the frustrated men in her backstage life. Carly Jayne Lillo (Peter Lillo’s real-life spouse) is a forceful feline of a stage manager whose job it is to make sure even the most hapless actors always land on their feet.

When Roxanne lets down her hair in a poignant moment of vulnerability and emotional distress, Mr. Lillo’s acting chops are fully evident as she tugs at our heartstrings using art rather than artifice.  

Theresa Rebeck does not spare in her cross-hairs the kind of theater-goer star-struck by seeing Hollywood names of mediocre talent on stage, yet less appreciative of great theater performed by gifted, no-name actors. One character bemoans the fact that “We care more about people coming in buses from New Jersey.”

And the zingers aimed at Bruce (who personifies crass Commerce) zip by with regularity: “Three hours of Kafka and they love it. Not because of Bruce. Bruce sucks in this play.” By the demanding yardstick of Theresa Rebeck, presumably her version of high praise for Bruce Willis in his upcoming “Misery” star turn on Broadway would be to proclaim that his performance “does not suck.” Neither will his paycheck.

The Understudy by Theresa Rebeck. With Carly Jayne Lillo Peter Lillo, Michael Muldoon*. Lyndhurst Carriage House Theater. Director, Larry Schneider. Stage Managers, Emmy Schwartz, Nan Weiss. Set Design & Construction, Floyd Gumble, Steve Aigner. Choreography, Jenn Haltmenn. Producers, Melinda O’Brien, Michael Muldoon. *Member of Actors Equity Association

For information about upcoming shows by M & M Performing Arts Company, visit http://www.MMPACI.com.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known by his nom de blog Bruce The Blog, owns and operates APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley agency for advertising, content, marketing and public relations. His professional affiliations include The Armonk Players, Axial Theater/Howard Meyer Acting, Burbio.com, Jefferson Valley Mall, New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, PinPoint Marketing & Design, Solo Sun Beatles & Jazz Instrumentals, The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Stage, Yorktown Organizations United. Follow APAR All-Media’s Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook and Twitter. Reach him at bapar@me.com.

The ‘Time’ of their (Embattled) Lives

TSS poster

Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act

As it has been doing for 18 years, The Armonk Players once again rewards audiences with expertly staged entertainment.

Directed by Pia Haas, Time Stands Still, by Pulitzer playwright Donald Margulies, cleverly coaxes us to think more reflectively about our own life choices, while challenging conventional wisdom about what is right and wrong.

TSS Ron Aaronson photo on set

Tom Coppola (l, as James Dodd) woos girlfriend Amber Mason (as Sarah Goodwin) in The Armonk Players’ “Time Stands Still.” Photo by Ron Aaronson

Sitcoms are the sugar in our cultural diet. They satisfy our sweet tooth for instant gratification, for flights of fancy to release workaday stress.

Like our bodies, though, our minds cannot (or should not) thrive on sweets alone.

Lovingly crafted live drama gives us enriching and, yes, tasty protein to digest. It gives the ol’ gray matter a chance to flex while pumping ideas. 

A provocative example is Time Stands Still, currently on stage by The Armonk Players at North Castle Library’s Whippoorwill Hall (Click here for more info.)

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‘Follow the Future,’ Coogle Gallahan Tells Caregivers

Boy Genius + Internet Illionaire Coogle Gallahan

Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog
By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk

Boy Genius + Internet Illionaire Coogle Gallahan

News Item: Boy Genius + Internet Illionaire Coogle Gallahan became the first 11-year-old commencement speaker in the Milky Way when he addressed graduates of YouTube Youniversity. Master Callahan’s remarks were live-streamed in a private feed from his bunk bed directly to the device of choice watched by graduates, families and Hackers Anonymous! (HA!). Following are highlights of the historic happening…

“Graduates, Parents, Relatives, Other Viewers, Honorable Voyeurs… As I lay before you today, milk and cookies bedside, I am reminded of the immortal word of that great non-American, Justin Bieber, may he rest a piece: “Believe”… what I am about to say.

“For, truly, what choice have you? My generation is the future, and yours, whatever your inappropriate age, is either the present or (spoiler alert: here comes the shade) is clip-clopping like a tired nag into the sadly setting sun. Oh, you still have some skin in the game, to be sure, but it is rapidly being dappled to death by liver spots. C’est la mort.

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