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November 29, 2014
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Woodstock, legends and all that jazz

TRR photos by Jonathan Fox Family Stone legend Cynthia Robinson, left, introduces new generations Paul and Evan Byrne to the sounds of the ‘60s at Bethel Woods.


I’ve often heard it said that “age is just a number” but have no clue who coined the phrase. Undoubtedly, it was some octogenarian—loath to admit that time was passing more quickly than had been anticipated. This past week, my event calendar was filled with time travel and I found myself doing the math a little too often.

Making my reservations for “Chicago” at the Forestburgh Playhouse (www.fb playhouse.org), I was reminded of the first time I saw the show in 1975. Just a number? Maybe so, but it’s an old one. Thankfully, this show stands the test of time and seeing a new generation appreciate the remarkable collaboration of Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb reminded me that “everything old is new again” as I let the show wash over me with waves of nostalgia, tinged with (black and white) memories, dredged up through the sands of time.

Maggie Anderson, Danielle Kelsey, Dan Fenaughty, Jim Bray and Galyana Castillo breathed new life into this show and the audience roared with appreciation as the story of murder and mayhem unfolded on stage. Sexy, sultry and sensational, “Chicago” may not have aged, but I have. I had a hard time remembering the words to some of the numbers, but the sizzling cast made it all seem fresh as songs like “All That Jazz,” “Cell Block Tango” and “Mr. Cellophane” reverberated through the rafters. “Chicago” is timeless and an evening at the Forestburgh Playhouse is (IMHO) time well spent.

With one rheumy eye on the hourglass, I decided against hauling out the love beads, but made haste to the event gallery at Bethel Woods ( www.bethelwoodscenter.org) for an “up close and personal” hour with the some of the original members of “The Family Stone” (sans Sly) on the eve of the anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock festival, held on the same spot lo, those many years ago.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Jerry Martini, Greg Errico and Cynthia Robinson were on hand to regale us with stories of partying with the likes of Joplin and Hendrix at the (now defunct) Holiday Inn in Liberty, NY, and it was Martini who quipped that he had been with the band “since the Hoover administration” which, while amusing, was a reality check.

“Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime” are but a few of this group’s mega-hits and the preview performance at the gallery conjured up images of hippies, peace signs and hitchhiking to Yasgur’s farm back in the day. Touted as the first “integrated, multi-gendered” group, the Family Stone’s many hits still sounded fresh and relevant when they hit the pavillion stage the next night, joining fellow Hall of Fame inductees Blood, Sweat & Tears in a tribute to the Woodstock generation.

With a slew of chart-toppers in their repertoire, BS&T can still rock the house and I closed my eyes as they performed

originals and covers like “Spinning Wheel,” “You Make Me So Very Happy” and the prophetic “And When I Die,” which gave me pause. Best known for their unique blend of rock, jazz and pop, these guys put on a show that rivaled the “old days” with vitality, exuberance and showmanship and for a brief, shining moment, I was young again.

When I opened my eyes and saw Tommy James and the Shondells on stage, my reverie came crashing to a halt. Although The Shondells were a smash in the mid ‘60’s and already a hit before I started buying albums, songs like “Hanky Panky” and “Crimson and Clover,” although legendary, echoed the earlier sound of the ‘50s and ultimately gave way to the beat of a different drum.

To be honest, groups like The Shondells were somewhat shut out as a new groove began to take hold; and although there was not a gray hair in sight on stage, I had to admit that even my “inner child’ has wrinkles. The decades were no longer as blurred as I would have liked and suddenly, I felt like a dinosaur, recalling what it was like listening to a (fossil) record on the gramophone. As I reach for my walker and place the bifocals on my nose, I can’t help but think that age may be “just a number” but there are days when I have trouble counting that high.