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July 30, 2014
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Come back, little diva

Janet Jackson’s signature choreography was “off the hook” throughout her 90 minute non-stop performance at Bethel Woods on August 5.


Oh my gosh, what a week! As I made plans to visit friends and family in the Finger Lakes, I checked my schedule and realized that I had better make hay while the sun shines, since if there is one thing that the summer knows, it’s that time is fleeting and before we know it, we’ll see the wintry snows.

I wanted to be both here and afield, so worked it out to do it all—as is my wont. I miss the sprawling vineyards further upstate and childhood memories flooded my psyche as I traversed the land that once was home. I made the most of it, touring Watkins Glen, Trumansburg and Ithaca, NY. I snapped pics of the falls and watched the sun set over my childhood before snaking my way home to a comeback of a different sort.

“You can rest when you’re dead,” I snorted to the dog, as I headed east and took my seat at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) to bask in the glow that is Janet Jackson. Is she a diva? You bet she is and (IMHO) deservedly so. Jackson’s “Number Ones” is billed as her “largest tour ever” and once again, I am reminded of how fortunate we are to have such a great venue, here in the heart of the Catskills.

With 35 cities listed on her schedule, including Paris, London, Monte Carlo, Manila and Perth, Australia, what are the odds that Bethel, NY would make the grade? Ingratiating, ingenuous and downright sweet, Jackson hit the stage with backup singers, sensational dancers and a slew of musicians that made us all forget that the show started late—and reminding the audience that “Diva” is a term of endearment when a superstar is in the house.

Armed with decades of hits to support the show, everyone in the house was wowed by the legendary choreography and zeal that “Michael’s little sister” has made her trademark, as she performed a 90-minute set without interruption, holding the audience in the palm of her hand. Stunning and vivacious, Miss Janet Jackson made it clear that she lives to entertain—and comes by her status rightfully, as she connected with the audience throughout, sincerely grateful that we still show up to support her passion.

Comeback? I’m not sure that she ever left, but hope she stays around for a long, long time. Jackson expressed her joy in performing for the Bethel crowd, and all we can do is hope that she returns, since this shining star shows no sign of dimming.

Speaking of stars, August 13 heralds the return of an annual wonder—the Perseid Meteor Shower (earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/earthskys-meteor-shower-guide) and I’m planning to begin my celebration by toasting the debut of “Peace” vodka at the Catskill Distilling Company that same night. Monte Sachs has created the taste sensation, using locally harvested grains, and it’s time for the fruits of his labors to debut.

Honoring the “Spirits of Woodstock,” Sachs is looking forward to “Love” and “Happiness” bottles joining “Peace” on the shelves in the near future.

I might not know where I’m going, but “I know where I’ve been” reverberates in my head as I peruse the play-list of snappy songs from Mark Shaiman’s glowing score of “Hairspray” (the musical) currently running at the Rivoli Theatre in South Fallsburg, NY, presented by The Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop (www.scdw.net).

Acting guru Konstantin Stanislavisky’s declaration that “There are no small parts, only small actors” sprang to mind as I read the program, noting that several of the standouts (for me) were not lead players. Heather Stevens, Sal Polichetti, Carol Scannell MacAdam and Jennifer Colletti hit all the right notes, alongside powerhouse Rebecca DaCosta and local (bring down the house) diva Joseph Jervais as matriarch Edna Turnblad.

Allen and Scott Eckers, along with Ellen Pavloff, all work hard at making it work and from what I understand, the show has received some glowing notices. Clearly, dedication and effort has gone into this production—and if I’ve left some names out, it is strictly intentional. I’ve been called out before for airing my views, so am leaving it to you, the audience, to form your own opinions. My final remark on the subject? Sometimes being a “small actor” just isn’t enough. If you want my uncensored review, feel free to ask. Will I be asked to come back? Only time will tell.