Six Degrees of Separation – The Quintessential NYC Play Returns to Broadway

Once upon a time in there was an island, surrounded by the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.  It was a place where the underworld, “Regular Joes” and elite flowed past each other creating a unique aura that produced the energy for a city that never slept.  Those seeking fame and fortune came to the island to stake their claim and be seen.  Manhattan was a melting pot brimming to the top with a million and one stories that now haunt the streets like ghosts over resurrected apartment complexes and 21st-century skyscrapers.

Six Degrees of Separation
243 W. 47TH ST.One such story about that emerged out of this glorious period was the story of David Hampton.  A handsome grifter from Buffalo N.Y., Hampton used his good looks, manners and ability to manipulate others to intersect with the upper-crust of New York City society and glitterati.  By pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier, Hampton dined for free at the best restaurants, received A-list treatment at New York City hot spots and flimflammed his way into the homes of the Upper East Side.

4922Playwright John Guare became aware of Hampton’s infamous con when married friends of his became one of Hampton’s many marks.  Their intersection became the foundation for his play Six Degrees of Separation.    Six Degrees of Separation made its Broadway debut in 1990 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony.   It was adapted into a movie in a film in 1993.  Now it’s back on Broadway for a limited 15-week engagement.

Six Degrees of Separation
243 W. 47TH ST.On the surface, Six Degrees of Separation explores the theory that everyone is connected by six other people.   The play primarily takes place at the apartment of Flan and Louisa “Ouisa” Kittredge, which overlooks Central Park.    Flan is an art dealer and one evening when he and his wife are entertaining (and ass-kissing) a super-rich friend, Paul, a young, charming black man, appears on their doorstep wounded and bleeding.  He claims he had been robbed and stabbed.  He claims he knew their children.  He says he is the son of Sidney Poitier.

Six Degrees of Separation
243 W. 47TH ST.Paul cooks them dinner and beguiles them, especially Ouisa who had been seeking a deeper connection with her own children.   Paul tells the Kittredge’s that he is expected to check into a hotel with his famous father in the morning.  Flan and Ouisa insist that Paul spends the night with them.  In the morning, Ouisa goes to wake Paul and finds him mid-coitus with a hustler he picked up after they had gone to bed.  After that encounter, Ouisa and Flan’s lives continue to intersect with Paul.  Finally, after one scam too many, the police get involved.  Sensing the police are closing in, Paul makes a final, desperate call to Ouisa to beg her to accompany him when he turns himself in.  She agrees to take him, but the police pounce before she can get there. Ouisa is left to ponder the future of Paul, the experience as a whole and her future after this experience.

Six Degrees of Separation
243 W. 47TH ST.If one is only looking at the surface, it would appear that Six Degrees of Separation looks at how lives collide into each other and impact those collisions make, but the play takes us deep into the rabbit hole providing critiques on myriad topics.  Six Degrees of Separation tackles issues of race, class and homosexuality.  The beauty of Guare’s storytelling is the method in which these topics are brought to the forefront.  The dialogue is luscious, full of wry wit and flows with a hustle and bustle of New Yorkers beating their feet to the pavement during rush hour.  Guare doesn’t bop you over the head or smack you in the face with social commentary, instead, he guides you to a mirror, and when you are laughing at some snarky line, you suddenly realized you are looking at yourself and how you have perceived others.  New Yorkers are so quick to believe the hype of the liberalism simply because there are no monuments erected to Confederate generals in the middle of Times Square; however, when faced with our own Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scenario, we suddenly realize we aren’t as free-thinking as we thought we were.  Through Flan, Ouisa and Paul, the audience is able to confront their own prejudices, fears and desires to belong.

Six Degrees of Separation
243 W. 47TH ST.The selection of the cast is a stroke of genius.  Allison Janney is hysterical as Ouisa; her comedic timing is impeccable.  When Ouisa is most introspective, Janney breathes tenderness into these moments.  Her performance reveals just how much Paul has changed the trajectory of Ouisa’s life.  John Benjamin Hickey provides a multi-faceted performance of Flan.  He is pretentious, yet sensitive.  He has the soul of a tortured artist, but reeks of capitalist greed.  He is a hypocrite, yet still totally likable.  The crown jewel in this cast is Corey Hawkins, who plays Paul.  From the moment he rushes onto the stage in a state of panic, he captivates the audience.  Without knowing, Hawkins wraps you around his finger and compels you to believe even the most fantastic lie. Every face Hawkins presents as Paul is equally as believable as the next.  When he says to Ouisa,” I like being looked at,” I thought to myself who would want to look away?  Hawkins goes deeper than just bringing the character of Paul to life for a new generation of theatergoers.   He honors the soul of the man whose infamous life was the catalyst for this splendid play.  He is a writer’s dream, a master actor in the making.

Six Degrees of Separation
243 W. 47TH ST.Six Degrees of Separation is a masterpiece.  The only problem with this production is the fact that it’ll only be at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre until July 16.  This play is too brilliant to run the risk of not being seen by every New Yorker and those who come to visit this metropolis.  The themes of this play are as relevant now as they were in 1990 because they are intrinsic components in the state of the human condition.  More importantly, this play is a time capsule of an era in New York City that will never come around again.  Only in Manhattan could a con artist pretend to be the child of an icon and hobnob with the crème de la crème of New York society.  Six Degrees of Separation is vivid, sexy and seedy; just like Paul.   It’s one Broadway experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Photos: Joan Marcus





STRANGE FRUIT REDUX Premieres At MRT’s 10th Anniversary Event

No one truly knows what the day holds as they prepare to step out their front door.  Burgeoning Bed-Stuy artist Nathan Strange is poised to be the next sensation of the New York City art scene, but a common trend plaguing our society may prevent him from doing that.

Written by Afrika Brown, STRANGE FRUIT REDUX is a series of poem monologues mixed with music and socio-political pop culture sound bites that reflect the fears and frustration of the modern black man and stars Bryant L. Lewis.  STRANGE FRUIT REDUX is making its premiere at Manhattan Repertory Theatre‘s 10th Anniversary Event.

Manhattan Repertory Theatre was created in 2005 by Jennifer Pierro and Ken Wolf.  Manhattan Repertory Theatre produces full-length plays, One Act Play competitions, and monthly short play events.  Since 2005, Manhattan Rep has produced over 1000 full length plays and over 500 short plays.  Manhattan Rep is committed to the artist, to creating a context of creativity and support a clean and professional environment.  Manhattan Rep celebrates unbridled creativity, not judgement, and believes that a script is not a play, just the map for a creative team to bring it to life.

Playwright, poet, author and journalist, Afrika Brown is known for writing riveting lifestyle and entertainment features. In 2006, Brown published Sepia Sapphire, a collection of poetry. In 2007, Brown’s weekly chapter series Diary of a Break Up was featured by In 2009, she founded F.A.M.E. NYC Magazine. In 2014 Brown’s one act play, THE OUTING, was featured in Open Hydrant’ Urban Waves Festival, Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Summer Short Play Festival and The Strawberry Festival.

Manhattan Repertory Theatre‘s 10th Anniversary Event runs from July 15th to 16th at 9 p.m.  Ticket reservations can be made at   Manhattan Repertory Theatre is located at 303 West 42nd Street #3.

Dating F.A.M.E NYC Style

Spring 2013 is here and despite the flip-flopping weather, it appears not to be going anywhere soon.  Spring always brings with it an air of romance and New York City is a great place to have a fling.  If you already have a significant other, NYC can certainly assist in keeping the spice alive in your relationship and offers a smorgasbord of things to do, places to stay and gastro pubs to pack on calories ( that you can work off later).   A relationship novice only chooses holidays and other special occasions to show affection, but if you want the flame of your love to burn bright you had better stoke to those fires more often.  Date night in New York City is play land of possibilities.  So to all my love-struck FAMERS, this piece is for you.   I’m going to share with you my top five places to go, restaurants and hotels to create an awesomely romantic date any day or night.


Empire State Building – Hey…it worked for Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan; it could work for you and your mate.  The observation deck of the Empire State Building is indeed a place to spark romance.   Standing in the heavens with the city all around you can render a “top of the world” feeling.  There is no better time to grab your lover for a kiss or to drop to one knee for a sky-high proposal.

themetmuseumMetropolitan Museum of Art – The Met was the first date for Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo in the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.  Crown was a billionaire; he could take his date anywhere he wanted, but for all the rest of the 99 percentile, The Met can provide a modest date.  Priceless works of art, the ability to travel to different eras in history all for a small nominal fee.  Who needs a time machine?  Afterwards, you can take advantage of the closeness of Central Park and spring for a horse and carriage ride.  If you want to put a twist on the old horse and carriage idea, rent a luxury vehicle and cruise the park and city in opulence.

Meat Packing District – In a city filled with trendy spots, the Meat Packing District remains one of the trendiest.  You could take your honey-bunny on a shopping spree.  If you are planning an evening date, go clubbing or go on your own private bar crawl.  You could add a little role play and play the “sexy stranger” game at each new lounge or club you go to.

Times Square – Times Square is the heart of The Big Apple.  Just the luminosity of the place delivers 120 watts of electricity to your body.  You can take your beloved to dinner and a show, take in a little shopping or just sit and watch the show New York City provides via the traffic, street performers and passersby. 

Hayden PlanetariumHayden Planetarium – When I was a girl, I saw a laser light show set to The Beatles music.  The Hayden Planetarium has been one my favorite places in the city ever since. Part of the American Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium has been a New York institution since 1935.  Create some rockets in flight and a little afternoon delight, take a date into the stratosphere and canoodle under the stars. 






Mari Vanna – Russian food and old world romance on the east side.  Oh, and did I mention they make their own Vodka.  The décor is charming.  Even if Russian cuisine doesn’t necessarily strike a chord with your palette, I guarantee that you will score points with the venue as well as the food, which is very comforting.  And if all else fails, you can get your mate drunk – nostrovia lovers!

the-lambs-clubThe Lamb’s Club – Located in Times Square, The Lamb’s Club is an experience that rivals any on Broadway.  Taking American cuisine to the next level, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and partners have created a cool, yet opulent spot to dine before or after a show.  The menu has a wealth of great selections and scrumptious drinks.  Make sure to make it a 24-karat meal and order the Gold Rush (my mouth is watering just thinking about it).




Courgette Restaurant & Bistro – Yummy is the first word that comes to mind when I think about this eatery, located on W. 55th Street.   Courgette is French for zucchini, but it’s definitely not a vegan spot.  This restaurant fuses Mediterranean, Italian and French cuisine to perfection, if you try one dish make sure it’s the Acquerello Risotto with wild forest mushrooms; it’s to die for.   After you finish dining, take your date downstairs to Courgette’s sexy basement speakeasy, which boasts a state-of-the-art sound system and karaoke room. 

Le Bernardin – Eric Ripert…need I say more?  This restaurant is legendary for its chocolate dessert and seafood dishes.  If you are doing a day trip or date that features all of NYC many iconic spots, include this place on your itinerary.   

Château Cherbuliez – Speaking of iconic New York spots, no club was as iconic, historic or infamous as Limelight. This church turned club has had a few reincarnations.  Currently, it’s The Limelight Marketplace, towards the back it turns into Château Cherbuliez.  When it was Limelight, walking into this spot was like stepping into another world.  That aspect hasn’t changed.  Stepping into Château is like being whisked off to the south of France.  The décor is impressive and has one of the largest outdoor garden spaces in the city.


gal-pool-gansevoort-jpgHotel Gansevoort – Meat Packing District – If one were so inclined, one could plan an entire NYC-themed date in the Meat Packing District.  After a day and night of shopping, drinking, eating and partying, the Hotel Gansevoort the perfect place to catch a luxurious snooze or soak up some more of Chelsea’s ultra-trendy vibe.



W Hotel – Times Square – Dinner, a show, a few drinks, maybe even catch a light night comedy act.  Why end the night at home?  Have a nightcap at W and allow the views of the city to assist you in a night of seduction. It may not be a stage, but I guarantee you will be the star of the show.

Four Seasons – Book a room at this hotel and resort and that could be your date, period end of story.  If the five star treatment is what you’re looking for, you and your mate will find it here.

GramercyParkHotel-lobbyGramercy Park Hotel – This hotel is steeped in history.  Afterall, the Kennedy’s stayed here.   The Gramercy Park Hotel has seen its share of marvelous times and some seedy ones, but after the 2006 renovation it recaptured its former glory and has maintained it ever since.  Artist Julian Schnabel and British architect John Pawson have created a masterpiece.  It remains one of the coolest, chicest places to stay in the city.



Crosby Street Hotel – SoHo is one of the many artists’ neighborhoods turned chichi in NYC.  Elegant and eccentric, this hotel serves a taste of London with a New York twist. 




F.A.M.E NYC Springs Ahead

Rain, sun, sleet or snow flurries, March 20 marks the beginning of spring.  La primavera is the season that is generally associated with rebirth.  F.A.M.E NYC is also going through a revival of sorts and I believe spring is the perfect time to unveil a few new changes to the site. 

First, F.A.M.E NYC is getting a facelift – a new theme, same good written content.  Second, I will be adding a couple of monthly features (details coming soon).  In addition, there will be more visual content and more contests.   As I have said countless times, thank you for sharing this journey with me.  I am super excited to share these changes with you. 

And to show how grateful and excited I am, be on the lookout for F.A.M.E NYC’s first spring contest. 


F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Mayor Ed Koch

ed_koch wtc


If there is any arena that has as much drama, comedy and spectacle as live theater it is politics.  A politician has to be one part idealist, one part broker and two parts showman.  And no man exhibited the quintessential politician or New Yorker like its 105th mayor, Ed Koch.

ed_koch 2“How’m I doin’?” – the catchphrase forever synonymous with former Mayor Ed Koch – became as much as a slogan as “Where’s the beef” or “Who shot J.R.?” Yes kiddies, it was the 1980’s and New York (as I stated many times before) was a different city.  When Ed Koch was first elected in 1977,  I was a wee babe and the calamities that plagued NYC were of no concern to a toddler.  Some say Koch saved the city; that is an opinion that I won’t agree with or deny but what I will share is memories of the Koch-era New York City that I remember.

 The Guardian Angels – Now who remembers them?  Red beret-wearing avengers ready to get involve, stop crime and ultimately get their behinds whooped.  They added no real level of safety as they paraded up and down the streets but they were cool to watch, sort of like one of the gangs in The Warriors – lot of bark and no bite.

42nd Street – Who remembers the arcade?  Yes, my 42nd Street is not like the one tourists flock to now.  Times Square was a masala of theater and sin.  After going to go see A Chorus Line, a visitor could then treat themselves to the myriad of sex shops and strip clubs that were in the area. 

Graffiti – Everywhere, but good graffiti.  It was an art movement; one-third of hip hop, a subculture spawned in the Bronx that has engulfed the Earth.  It was inspirational and the bombers that risked jail and fines for a fleeting moment of glory became underground gods.

Nightlife – Truly legendary, the personification of the underworld meeting the elite, places like Danceteria, Trax, The Rooftop, Paradise Garage, The Mudd Club, CBGB and The Loft were alive with music, sweat, burgeoning artists and subcultures.  The lifestyle described in Puccini’s La Boehme was pumping through the Big Apple like subway cars shuttling through the underground veins of the city.  It was the height of a modern renaissance, the likes may never be seen again (damn… and I just missed it too).

AIDS Crisis – As La Boehme dealt with the scourge of tuberculosis, NYC (and the nation) was coming face to face with AIDS.  Back then is was a silent killer and a modern plague that most people didn’t understand or want to understand. 

Bernhard Goetz – Like I said, it was totally different time.  When “The Subway Vigilante” (a moniker Goetz became known for) blasted four would-be assailants he became the ultimate anti-hero.  Sparking debates on race, violence and gun laws, ole’ Bernie became a figure New Yorkers would not soon forget.

Yusuf Hawkins – His death was the last of three racially motivated attacks that happened in the city and may have been one of the reasons Koch lost his fourth mayoral bid to David Dinkins.

When I think of Ed Koch and the New York City of my youth I reflect on all these memories and more.  For me Koch’s time in office could be summed up by quoting Charles Dickens – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness….”

In the years following his mayoralty, Koch went on to become a partner in a law firm, a commentator, an adjunct professor at NYU, a judge on The People’s Court and hosted a movie review video show but it is his tenure as mayor that people will always know Ed Koch for.  In small neighborhoods there is always a guy that knows everything about the neighborhood, old gossip, new gossip; he has probably lived in that neighborhood for decades, seen all the changes and knows everyone.   Usually that fellow receives the moniker “the mayor” as he is looked upon as the aficionado of the block because everyone knows him.  Well that was Ed Koch.  He was born to be mayor of New York City, and he still was the mayor even when he wasn’t   He embodied the city more so than any politician that held the office of mayor.  He could be as electrifying as the lights in Times Square and had a presence as tall as The Empire State Building.  In a city that breeds originality, Ed Koch was an original whose mold can never be recreated.  With the deepest respect I say rest in peace Mayor Koch and thank you for being part of the New York City that made me.

The Splendor of the Lens


My first introduction to Oscar Correcher’s work was through viewing the photo album of model/actor Hector Lincoln on Facebook.  He had uploaded a few new photos, shot by Oscar, which I found to be gorgeous.  A lot has always been said about the love affair between a model and the camera.  We have all heard derivatives of the expression, “The camera just loves him or her!”  And while this can be true, not much is said about the romance between a photographer and the camera.  If the camera and a model have a love affair, then the photographer guides the liaison.  The photographer is the person responsible for the shot that makes consumers want to purchase the latest trends.  They are an essential component to the fashion world.  And it takes love and passion to stand with dozens of photographers during fashion week and fight to get a good shot as a model walks the runway or to wake up early to get the best light for a photo shoot. 

As a former model, Oscar’s relationship with the camera has been from both sides.   His love and passion for life has prompted him to travel the world, capturing the beauty of experience.  Whether it is a fashion story or Dali, his canine, Oscar’s photos lure the viewer in to a world of splendor.  Recently, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about fashion, New York City and his bucket list.

Tell me about your background and travels.

 I was born in Barcelona, Spain. At the age of 17, I went to London, when I was 19 to Paris and when I was 21, I came to NYC.

When did you first fall in love with photography?

When I started seeing old black and white pictures at home with my family.  When I was eight years old, my father gave me my first camera, a second hand camera that he got on the streets of Barcelona on a Sunday.

What was the first camera you ever owned?

Professionally, a Chinon 35mm that a friend had sitting at home on the lower east side, we didn’t even know if  it was going to work.

What year did you move to New York? 

October 1997

What made you want to move to New York City?

The need of keep traveling and having new experiences in the world.                     

Has your experience as a model assisted your eye as a photographer?

Definitely! It wakes up a sense of intuition.

What do you love most about shooting fashion stories?

Being able to tell stories and show locations and places by using a theme or clothing.

What is the importance of photography to the business of fashion?

It is a way of translating what the brand or the designer is about or wants to communicate to the public for that particular season.

Who are your top five designers and why?

Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Alexander McQueen, Ann Demeulemeester, Alexander Wang and Richard Chai because of their perfection/style, beauty and hard work.

If you had a photography bucket list, tell me the top three:


The dessert, Brazil and cities from all over the world.


Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga (an amazing young and very talented young lady from our time).

Random Things

Love, friendship and kindness.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2012?

To keep doing what I love and improving myself by learning and sharing.   

To view Oscar Correcher’s photography, click

Photo courtesy of Oscar Correcher

F.A.M.E NYC Celebrates Its Second Anniversary

Two years ago, I sat down in my bedroom, grabbed my laptop and decided to embark on a journey that revolved around my beloved New York City.  When I started this expedition, I had no clue who would take the ride with me.  I hurled posts into the noir void of cyberspace, hoping that someone would read them and enjoy what I had to say.  I sacrificed time, relationships and the opportunity to make money for a dream.  I guess you can say that like the Man of La Mancha, I was dreaming an impossible dream.  But thanks to my FAMERS, my dreams are steadily becoming reality.

F.A.M.E NYC is essentially a grass roots publication.  We work on a budget that would not be considered a shoestring.  We do not have money to pour into advertising the site nor do we have funds to do giveaways or throw lavish parties.  But somehow people have found us and decided to stay loyal. F.A.M.E NYC has grown exponentially within the last year.   Each day we acquire new FAMERS, receiving new hits.  Thanks to you, F.A.M.E NYC’s numbers have doubled from what they were last year.

For an individual who makes her living with words, there are no words to express my heartfelt appreciation for all the support F.A.M.E NYC has received.  When I try to reach out for words in my mind, they escape me.  I am overwhelmed with emotion.  I cannot help welling up with tears.  I have no children, and besides my six-year-old pit bull, F.A.M.E NYC is my baby.  The reciprocity I feel from you FAMERS is phenomenal.  To know that somewhere there are individuals following F.A.M.E NYC, watching my baby grow, in different places all over the globe is astounding.  And to see the ocular proof of our growth is even more amazing.

Two years later and F.A.M.E NYC is still here – still growing.  I hope you will continue to grow with us.  Last year, I suggested we shoot for the stratosphere; next year lets blast past it.  Once again,  I promise to keep my pledge to provide you with excellent content and bring you the best that New York City has to offer.  I hope you will promise to continue to take this excursion with me and bring a few more of your friends along for the journey.  Next year is shaping up to be another great year for F.A.M.E NYC.  Also, we have a few surprises coming your way, so stay tuned.

This evening I will be celebrating F.A.M.E NYC’s second anniversary by ensuring I keep my pledge to bring you the best that NYC has to offer.  This evening I will be attending a preview of Seminar, the new play starring Alan Rickman.  I wish you all could be with me, but one thing is for sure, I will tell you all about it.

F.A.M.E NYC Editor

NYC Gets Ready To Dance

May in New York City brings lots of tequila on Cinco de Mayo, tons of sailors during Fleet Week and plenty of parties to mark the unofficial start of summer over Memorial Day weekend.  For the past five years, May in Gotham also sends New Yorkers dancing in the street with Dance Parade New York.  If you missed the festivities that occurred on Saturday, May 21, there is still an opportunity to get your dance on in June.   The seventh season of National Dance Week – NYC begins June 15 with a kick-off event featuring choreographer Michelle Robinson leading a routine of more than 20 dancers at Union Square.  National Dance Week – NYC is an annual 10-day festival that enlists the support of well known dance studios and fitness centers throughout New York City in an effort to commemorate the beauty and variety of dance and offers free dance, fitness and wellness classes. 

Participating studios include The Ailey Extension; American Tap Dance Foundation, Astoria Fine Arts Dance, Ballet Basics, Bridge for Dance: Brooklyn Ballet, Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn, Dance Manhattan, Dance New Amsterdam, Dhoonya Dance, Dokoudovsky New York Conservatory of Dance, Fit, Fab and Sexy, Fit, Fab, Teens, Flamenco con Magdalena, Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Fred Astaire (West Side), The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory, Joffrey Ballet School, Kat Wildish at The Ailey Extension, LA Dance, Mark Morris Dance Center, Marie-Christine Giordano Dance, Nika Ballet Studio, Peridance Capezio Center, Pushing Progress, The Queens Dance Project, Sandra Cameron Dance Center, STREB Extreme Action, Tropical Image NY and Yoga Works (Downtown).  To view the lists and schedules of studios, offerings and instructions, click on NDW-NYC’s website at

The festival ends on June 26 with a special performance from Jacob Clemente who plays the lead role of Billy Elliot on Broadway. I suggest all New Yorkers put their dancing shoes on and get to stepping.  National Dance Week – NYC is a great way to experience the eclecticism of NYC’s dance scene.

Just in case you missed last month’s dance parade, check out the slideshow.

Slideshow:  Ronnie Ginnever, Brian Lin, Leonard Rosemarin and Jessica E. Stack

Rock On

New York City and L.A. have an endless rivalry. It can be seen in music, fashion and overall lifestyle.  Growing up in the ‘80s, there was not much I envied about L.A.  After all New York City had it all, with the exception of Aqua Net teased, spandex clad, lipstick wearing studs turning themselves into Rock Gods.  In the ‘80s if you had dreams of Rock stardom, you went to L.A. and in 2010 the old Sunset Strip has returned in like a totally major way in Rock of Ages on Broadway.

Rock of Ages is a hilarious musical comedy that explores following your dreams and the music of the great hair bands.    Walking into the Brooks Atkinson Theater I felt as if I was entering a Mötley Crüe video.  The strip was alive at the Bourbon Room, the setting for the musical, and was completed with a video monitor, huge signs and a band on stage.  The Bourbon Room has all the makings of a sordid‘80’s bar where Rock ruled and debauchery was not far behind. 

Emily Padgett is a wonderful as the young, naive Sherrie, the young small town girl who just arrives in L.A. in pursuit of an acting career.  Her bright, bubbly smile and fantastic singing voice is a great addition to the cast, and her legs in those mini skirts are not so shabby either. 

American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis was born to play the role of Drew, the sensitive rocker with a soul.  His voice simply shines in this musical and it is no wonder why he received a Tony Award nomination.  Maroulis shows why he will be an idol for a long time to come.

James Carpinello is comical as rock-star Stacee Jaxx.  His portrayal of the out-of-control, self-absorbed frontman for the fictitious band Arsenal is extremely convincing.

Mitchell Jarvis

Mitchell Jarvis is the true break out star of this musical as Lonny, the narrator and Dennis’ (the owner of the Bourbon Room) sidekick, played by Adam Dannheisser.  Jarvis is a cola shooting through the nose crack-up as he takes the audience through the plot with humorous banter.  The unrequited relationship between Adam and Lonny is also funny. 

Paul Schoeffler is entertaining as the German corporate raider Hertz looking to rid the Sunset Strip of all its perversion and turn it into a clean, respectable place. 

Tom Lenk and Lauren Molina are a scream as Franz and Regina.  Their discovery of love through protests to keep the strip alive helps to add another layer to the plot.  Michele Mais is simply marvelous as Justice, a role she has played since the start of Rock of Ages, the strip club owner with a heart.

The major component of Rock of Ages is of course the music and is the heart and soul of this production.  It revisits the best of ‘80s hair bands with music from Poison, Journey, Styx, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sista and Asia.  I particularly like the way in which the songs were used to illustrate the cast’s emotions.  When Stacee Jaxx arrives at the Bourbon Room for an interview with a reporter, he sings Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” to describe what it is like to be a rock star.  When Sherrie arrives, we are reminded of her innocence with “Sister Christian”.   As the cast deals with conflict they belt out “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.  The careful selection of the music in Rock of Ages is the reason why it is a winner and a musical that I predict will have a long life with multiple incarnations.  

After almost a year on Broadway, it is apparent that this production is solidly built on Rock n’ Roll.  But for me it is built on nostalgia.  I thoroughly enjoyed singing along with the cast to songs that I used to listen to while doing my homework.  I equally enjoyed watching the audience enjoy the performance.  The audience was a tapestry of young and old faces and families.  The idea that there was a “Sherri and Drew” in the audience that met and fell in love to these tunes and are now sharing them with their kids was a thought that was endearing to say the least.  It was great to see how many young adults were in the audience enjoying the show, raising their lighters and rocking in their seats. 

Another element of the show that sparked a hint of nostalgia was the parallel between the Sunset Strip and a beloved area of mine.  The quest to clean up the Strip and make it “family friendly” is similar to the transformation of Times Square.  When I was a kid Times Square was seedy with strip clubs galore and was not a place to be at night unless you were looking for sex or trouble.  It was dark, dangerous and forbidden, and I loved it.  Now that Times Square is a string of boulevards dedicated to corporate branding, it makes me miss the Times Square I remember as a child even more.  In some respects, the soul has been taken out and replaced with a strip mall.  One thing I took away from Rock of Ages is that grit is good.  Long live Rock n’ Roll!


Stimulating Simulation

Sergey Dikovsky ANSWER (2008) Oil on canvas

December in New York City guarantees three things – hordes of people at Rockefeller Center, a steady drop in the temperature and the occasional cold.  While fears of the H1N1 virus have the whole country in the grips of fear contemplating whether to get a flu shot, I am waging my own battle with the common cold.  Since the topsy-turvy weather and my cold have kept me indoors this week, I unfortunately was unable to go to any galleries, parties or shows.  Then I remembered, thanks to Jessica Porter I have a gallery right at my fingertips.

Jessica Porter

In 2006, Jessica launched Raandesk Gallery with an accompanying live exhibition in Chelsea.   Raandesk Gallery is an alternative to viewing art in a traditional venue allowing anyone with access to the internet the chance to broaden their visual horizons and expose potential art buyers to an experience that is less stodgy than the traditional gallery visit.

Jessica has always dreamed of owning a gallery.  The dream was present when she attended the University of Delaware where she studied Art History and French Language & Literature with the intent of becoming an international corporate curator.  A dwindling market prompted Jessica to become a consultant for an international fine arts shipper.  She also attended at the University of Maryland and received her Juris Doctorate in 2001.   Throughout her various career paths, Jessica never abandoned her original dream and in 2005 she began to turn her dreams into a virtual reality.

Raandesk Gallery currently represents over 30 artists and their work is only a click of a mouse away.  Along with the virtual gallery, Raandesk conducts several live exhibitions in venues throughout the city including Vino Vino and Gallery Bar.  In fact, my first introduction to Raandesk Gallery and Jessica Porter was at Gallery Bar.   From our first meeting I could tell that Jessica is passionate about what she does as well as the artists her gallery represents, which is always a good thing for an artist. 

Laura Salierno MARCH 3:42 PM (2005) C print, shot on 645, 220 Fuji film, printed on Fuji crystal archive paper with a luster finish

ART2Gift, Raandesk Gallery’s latest exhibition, can be found at 16 W. 23rd Street and online.  ART2Gift is a multi-medium marketplace that allows consumers to buy cotemporary art at extremely affordable prices ranging from $35 to $500.  The exhibition will be on display until January 2010.  So if you’re stumped for ideas for Christmas this year, a piece of art might be the way to go.  Whether you are viewing the work in person or online Raandesk Gallery always delivers the opportunity to dive headfirst into the world of contemporary art, stuffy nose and all.

To learn more about Raandesk Gallery, their artists and art rental program please visit

Photos courtesy of Raandesk Gallery