Raising the Bar on Mental Health

The Demitasse Players, a 501 (c)  (3) ,  White Plains repertory theater is hosting a fund raiser to promote mental health awareness on Friday July 12 , at the Wolf and Warrior in White Plains starting at 6:30 PM.

The Evening’s entertainment will include

Richard Cirulli  Playwright/artist

The Demitasse Band featuring Guitar virtuoso Drew Caico  and Scott Morgan  

New York City Comedians

Doug Adler and Mick Diflo who appeared on Gotham Comedy Live, Inside Amy Schummer, and the Amazon  series the Hunt

Special guest recording artist Marissa Deltor performing her single “Bad”

An auctioning off of the Playwrights Art Work from his book “The Bar Code” 

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WHAT WERE AMERICA’S LEADERS LIKE 243 YEARS AGO?

WPCNR PROFILES IN CHARACTER. By John F. Bailey. July 4, 2019 Reprinted from the WPCNR Archives:

It is the 243RD birthday of our  nation, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776.

I usually run this column on George Washington’s birthday, however, in light of the character-challenged behavior being shown lately by our leaders and congress in Washington, it is instructive to look at our first leader, George Washington, the father of our nation.

One cannot help be reminded of the snowy winter at Valley Forge, when the bedraggled, poorly equipped rebel army suffered but held together, and attacked the Hessians in Trenton on Christmas Eve, 1776, crossing the Delaware River at night.

What kind of man was he that George Washington could inspire his troops against all odds?

Washington was a man of tremendous character. Where did he get this character? He specialized in self-control at an early age.

Reenacters Marching to Raise Old Glory at Purdy House in Honor of George Washington’s Birthday. Photo, 2003 WPCNR News Archive.

According to The American President, Washington, at sixteen, had formed a code of conduct. He had written a book of etiquette with 110 “maxims” to guide his conduct in matters. In this etiquette book he had written,

Every action done in company ought to be done with a sign of respect to those who are not present. Sleep not when others speak; sit not when others stand; speak not when you should hold your peace; walk not when others stop;…Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave…Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.

According to the character sketch provided by the authors of The American President, this personal “rulebook” was a book that Washington wrote over the years and referred to it often,

“for self-control, to avoid temptation, to elude greed, to control his temper. Reputation was everything to him. It had to do with his strength, his size, his courage, his horsemanship, his precise dress, his thorough mind, his manners, his compassion. He protected that reputation at any cost.”

Honor Guard Strikes the Colors to a Drum Roll. Photo, WPCNR News.

Earning respect by example. Quelling rebellion with a few words.

Washington inspired by example. He lived with his troops. He shared hardships with them, and so much was there respect for him that he was able to talk them out of armed rebellion at the end of the American Revolution.

Washington had been asked by the army to join them to over throw the Continental Congress, and make himself King.

Washington had been asked by one of the officers of the rebels to join them, and he wrote them,

You could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable. Banish these thoughts from your mind.

Hearing that the rebels who were planning insurrection against the new country due to not having been paid by the Continental Congress, Washington rode to Newburgh, New York, on March 15, 1783, to meet with the dissident insurgents. Washington spoke to the rebellious group, saying,

“Gentlemen, as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common Country; as I never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your Distresses…it can scarcely be supposed …that I am indifferent to your interests. But…this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our Country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our Arms against it…has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts from the idea…I spurn it, as every Man who regards liberty…undoubtedly must.”

The would-be rebels fell silent, digesting what he had said. Then Washington withdrew a letter from Congress, but could not read the text, withdrawing some eyeglasses from his tunic, remarking,

“Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

The men present were reported to have tears in their eyes at this gesture of Washington’s and abandoned their plot out of respect for their leader.

Washington retired from the military, surprising the entire new country. His action surprised King George III of England, who was astonished that Washington had refused to hold on to his military authority and use it for political or financial gain. The defeated King of England, remarked, “If true, then he is the greatest man in the world.”

 Members of Common Council, 2003: Tom Roach, Rita Malmud, Benjamin Boykin and Glen Hockley, (center of Picture) and observers of the ceremony salute the Colors. Photo, WPCNR News.
Seeker of Diverse Views

As President, George Washington invented the Presidential Cabinet, whom he referred to as “the first Characters,” persons who possessed the best reputations in fields and areas of the jobs he was filling. Washington said on political appointments,

“My political conduct and nominations must be exceedingly circumspect. No slip into partiality will pass unnoticed…”

Washington tolerated the relentless clashes between Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State, and Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, but lectured them on the necessity for tolerance and moving beyond partisanship:

“I believe the view of both of you are pure, and well meant. Why then, when some of the best Citizens in the United States, Men…who have no sinister view to promote, are to be found, some on one side, some on the other…should either of you be so tenacious of your opinions as to make no allowances for those of the other? I have great esteem for you both, and ardently wish that some line could be marked out by which both of you could walk.”

The Constitution Should be Protected

When George Washington left office after two terms, he made a farewell address which warned future generations of Americans about foreign entanglements and partisanship in the republic:

I shall carry to my grave the hope that your Union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the Constitution may be sacredly maintained; and that free government…the ever favorite object of my heart…will be the happy reward of our mutual cares, labors and dangers.”

Washington died in 1800, three years after leaving office in 1797. He was saluted on the floor of congress as being “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

His comments above resonate today in some of the most cantankerous rhetoric and partisan stands the country has experienced in years.

We should also remember that the signers of the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall in Philadelphia today in 1776, were putting their lives at risk by meeting and discussing, arguing, the Declaration wording, despite knowledge that if British occupying troops learned of the meeting, they could have been arrested and hung.

That is a pressure the crybaby congress of today which cannot seek a way to compromise and seek compassionate solutions to immigration crisis, and do not have on them. They worry about preserving their pathetic seats.

Compromise and respect for the other point of view and the millions who will be affected by what some would say are “reckless,” “feckless,” “cruel” and “dangerous” changes to traditional American policies are missing in today’s political discourse, (if you can dignify what congress and cabinet members do by calling it political discourse).

I’d like to introduce a new term, “transminder,” the ability to listen to those whose views are opposite of yours. Find between you what you feel is the ultimate goal of a policy change and how the good can be accommodated and the bad eliminated, without hurt with fairness to all. The more you talk in terms of the common good, the better what you come up with gets.

Can we do that?

I challenge every person in government to read the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution carefully today. It will not take long. Then measure your hates, prejudices, positions, and behaviors against those documents. Do you stand up to it?

And, for all you “leaders” out there, wherever you are, George Washington’s words above are what you should measure yourself against.

He was the greatest leader of them all.

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THE FERRYMAN takes you across The River Styx

WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. October 15, 2018:

I saw a great play for all time yesterday. Since it won a TONY for best play, I am reprinting this review I wrote last October.

It’s Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman at the classic Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

It is majestic, sweeping, searing, heartbreaking, uplifting in the same degree as the great Shakespeare tragedies that makes brutally shockingly clear the insidious cancer of violence and ambitions  that masked in a cause, destroys the good, the profane, the evil, the powerful, the weak through their own individual selfishness and weaknesses.

A triumphant tour de force that gets a hold of you from the ominous prologue to the shattering you-won’t-see-it-coming climax that drains you, uplifts you, resolves you and wises you up.

The Ferryman may be the most perfect play perfectly performed ever written.

There are no spots of dead dialogue though the play is three hours long. No transitions looking for a connection. Not one yawn escaped my mouth.

You the viewer as a God from Olympus looks down sees the weaknesses and needs of others playout  their inevitable tragedy.

Hopes dashed, ambitions, explode in collisions of greed, lust, manipulation all those things that are let loose in the chaos of these best of times and worst of times.

The genius of this morality play poses the questions that have always been asked by the creators for the stage in perhaps the most unique format ever and covers them all!

What is moral anyway? Is true love moral if it hurts and destroys? Is lust justifiable if you are unhappy? Is the quest for justice just a mask to assume power and manipulate to your advantage? Is love but a fleeting reason-destroying emotion bringing the lover to ruin?  Is manipulation of the mentally weak and persuadable young a right of the plotting older generation? Is violence the ultimate weapon to get your way as long as someone else does it?

The actors perhaps are the most cohesive reality infused committed cast with a mission, Director Sam Mendes has ever inspired to make this drama of the Irish Republican Army as real as today’s headlines.

The IRA was one of the first modern terrorist organizations to use bombs in public places and assassinate informants and the play is based a real member of Mr. Butterworth’s family and the IRA assassination of her husband. As I listened raptly to every line of this play, I marveled how the dialogue was so real, how it flowed, with tides and ebbs from hope, to despair, to evil, just like everyday interaction. Never have I seen a play with no dead spots in dialogue. No scene that does not build the emotional nuclear reaction building in the characters. If the play’s your thing, you will never forget this play.

Director Mendes  has honed, shaped embellished from the most nuanced emotion to the most wrenching display of the evaporation of all hope for character after character.

From the year old baby. Theo Ward Dunsmore who performs flawlessly, to the child actors who precociously interact with some of the best comic lines, (Matilda Lawyer, Michael Quinton McArthur, Willow McCarthy, Brooklyn Shuck, Carly Gold,Will Combs, Bella May Mordus,  to a live goose, and the precocious Pierce the Bunny.

Mendes orchestrates the moves, the emotions, the body languages into the stellar leads– Paddy Considine as Quin Carney and the fiery woman he cannot have, and Laura Donnelly as Caitlin Carney triumphant, tragic tough as nails heroine. Donnelly won Best Actress Award at the Olivier Awards for creating this role. I did not know her until I saw her Sunday, but I know her now and she is beyond Bernhardt.

These two are surrounded by a lovable Irish family, and do not fear. You will understand all the Irish blarney and brogue—that is not a problem. The dialog, the songs of harvest time the green of Ireland shimmer in this play. It is perfectly acted and directed. Serious, funny, touching, tragica it’s what you want in a play.

There is even a villain in this play whose fanatic ambition and genius for manipulation conduct Quin Carney’s family to its denouement brought about by the flaws of all.

That actor is Stuart Graham as Muldoon the manipulative IRA leader. His use of blackmail, cruelty, irony in the most elegant of dialogue that chills will remind you of the rich, the powerful, the evil of today.  Graham delivers smarmy coldness, misogyny and blackmail with a darkness of evil and an inevitability of triumph.

Justin Edwards creates a heartwarming Tom Kettle, a mentally challenged workman who has long had an admiration  for Caitlin Carney (Laura Donelley). When Caitlin’s husband is found in a bog, shot in the head with hands tied behind him, the victim of an apparent IRA assassination, Mr. Edwards in a poignant eloquent proposal asks Carney to marry him because he has loved her since she first smiled at him. This sequence among many in the play will hold you spellbound. The scene is perfect. Like every scene in this play.

The actors perfect.

Tom Glynn-Carney as Shane Corcorcan renders a Frankenstein transformation of a teen gradually being seduced by the prospect of justice for the starving members of the IRA who are on a hunger strike during the Margaret Thatcher administration. As his eyes become more wild and bright, the possibility of violence becomes more attractive to him until he becomes—his believability of inflection, the ease at which a good person buys in to hate and cruelty to the innocent.

Fionnula Flangan is touching as the reminiscing Aunt Maggie Far Away whose prophecies and memories and pronouncements to the children (“Love is nothing but sorrow”) ring hollowly true.

The acerbic Irish nationalist , Thatcher-hating  chain-smoking Aunt Patricia Carney, acerbically correctly played pitch perfect by Dearbhla Molloy, and the lovable Irish uncle Patrick Carney (Mark Lambert) are integral foils. I mention these players to deliver just how seamless, all-in this cast is.

It is harvest time in Ireland at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, a harvest you will never forget.

You will see yourself in this play no matter who you are. You, as Gods from Olympus will be staring down at earth from the mezzanine, become parts of this beloved family, wondering what justice really is. Wondering how it can possibly end right and send you into Autumn in New York feeling wiser, better, and knowing what you have to do.

And it’s funny, too.

I will never forget this play.

Neither will you.

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CITY AWAITS FINAL JUNE SALES TAX NUMBERS AFTER SOFT MAY. DOWN IN Sales Tax $$ three of last four years

WPCNE QUILL & EYESHADE. By John F. Bailey. July 2, 2019:

The city fiscal year just concluded. Now they await the June sales revenues to see if a great June buying spree in downtown White Plains NY USA will have them meet last year’s sales revenues ($50.1 Million).

As WPCNR writes this, the city if the make the same sales tax revenues they collect last June, the 2018-2019 project sales tax revenue will only be $49.7 Million. That is a 3/4% behind last year

The mystery is why the sales tax revenues have not grown more robustly, at least keeping pace with inflation which has average 2%. Let’s take a look:

Considering that most business subject to sales tax raise their prices each year to reflect inflation, one might assume that you expect the sales tax revenues to rise at least 2% instead sinking from the 2014 highwater mark of $52 MILLION.

If you assume prices should go up 2% a Year the city since 2014,, if prices of retailers went up by 2% a year, the city should be ahead in sales revenues some $10 Million.

What is the ominous message behind this anemic trend?

If our merchants and restaurants did not raise prices by 2% a year, well that is one thing. But if they did raise prices to keep pace, that indicates sales are down almost 12% and overall revenues down 20% something far more troubling.

However, since the City of White Plains does not get a report of what individual business pay the city in sales taxes from the Department of Taxation and Finance, it is impossible for the city to know what businesses are thriving and which are not, let alone the source of most sales tax (autos, entertainment, restaurants, individual retailers, malls–an economics demographic cannot be figured for city marketing efforts.

The County, by contrast is up 3% the first 5 months of the year in sales tax revenues.

A far more darker side is whether sales are being reported accurately.

This issue of continued softness should be examined with close attention by the next Common Council.

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Wanted: A Socrates for White Plains Now.

WPCNR NEWS & COMMENT. By John F. Bailey. July 1, 2019:

Well here we go into the two months of the year when big decisions are made by the Common Council of White Plains when most residents of the city are on vacation.

They do not show up for hearings on important legislation, because the city does not tell the agenda until 3 days before the Common Council meetings. Many of the residents affected therefore do not show up. And the Common Council makes an unpopular vote and never feels the heat.

It wasn’t always like this.

Marc Pollitzer, June 2007 in action,
making the Common Council squirm with his reason, logic and dialectic analysis of Council flaws. Showing his trademark engagement face.

Twenty years ago there was a “Socrates” in White Plains who would take the podium like Aaron Judge stepping into the batter’s box. He was theater with a message. You wanted to have the City Clerk Say “All rise.”

Marc Pollitzer was that Socrates.

The voice of truth, reason, tracer of “what were they thinking,” how the Common Council lost its ways on issues. He was articulate. Reasonable. He’d retrace the dialectic of the Council’s tortured meandering to the verge approval and inevitably force them to keep hearings open for months and improve projects, or dump them all together. He was a one man public defender.

I always looked forward to Marc. He knew the issues. Quoted law in a most interesting way. He was didactic with reasonable precision, without leading the listener into legal quicksand where meaning-well speakers sunk in legal ooze.

He was passionate, firm without losing his cool. The voice of reason. A presenter with presence. Forearmed with facts. Always in a white shirt and open collar.  

He spoke out on the City Center project. The New York Presbyterian Hospital Park giveaway and his impassioned arguments strung out the New York Presbyterian Hospital proton accelerator project so long the funding disappeared. He fought the German School North Street access project that was quietly approved after he died in 2008

He died young on the tennis court prior to a tournament at the Old Ridgeway Country Club. Very ironic considering the last eleven years.

Had Mark lived the FASNY project would have been dead long ago. He was that good and using reason and argument to tie the Common Council and development lawyers in knots.

He was a passionate resident of White Plains who followed the issues. He was more a monitor, always first to smell a Delfino administration ploy.

Other speakers followed him up always. There was Dan Seidel. Alan Teck, Barbara Benjamin, Jack Harrington, Politzer’s co-host on White Plains Television, Peter Katz., Robert Stackpole.

But Marc was one of a kind.

He had courage to call issues as he saw them.

Today we have the dogged Gedney Association that has fought FASNY these many years. FASNY is now In its eighth year of hearings, court proceedings, and still there is no end. It is the process that never proceeds.

We  need, in this “era of the deal” another Socrates, an advocate like Marc, champion of reason and truth to step forward.

There is one such man out there. He even has a goatee like Socrates. He needs a toga though

Often, he gives me a call and gives me his perspective on seminal events like the League of  Women Voters Candidates Forum the other night.

His observation: these are different times. History he told me is moving too fast to cope with today locally and national.  

History (perhaps with the exception of White Plains Downtown Development, the FASNY farewell tour of the New York Court System, the search for a County sales tax bailout which my Socrates says has to be a done deal, otherwise the retailers won’t be able to start collecting it for weeks), is moving too fast for government, the population, the city to cope with.

My Socrates believes retail in downtowns is dead. It simply is not going to come back which means a lot of developers have guessed so wrong and bet too much on a generation that is too much in debt to buy houses and cannot afford the luxury housing being built for them based on  an economy of 15 years ago.

He notes the way we buy and entertain ourselves has changed to where we are dominated by the instant gratification of the Amazons and Googles of the world.

Ideas corrupted by short sighted geniuses of the Facebooks, Snapchats and Instagrams of the world. Phenomenon of diversion that compromise individuals’ ability to pay attention far more than television ever did. Television now is no longer a “vast wasteland” as Newton Minnow, the FCC chairman called it in the sixties. Television and its derivitives all the streamers on the little flixes are a morally toxic swamp.

The legendary Eric Sevareid

But it is my wish that my new Socrates besides sharing with the CitizeNetReporter on the phone and laying his Eric Sevareid  analysis on me, share his clairvoyance with the city.

I call upon my secret Socrates and persons who remember the legendary Marc Pollitzer to come on out to Common Council meetings, work sessions, Planning Board Meetings, challenge the hypotheticals city officials and optimistic developers postulate and step up and fill the role of the voice of truth and reason, a 21st century Socrates for White Plains.

I also hope others will revive and fill the role Marc Pollitzer again—providing the reason and research that shredded the old razzle dazzle and improved the impossible dreams with possible reality.

We need more Socrates, a legion of them to shake up the Common Council into thinking, reasoning, and stop rationalizing their all but automatic approvals that have languished for 11 years and not been built.

So I invite you, my Socrates, those like him to come out and stand up as the jury for the city to provide the expertise, analysis, conclusions, reality that a tired part-time, paid Common Council can apparently no longer do.

But wait is their hope that the next Common Council will be more diligent and energetic and perceptive and clairvoyant than the one of the last 10 years?

They have to do so little to do better.

That’s why I am hoping my Socrates will come forward and lead the way. Encourage the new council to be Plato’s Guardians of the Future with the tool both the historic Socrates and Marc Pollitzer used to do.

It is time

Come on down, read the backup material and ask the questions in the hearings to come. Embarrass the council when their thinking is muddled (a common condition). Teach them gently to become skeptical, don’t accept promises, extract guarantees of performance, and stop creating assets for a company by approving site plans that enhance a property.

The city future depends on the number of Socrates  who come forward.

The city cannot make decisions in a self-congratulatory vacuum. They make bad decisions when they do that.

It’s time.

Put away the cellphone.

Come on down to the Common Council and make yourself heard.

That’s where the real drama is.

It is where the future of your city is determined.

Take charge like Marc Pollitzer did.

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KONG! KING OF THE BROADWAY JUNGLE! BOSS APE CRUSHES CRITICS PANS WITH CHARISMA. MR. CONGENIALITY STILL BRINGING FULL HOUSES TO THEIR FEET at THE BROADWAY

Christiani Pitts as Ann Darrow and King Kong–Broadway’s most romantic couple. 

WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. November 20 , 2018 UPDATED :

The Best Actor you will see on the great White Way is pecky,  way big, muscles to die for.

NINE MONTHS after critics scoffed at the big guy on Broadway. He’s still there at fittingly the Broadway Theatre . Bringing in audiences to see Broadway’s undisputedly biggest star. Could King Kong returns be in the future?

King Kong is a legend and this haunting show continues to enthrall.

He will take you to places you’ll never be again.

His eyes–  dreamy with sensitivity,  ablaze with power.

His touch gentle.

He holds you in the palm of his huge hand.

His roar makes you shiver.

His moan will makes your heart beat fast.

A smile to die for.

TONY judges MISSED “Best Actor”

No human actor matches him in swagger, swag, and swashbuckle.

Kong gives the best performance by an actor in a leading role on Broadway—holding the audience spellbound – and yes, reaching  heart,  mind, soul, psyche, fear with a face that ignites.

And he is a handsome lug with– ladies — a chest to die for.

He is alive.

The King Kong musical  mounted appropriately  at the old Broadway Theater  with its art deco marquee,  palatial lobby, three massive chandeliers above the stage — a 1924 house whose stage has been graced by Milton Berle, Alfred Drake, Jose Ferrer, Eartha Kitt, Vivien Leigh, Zero Mostel and Mae West, and Barbra is shaken by the thunder footsteps of the giant of them all—King Kong.

The leading ape, with silverback gorilla confidence, captures the essence of wild majesty, looms over audience, as tall as the proscenium itself. He is the biggest thing ever to hit Broadway.

He dominates!

He is a 8th wonder of the world (animatronics created by Global Creatures), brought to vivid, gorillalistic life by a team of his handlers and electronic wizards—you will not believe he is not real.

You will think he is.

If you see one show on Broadway, this is the one, because you will never forget the King.

He’s a cocktail party must. He will mingle.

Because he awes.

But, I digress.

This  show of shows to see which you will never forget, thrusts the  1933 movie classic audaciously into 21st Century theater!

The plot of the movie is  telescoped. From thudding footsteps as you await the adventure to chilling “lurking roars” while you are waiting for the curtain to rise, and the occasional ‘THUMP!” of something very big that jolts you as you wait.

Then the deeply mysterious  ominous Prologue  curtain goes up on old New York and the leading lady to be, Christiani Pitts (star of A Bronx Tale) stalks into 1931 NYC. An NYC stunningly conjured by receding skyline in the hustling depression-beset desperate crowds of the streets.

Pitts plays the legendary Ann Darrow, (immortalized Fay Wray, the original scream queen of the movie). Pitts is  the ingénue from the country arriving trying to make it on Broadway. Moving animated real scenery of old New York in  sepia takes you back in time, suspends your disbelief, sets a new standard in tech design mastery: seamless  moving scenery by Peter Englund.

Ms. Pitts and an  acrobatic dance company sing Dance My Way to the Light  She proclaims her quest for stardom in Queen of New York.  She  fails a series of auditions and ends up starving in a diner where (chance encounter!) she is spotted by  promoter Carl Denham, played by fast-talking, sharp-dressing, big promising Eric William Morris  a producer with a plan:  find a mysterious legend on a remote island, and he needs a leading lady.  He gives her a chance, talks her into it and hustles her off to a tramp steamer, the S.S. Wanderer.

The stage is seamlessly changed into the deck of a tramp freighter moving downriver into the Atlantic with waves in front of the bow,  Brooklyn Bridge on the left, then waves on the ocean into fog. This is the most realistic portrayal of a boat moving on the ocean on stage ever created on Broadway that I have seen, as realistic as Holmes and Watson boating on the Thames in The Sign of the Four

After days at sea, with Denham teaching Darrow how to scream, (the whole act rushes forward like an Indiana Jones movie–  the crew mutinies, but plucky Darrow, with Ms. Pitts turbo-charging the vapid Fay Wray character of the movie with courage, spunk, spirit saves Denham’s hide from the crew.

This sequence  approach to Skull Island is astounding in its visual realism, its smooth approach to the island. You will not believe your eyes. You’re on a boat

To the haunting anthem Skull Island (composed with a mounting, erie compounding suspense by Marius de Vries) the audience is drawn to the horizon as the words “Land Ho!”  are heard. Soaring rocks appear out of the mist! Then mountains.  The S.S.Wanderer is sailing across tossing waves towards steep soaring shoals ! Could it be? It could be! It is: the mysterious Skull Island! I have not see a conjuring of a sea voyage on the stage like this since the Sherlock Holmes play Sign of the Four.

The hunt for Kong begins through a jungle cleverly turned into clinging living vines that entrap Ms. Darrow.  When the audience sees eyes, then Kong’s incredible teeth. Ms. Pitts really screams!

Kong carries her off to his layer running like an ape pounding through the jungle and he really is visually running with jungle vines rushing by behind him.  He’s alive!

Kong hoists the faint Ms. Pitts and he is running through the jungle to his lair. As Ms. Pitts awakens she pulls her wits together as Kong roars at her. She matches him roar for roar to try and back him off. It is a charming sequence, a real first date.

All that’s missing are the Singapore Slings. The facial expressions and puzzlement on Kong’s face are fascinating as the young woman matches him roar for roar.

Obviously, he’s never met a charmer like her before. It’s feisty, it’s funny it’s feral!

What’s neat about this “getting to know you” scene is you go it with. You like Kong. You believe Ms. Pitts’ portrayal, hook, line and sinker. We have to tip the hat to the “Voice of Kong” articulated with shivery  awesome gusto by  Jon Hoche.

Of course, as Kong retires to think about this, you never know, this being a jungle island that time has forgot, what just might slither out of the jungle. Kong saves Darrow from a startling encounter, and using her farm girl “smarts” she convinces him to let her heal his wounds,  singing Full Moon Lullaby.

She takes this opportunity to escape the big guy’s lair, which leads to Kong’s capture by the opportunistic Denham.

And that’s just the First Act folks.

On to New York, where Darrow, horrified at Kong’s capture balks at exhibiting Kong for money. Denham’s big song It’s Man cynically says anyone will be a sucker for an incredible show. Darrow is having none of it—and says she will not act in the show which puts Kong on display.

There is a  very funny dance act in which Anything Goes is parodied hilariously.  Denham convinces Darrow by saying she either acts in the show or she’s through in show business. Sounds a lot like today doesn’t it? Darrow laments her choice between Kong and career in Scream for the Money.

Pitts has the gusto soprano that gives her all and delivers the most out song you can get of ambition and regret and gives you the feelings you experience when you compromise your principles, and cannot save someone you care about. Pitts pours this out raw and heartbreaking in her  Last of Our Kind when she sings to the chained King Kong.

Will Kong escape?

What will be his fate?

The astounding finale with aircraft with 50 caliber machine guns blazing at Darrow and her protector is spectacular

Christiani Pitts’ heart-throb tribute and tearful lament to Kong, The Wonder has the throng hanging on every plaintive phrase. She and Kong are a Wonder together. Kong sings with his big, sad eyes.

Christiana Pitts and Mr. Kong Broadway’s most romantic couple.

King Kong at The Broadway is a must-see.

Forget about what the old anachronists say, mired in what they think theatre should be, trapped in the past.

This is what theatre  is –creative, courageous, reaching for the stars– creating new experiences, making a fantasy live before your eyes!

Here is a new world– staging, romance, feelings –creating the impossible and you will see it!

You will always remember the night you saw King Kong.

Christiana Pitts and Mr. Kong are Broadway’s most romantic couple.

Perfect together. They deserve a sequel.

What a great summer escape Kong turns out to be, and a tribute to the audiences that know a star they have to see, and not believing the critics.

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The Estefans—déjà vu !

Posted on June 12, 2019 by John Bailey

MARIA BILBAO AND JOSE LUACES (UPFRONT) BRING BACK GLORIA AND THE BEAT AT WBT’S SEXY, SALSALICIOUS, SAMBAMAD CONGARAMA, ON YOUR FEET

White Plains CitizeNetReporter  STAGE DOOR. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. June 12, 2019:

You can’t tell them apart.  You can’t hear them apart.

Who are the real Estefans?

Gloria and Emilio Estefan–1980s

Or these Estefans?—The delicious Maria Bilbao, the  swashbuckling Jose Luaces–2019  Photos, John Vechiola, courtesy WBT

Together they bring back the breakthrough Latin entertainers of the 80s Gloria and Emilio Estefan who took the world of sound based on their native Cuba and sold out concerts throughout the world as they broke through to be the first latin superstar singers.

The alchemists of entertainment  Director Donna Drake, Choreographer Rhonda Miller  and Producer Lisa Tiso  at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, NY USA have done it again: telling the Estefans’ courageous and uplifting story and performing their music – bringing back the Broadway hit of 2015, and getting Westchester salsa-ing  again, clapping  to the conga, disco-ing to Dr. Beat, and moving to energetic sambaizations. It’s The Miami Sound Machine and their amazing story. Cuban refugees fleeing from the Castro regime to international stardom only to be struck by tragedy and coming back.

Ms.  Bilbao and Mr. Luaces “chem” it up in this real love story that has lasted 40 years (they are still married). From Gloria’s first song, Anything  for You (he’s too old for her, but he’s hooked). As the romance weaves between performances of Miami Sound Machine it grows–the two duet their mutual attraction in such a young lovers’ duet you will remember, I See Your Smile.

Maria Bilbao bringing the house down with her Coming Out of the Dark big song in Act II

Throughout Ms. Bilbao (above)  gets  deep and high into the Gloria Estafan style: holding the notes long and plaintively on the ballads; athleticism  in fast spins, leaps , long arms reaching  for the spots, and swiveling hips with boundless energy while singing at the same time in “Gloria-ous”continuity.

 Her colorata-mezzo soprano the deep intimate sound of commitment and regret and assurance, and rises to the emotions of unbearably sad and joyous feeling. She covers the Malacon.

Gloria’s father’s illness thought to have been caused by his service in the Vietnam war,  makes him an invalid is tastefully and uplifting portrayed and the sacrifices it requires.  Isabella Prestion and Camila Sander are the charismatic little girls who sing of their love for their father, singing  Cuando Sali De Cuba (When I left Cuba), and Tradicio’n. Young aspiring actresses will identify with these two young ladies.

I liked Byron St. Cyr as Gloria’s father (above) who establishes just-right  father-daughter traditions that all we fathers of daughters experience, his missing her when he goes to fight in Cuba, and his declining health after his Vietnam stint show the bonds between daughter and father.

Gloria’s mother played with every bit of assertiveness as Gloria herself, Karmine Alers  flashes back to her stardom in Cuba, and this causes jealousy  on the part of the mother and Gloria the daughter’s growing success. Mom does not want her to marry Emilio.

Allers shows just how good she was in the number Mi Tierra. Allers is so good at spats with Gloria over where Gloria is going with her life and how it hurts the family, that it brings home everyone’s family dramas and conflicts and makes the motivations very real, highlighting the dramatics.

This musical is about family and all that goes with it. The songs all by Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan come out of their life experience. That’s why the songs hit home and won an international following.

The first act wraps with the breakthrough hit Conga at a make or break concert in a park attracting thousands in Miami that Emilio conceived as a way of breaking their music into the main stream and leading to their star tours abroad. Mr. Luaces is strong in his negotiating scenes with record executives who claim the Miami Sound Machine is only for the latin audience.

Second Act the  arc of their careers soars. The awesome  effects of a concert given by Gloria and Emilio Estefan are rendered as well as possible at WBT, but Ms. Bilbao and Mr. Luaces more than overwhelm the enthusiastic press night audience with  Conga, Get On Your Feet, Live for Loving You and You’ll Be Mine. Then the famous Kennedy Concert where Gloria sings Cuba Libre.  As conflict grows as the tours continue Gloria and her mother are in conflict over what is happening with her own little sister.

As the group goes on the road on a bus tour, Gloria’s life is changed when at the top of their growing popularity their bus is hit by a truck. Gloria is paralyzed. Is this the end? Of course we know it is not. The staging of the accident comes as a complete surprise with one of the great effects Set Designer Steve Loftus and Light man Andrew Gmoser—so real you think the truck is going to hit the audience. It made me start in fear.

This crisis is a teachable moment. How quickly life as you know it can turn on a twist of fate. 

Karmine Alers, Gloria’s mother and Emilio (Mr. Luaces) combine on the plaintive,  If I Never Get to Tell You sung to an unconscious Gloria as she awaits surgery.  Gloria’s memories flash by as she, herself as a little girl, her father Jose and the ensemble sing of her past in Wrapped.

Through the long recovery of a year, Emilio (Luaces) sings  Don’t Wanna Lose You with a sincerity and a will that transmits in my opinion the will to fight to come back.

Does she come back? She does with her return to the stage at the American Music Awards, singing Coming Out of the Dark.

Having seen On Your Feet during its Broadway run, this revival brings you much closer to the people who lived this rousing, uplifting human drama of self-made success, comflict, adversity through their devotion to each other.

The Broadway On Your Feet thrilled with its booming colorful, astounding pace and special effects and left you with your body throbbing to the beat and delivering the signature of the Estefans’ musical legacy.

The Westchester Broadway Theatre  extravaganza entertains and puts you up close in the midst of  personal drama inspiring you, feeling  the emotions in a very caring way. The final Megamixextravagant finale will have you jumpin’ and longing for Havana. Be careful on those one foot spins!

The musicians all 11 of them just fill the theatre with the Miami Sound Machine style that gets into you when it first took the world by beat. Ole’s to Bob Bray, Jessica Glover, David Dunaway, Brian Uhl, Steve Bliefuss, David Shoup, Crispian Fordham, Jay Mack, Carlos Padon, Yuri Yamashita, you’re ready to go on tour!

This is how family should be. On Your Feet is in every sense a family musical. With the Estefans it’s always been each other and family.

You should try the Cuban Pork dinner before hand with black beans. On Your Feet the intimate, booming, up-close and personal Estafans will be at the WBT until August 4.  Go to www.BroadwayTheatre.com  or call the box office at 914-592-2222.

There is one line from this show that really says it all. When Mr. Luaces is negotiating with a CBS producer who tells him they are only Spanish market recording artists, Luaces is silent. He looks him in the eye and touches his own face and says:

“This is the face of an American.”

On Your Feet  is an American musical by Americans for Americans.

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County Announces “Opportunity Zones” includes White Plains New York USA

WPCNR WESTCHESTER COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. From the Westchester County Department of Communications. June 26, 2019:

Westchester County is on the verge of a potential major real estate and business boom thanks to Opportunity Zones.  This federal tax program is projected to spur economic development in the County’s distressed census tracts by offering tax breaks on capital gains to developers who invest and hold assets for at least five years.

There are 12 zones designated in 8 different municipalities in the County. The municipalities are Cortlandt, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Peekskill, Port Chester, White Plains and Yonkers.

The Opportunity Zones incentive is a new community investment tool, established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.

Opportunity Zones provide tax incentives for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into dedicated Opportunity Funds. With such valuable benefits at stake, property values are rising as investors and developers scope out these nominated areas’ potential.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “My Administration is focused on advancing Westchester’s economy – and to do that best we must take full advantage of all potential avenues afforded to us. The Opportunity Zone program is a perfect example of one of these avenues. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure they have every chance to succeed.”

Since the Zones were released in 2017, the commercial real estate community has been all abuzz looking for investments in the County.

Vince Ferrandino, Principal of Ferrandino & Associates Inc., a planning consulting firm based in Elmsford, has been retained by the County to work with local municipalities to help make these new opportunities work best for them.  His firm is also charged with connecting them with eager investors.

“Right now there is incredible opportunity and municipalities can really make this work for them,” said Ferrandino.

For investors who stand to gain in tax breaks, Ferrandino recommends working with a realtor or service that can help identify properties that might not yet be on the market. 

“The tax benefits are tremendous, and so many investors are going to want to take advantage of realtors and services – while also lifting up a community in need,” said Ferrandino.  He continued, “Ultimately, those who leverage all information have a wider range of properties to consider.”

While office space is always in demand due to the County’s close proximity to New York City, Ferrandino said municipalities also need to focus in on their needs, not just let the developers decide. He recommends forming local committees, holding meetings and surveying the public about what is really needed in the community and then preparing a plan. 

“These areas are generally under invested – the developers and the municipalities need to come together and settle on a plan that is best for the community. The municipalities need to be proactive with this anticipated development coming their way,” said Ferrandino.

Bridging the gap between municipalities and developers, Ferrandino said his firm is committed to doing what is best for the community: “Let’s get into the details, beyond just reading the law – we want to show how the County can assist when you, a developer or a municipality, want to help get both sides to achieve what they are looking for.”

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