web analytics

Category: Entertainment

‘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


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.

26th annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction takes center stage in NYC

Photos by Jennifer Vazquez
Many took part in the festivities and the opportunity of finding Broadway treasures during this year’s Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction in New York City.


By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent

The streets of the Big Apple were bustling with Broadway fans this past Sunday, Sept. 23, as people participated in the 26th annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction.

Those not familiar with this one-of-a-kind, yearly, exciting and fun event are missing out…big time!

The day was marked by thousands of Broadway and theater fans roaming in Times Square, Shubert Alley and along West 44th Street searching for authentic, unique and rare keepsakes. Everything from lost cast recordings to signed posters and Playbills, rare costume and set design sketches to props –in short you have the wonderful and great possibility of coming across anything and everything that has ever formed part of a theatrical performance.

This high-spirited and lively event also hosted games, giving everyone the opportunity to win Broadway show tickets, free dinners and various other mementos.

The main event of the festivities, however, is the grand auction. This year, with no exception, it proved to be a grand success! A clock that adorned the stage at this year’s Tony Awards –the equivalent of the Academy Awards for those in the Broadway community –signed by Broadway’s elite was one of the auctioned items. The chance to go behind the scenes to the set of television shows like Smash!, NCIS: Los Angeles, Saturday Night Live and Modern Family were also “items” auctioned off. Tickets and VIP nights to Broadway shows –both currently running and future –were auctioned off as well.

One of the biggest surprises, and money grabbers, was the chance to sit in, as a judge, alongside theatrical and acting greats, like James Gandolfini, Nina Arienda, Bebe Neuwirth and Estelle Parsons (just to name a few), as part of the Gypsy of the Year and Easter Bonnet Competitions. This once-in-a-lifetime chance for theater lovers ended up being a neck-toneck auction with two women constantly out-bidding each other. Just when you thought there was no end to the final bid, one of the women decided to bid $7,000! The other woman ceased raising the “bid” bar. However, the auctioneers gave the second participant the chance to match that same bid. She happily jumped at the opportunity. In short, the chance to form part, as a judge, in both these competitions was auctioned off to the two women for the total sum of $14,000!

Not only is the day a guaranteed sensational time but the proceeds from the flea market, auction, games and donations will go to aid a remarkable cause and organization –Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. This organization is the nation’s leading industry-based non-profit fundraising and grant making organizations dedicated to AIDS. However, BC/EFA is also a major supporter of various programs at The Actor’s Fund, including The HIV/ AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, the Al Hirschfeld Free Clinic and the Dancer’s Resource, among others.

Last year, the event raised, roughly $550,000. However, since its inception 26 years ago, the Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction netted over $9.1 million!

This year’s day-long event will also prove to be a success as a multitude of people showed up to take in the great and unique Broadway life.

After all…Broadway is where dreams are made!

The world is her canvas: budding Belleville artist ready to make it big




Photos courtesy Jaszmine Hawkins
Untitled works by Jaszmine Hawkins.

By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Correspondent


Vivid colors courtesy of dazzling brush strokes. A one-of-a kind inventive, artistic vision. A take on the abstract. Captivating. These are all ways that one might very well describe the work of Jaszmine Hawkins – an aspiring 25-year-old budding artist from Belleville.

Hawkins possesses all the necessary attributes for a successful career in the field: passion, a surplus of creative ideas, talent and a charismatic spirit. The latter is easily attested by just speaking with her.

Hawkins’ passion for painting was always innate. However, she never had any aspirations to become a bona fide professional artist until she was in high school.

“I had phases throughout my life where I wanted to be an astronaut or I wanted to be a veterinarian,” Hawkins said. “It wasn’t until I sat with my high school guidance counselor and was asked what I wanted to do with my life that I thought, ‘What have I enjoyed constantly throughout the years?’ The answer was art.”

Seeing their child, who had been so enthralled by the idea of becoming a doctor now, suddenly, veering to pursuing an artistic ambition, brought utter shock to Hawkins’ parents.

Even though, she explains, her parents were always relatively supportive of her artistic ambitions, they were, nonetheless, a bit afraid of what the life of an artist might be like. The idea of having their daughter follow in the path of many “starving” artists was not appealing to them.

“Imagine telling your parents that you are going from wanting to be a doctor, pretty much your whole life, to a painter?” she recalls, laughing. “They were just worried. They didn’t want me to be a ‘starving’ artist.”

Her parents’ apprehensions aside, one of Hawkins’ relatives wholeheartedly endorsed her aspirations.

“My aunt has always supported me,” she said. “She would always buy me painting kits and supplies. She really believed in my passion.”

Other role models played an equally influential part in Hawkins’ life and work. Masterminds such as Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali and Maurice Braun, among others, all shaped her artistic taste and interest – so much so, that she distinctly remembers the image that captivated her and subsequently provoked her passion for painting.

“I remember the first time I saw (van Gogh’s) ‘Starry Night,’ ” she recalled. “It literally took my breath away. I still love everything about it. The colors, the strokes … everything!”

While Hawkins has no problem speaking in detail of her idols and their work, don’t ask her to describe her own art style – because that topic is all too hard for her to convey.

“Other people can’t categorize (my work) because I can’t categorize it,” Hawkins explained. “I would say it’s a mixture of abstract – at times, surrealism. I’ve done avantgarde. It’s just really expressive work. It’s whatever I am feeling. I do tell stories. I have a story for each (piece). I normally don’t tell people (the story behind the painting) because I want them to have their own story for it.”

Given that “everyday life” is the inspiration to her work, her art is a complete collection of eclectic and innovative visual stimulations. However, there seems to be one particular subject that Hawkins is fond of and might be the signature characteristic of most of her paintings.

“I’m known for doing really exaggerated lips stemming from my mom’s obsession with lips,” Hawkins said. “I mean everything you can imagine putting lips on, she has it.”

Hawkins attended Xavier University in New Orleans with hopes of majoring in the arts. However, this charismatic and independent young woman decided to put her studies on hold and become a professional artist for now, testing her luck in the competitive art world.

After showcasing, selling and being commissioned paintings in the New Orleans area, she decided to return to her native state, New Jersey, and try her luck in the Capital of the World – New York.

When speaking of her goals and dreams she exudes an air of confidence while acknowledging the cutthroat, critical, competitiveness in the art world, especially in New York.

The first goal on her list? Finish her collegiate studies.

Although she stresses the desire to finish her academic degree – this time, at an institution closer to the tri-state area – Hawkins also proudly boasts of her ultimate dream: “I would love to own my own gallery in Brooklyn.”

By sheer talent alone, it seems that Hawkins is easily on her way.

Lyndhurst chef cooks up a storm in ‘Hell’s Kitchen’



Photo courtesy Justin Antiorio
“Hell’s Kitchen” co-finalist Justin Antiorio manages a smile while filming a segment for the popular TV series.

By Jeff Bahr

Observer Correspondent

Chef Justin Antiorio, 30, of Lyndhurst, has kept his hometown in the forefront ever since he entered Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen with 17 other hopefuls to compete for top cooking honors and a grand prize for which any chef would drool.

The sous chef has weathered countless challenges and surmounted numerous obstacles to make it into the top two. On this night he would learn if his quest would take him all the way to the coveted grand prize: a head chef position with a quartermillion dollar annual salary at Gordon Ramsey’s new restaurant in Las Vegas. Actually, that’s misleading. We viewers would learn the final outcome. Filming wrapped in June 2011 and the contestants have kept the results hush, hush – no small feat.

To use a food metaphor, Antiorio’s quest wouldn’t be a cake-walk. Co-finalist Christina Wilson, 32, of Philadelphia, has been hungering for the win as much as Antiorio. And her cooking prowess has proved to be at least on par with Antiorio’s.

For the finale, the duo would compete as head chefs during a dinner service. Each would lead a team of cooks comprised of former contestants eliminated from earlier episodes. Antiorio would lead the blue team and Wilson the red. Each would serve an appetizer and entrée course to assembled guests –a varied group featuring the dueling chefs– family members. After the meal, diners would record their opinions of the food and service on comment cards. Chef Ramsay would take these into consideration before rendering his final decision.

As the show progressed it became obvious that neither competitor was going to run away with the title. This would be a real fight – right down to the wire! The grand finale would also contrast the leadership styles of each chef. Antiorio, much like Ramsay, barked out orders to his team members, while Wilson took a more laissez-faire approach by telling her team that she wouldn’t answer to the title of chef during the dinner service – they were all in this thing together.

Both teams made their share of mistakes and suffered setbacks, but both managed to get things back on track. As the end neared and frustration set in, Wilson’s laid back persona suddenly changed. This was for all the marbles and she let her team know it in a spirited tone.

At the end of the dinner service, Chef Ramsay congratulated both contestants for their “amazing” job and set off for his office where he would make his final decision.

As he pondered who would win, he recalled Antonio’s unmatched palette – that he was in fact the only contestant ever to register a perfect score during blind taste tests. He also recalled that some of Wilson’s dishes were among the best that he’d tasted. Hmm…

Each contestant stood before separate doors during the moment of truth. One of these was locked and one wasn’t. The contestant fortunate enough to stand before the unlocked door would be this year’s champion. After Ramsay issued a short countdown he directed the contestants to turn their knobs. Three, two, one, twist… And the winner is: Christina Wilson! Justin Antiorio of Lyndhurst was the proud runner-up.

Although disappointed by the outcome, Antiorio was quite generous with his praise for Wilson and said that he had no regrets.

“When I turned the knob and the door didn’t open, my heart dropped,” said Antiorio of the big moment. “

Although I was upset, because like every other person in the world no one wants to lose, I remember Chef Ramsay telling me to hold my head high because I had nothing to be ashamed of and at that time it hit me; I had given everything I could during my time in Hell’s Kitchen …

As I got closer and closer to the final competition I was at peace with the fact that I have God-given talent as a chef and that I will always be focused on making food that people love to eat and I will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen.”

As for Antiorio’s hopes for the future, you might say that he has concocted a very tasty plan.

“I truly feel I demonstrated that I am an accomplished and skilled chef and am ready to run my own kitchen and show my leadership skills on my own terms,” said Antiorio. “Chef Ramsay was a great influence for me and I learned a lot from him. But, to be honest, I am more than ready to move forward and to take everything I learned and use it in life and in the kitchen of my own restaurant someday soon. Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me throughout the entire Hell’s Kitchen experience – especially all of my New Jersey people! You haven’t heard the last from me.”

Dancesation dazzles in Disney

Photo by Rhona Siciliano/ Dancesation dancers in the Disney World parade.


By Jennifer Vazquez

Observer Contributor


Those who know dancers, are familiar with the passion that drives these artists to their chosen art form. A passion that is cultivated through the mere pleasure of dancing not through the number of competitions won. This motto rings true, especially in recent years, to Susan Marrazzo, owner, choreographer and teacher of Dancesation Studios LLC located in Nutley.

Even though Marrazzo, known as “Miss Susan” by her students, finds the atmosphere of competitive dance negative and unappealing to her, she still manages to have a stellar reputation within the dance community — so much so that her dancers have been invited to perform many times in the public spotlight.

The latest of these events, where her dancers dance for the sheer love of it, took place this summer in Florida, when her students participated in Dance The World at The Walt Disney World Resort.

Dance the World is a dance showcase that takes place at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

According to their website, “performers from around the world” participate in a fourday event where they “will rehearse at Disney’s Fantasia Garden, with Disney and Dance The World choreographers.” According to Marrazzo, there were about 500 dancers from all over the country participating.

The ultimate event for the dancers participating in Dance The World is when they present the dance in a parade for a special performance at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

“It was a great camaraderie for the girls,” Marrazzo said. “The best part was their dads, when seeing them come down Main Street, were crying.”

“It is a great experience for the kids because there is no competition at all,” Marrazzo said. “It is just about performing. My (dancers) were asked to perform in the parade…(the dancers) learned the routine ahead of time, so when we got there we rehearsed with all these other girls and boys from around the country and they got to perform in the big parade.”


Though this was the third time Marrazzo and her partners performed in Disney, it was their first time they were invited to perform in the parade.

“The very first time we were invited by Disney was 12 years ago,” she explained. “Once you are first invited to go, you don’t have a problem being invited back. Years ago, we were invited through a competition that the girls were doing…(Disney) has to approve the dance studio and the type of dance that you will do.”

The Disney experience for many of Marrazzo’s dancers is unforgettable.

“I have been dancing in this studio with Miss Susan for about 14 years, and I have pleasant memories of all those performances and classes,” dancer Jillian Lanese, 16, said. “Dancing in Disney with so many others was one of best (memories)!”

Aside from the parade the dancers also took part in a stage performance where they danced their own routine in Disney’s Hollywood Studio. Marrazzo’s dancers range from 11-years-old to high school-aged.

One might ask: what changed Marrazzo’s mind from having her dancers compete (as they initially won a Dance The World invite through a competition) to not competing at all?

“I don‘t do competitions anymore,” she said. “I take my students and we perform at different places. I’m just not a fan of what competitions have become….

“We have a place down in Toms River where my dancers go perform once-a-year their Christmas show,” she said. “It’s nice because they get paid for it and they put that money in their fund so we can travel. They‘ve done the (Macy‘s) Thanksgiving Day Parade.”

Marrazzo explains that their invitation to these well-known events, such as the Thanksgiving Day Parade, was all arranged through word of mouth by people who have seen them perform.

With all these events and their annual recital, which takes place in May, behind them, Marrazzo has no immediate plans for another event. In fact, she says that her dancers are enjoying their time off until classes resume in the upcoming weeks.

Marrazzo has been dancing all her life — from professional dancing to choreography. Dancing is in her blood, so much so that Dancesation Studio LLC is entering its 29th year in business and has staggering 200 passionate students.

Lyndhurst cook sizzles at/on Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen TV series finalist, Justin Antiorio, stands in front of Hell’s kitchen restaurant in Newark.


By Jeff Bahr 


The thing that struck me most during my recent meeting with “Hell’s Kitchen” finalist Justin Antiorio was the downright ordinariness of the man. This is in no way a knock. Quite the contrary. Antiorio is without pretense and very down-to- earth – quite refreshing for a young man who has sampled a healthy heaping of TV fame.

I had made the trip to Newark’s Hell’s Kitchen Lounge (how apropos!) last Monday to join the chef/ contestant and his supporters for a “viewing night” of the wildly popular reality show. A feeling of suspense hung in the air. Would Antiorio make it into the next round and move that much closer to the coveted grand prize? Or, would his long journey come to a sudden end? Since the show was taped, Antiorio and his clan already knew the answer, but, much like good poker players they weren’t throwing out any hints to reporters. Drat!

A Lyndhurst resident until his early teens, Antiorio, 29, lived in Franklin Lakes and Hoboken for a spell before returning to Lyndhurst. While his mailing addresses were in occasional flux, his passion for cooking was always rock steady.

According to Antiorio, his love for the cooking craft grew from watching his father – a respected chef in his own right – as he worked his culinary magic in the kitchens of prestigious hotels. During these early days, the boy would often ape his dad’s movements, pretending that he, too, was a chef.

At home, things were much the same. Antiorio and his mother (also a committed “foodie”) would concoct different recipes and dream up different dishes together. If food seems central to this family’s DNA, hang on for the rest of the story. Justin’s older brother also works as a chef!

Not too surprisingly, Antiorio decided to turn his love for food into a career. After completing high school he enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC where he beefed-up his already prodigious cooking skills. After graduating he apprenticed at some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants before taking a job as a line cook at the Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange.

But it was Antiorio’s next job as a line cook at the renowned 21 Club in NYC that provided just the right ingredient for his budding career. Through toil and will he became one of the youngest sous chefs in the restaurant’s history. Five years later, he tackled a different challenge when he performed sous chef duties at Sterling Affair – a highend caterer that counts the Rockefellers (yes, those Rockefellers) among its clients.

With these tasty accomplishments under his belt you might expect that it was the ambitious man himself who applied for a spot on the nationally televised “Hell’s Kitchen.” “Not so” according to Antiorio. “My father actually sent my audition (application) out for me,” he explained. “And then it was a couple calls, back and forth, and we went out (to Hollywood) to shoot. It was nerve wracking.”

Antiorio’s “Hell’s Kitchen” odyssey got underway in June when he and 17 other cooking hopefuls entered Chef Ramsay’s kitchen. Since then, the original group has been pared down to five remaining finalists – a battle-tested club of cuisine elites that includes Antiorio. “It’s an amazing accomplishment… my mother is ecstatic!” gushed Antiorio on making it into the top five.

If you’ve never seen the show, here’s the gist. Ramsay’s over-the-top putdowns and scream-fests keep adoring fans transfixed to the screen, while the cooks laboring under his tutelage try their best not to crack.

Antiorio seems to understand Ramsey’s heavyhanded persona and takes it all in stride – a considerable attribute that may just take the Lyndhurst cook all the way to the finish line.

“In the kitchen Chef Ramsay is all business – he’s the boss,” explains Antiorio in a respectful and accepting tone. “But outside, he’s a regular guy.”

If Antiorio should go on to win the competition, he would work for Ramsay as head chef at a Las Vegas restaurant. It would be nothing short of a dream come true for the chef.

For that to happen, however, Antiorio would need to survive the cooking challenge being aired at Hell’s Kitchen restaurant on this evening: “Italian Night.”

As family and friends watched the show on a giant screen while nibbling on victuals supplied by the restaurant, the nail biting began. Not surprisingly, Ramsay was underwhelmed by the performances of the five and let them know it in his ribald way. “We’re cooking like idiots! Get a grip!” he scolded.

As the elimination process placed the white-hot light of scrutiny on this week’s lowest performers, the unlucky pair stepped forward to plead their cases to Ramsay. It would soon spell curtains for one of them. Where was Justin Antiorio during this heart-wrenching phase? Standing relieved beside two other contestants in the safe zone. He had made it into the top four!

This week the foursome will take turns running a kitchen as rigid taskmaster Chef Ramsay looks on. Will Justin Antiorio of Lyndhurst – the local boy done good – survive another round and move ever closer to his dream? That’s up to a higher power and Chef Ramsay to decide. But not necessarily in that order.