We’ve all heard that expression, and I dare say it often rings true, but perhaps even more so now in these topsy-turvy (you may quote me) times. As businesses both large and small begin to …
We’ve all heard that expression, and I dare say it often rings true, but perhaps even more so now in these topsy-turvy (you may quote me) times. As businesses both large and small begin to reopen, it’s a brave new world out there. Having been cooped up for months, and with no one to speak to other than the dog, I’ve realized a couple of things: one, all she hears is “blah, blah, blah, Dharma,” and two, it would appear that I have missed live entertainment more than previously thought. Enter “Phase Four.”
Cautiously optimistic and with strict guidelines in place, New York has given the green light to shopping malls, professional sports competitions (alas, with no fans), media production, and (oh happy day) attending “low-risk outdoor Arts and Entertainment events” (www.forward.ny.gov) also known as “what that guy with the dog does for a living.” Enter the Forestburgh Playhouse.
Producer Franklin Trapp is (IMHO) not only creative but also wildly inventive; he has a great passion for producing professional entertainment and preserving the legacy of the “The Miracle of the Forest,” which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in the Catskills next year. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised to hear that he and his dedicated gang over at the playhouse have reimagined what a summer season could look like emerging from the dark shadow of COVID-19.
After a few thoughtful opening-night remarks from New York State Sen. Jen Metzger, “Forestburgh Under the Stars” premiered last Saturday to a “full house,” kicking off Trapp’s carefully orchestrated season reboot featuring a months-long slew of safely distanced and highly sanitized outdoor events, including one-night-only musical evenings featuring Broadway stars like Kyle Taylor Parker (Kinky Boots), Kate Baldwin (Hello Dolly) and Tom Hewitt (Chicago).
In addition, the “Catskills Summer Series” will feature home-grown talent like local blues legend Slam Allen, fan-favorite bands like “Far beyond Gone,” the triumphant return of “ultimate-Barbie-of-the-drag-world” (her words, not mine) Paige Turner and (gasp!) an hour of true-life unscripted storytelling starring “that guy with the dog” coming soon to a garden near you on Friday, July 31.
Enter Nicholas Rodriguez. Rodriguez made his Broadway debut in Disney’s “Tarzan” and has traveled the world starring in productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” and “HAIR.” As the show began, Rodriguez’s hauntingly beautiful voice wafted through the award-winning gardens of the playhouse, where the audience had been safely-distanced under tents and spaced apart in pairs or groups on the lawn. “Oh what a beautiful morning,” he sang upon entering the outdoor stage. “Oh, what a beautiful day.”
As promised, a magical night under the stars ensued with Rodriguez singing really wonderful arrangements of really wonderful songs. Popular tunes like “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and a truly gorgeous (dare I say stunning) rendition of “Will I Still Love You Tomorrow?” captivated the audience, collectively spellbound by Rodriguez serenading them as they held theatrical “candles” aloft.
Waving them gently in the night air as the sun slowly set and the crickets began to chirp, Trapp’s vision of what he had created out of necessity crystallized into reality, and the pure joy between a truly gifted entertainer like Rodriguez and a grateful audience having a shared experience was palpable. As the evening played out, it became clear why Rodriguez has “been blessed with the opportunity to perform with some of the world’s greatest entertainers” on some of the world’s greatest stages.
Funny, suave and sophisticated, Rodriguez’s star quality shone brightly; as the stars twinkled overhead, he continued to enthrall the audience. “It seems appropriate to leave you with the ultimate song about a mask,” he said referring to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest-running show. “This role has eluded me thus far, but a boy can dream, can’t he?”
“Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor. Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender,” Rodriguez sang slowly and gently as the audience listened intently. “Hearing is believing,” he sang, his voice soaring with subtlety and amazing range. “Music is deceiving—hard as lightning, soft as candlelight.” Frogs croaked and fireflies flitted through the grass as Nicholas closed the evening of song, the final notes dreamily washing over us all, once again held spellbound. “Dare you trust the music of the night?”
For information on the Forestburgh Under The Stars 2020 Summer Series, go to www.fbplayhouse.org or call 845/794-1194.
Fun fact: “Necessity is the mother of invention” is defined as “a need or problem [that] encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem.” This saying first appears in the dialogue Republic, by the ancient (born 428 BCE) Greek philosopher Plato.