A SPECIAL PREVIEW: The STRAND Theater 94th Gala December 14th AND My Day at The STRAND by Calvin Schwartz December 2016
This article becomes one of those combination platter journalistic efforts, previewing the upcoming 94th Gala and delving into the inner workings and people behind the scenes at The Strand as well as reporting on my day exploring the sacred depths and heights of the theater, built in 1922. I’ve said often, over the past five years, how much I love this theater, replete with that unique, rare, precious art deco ambiance. It was designed to be a Broadway theater because Lakewood back in the 1920’s and 30’s was a vacation destination and the thinking was to bring Broadway shows here, akin to previewing them. I’ve been to many shows and events at The Strand. The acoustics are magical; you can sit anywhere and it’s as if you’re sitting right up front.
Although I’ve been at The Strand often, as a reporter, I’ve never really sat down with the people that bring it to life nor have I gone to those depths in the pit below the orchestra where the music emanates from nor have I attempted to climb the multi-story ladder backstage to change ceiling light bulbs seemingly close to the clouds. Somebody in real life has to do it. I arrived at high noon on Tuesday November 22nd
It was an old fashioned entry. I rang the street bell and was ushered in by Lori Davis, part of the team of programming energy, creativity and daily mechanics which brings life to the theater. Moments later, I was greeted by Fran Whitney, who’s also on that life line team. One of these days, I’ll write an article called “Women of The Strand” and include Dina Warren who also is part of the theater’s resurgence. Jesse Warren, account manager, walked with me up the front grand stair case. I could hear Annie singing at the top of the stairs. On December 2nd and 3rd, they’re staging ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’ So my hero, George Bailey might also be waiting for me at the top.
Jesse and I sat in a second floor office, overlooking Lakewood’s main street. He’s always this young enthusiastic persona. We talked 94th Gala, and the amazing musical line-up for that night and other matters of greasepaint and roars. He thanked theater management, Scott MacFadden, Glen Harrison and Ray Coles for all their support. Next, he phoned home, actually downstairs, to Chris Everett (absolutely not related to the former tennis player), and summoned him into the interview. Chris is the tech head, Jack of All Trades, the guy who makes people fly and who puts scenery and imagination into production. “This place would not be what it is. He brings this place to life,” Jesse added.
Chris told me, “We make shows happen. Caitlyn Nelson is our assistant. Emily Lovell is our house lighting designer. She puts on a harness, climbs to the ceiling, drops down and hooks to a cage. That’s how lights focus in every show.” Later they showed me the ladder at the rear of the balcony which leads into the ceiling and how she crawls into position. Did I want to climb up and be a good journalist and take some pictures? “I’m always a good journalist, but a safe one with my two feet anchored firmly at ground level,” I softly responded.
Chris continued, “Tom Frayley does House Audio and Gianni Scalise is the flyman and rigger and positive vibe technician. He climbs a five story ladder and hangs out on a steel catwalk.” Chris explained how this crew does the work of ten people. Adding to Chris’ all around versatility is the fact that in the production of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ he played a part.
My education of theater 101 behind the scenes continued. The crew has to learn everything before a production. Lighting and sound cues. They have five days to learn it all. That means 22-hour work days. “When it’s a musical production, we live for a week and a half here,” Chris proudly stated. He also reminded me that the technical director(himself) is also the house carpenter. His company is called Sound Foundation Productions.com.
Next was the inner sanctum walking tour to the basement level. Of course I flicked on the lights of the dressing rooms with all those light bulbs watching you put on make up. Imagination was quick to help me with my ‘Frankenstein’ make-up. Yes, I auditioned once when Reagan was President for that part. An obscure doorway led to the orchestra pit and another small one led underneath the theater itself. It was a crawl space and I don’t crawl anymore. Gianni filled my sensibilities with lore of the theater; stories and legends of its rich history. Early on a drug store occupied the area where the gallery is located now. And we’ll leave it at that. Back upstairs, Emily and Caitlyn were figuring out how to get the box of fluorescent light bulbs up to the clouds above to change the dim bulbs to new bright ones. When I stared up, I had to hold on to the wall for support.
It was time for Jesse to share info about the 94th Gala which he’s been diligently working on. Big Road Productions would be responsible for the best musical line-up they’ve ever had including The Big Road All Star Band. This would be my third Gala attended. And as I do often at the conclusion of my emotional pieces, I exhort readers to get off their sedentary sofa and come on down to The Strand on December 14th for a very special night. It really is. Come for the Holiday Music and even the Dinner. Your choice. Here now the specifics of the night.
Wednesday December 14th Join BIG RoaD at The Strand Theater for “A VERY BIG RoaD Christmas” GALA NIGHT AT The Strand Theater!
The Strand Theater is proud to HONOR:
Thomas Jannarone, Owner Bar Anticipation/Attorney
Franke Previte, Academy Award Winning Composer (“Dirty Dancing”)
Steven Levine, Owner, WindMill Restuarants
Michael D’Elia, Committeemen, Lakewood Township
PERFORMING ARE : Bobby Bandiera, Lisa Sherman, Franke Previte, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa, Jobonanno, Joe Ferraro, Jt Bowen, Tommy Byrne
Band is: Ralph Notaro, Vinny Daniele, Joe Bellia, Arne Wendt, Tony Perruso, Bob Ferrel, Tommy Labella
Get your tickets now “A VERY BIG RoaD Christmas” GALA NIGHT AT The Strand Theater!
The Strand Theater
400 Clifton Ave
Lakewood, New Jersey
Tel: (732) 367-7789
Produced and Presented by:
Terry Camp and Jesse James Warren for BIG RoaD
If you have any questions please feel free to call Jesse Warren at 732-367-7789, ext.204 or by email at email@example.com.
FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/events/105488179931786/
“A VERY BIG RoaD CHRISTMAS” GALA NIGHT AT THE STRAND THEATER!
The Strand Theater presents its 94th Anniversary Gala with “A Very BIG RoaD Christmas!” on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 – A night to celebrate this historic venue and enjoy lively holiday tunes with The BIG RoaD All-Star (Big) Band.
Tickets are $25.00 and doors open at 7:00 p.m. for the 8:00 p.m. show. Guests are also welcome for The Strand’s Gala Dinner and Cocktail Party at 6:00 p.m. – for which tickets are $100.00 (which includes an orchestra seat ticket).
The BIG RoaD All-Star Band is Mark Leimbach, Ralph Notaro, Joe Bellia, Vinny Daniele, Arne Wendt, Tony Perruso, Tommy Labella, and Bobby Ferrel. Vocals by Bobby Bandiera, JT Bowen, Franke Previte, Lisa Sherman, Jillian Rhys McCoy, Eddie Testa,Jo Boanno, Killer Joe and more!
The historic STRAND THEATER, a non-profit 501(c)3, is Ocean County’s premier entertainment venue. THE STRAND opened its doors in 1922 and it shines as brightly today as it did then. Located in historic downtown Lakewood, THE STRAND is easily accessible and offers a wide variety of live entertainment including concerts, dance, musicals, & theater, comic performances, and arts education.
Strand Gala Information- The Board of Directors of the Strand Center for the Arts are pleased to announce the celebration of the theater’s 94th Anniversary. We cordially invite you to join us for our Gala and Holiday Celebration on Wednesday, December 14, 2016. The Gala will begin in the Strand Gallery at 6pm followed by a live performance on our main stage at 8pm. Several area restaurants will be serving their signature dishes and cocktails will also be served.