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Category: Entertainment

He was Belleville’s beloved ‘Music Man’

Photo courtesy Joanne Lucas Morelli
Thomas Finetti conducting his last concert in 2006.

 

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent

BELLEVILLE –

It was Belleville’s version of “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” On Nov. 19 an overflow crowd – mostly alumni who came from all over the U.S. – filled the Connie Francis Theatre at Belleville High School (BHS) to present a moving tribute to a beloved music teacher and friend.

Unfortunately, the guest of honor, Thomas A. Finetti, professor of music and BHS choral director for 38 years, couldn’t be there. He’d been hospitalized with what proved to be a fatal illness; he died two days later the age of 66.

To honor his memory the Belleville school district has named the high school chorus classroom as the “Dr. Thomas A. Finetti, Ph.D. Choral Room” and will dedicate this year’s annual Winter Concerts on Dec. 18 and 20 to Finetti, according to BHS Principal Russ Pagano.

At the high school tribute, former students from each decade of Finetti’s Belleville tenure told the audience of close to 200 how the professor had changed their lives, through his passion for music and his care for their well-being.

Ryan Sheridan, BHS mass communications instructor, arranged for those alumni who didn’t speak publicly to videotape messages to Finetti.

After the current BHS Chorus performed, alumni were invited to the stage to join in the singing of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” a particular favorite performance piece of Finetti’s.

Of the approximately 180 people attending – and that included administrators, faculty and students who were present for the board meeting that night – about 150 came up to sing.

Longo credited fellow 1979 alumna Joanne Lucas Morelli as the brainchild behind the Finetti tribute.

“About five weeks ago, I got a Facebook message from Joanne – she’s now living in Pennsylvania – and she asked me if I was still on the board,” Longo said. Lucas Morelli – who helped organize a surprise serenade by some 100 alums in front of Finetti’s house last month – suggested that the board consider presenting a resolution honoring Dr. Finetti for his service to the district. After getting the okay from board president Peter Sangari and Interim Superintendent Helene Feldman, the board arranged to hold the event at its next meeting.

The resolution says, in part, “Educators like Dr. Thomas A. Finetti provide a tremendous service to the future of our School District, Township, State and Nation, inspiring generations of young people in their educational journeys and ensuring their success in their future years; and Dr. Thomas Finetti has clearly had an enduring impact on the youth of the Belleville Public School District, as well as on the community at large, and accordingly merits recognition and applause for his impressive dedication to others….”

Why the adulation?

For Morelli, it was that Finetti “communicated with kids: there was no divide between teacher and students and yet still respect between them.” So much personal attention was bestowed that “he made us all his kids.”

At the high school tribute event, Morelli recalled, “some people said he saved their lives. … The choral room was like the safe haven of the school. When you needed comfort, he’d give it.”

Never one to stand on ceremony, Finetti could invoke humor to get his point across, Morelli said. “He was known to stand on his head or drop and do crunches, just to get your attention, without having to yell. At the same time, though, he took his job seriously. His class wasn’t an easy ‘A’ – he made you work for it. … But you ended up enjoying the experience. … He was just a caring person.”

On a personal note, Morelli remembered that Finetti “came to my father’s funeral during a blizzard in 1993 – and he was the first one there. That meant a lot to me.”

While Finetti was known to have had his share of the spotlight in professional concert venues – he performed as a piano soloist and accompanist with orchestras, including a Carnegie Hall recital – his preference, clearly, was helping sculpt young people’s musical talents.

That affinity for working with students Finetti made clear in a retirement speech in 2006 in which he said, “Nothing could compare with the wonderful feeling of accomplishment I experienced preparing for and directing hundreds of performances with my high school choral groups.”

And, Morelli observed, “that was reflected in how the kids loved him back. It was amazing to see the flocks of (former) students that came back to Belleville to honor him. A doctor alumnus from the ‘90s flew in from Boston to attend the wake. Someone else flew in from Chicago for the funeral. Another person came from North Carolina. I came from Pennsylvania. If it wasn’t for Facebook, it couldn’t have been pulled off.”

Still, in 1988 – when social media didn’t yet exist – Finetti pulled off a hugely successful reunion of the high school music department – an event that drew some 450 alums, faculty and parents – “which he organized through a phone chain,” Morelli recalled.

When Longo, the board member, was a BHS junior, he didn’t take classes with Finetti but had him as a study hall proctor. “I used to bounce up and down in my chair until he’d give me a hall pass to leave,” Longo said, chuckling. “He’d say to me, ‘Are you trying to be a gorilla?’

’’ Later, Longo sufficiently recognized the virtues of this musical maven to become a solid supporter of the BHS Music Parents Association as his daughter Natalie took chorus and band and son Joseph III, band and orchestra. Sgt. Joseph Longo has been a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Band for the past seven years.

“Dr. Finetti had a profound impact on the district,” Longo said. “He was the consummate professional and he cared deeply about his students and the music. … Every year, he’d go to the junior high to audition every music student for the (high school) chorus.”

“I don’t know if he was a celebrity outside his community,” Longo said, “but I do know he left his mark on the lives of several hundred people.”

As Morelli put it, “(Finetti) brought it in on personal level. He brought himself to your level. He just related to kids as equals. He was one of a kind who’s never going to come around again. I’m honored to have had him as a teacher.”

At Finetti’s funeral Mass, held Nov. 26 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Nutley, members of the BHS Class of 2005 Chorus performed; Natalie Nachimson sang an operatic version of “Ave Maria,” and Gonzalo Valencia was the pianist, all in their former teacher’s honor.

Born in Newark, Finetti lived in Nutley 37 years. Having earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in music at New York University, Finetti also served as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Kean University.

Survivors include his wife, Immaculate Nancy (nee Lamola) Finetti; son Thomas M.; daughter Cristina Baragona; sister Mary Strauss; brother Vito; and many nieces and nephews.

Arrangements were by the Biondi Funeral Home, Nutley

The wonderful world of ‘What if?’

Laurie J. Roden-Perrone

 

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

Can you imagine plaid flowers?

This is not a rhetorical question. Think about it. What tartan would you choose and why?

Can you imagine a rainbow kangaroo or a candy-striped zebra?

These and other questions are posed in a delightful new children’s book titled, naturally, “Can You Imagine Plaid Flowers?” and written by Kearny resident Laurie J. Roden-Perrone.

Though directed at very young readers, aged 3-6, and designed to excite their imaginations and creativity, your correspondent also found it inspiring.

After all, an adult needs an imagination boost every once in awhile, too. If I knew anything about horticulture, I might even give plaid flowers a shot.

You never know.

And that’s the point. Imagination is limitless. But, as we get older, it is also too-often underutilized. I hereby thank Ms. Perrone for the reminders.

On Saturday morning, she gave a reading of her book to youngsters at the Kearny Public Library and hopes to have another reading eventually, but we linked up by phone.

I had read the book and was intrigued by it, its marvelous illustrations (drawn by the author’s aunt Susan Roden) and the personal story Perrone tells in the introduction.

 

(c) Illustrations by Susan Roden

One of the acknowledgements is to her mother, Dennie Roden-Cunningham, “who made a courageous choice to keep her child in 1970,” a choice made at a time “when the practice of having children out of wedlock was considered shameful.”

Perrone readily shared her family’s story, which is one of mututal support and enduring love. Born in Newark and raised in Irvington, the young Laurie “had four mothers,” her mother, her grandmother Grace and two aunts, Linda and Sue.

When Laurie was just 10 months old, her mother married Ronald Jones, who became the baby’s stepfather. Add in two other father figures: her grandfather and an uncle.

“We were a very close-knit family,” Perrone said. “I was never without somebody there supporting me. I was so blessed in so very many ways.”

In a message to parents at the end of the book, Perrone urges them to “reach out” to single parents. “All children should be encouraged to dream and imagine good things for their futures,” she writes.

“Please offer parents and their children your compassion, not your indifference.”

The book itself had a circuitous route to publication. It is written in the form of a poem, one specifically created for a Kean College poetry contest back in 1989. But Perrone decided it wasn’t good enough and was going to toss it out.

Enter Aunt Sue, who found the verses and set about illustrating them. “She said I should be a children’s writer,” Perrone recalled. Nothing came of it, then, but Perrone kept the poem and the drawings.

Years later, Perrone and her husband, John, were cleaning out the basement of their Kearny apartment when he found the illustrated manuscript. “It made him smile,” she recalled, “and he said, ‘You should publish this.’”

And the pictures were perfect. They looked as if they had been drawn with crayons, and “that’s the whole idea!” he said.

Then the wheels began turning down the road to publication.

Of unfulfilled or longdelayed dreams, Perrone said, “Sometimes it takes somebody else to say, “Yes, you can!”

“Sometimes you need this one piece of the puzzle before the thing that you have in your heart can come out.”

Perrone, who used to report for The Observer, is now an IT administrator working fulltime in the fashion industry in Manhattan. But she still finds time to write and to volunteer at Renaissance House in Newark, where she teaches a creative writing workshop.

Her first young-adult novel, “The Fire in Grace: Coming Home,” is scheduled to debut in the spring. To pre-order that book, and to learn more about Perrone, visit www.plaidflowers.com.

“Can You Imagine Plaid Flowers?” is available at www. lulu.com, which also offers a downloadable ebook version for only $2.50.

And remember, all of us, children to adults, can benefit from using our imaginations to see our world not just as it is, but as it might be.

Arsenic and Old Lace

Dinner and a movie? How about dinner and live theater!

W.H.A.T. presents ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

Photo by Jennifer Vazquez
W.H.A.T.’s Artistic Director Joe Ferreiro (sitting at left) and “Arsenic and Old Lace” Director Sue Mandzick- Davis guide the actors during rehearsal.

 

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

WEST HUDSON -

The West Hudson Arts and Theater Company is busy at it again! This time, W.H.A.T. is preparing for its first-ever dinner theater performance of “Arsenic and Old Lace” set to take place on Nov. 16 and 17.

‘“Arsenic and Old Lace” is a screwball, farcical black comedy that has seen success in both stage and the big screen. In fact, the 1940s movie adaptation starred Cary Grant in the role of Mortimer Brewster.

The story centers on the Mortimer Brewster who goes back home to visit the family who raised him –his two (now) elderly aunts Abby and Martha Brewster. However, Mortimer soon finds out that his sweet, dear aunts are murdering lonely bachelor’s by offering them wine laced with arsenic as a means of escaping their lonely existence. Though the plot seems rather morbid it is infused with hilarity. Especially when it comes to the antics of Mortimer’s brother, Teddy Brewster, who firmly believes he is Theodore Roosevelt and his other brother Jonathan Brewster (who is also visiting) and has undergone plastic surgery as a means of covering up his murderous ways.

W.H.A.T.’s Artistic Director Joe Ferreiro, who is also set to appear in the theater company’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and Sue Mandzik Davis, the production’s director, are excited for opening night, despite the fact that rehearsals have been derailed on numerous occasions due to the inclement whether the northeast has been experiencing these past few weeks.

“Rehearsals have been a challenge because of the weather,” Davis said.

Ferreiro echoed Davis’ statement, adding:

“We’ve lost a whole week because of Sandy and another day because of the snow storm.”

Nevertheless, the entire cast and crew are committed to putting on a great show.

“We have the best people,” Davis said proudly. “They really love what they do and are working hard for the play to come together in time for opening night.”

While everyone is excited about this play, “Arsenic and Old Lace” was not the initial production that was planned.

“We were actually going to do ‘Steel Magnolias,’” Davis explained. “We had everything ready for auditions but the publishing company pulled the rights.”

When this took place, the W.H.A.T. committee had to go back to square one –choose a play to perform. That’s when “Arsenic and Old Lace” was given the green light.

Though every one who is involved in the production is quite excited for the performances that are fast approaching, there is a bit of anxious anticipation regarding the dinner theater performance on Saturday.

The dinner theater performance, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, is a joint fundraiser produced in conjunction with the Arlington Junior Woman’s Club.

“I hosted a murder mystery dinner the (AJWC) held,” Ferreiro said, explaining how the idea of having a dinner performance came about. “That (dinner) went so successfully that we thought we could incorporate that concept into one of our shows.”

The dinner will take place starting at 6 p.m., right before Saturday’s evening performance. Dinner will be catered and take place at the cafeteria located in the W.H.A.T. premises. The cafeteria will be formally decorated to create a fantastic ambiance to all who are partaking in this pre-show feast. Dessert will be served right after Act 1 -during intermission, according to Davis.

W.H.A.T. was conceived as a joint effort between many individuals and surrounding towns. The purpose behind it is to be a cultural resource that will enrich and invigorate the West Hudson community as a whole while embracing, educating and entertaining people of all ages, cultures and abilities,” according to their official website.

Those who form part of this organization, including the chairs and actors, are dedicated to the arts –setting aside time from their busy schedules to rehearse and contribute to W.H.A.T.

This is the theater’s company second season. Though, still a young organization, it is showing much promise and has been received and welcomed by the surrounding communities. They are now housed at 131 Midland Ave. General admission for nondinner theater performances is $12. Senior (65 and older) and student (with valid I.D.) tickets are $10.

Tickets for the dinner theater performance are $40. However, show-only tickets at the general admission prices are available for the Saturday evening performance as well.

For more information on “Arsenic and Old Lace,” W.H.A.T. or to purchase tickets visit www.whatco.org or call 201-467-8624. Tickets (except for the dinner theater performance) can also be purchased at the door half an hour prior to curtain but you run the risk of the show being sold-out by then!

New Orleans meets South Beach right in Jersey

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

(Reprinted from last week’s storm edition)

Sabor Latin Bistro, located at 8809 River Road, is a fantastic little gem right across the river from New York City. Though New York is known, among other things, for its abundance of great cuisine, you don’t have to travel across the Hudson to enjoy a great experience.

I’ve been to Sabor a couple of times with close friends who live in the area. When you first start walking towards the entrance you are met by French doors wrapped around the first floor. A number of exotic-looking plants and trees greet you as you make your way into, what can only be referred to as a “Latin golden wonder” since the restaurant stands apart from the condos and other buildings in the area by being painted a remarkable, eyecatching yellow –reminiscent of the tropical architectural aura that one tends to associate with the Caribbean.

Once you finally make your way through the wooden doors you are engulfed in a sea of deep red courtesy of the captivating color that makes up the wall paint of the first floor‘s dining room. Paintings and mirrors adorn the walls. Flowers and candles infiltrate the room. The seating is simple yet complimentary. The lighting is set to a dim, gentle glow. All the elements that make up an inviting and romantic setting is wonderfully accomplished at Sabor. Not only that, but all these elements perfectly allude to another setting, in other states…far in the South!

I remember walking in for the first time and immediately being reminded of all the images I’ve seen of the New Orleanian and South Beach cultures.

While I’ve visited this establishment on a few occasions, it was my first time meeting and speaking with the owner and former actor, Fernando Lopez, for this exclusive Observer interview. During our sit-down, Lopez touched upon the idea of having the look of his place resemble the tropical, Latin vibe one experiences in South Beach.

“I’ve been told it is like bringing South Beach to New Jersey,” he said. “This is great but what we really wanted to do was provide a fun, Latin infused setting.”

Lopez who opened the restaurant in 2001 with his wife Deborah and brother, Oscar Tolido, likes to give credit where credit is due when it comes to the mesmerizing décor that makes up Sabor.

“It was all my wife,” he said amidst laughter. “(The appearance) is all her idea. All her doing. I had no say.”

Though Lopez had a 15- year career as an actor, he is familiar with the restaurant business. He started waiting tables in 1985 for various establishments and became aware of the ins and outs of the restaurant realm –though he points out, “nothing really prepares you for when you open up your own restaurant.”

Yes. The visual elements are there but, most importantly, is the food quality present? The answer is simple: yes.

Lopez explained that, despite the great variety on its menu, Sabor is associated with certain signature dishes, in particular.

“We really are known for our skirt steak,” he said. “Our paella is really popular too… it’s not your typical Spanishstyle paella. We add our own touches to make it even more Latin.”

More Latin? Lopez explained that his restaurant and the chefs that work for Sabor, like to incorporate different elements in different dishes that are not necessarily found in that dish traditionally. In other words, their dishes are a mixture of many Latin influences from many Latin nations. Though he is Puerto Rican and his wife is Cuban, and therefore you will find many dishes that trace back to both their cultural roots, Sabor also provides an eclectic array of dishes from different nations, including Peru and Spain.

I had some avocado served with plantain chips as an appetizer –which was delicious! –followed by the most unique version of camarones al ajillo that I’ve ever had. Camarones al ajillo is shrimp in garlic sauce….typically! A simple and delicious dish. But at Sabor, I distinctly remember that the dish also included goat cheese and some sofrito. This strange mixture, for one reason or another, blended incredibly well, producing a fantastic dish!

For those who are wondering, Sabor also has a full bar, with a great selection of specialty drinks and wine. Therefore I implore you, one must try their sangria!

With all their great offerings –both the ambiance setting and the great food they serve –it is easy to see how Sabor is so successful, even to the amazement of Lopez.

“(Sabor) has surpassed my expectations of what I thought it could be…way beyond!” Lopez excitedly said. “If it does what it’s been doing for the past years, we will be –I will be –more than happy. We have great costumers. We’ve also have gotten great reviews, including Zagat!”

Sabor’s success is now manifesting in an expansion, which, Lopez explained, will entail extending the building to an adjacent empty lot. This development will prove fruitful when Sabor hosts its annual events, including its clambake in March and a pig roast. The latter is a fundraising event designed to have proceeds go to “kids in the North Bergen area,” according to Lopez.

“We’ve done (the fundraiser) the past three years,” he said. “Proceeds generally go towards maybe computers, scholarships, whatever is needed that particular year.”

The small, intimate and romantic setting that Sabor provides is a great compliment to the superb dishes they have mastered throughout their years in business and through the great eclecticism that is the beautiful, wide-ranging Latin culture.

If you would like more information on Sabor Latin Bistro, or to make reservations (which Lopez made an effort to point out as essential, especially for the weekends when they are at high capacity) call 201-943-6366 or visit www.saborlatinbistro.com.

‘War of the Worlds’: W.H.A.T. to put on a show out of this world!

Photo by Jennifer Vazquez
W.H.A.T. actors rehearse the radio play, ‘War of the Worlds’ with production dates set for Oct. 26 and 27.

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

KEARNY –

You don’t have to be an actor or director to know that the few weeks leading up to a major production is “crunch” time –a critical period where rehearsals are scrutinized and all final elements of the performances are analyzed and perfected. This takes place in order to make sure that, when the curtains open on the first day of the showcase, all fundamentals that compose a successful stage act –whether it be the acting, costumes, lighting, and props –work together without a glitch.

Anyone stepping into the West Hudson Arts and Theater headquarters on Midland Avenue these past couple of weeks will witness just this. Their crunch time for the well-known ‘War of the Worlds’ radio play that W.H.A.T. will be performing the last weekend of October.

The story centers around the infamous and highly recognized radio play by Orsen Welles–however this is not necessarily a play surrounding the book. Instead it is a complete reenactment of the radio broadcast that transpired in the late 1930s, leading those who listened to the broadcast to assume the scenarios being described were actually taking place since the play was being broadcast as news bulletins, thus causing panic. Since this is a production reflecting the radiocast, all actors will be playing radio personnel reading the script of the radio play –just as the original radio crew did many decades ago. To add to the authenticity of the play W.H.A.T. founding member and director of this production, Gerald Ficeto, pointed out a fun element that will form part of the artistic recreation.

“The New Jersey Antique Radio Club is going to provide us with era radios which we are going to hook up so they can be the sound system,” he explained.

This will undoubtedly bring a sense of authenticity to the production, allowing the audience to hear the broadcast, as it would have sounded when it originally aired.

W.H.A.T. was conceived as a joint effort between Ficeto and the town of Kearny. The purpose behind it is to be a cultural resource that will enrich and invigorate the West Hudson community as a whole while embracing, educating and entertaining people of all ages, cultures and abilities,” according to their official website.

Those who form part of this organization, including the chairs and actors are dedicated to the arts –setting aside time from their busy schedules to rehearse and contribute to W.H.A.T.

This is the theater’s company second season. Though, still a young organization, it is showing much promise and has been received and welcomed by the surrounding communities. They are now housed at 131 Midland Ave.

“People in the community knew that I was involved in theater and would come up to me asking me if there was something I could do (theaterwise),” Ficeto explained.

He took it upon himself to organize, as the first production, a radio play –allowing the actors participating not have to memorize the script since they would be reading it, just like actors did decades ago on the radio. The radio play was organized as a fundraiser. The success and positive reviews and attitude from the community proved exceptional. So much so that W.H.A.T. puts on numerous productions a season.

“We put on about three special events and four main stage productions,” Ficeto explained.

According to Ficeto, when auditions are held, many people turn up which leads to an eclectic group of individuals who many might not expect to be interested in acting. Those that received a part in this particular production are no exception. The actors range, among many other professions, from a teacher, to an attorney, to a funeral director. (Even some members of The Observer have taken center stage in the past!)

Ficeto stresses that even if those that audition do not get a part, since there are only a certain number of roles to go around and many individuals who audition, W.H.A.T. is always looking for those who can help in the wardrobe, props, lighting and other departments. Even volunteers who want to usher during production nights are welcomed as well.

“The great thing about this organization is that you don’t really need a resume,” Franklin School seventh grade science teacher and fellow actor Timothy Firth said. “I, for one, had no acting experience what-so-ever. The closest I ever came was in college when I was a radio disc jockey.”

However, participants note –not only the fun aspects –but the importance of having a theater company within the community.

“The importance of this organization is great, especially now-a-days,” Firth said. “People seem so busy and so bored with everything that the arts are under appreciated. It’s a wonderful way for the community to get involved whether it be as an actor or an audience member. It allows them to experience something new.” ‘

War of the Worlds’ will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. at W.H.A.T.’s Midland Avenue headquarters. Tickets are $20. Funds from tickets sold to the performances and refreshments sold during the performances go back to the organization in order to support the art-driven work that it does, including providing a theater camp for the communities’ youth.

If you would like more information on W.H.A.T. or to purchase tickets to this production, please visit www.whatco.org or call 201- 467-8624. Tickets will also be available at the door but you might run the risk of the show being sold out by then!

In the Spotlight: Audition with Confidence

By Joe Ferriero
Artistic Director,
West Hudson Arts and Theater Company

So you say you want to audition for a show? ages, occupations and walks www. org, here in The emotion. Perhaps you recently had dinner with someone. It went well, but as you are leaving you realize you had some food stuck in your teeth that you know must have been noticed. Embarrassed! Using a real life experience to recall an emotion makes it easier for you to channel that emotion and, therefore, easier to feel and act out those emotions on stage. Be sure to imagine the incident fully. Thinking of it isn’t the same as really imagining it. Use your senses to actually see, hear, smell, and feel everything you can about the event. Above all, at an audition or if you already have the part, confidence is the key! An actor needs to leisurely walk into the audition room or rehearsal without any worry, make strong choices and “know” that you will do well. Directors will sense that confidence. Know your show, sense your character’s motivation and audition with confidence! See You Down in Front! By Joe Ferriero Artistic Director, West Hudson Arts and Theater Company Audition with Confi dence! Fantastic! People of all of life audition for community theater productions each year so why not you? W.H.A.T. posts audition notices in lots of places: on line, on its website at whatco.org Observer. If you happen to get the urge to audition, here are some tips to get you ready.

It sounds obvious, but be sure to read the play!

Then try and decide in one single sentence what it is the goal of the character for whom you are auditioning; what is it that they want … It may sound cliché’, but what is their motivation? Use this knowledge to explain every action the character takes.

It’s also important to identify a main emotion your character feels at the start of a scene you might be asked to read for an audition. Let’s say, for example, it’s “embarrassment.” Next, try to think of a time in your life when you felt that emotion. Perhaps you recently had dinner with someone. It went well, but as you are leaving you realize you had some food stuck in your teeth that you know must have been noticed.

Embarrassed! Using a real life experience to recall an emotion makes it easier for you to channel that emotion and, therefore, easier to feel and act out those emotions on stage. Be sure to imagine the incident fully. Thinking of it isn’t the same as really imagining it. Use your senses to actually see, hear, smell, and feel everything you can about the event.

Above all, at an audition or if you already have the part, confidence is the key! An actor needs to leisurely walk into the audition room or rehearsal without any worry, make strong choices and “know” that you will do well. Directors will sense that confidence. Know your show, sense your character’s motivation and audition with confidence!

See You Down in Front!

Your guide to the best haunted house attractions

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

For many, the month of October signifies autumn for others baseball postseason. And, yet, for many, it’s the time of year when they can indulge in the macabre, frightful, unexplained and mysterious. For these month-long Halloween enthusiasts The Observer has compiled a list of must-see haunted houses!

Since we are fortunate enough to be located in the tri-state area, there are many opportunities and locations to indulge in the frightfully fun. There are many locations in New York City, as well as in the state of New York. There are countless locations in Pennsylvania, as well. Even the great state of New Jersey has many haunted houses that are so detailed and awe-striking they seem right out of a movie.

Right here in Bergen County there are magnificent haunted houses including one in Wood Ridge. The Haunted Hill House, located at Bianchi House Park, 111 First St., will take place on Oct. 26 and 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Oct. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. According to it’s official website, it is northern New Jersey’s biggest charity haunted house and performance.This haunted house is a family friendly event that is back by popular demand! The Halloween performance and walk-thru is also affordable at $5 per person. Not only will you surely have fun taking part in this local haunted house but proceeds will “benefit the Wood- Ridge Historical Society’s continued mission to preserve local artifacts and provide educational opportunities to the community,” according to the borough’s official website. For more information on this local frightful delight visit www.iwontbeafraid.com.

Night-mares Haunted Attraction is another local frightful gem. It has a series of different nightmares you can easily find yourself in. For example, the Brighton Asylum is an attraction with a storyline of a medical facility that performed grotesque and cruel experiments, until one day the patients overtook it. The government shut down the facility after investigating staff disappearances in 1952. Though completely fictitious, it sounds scary, right? This attraction is located at 2 Brighton Ave. in Passaic – exit 154 off the Garden State Parkway, located right on the Clifton border.

The Brighton Asylum also holds The Horror Museum where visitors will come face-to-face with props and costumes from well-known scary movies such as Scream 4, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Resident Evil, among many others. All the props and costumes come directly from the movie studios, according to their official website.

Another attraction Nightmares Haunted Attraction boasts of is Zombie Apocalypse: Doomsday 2012. This hayride experience is located at Depiero’s Country Farm 300 Grand Ave. in Montvale. The story line behind this haunted attraction is a zombie apocalypse. Visitors will arrive and be scanned for “viruses.” Those found to be infected will be “quarantined,” all others will be allowed to board the many wagons available where they will be transported to a “safer” location, while those infected jump out! However, after the hayride ends you must walk the rest of the journey on foot!

For more information on any, or all, of the attractions and activities that take place at Night-mares Haunted Attraction, visit www.nightmares.com.

If you would like to venture off and have a frightful adventure in another state, look no farther than Pennsylvania. One of the most famous haunted houses in the country is actually a haunted jail. Eastern State Penitentiary is now closed, however, during its heyday it housed some of the most notorious and merciless criminals in this country, including Willie Sutton and Al Capone. During the day ESP offers prison tours, but at night it turns into one of the most beloved and highly rated haunted houses known as “Terror Behind the Walls.” This haunted house is so popular that many seek tickets weeks in advance as the lines trail on and on the night the haunted house takes place. For tickets and information on both daytime tours or the nighttime haunted house, visit www.easternstate.org.

There are many more haunted houses, ghost tours, hayrides and other frightful attractions in the surrounding area. These are just a starting point –a few great options to really get you into the Halloween spirit. Happy hauntings!

‘Fuerzabruta’: a spectacle that puts your senses into overdrive

Photos by Chad Kraus

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

There are many who are theater enthusiasts — people who indulge in the world of plays and musicals. However, there are also those who are the complete those who say the theater is an acquired taste. Because of these two, entirely different groups, it is hard for one to find a production that both can actually enjoy. Nevertheless, “Fuerzabruta” might just be the production that satisfies both lovers and “naysayers” of the theater world.

First and foremost, it is of importance to point out that Fuerzabruta — which comes from Argentina — is not your typical New York theatrical production. Not by a long shot. The experience is so unique, so out of the norm that it truly is captivating, surreal and an overload on all your senses.

When one walks into The Daryl Roth Theater — a wellknown off-Broadway theater located across the street from Union Square — to watch the performance you might be expecting to sit down in a chair and witness a plot unfold on a stage. What actually awaits you is a completely different scenario! Instead you will find yourself standing in the middle of an empty room, alongside other spectators, and engaging in the production. That’s right — when you go to see “Fuerzabruta,” you are not only a spectator but part of the story that unfolds before your very eyes!

The production starts off with a man, dressed in a white suit, running on a treadmill in the middle of the crowd. The DJ that overlooks the room plays. With each change of scene the audience is guided to move to certain areas of the room by members of the production staff.

With each changing scene your senses are completely and utterly enthralled with what is happening around you. There is a scene with two women playing tag. Except this tag is actually taking place while the women are running around the walls! There is another scene where rain and wind takes place in the middle of the room. The booming wind and ever present falling water, though unannounced, was completely welcomed by the entire audience.

Yet, there is another scene where dancers take the stage — a stage that is moved into the room. These dancers shatter the “roof” (which is made out of paper) of the stage and throw the remnants — which end up being paper, confetti and foam — into the crowd. They, later, bring their performance into the crowd, picking audience members to join them on stage in a dance.

However, of all the acrobatics and different scenes that make up “Fuerzabruta” the most popular seemed to be the pool scene –a scene where a see-through pool hangs above the crowd while a group of women perform and glide in it. The pool slowly starts descending to the point that the entire crowd can reach and touch it as the women in it interact with the audience.

At the end of the production “rain” comes down once again. While the DJ continues to play, the actors come out and encourage the audience to dance. This end prompts the room to turn into a mini dance club.

For a production that basis itself on visual, audio and tactile elements, with no dialogue whatsoever, one comes out of the production entirely fascinated, awestruck and mesmerized.

“Fuerzabruta” is a production that leaves the meaning of the performance completely up to the spectators. It is by far an exceptional sensory overload for both theater and non-theater lovers. A unique type of production. An avantgarde theatrical masterpiece that is sure to resonate with people, both young and old.

Because “Fuerzabruta” is slated to close Nov. 11, one must act fast to purchase tickets!

If you would like more information on “Fuerzabruta,” or to purchase tickets, visit www.fuerzabrutanyc.com.

New Jersey group, The Cameos, performs at PNC

Photo by Rick Jackson and Frank Carbone
The Cameos perform before thousands at PNC Bank Arts Center.

 

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

There are certain venues where not all artists get to perform. For those that do, the feat symbolizes a certain level of success in their careers.

PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel is one such venue and New Jersey’s The Cameos are one of the fortunate musical groups who performed on this renowned stage.

“We performed at an event called Senior Concert Series,” The Cameos vocalist John Basilone said. “It’s always a great experience for us to perform (at PNC).”

Basilone explained the level of importance it is for The Cameos to perform on the PNC stage.

“Groups rarely get asked to perform at this event twice in a row,” he said. “This is our fourth time!”

The fact that the group does not have a current hit album makes its fourth appearance at PNC an achievement rarely seen, according to Basilone. There was an expectation of roughly 10,000 concert goers at the Sept. 18 event but due to the weather that particular day, only about 3,000 showed up, recalled Basilone. “To us this was still a huge outcome,” he said. “Because of the weather, we didn’t have as much people attend but this number still blew us away.”

For those who are not familiar with PNC Bank Arts Center, the venue is an open-air amphitheater with thousands of seats underneath a roof as well as a huge lawn in the open which many concert goers choose as their “seats.” Due to the fact that the lawn surrounding the amphitheater are not covered by a roof, those that purchase lawn tickets are vulnerable to the weather during inclement conditions.

Not only did The Cameos perform last month at the theater, they were slated to return to PNC for a fundraiser to support the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial — an event the group was excited to perform at.

“We are all honored that we can give our time to perform for this cause,” Basilone said.

While The Cameos date back to the 1950s, the latest group alignment has been together for roughly seven years. Drummer Paul Stuart became the head of the group when he took over for Roger DelRusso in 2005 when Del- Russo passed.

The success of The Cameos is apparent when one navigates through their events calendar on their official website. Every single weekend is practically booked — a feat feat all in itself since the majority of the members of the group work full-time at other places. The fact that they love the band and are so dedicated to their music is clearly seen, according to Basilone, especially when their busy schedule becomes even busier.

“We are more than fortunate (with booking dates),” Basilone commented humbly. “But, you should see our summer calendar. We are so busy at times, that we perform five days out of the week…there are days when (members) come straight from work to perform and we still put on a show for our great audience.”

Basilone The Cameos to be “lucky to have such amazing” supporters.

“We always make a point to let our wonderful audience that we are here because of them,” he said. “They are an important part of our band. They make this all possible.”

If you would like more information about The Cameos or would like to purchase their albums, visit their official website www.thecameos.com.