Theatre – an original idea: Buonpane and Kane put Bay Ridge Off-Broadway

Article by Jay Michaels

Theatre – REAL theatre is about taking risks.

We look upon the great classics of the American theater as solid foundations, but in their day, they were cutting-edge and innovative. Arthur Miller created what we call American Tragedy, Tennessee Williams placed subliminal messages in his works that were shocking for the time, even Rodgers and Hammerstein were once “mavericks.”

With Broadway climbing disneying heights, Off and Off-Off Broadway has long-since been the place for the cutting edge. Thanks to Tom Kane and Rocco Buonpane, Bay Ridge joins them on the edge.

Community theater – in its original form – was professional theater done in a neighborhood outside of the theater district. It’s a pleasure to see some producers remembering that – and emulating it.

Rocco Buonpane and his Brooklyn Association for the Performing Arts
and Tom Kane and BrooklynOneTheater

brave a slippery slope to great results. They produce original theater – they premiere new works.

Tom Kane, a towering Mostelian impresario, annually produces a theater festival of new works. Grabbing young ambitious Brooklyn-based talent and new and topical works from budding young scribes, he presents several plays a season. Naming his fest after celebrated local playwright/actor/director, the late Vince Mazza, Kane and his artistic director, Anthony Marino, open the door to these young artists and give them plenty of room to let their imaginations fly. The risk doesn’t stop at original works, these are original plays NOT musicals. In an area where musical theater is the main bill-of-fare, to present dramas and comedies is that much more innovative – and welcome. Kane and Marino also give their artists a nice dose of reality. Kane does not cut or rewrite, he and Marino do not “tweak” the works. They welcome the raw interpretations by these young artists and present them – to a pleased crowd – as written. While accolades take the lion’s share, life lessons and on-its-feet critiques help the playwrights, the directors, and the actors learn and grow as professionals.

Kane and Marino have the facility and the ability to do things larger or more “known” but that wouldn’t be true to who they are as artists. They’ve recently added independent film to their list. Go get them boys! For more info

Meanwhile …

Rocco Buonpane, complete with effervescent grin and Road Runner energy, hands the audience musicals on a grand old, grand scale. The professional theater veteran knows the power of the musical and finds new and unique pieces to birth. His most recent endeavor, The Lost Boys, told the tale of the children who served as the source material for J.M. Barre in his immortal Peter Pan. The story begins somewhat light and romantic but evolves into several tragic and surprising tales forcing the audience to think, accept, and feel. Buonpane could have been safe and presented this piece as a concert or “workshop” with a dozen chairs and hints of costume but that would not be what makes Buonpane tick, he gave the composer a revolving set, a lighting plot, period costumes, an orchestra (literally) and free-reign. He believes in the full experience, and spared no expense getting there.

Sitting in that audience you knew you were attending something innovative and rare for the area. Simply – something special.  Wherever this piece is to go from here and in whatever form, we were there first – and that is really exciting.

Buonpane scored accolades with his production of Jesus Christ Superstar and a rousing revue of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s works (both reviewed here in OuterStage). Buonpane is also a friend to the other companies of the area. Genesis Repertory had the good fortune of performing Hamlet outdoors under BAPA’s auspices and several companies have shared Buonpane’s beautiful theater space.

Friend them on Facebook.

These two gents and their colleagues understand the power of the stage and the sense of life that is there in front of you. They have made the intimate act between audience and artist that much more intimate by giving them yet-unseen works.

Here’s to the pros who live down the street.

Jay Michaels is a former professor at Kingsborough College in Brooklyn and managing director of Genesis Repertory Ensemble, a classical company that presents innovative works based on Shakespeare’s plays.

From Tippy Tap Shoes to Bay Ridge Ballerinas: J’s New Dance Center gives the neighborhood an extravaganza.

From Tippy Tap Shoes to Bay Ridge Ballerinas
J’s New Dance Center gives the neighborhood an extravaganza.
Review By Lenny Stough

For as long as there was – well – anything, there was art and artists. Maybe it was a cave painting to document a hunt, maybe it was ornate uniforms to strike awe in the hearts of adversaries, maybe it was fire-and-brimstone preachers of any and all faiths… or maybe it was children dancing to celebrate holiday and harvest. Nonetheless, there was always art and the finest came from real people like you and me.

J’s New Dance Center, the little studio that could – and has – for more than 20 years presented its annual dance recital this past weekend to thunderous – and well-deserved – applause.

The J in J’s belongs to Joyce Beck – a theatre and film dancer with credentials including All That Jazz – runs a thriving studio on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street in Bay Ridge Brooklyn that gives – what looked like – 100 students a chance at self-expression, and that is what theatre truly is intended to do.

The production opens with a sweet-voiced announcement regarding what you would expect – “turn off cellular phones, no flash pictures, etc.,” to the clever – “don’t stand up, your head will ruin our video.”

Then the fun began.

Down the aisle came some of Miss Joyce’s adult students in a rendition of the traveling number from Kiss Me Kate. Nice touch having the dancers in the aisle, also a clever beginning, setting the tone of a vaudeville-like presentation. There is a sense of separation once the performer is bathed in the light of the stage but there, neighbor dancing inches from neighbor, the electricity was more evenly shared. The audience then settled back to nearly 50 different dance pieces – from the cutest baby ballerinas and tapers dancing to melt your heart (one little exuberant girl sang the words to the song to which she was dancing at the top of her lungs) to impressive feats of acrobatics mixed with dance moves, to adults executing intricate classical ballet steps with really amazing precision.

The music was eclectic with Broadway standards following 50s ditties then countering with a modern piece, then Mozart, then children’s favorites (even Paddy Cake).  Dance styles also followed this eclectic scheme: tap, jazz, salsa, ballet, Pointe, acrobatics, barre work, etc. And while some studios might boast such a roster, the unique juxtaposition of music with the dance styles made for a lively and interesting evening. To hear a cutting edge modern tune done with barre work, or see tap-dancing cowboys, or listen to a 50s standard while jazz and acrobatic styles cover the stage was a true step above. Several performers seemed to master many styles including one omnipresent young woman whose stature might lend you to think that she is not a dancer but her amazing physical prowess and fleet-footed ease at every style displayed is a standing tribute to her talent and drive – and to the masterful teachers at J’s Dance Center.

Glimpses of other programs appeared in the production as well. Broadway performers Mary & Jay – whose voice and acting program is rapidly gaining ground in Brooklyn – sang a Broadway ditty as a warm up for the grand finale of Act I and Tara, the belly dance teacher wiggled and floated across the entire stage, she was framed nicely against the company’s Sgt Pepper-like psychedelic background. This was a lively portion in Act II. Tara is a professional belly dancer who tours the tri-state area and beyond and Mary and Jay run Genesis Repertory, a Manhattan-based theatre company now opening an office in Bay Ridge. Miss Mary has a long list of Broadway credentials and one of the most powerful natural voices you’re likely to hear in such a setting. She struck a striking presence in a black retro gown.

Each act also featured an appearance by the arbiters of the weekend-long event. Act I featured a power-packed routine laced with modern dance and sharp jazz styling by the agile Miss Joan and the second act solo by Miss Joyce herself, in which the dance veteran brought down the house with a high-steppin’ routine filled with jazz and tap that could have easily been pulled from a Broadway show. It is easy to see why everyone from babies to baby-boomers were able to make everything look easy.

The funniest performers of the evening were the parents and grandparents. They, too, seemed to learn dance from Miss Joyce and Joan. The sight of their children, nieces & nephews, siblings, and grandchildren dancing in stunning costumes acted as an elixir or powerful sermon to these residents of Bay Ridge and the neighboring provinces. Parents became acrobats and bounded from their seats, tap-dancing down the aisle to get a better shot of their baby ballerina; grandparents performed feats of incredible strength and agility carrying massive bouquets and balloons all the way around to the dressing areas; brothers and sisters – thinking they were unnoticed – would attempt to copy a step or two in the corner of the lobby during intermission; and like any red-carpet event, flash bulbs were popping and video cameras rolling from every conceivable corner … totally ignoring the sweet-voiced request at the opening of the show.

I wonder how many heads made it to the video.

J’s New Dance Center boasts a friendly and accepting atmosphere where all you need is a desire to dance and the willingness to have fun doing it.  Dance brilliance comes later … but it does come.

Summer Program starts July 13th.
Fall registration will be held September 1st.
For information call 718-680-6111

Classes include:
BABY RHYTHM (For kids ages 3 & 4) Learn Tap, Ballet, and Tumbling.
KINDERDANCE (for kindergarten & first graders) A great introduction to the world of dance.
TAP 45 (for graduates of Baby Rhythms and Kinderdance) 45 mins. of tap & 15 mins. of jazz.
ACROBATICS An excellent base for gymnastics, exercise, and the elements of a healthy lifestyle.
JAZZ Ethnic rhythms combined with the popular dance styles of today like hip hop.
TAP  A technique of quick footwork & lively rhythms.
BALLET Ballet is a classical form of dance. It is a MUST for any serious dancer.
POINTE  The ultimate progression of ballet. Dance On Your Toes!
BELLY DANCE An exotic form of Middle-Eastern dance excellent for spine & hip alignment.
SALSA Salsa is an exciting and highly popular style of dance.
ACTING Learn how to Audition and work in the professional theatre!
VOCAL TRAINING Do you want to sing in a musical, a choir, or concert? This class is just for you.
THEATRE COMPANY leading students are invited to join Genesis Repertory an off-B’way theatre

Rockin’ Bay Ridge with Zandelle

Brooklyn-based Power/Prog Metal band Zandelle recently signed a new recording contract with Germany’s Pure Steel Records and has released their latest album – “Flames of Rage”

Zandelle features singer/frontman George Tsalikis who is also well known on the local theater community with starring roles in Jekyll & Hyde, Jesus Christ Superstar, and many others.

Zandelle has also released their first ever music video which can be seen on either of their two official websites:

Zandelle, in association with Brooklyn Association of the Performing Arts will be celebrating the release of their new album on Friday June 26, 8PM at Christ Church Auditorium at 7301 Ridge Blvd in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, NY.  This all-age event will feature a 90 minute performance from the band as well as raffles, giveaways and a cash bar (for those 21 and over).

$10 Advanced tickets for this event are available through Brooklyn Association of the Performing Arts.
$15 at the door, the night of the event.

For tickets, email or call the B.A.P.A. hotline at 347-370-8973

Magical Medicinals Part II: The Magic Apothecary mixes new brews.

Robert Greene wrote the following article in Drama-queens last year regarding the new line of herbal products for the skins and what is below. Next week, OuterStage will interview The Apothecary and discuss the new lines of perfumes, lotions, make-up, and other Natural Notions.

The world is starting to see the light – through the grit – but still seeing it. In fits and starts as well as planned change we are now looking to heel our bodies.

Bodies, here, can be euphemistic many times over.

We have polluted the main body – the earth; we have polluted our government with a war and crippling inflation; we have polluted out minds with Internet imagery; and there is no doubt we have polluted our own bodies. Whether it is through the inertia of slothful inactivity or ingesting harmful chemicals or tortured animals (I’ll have my antibiotic-filled hamburgers super-sized, please), we are hurting ourselves and want to stop.

Enter The Magic Apothecary. Creating a line of hand made products that – through herbal properties and aromatherapy – will help you heel.

Heel can be euphemistic many times over.

The Magic Apothecary is a line of soaps, bath products, oils, incense, candles, and meditations designed to empower you to better living. Named after ancient deities long associated with various strengths and powers, these simple handcrafted items, mixed with your own desire for better health and happiness, assist in your body’s natural desires for everything from courage to calm.

Each bar of soap, each candle, each bag of incense is handmade with real ingredients. Real herbs from bay leaves to chickweed and genuine essential oils including the likes of Rose of Damascus (a rare and expensive item in and of itself) are found in each. Each shower or bath opens your senses to the properties in these herbs; each mediation over a candle or incense fills your soul with the temperament of that particular god or goddess.

Make no mistake, The Apothecary’s weight-loss soap bar or her scented love candle will not magically make you thin and popular; the money soap and High-John the Conqueror candle will not get you the job at HBO, but the herbs in them will help strengthen your natural resolve to pull the god or goddess out of you. Sometimes all we need is that special aroma or texture to make us say, “I deserve it.”

Skeptics abound, even within the very community that supports such ideologies, so I asked a few of her clients (without telling them why). I got these comments:
Bob of Brooklyn said he’d been alone for far-too long. He bought a love kit and now he and his girlfriend are very happy (she just met mother); Mitch from The Bronx remarked on how he was living from paycheck to paycheck. He showered with the money soap until he could see the penny in the center of the bar. A loan came through enabling him to move to a better apartment; and even deeper, is Pat from PA – recently diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy – was allergic to most lotions and perfumes, so the burn of her treatment seemed unstoppable. She was able to sooth her chemo-seared skin with The Magic Apothecary’s Moon bar … safely, naturally.

The Magic Apothecary does not have a product that washes away skepticism but at costs below similar chemically made, factory-produced, store-bought items… what’s the harm? And she even supplies certificates of authenticity with her merchandise.

Reprinted by permission of site and author. Originally published July, 2008,

Class Action: Brooklyn’s Latest Arts Program

For Immediate Release

Narrows Community Theatre
Bay Ridge’s oldest theatre company
Voicing Your Talents: A series of audition workshops and vocal classes.

Workshops conducted by J. Michaels
Thursday, July 10 & Thursday, August 7, both from 8 to 10pm.

Course conducted by Mary Elizabeth MiCari
Saturdays, July 12 through September 13, 2 to 4pm

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn – The venerable Narrows Community Theatre, bringing quality entertainment to the Bay Ridge area for more than 37 years, is opening a full arts education program starting this summer. On July 10 at 8:00 p.m. and then a month later on August 7 at 8:00 p.m., Narrows will sponsor “How To Audition for The Professional Theatre.” A pair of workshops designed to expand on the art of auditioning. Theatrical director and producer, J. Michaels brings this wildly popular series back to Narrows for a third year. He will guide the participants on a journey that will start with song choice and confidence building and continue through the intricate road of networking – before, during and after the audition. Mr. Michaels has Broadway credentials that include Guys & Dolls, Damn Yankees, Cats, and Big as well as numerous off- & off-off Broadway credentials including three years with the NY International Fringe Festival. He is a professor of speech, theatre, and marketing and has lectured or served as a guest artist at Kingsborough College, Fordham University, Yeshiva University, Lehman College, and NYU.  Lectures are $5 each for non-members and free to members of NCT. All ages welcome

Starting Saturday, July 12 and continuing until September 13 will be a course for the actor yearning to break into musicals: Singing for the Actor. Every Saturday from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Acclaimed musical theatre and operatic singer, Mary Elizabeth MiCari will train her students in the art of singing for the stage musical. Starting with the lyrics and working your way up to public performance, this course is designed to arm artists with the tools needed to be part of the musical theatre scene. Posture and breath support; voice and character type; interpretation; and finally … performance! Ms. MiCari is a celebrated opera and musical theatre performer as well as a recognized arts instructor. She worked on the original Broadway productions of Light In The Piazza, Little Women, and Wonderful Town; operatic credentials include concerts at Lincoln Center. She and
J. Michaels are the producers of Genesis Repertory, an off-Broadway arts & education company. She is also founder of None of the Above Theatre and The Chelsea Opera. The course is for ages 15 and up. Ten weeks cost a meager $180 with discounts abounding.

Michaels and MiCari recently moved to the Bay Ridge area and are thrilled to make Narrows their new theatrical home.

Call 646-226-0370 or email at for further information.

From the Inner Mind to the Outer Stage

The landscape of the American Theatre grows more splintered in style and category every day…


OuterStage is dedicated to all theatre arts and artists. Articles on Broadway, Off-, Off-Off, Way-Off, and off-the-beaten-path-of Broadway, as well as Regional, Community, Independent and any other kind of stage art is welcome. Look for news, reviews, and so much more.