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Category: Entertainment

New twist to ‘The Addams Family,’ performed by Teen Drama, at W.H.A.T.

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY– 

There’s no doubt you’ve likely seen “The Addams Family” at some point, whether it’s the classic TV show or more recent versions on the large screen. But this week — Wednesday to Saturday to be precise — you’ll find a completely new take of “The Addams Family” at West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.), presented in conjunction with Teen Drama, a local theater company for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade,

This production, says show co-director Michele Sarnoski, is based more on “The Addams Family” comics. It focuses on Wednesday who is all grown up and in love with someone unlike any member of the Addams Family.

“So a lot of the show is how The Addams Family deals with someone who comes from a normal family,” said Sarnoski, a graduate of Lyndhurst High School.

The two most veteran performers in the show are Faith D’Isa (Wednesday) and James Berko (Lurch). Both D’Isa and Berko are longtime members of Teen Drama — but are back, one last time, as ascending college sophomores. And that delights Sarnoski.

“They are just amazing,” Sarnoski said. “And what’s perhaps the greatest part is that this year, there are 11 new kids in the production. And they’ve both grown to embrace the new kids — to show them what Teen Drama is all about — and it’s not an easy task.

“A lot of what James has to do is in his movements. It’s physical. So he doesn’t get to use his voice much to show the other kids things. Yet he does it so well. And Faith, if you’ve ever seen her, she’s always got a smile on her face, she’s always so bubbly. And she plays the ever-stoic Wednesday.

“But they’re both so awesome at showing the younger kids our traditions.”

The rest of the cast includes Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector- Williams (Morticia Addams), Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams in two shows), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams), Michael Oliveira (Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski (Addams Family Ancestors).

5 years and counting 

For Sarnoski, this is year five of Teen Drama. She began the program after several local parents approached her and said they wanted more for their kids to do, dramawise, in the summer months. So Sarnoski and her show co-director, Joe Ferriero, got together to form Teen Drama.

Sarnoski and Ferriero had worked together for quite some time — dating back to 2003 — when they co-founded an immensely successful drama program at the former St. Stephen’s School … and later Mater Dei Academy.

“Joe is my best friend, and I love working with him,” Sarnoski said. “So about five, six years ago, we put the program together for kids who are in kindergarten to the 12th-grade. The first year, we had just 10 kids. Now we’re up to 25. It’s been an amazing experience.”

And the connections with W.H.A.T. have been very beneficial for both organizations, as well.

Many of the youngsters who have performed in Teen Drama shows have gone on to perform in W.H.A.T. shows. And, because W.H.A.T. offers several theater-related educational programs each year, the youngsters in Teen Drama have benefitted from W.H.A.T.’s outreach, as well.

“We’ve been great feeders for each other,” Sarnoski said.

Speaking of feeders, the young performers aren’t just from West Hudson. In fact, this year, there are kids from Nutley, Lyndhurst and North Arlington — from middle schools and high schools, both public and private. And that expansion is very exciting, Sarnoski says.

Sarnoski says she’s most satisfied when people leave Teen Drama shows with a smile.

“We want the kids to feel like they’re part of a family,” she said. “It’s only a six-week program, so there’s a lot to do in a short period of time. Then when people leave happy after shows, and they’re impressed, we know we’ve done things right.

Indeed, they have.

Find out more about Teen Drama by visiting www.teendrama.org, or by calling 973-498-8336 or by sending a message by email to info@ teendrama.org.

Showtimes for “The Addams Family” are Wednesday, July 30, to Saturday, Aug. 2, at 7:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School). Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 or online at www.teendrama.org. Special $7 tickets are available for the Saturday matinee for senior citizens.

W.H.A.T. presents ‘The Addams Family’ July 30-Aug. 2, including preview tonight at Angry Coffee Bean

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KEARNY —

Teen Drama, a theater company for teens celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, in association with the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) presents the modern classic Broadway musical “The Addams Family” this summer. The smash-hit musical comedy brings the darkly delirious world of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and, of course, Lurch to spooky and spectacular life.

Performances of the musical, based on the bizarre and beloved family of characters created by legendary cartoonist Charles Addams, are July 30 to Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m., and a matinee performance Aug. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at the W.H.A.T. Theater, 131 Midland Ave., Kearny (the former St. Stephen’s School).  General admission tickets are $10. A $7 senior citizen discount ticket is being offered at the Saturday matinee.

The cast will make a special appearance on Thursday, July 24 at 7 p.m. for a special preview of the show at The Angry Coffee Bean Café, 89 Ridge Road, North Arlington. (201) 772-5554.

The Teen Drama production features:

Dennis Oliveira (Gomez Addams), Maggie Spector-Williams (Morticia Addams), Faith D’Isa & Rachel Spillane (Wednesday Addams), Abigail Stokes (Pugsley Addams), John McCullough (Fester Addams), Joana Marmelo (Grandma Addams),James Berko (Lurch), Michael Oliveira (Lucas Beikeke), Samantha Armenteros  (Alice Beineke), Tyler Bremner (Mal Beineke), Briana Dickinson, Alyssa Fink, Jillian Fitzpatrick, Lauren Gold, Melanie Hill, Stefanie Pancaro, Spencer Roda, Valentine Rojas, Alyssa Schirm and Julia Truskolawski  (Addams Family Ancestors).

“The Addams Family” is being produced by Michele Sarnoski, who is co-directing with Joe Ferriero. Scott Burzynski, music director; Dana Mannie, choreography (Mary Berko, assistant choreography); Maximo Grano De Oro, crew chief; Matt Lepore, stage manager; and Vincent Venziano and Alex Palomino, stage crew.

Tickets for The Addams Family are $10 and can be purchased online at www.teendrama.org, by phone 1-800-838-3006 or at the door 30 minutes before performances.  Teen Drama can be reached at 973-498-8336 or info@teendrama.org.

Check next week’s issue of The Observer for a full preview of the upcoming shows in our Entertainment section.

‘House, M.D.’ meets ‘Royal Pains’ in new USA drama ‘Rush’

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Take the pill-popping Dr. Gregory House, from “House, M.D.,” and combine him with the concierge medicine of Hankmed on “Royal Pains,” and you’ve got TV’s newest — and perhaps darkest — TV doctor on USA Network’s “Rush.”

Dr. William P. Rush, played by Tom Ellis, is one of L.A.’s hottest doctors. It’s not because he’s a great diagnostician as House is — or just because he makes house calls like Dr. Hank Lawson does. But it’s because he’ll make the house calls for the rich and famous, and regardless of what he sees, he’ll keep his mouth shut.

And in the premiere episode, did he ever witness a lot that required discretion.

Without giving away too much of the plot, because we want you to watch the show and this first episode yourself, let’s just say Rush overlooked a professional baseball player who has a reputation for an intense temper and for laying his hands on his girlfriend. Read more »

‘Jersey Boys’ … on stage & screen

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

NEW YORK CITY – 

For nearly nine years, “Jersey Boys” has been a staple on the big stage in New York City. And its incredible run, which includes a Tony Award for “Best Musical” in 2006, continues to this day as the 13th-longest-running show in Broadway history. And it’s now a major motion picture, partly shot in Kearny.

“Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli, who grew up in nearby Newark and who also lived in Belleville, and The Four Seasons — and their unprecedented rise from ordinary, struggling Jersey guys to being acclaimed as among the most noted singers in American history. Read more »

Canadian imports, especially ‘Rookie Blue,’ are keeping summers free of repeat TV

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a fan of good television. And you’re more than aware that for years, TV series stopped in the summer months — and were always marked by the shows you saw all winter long in repeats.

But thanks to several Canadian imports — most notably, “Rookie Blue,” – the summer months on network TV are no longer just repeats. In fact, in the case of “Rookie Blue,” the summer months offer some of the best TV of the entire year.

Most don’t even realize just how active the Canadian television show market is. In addition to “Rookie,” Canada also offers us the second-year cop drama “Motive,” which is wildly popular north of the border and here in the U.S. (But we’ll save “Motive” for another review.) Read more »

‘Rectify’ explores life after prison

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Imagine what it must be like knowing you’re innocent of a crime.

Then, somehow, you’re charged with the crime, go through a trial, get convicted and then sentenced to death. You’re spared the death penalty for 19 years, and thanks to DNA evidence, your sentence is vacated — and you’re released from prison.

Such is the scenario for fictional character Daniel Holden in the Sundance Channel’s “Rectify,” a series that debuted a year ago and that is currently in its second season.

Daniel Holden’s background 

Holden stood accused, at age 19, of raping and murdering his then-girlfriend, Hanna, 16, in 1994.

When he’s released, it’s 2013 — and just think for a moment how radically different things are now than they were in 1994. For starters, there’s this new thing called the Internet. TVs are flat. Computers are everywhere. Cassette tapes are obsolete. Life as Holden knew it in 1994 is nothing as it is upon his release.

This incredible drama deals with how Holden, now 38, deals with life on the outside. And is it ever a challenge. Now keep in mind this — it’s one thing to be released from prison. It’s a completely different scenario when that release happens in a small town in the rural South — in the fictitious town of Paulie, Ga.

In small-town life, everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone has a formed opinion. Everyone believes their opinion is the one that matters the most.

Sound familiar?

Such is the life Holden faces back in Paulie. There are countless people — including the sheriff, the prosecutor and a state senator who is the former prosecutor who tried and convicted Holden back in 1994 — who won’t rest until he’s put back into prison.

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

 

But then, there’s a faction of people who truly believe — just as they did 19 years ago — that Holden wasn’t responsible for the death of the 16-year-old.

It all takes an already-divided community — and divides it even further — to a point where people truly learn to despise one another.

The writers of the show do a brilliant job of making it all seem so real.

Holden’s character is portrayed brilliantly by actor Aden Young. At times, the man you see in the Holden role is the same 19-year-old who went away for as many years. At times, you find a man who is curious — who wants to learn how to get a driver’s license, what wants to discover what Target is, wants to learn to play games on a Playstation instead of his old, ancient Sega Genesis.

Yet throughout it all, you find in Holden a man who is completely lost — who really doesn’t know what life outside the walls of a prison is supposed to be like … who doesn’t know his place in the world … who can’t seem to figure out whether he even believes in his own innocence … who longs just to be touched by another human being.

What makes “Rectify” a hit is that it’s not like anything else you’ll find anywhere on TV. It tackles a quite taboo subject. It’s not a typical crime drama where the crime is the main focus of the show. It’s not in a hospital. It’s not in a police station. It’s not in a law office.

Instead, it’s in real America. It doesn’t take us to the absurd. And it portrays what this writer would imagine would happen in a nosy little town forced to deal with a man being released from prison for a crime that divided everyone.

As TV Guide said in its review, “Rectify is “one of the most captivating and poignant TV series” currently on the air.

Couldn’t agree more. Season 1 is available now on Netflix and Season 2 is currently underway. New episodes air at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Sundance Channel.

It’s dinner, music & comedy … and much more, at Whiskey Cafe

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

LYNDHURST – 

If you’re looking for a New York City-like night out, but don’t want the hassle or prices of Manhattan, you need not look all that far away — as Whiskey Café Restaurant and Night Club, at 1050 Wall St., has plenty for locals to do, every night of the week.

Among the newest events at Whiskey Café is Dinner, Music & Comedy, featuring music by Allan Boles and the comedy of Kelly Shannon & Friends, on Fridays, 6 to 10 p.m.

Normally, Fridays at Whiskey are associated with Happy Hour, but with the summer here and with many people drawn to the Shore for the weekend, owner Frank Morganti says he wanted something enjoyable for those who don’t go away.

“We really wanted something new and something special for Fridays,” Morganti said. “And we think we have that with live music and comedy.”

The Friday dinner menu has items for just $10.95, and includes soup or salad and an entrée. For just $4.95 more, you can add an appetizer or dessert. And best of all — there’s no cover for the shows.

Boles performs from 6 to 9 p.m., and then Shannon hits the stage from 9 to 10 p.m.

There’s so much more than just what happens Friday nights, too. For the next few weeks, Whiskey will show every World Cup Soccer game on its numerous large-screen HDTVs.

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Photo courtesy Whiskey Cafe A few of the many cars you’ll find at Whiskey Café Saturday nights between 5 and 10 p.m. as part of the American Cruisers weekly car cruise.

Photo courtesy Whiskey Cafe
A few of the many cars you’ll find at Whiskey Café Saturday nights between 5 and 10 p.m. as part of the American Cruisers weekly car cruise.

 

On Monday nights, it’s paint night at 7 p.m. — where an artist comes in and shows patrons how to paint while responsibly enjoying some adult beverages. (Advance tickets are required — and can be purchased for $25 from a link at www.WhiskeyCafe.com).

“We stated out with about 10 people, but it’s grown to be really popular now,” Morganti said. “We’ve got about 40 coming on Monday nights — and they really seem to be enjoying it.”

On Wednesdays, it’s country music night starting at 7 p.m. — and a $10 cover gets you access to a full buffet starting at 8 p.m.

On Thursday nights, it’s Salsa Summer — and that includes a 7 p.m. Salsa dance lesson, as well as a great night of Salsa music. That’s only $5.

Perhaps the most noted night of all is Saturdays, when around 500 classic, new and specialty cars make their way to Whiskey from 5 to 10 p.m. as part of American Cruisers’ largest regularly scheduled car cruise. There’s no cost for the car show, but the American Cruisers do accept donations as patrons arrive.

While all that’s happening, there’s always some kind of live entertainment, from dance music to oldies and bands, including Classic 45 Oldies Band on June 28.

Bottom line — if you’re looking for something to do, you’re going to find something enjoyable every night of the week at Whiskey Café.

“We’re really happy with what’s happening here — and we hope more people come out and give us a try,” Morganti said. “They won’t leave disappointed.”

The Whiskey Café Restaurant & Night Club is located at 1050 Wall St., Lyndhurst. Contact them at 201-939-4889 or visit them online at www.WhiskeyCafe.com for more information.

W.H.A.T. is going on in the arts scene in West Hudson? ‘The Fantasticks’ is, for starters

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY – 

While West Hudson County hasn’t quite been noted for being a hotbed for the arts over the years, perhaps now it should be — and that’s all thanks to the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company — or W.H.A.T.

Last weekend the company produced “The Fantasticks: A Musical.” (The play can also be seen this weekend.)

And yet so much more has happened and is to come with W.H.A.T.

This season alone, W.H.A.T. has put on “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Cinderella,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Back to the ‘80s,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and “Steel Magnolias” in addition to “The Fantastics.” Read more »

Jack Bauer returns in new version of ‘24’

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

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Photos Courtesy of Fox Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) with President James Heller (William Devave)

There’s no question that when “24” went off the air after eight seasons a few years ago, most had some glimmer of hope that Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) would somehow return.

Now that he has, this time in London, he and “24: Live Another Day” have not disappointed one bit.

Without giving too much away, if you were a fan of the show before, you’re going to love the new incarnation. In this season’s 12-episode run, we’re reunited with Jack who was last told by the former president and utter weasel Allison Taylor he would never be able to return to America.

The White House is now occupied by James Heller (William Devane), father of Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), who before this was the Secretary of Defense. The brilliance of having Heller as president is heightened by his past interplay with Jack, who was once his daughter’s sole love — and who was once his special assistant.

The two had such a terse relationship in seasons past, so their connection this season, before anything starts, is already well-defined. There’s no love lost between them — and it shows in their first London encounter (we won’t go beyond saying that … other than you should look carefully for something being quite off about Heller from the get-go that isn’t related to Jack or Audrey at all). Read more »

From Kearny to Hollywood: How Thomas Schnauz made it big on the small screen

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent

If you’re a fan of “Breaking Bad” — and let’s face it, you really should be — you’ve probably seen his name in the opening credits countless times. He’s a producer and writer for the series that in just a few short seasons, became one of the most popular TV shows in American history — and one of the most watched ever on cable TV.

His name is Thomas Schnauz, and until he was age 10, he called Kearny home. In the time since he lived here — Ann and Drew Taylor are his aunt and uncle and still live in Kearny — he’s gone on to be one of the most prolific TV writers of a generation. And yet, he still fondly recalls, to this day, many great memories of growing up in West Hudson.

“I spent a lot of time in Kearny when I was younger. I was born there and grew up on Highland Ave., and went to school through the fourth grade at Garfield Elementary,” Schnauz told The Observer exclusively. “Even after my mom, dad, sister and I moved to South Jersey when I was 10, I’d come back at Christmas and the summer to visit grandparents and friends. I don’t get back as much as I’d like (now). When my grandmother, Dorothy Yobs, moved down to South Jersey, that’s when my visits started to tail off. When I can take a detour between South Jersey and New York City, I try to get fish and chips on Kearny Ave.” Read more »