Tag Archives: Broadway

Richmond Hill man joins Broadway production of ‘Spring Awakening’

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kevin Parry

Richmond Hill native Robert Ariza has been busy studying the lines of four characters in the musical “Spring Awakening” while simultaneously learning American Sign Language (ASL).

Ariza, 25, is a swing actor, also known as an understudy for several roles, for the Deaf West Theatre’s production of the rock musical, which features actors performing in English and ASL. The musical, adapted from a German play of the same name, follows the lives of 12 young people as they navigate the intricacies of teenage sexuality.

Ariza, who attended famed performing arts school LaGuardia Arts High School, grew up wanting to be a pop singer. He didn’t know what musical theater was until his parents told him about the teen drama camp at Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill. The then-14-year-old acted in a production of “Footloose” and though he enjoyed the experience, he wasn’t hooked.

“I had a great time that summer doing ‘Footloose’ but I never really thought that it could be a viable career,” Ariza said.

That all changed after he saw his fellow classmates at LaGuardia High School perform “West Side Story.”

“I remember that was the moment that I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Ariza said.

Robert Ariza headshot - smaller

He quickly racked up experience by scoring parts in “Ragtime,” “Hair” and “City of Angels” at school, and he also performed outside of school in productions of “West Side Story” and “Bye Bye Birdy.” Ariza then attended the University of Michigan, where he played Hanschen in a production of “Spring Awakening,” and graduated with a degree in musical theater.

Before auditioning for the Broadway production of “Spring Awakening,” Ariza was coincidentally performing in a production of the play at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca as the lead, Melchior. The director for the musical urged him to try out for a swing part in the Broadway production. Memorizing the lines was a breeze for Ariza but incorporating American Sign Language was “quite a challenge.”

For a callback, Ariza had to attend a 2-hour ASL session where he was taught how to sign while acting and signing. He had to show off his new skills to director Michael Arden and Steven Sater, who did the original book and lyrics for the musical.

Currently in the third week of rehearsal, Ariza said the rehearsal process has been a “whirlwind” as he prepares for the roles of Melchoir, Hanschen, Georg and Otto. Though the process has been challenging, Ariza said the actors, who performed the musical in a run in Los Angeles, have been welcoming and fun to work with.

“I have to say [my favorite part of this is] learning sign language and getting to know these deaf actors,” Ariza said. “I have so much respect for what they do, for not being able to hear and still being able to pursue their dreams and be in a Broadway musical, I mean that’s huge.”

Previews begin on Sept. 8 and the musical premieres on Sept. 27 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre through Jan. 9.


Glendale students learn the secrets of Broadway

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Students from P.S./I.S. 119 got a chance to look behind the scenes and learn how a hit Broadway show is put together.

The students who took part in the Glendale public school’s partnership with Inside Broadway, a program designed to bring the performing arts to more than 20,000 children in more than 75 schools across the city, were invited to the Gershwin Theater in Manhattan to go behind the scenes of the Broadway show “Wicked” earlier this month.

More than 3,000 students from all five boroughs attended the free Creating the Magic seminar hosted by Inside Broadway, where they learned the dynamics of putting on a professional show, as well as learning about career opportunities in the performing arts from the actors, musicians, sound technicians and other members of the cast and crew of “Wicked.”

The professionals showed the kids how the props worked, how the sound effects came from hidden speakers throughout the theater and how the 23-musician orchestra is located beneath the stage. Some of the cast members even performed musical numbers from the show.

“I thought it was really cool,” said Quinn Corcino, an eighth-grader at P.S./I.S. 119. “The stage design was really cool, the vines were interesting and the dragon was great.”

Sixth-grader Adam Sikorski enjoyed the demonstration of how the props worked, especially the head of the Wizard of Oz.

“The Oz head was my favorite,” he said. “I really liked when they showed the back of it and you saw all the different instruments and switches.”

Ashley Wool, a teaching artist with Inside Broadway who was at the seminar helping usher students around the Gershwin Theater, said that the kids really enjoyed this learning experience.

“This was the third one of these that I’ve been to,” she said. “This was a really special one. The kids were very responsive.”

“I always like watching these because they show the other aspects that bring the show together,” Wool continued. “[The students] see it is not as easy as going to a theater and doing the show. That’s the kind of thing that will bring kids into the performing arts world. It shows respect for all of the people working on it.”

The students from P.S./I.S. 119 took away more than just a fun experience from the Creating the Magic seminar.

“I learned that it’s not just about the cast, but it’s about the crew too,” said Julia Sikorski, a P.S./I.S. 119 eighth-grader.

Darren Valdera, also an eighth-grader, learned “how important the crew is.”

“It is also important to have loud volume when you’re on stage for the crew to hear their cues,” he added.

The students will take all that they learned during the Creating the Magic seminar and put it to use as they get ready to perform “Once on this Island Jr.”


Suspect wanted for groping woman on 7 train: NYPD

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police are looking for a 25-year-old man who allegedly groped a woman on the 7 train Saturday afternoon.

At about 3:30 p.m. the victim, a 23-year-old woman, was riding the train southbound near the 74th Street and Broadway station when the suspect grabbed her buttocks, according to authorities. The woman then turned around and took a photo of the suspect who then fled the train.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man, 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


‘Law & Order: SVU,’ ‘Chicago P.D.’ crossover episode films in Astoria

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Police cars lined up on 29th Street in Astoria Monday morning as members of the elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit tried to solve another crime with the help of some friends from Chicago — all for an upcoming episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Crews were set up in a courtyard amid four buildings on 29th Street between Broadway and 31st Avenue filming a scene for the 19th episode of season 16 of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

The episode is part of NBC’s second three-way crossover of “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Law & Order: SVU.” The three dramas first came together in a November episode.

The Astoria morning scene featured leading lady of “Law & Order” Mariska Hargitay as Sergeant Olivia Benson, and Erin Lindsay (Sophia Bush) and Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) of “Chicago P.D.”

Also on set was “Law & Order: SVU” newcomer Peter Scanavino, who portrays Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi and just joined the cast this season.

A release date for the crossover episode is yet to be announced. Episode 17 is scheduled for March 25. Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Actress Mariska Hargitay on the set of "Law & Order: SVU" in Astoria.

Actress Mariska Hargitay on the set of “Law & Order: SVU” in Astoria.


Whitestone resident petitions again for Metro-North stops in western Queens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin

The wheels are turning once again for one Queens resident who hopes to bring more transportation options to the borough.

Ali Fadil, a Whitestone resident who previously lived in Astoria and Jackson Heights, has started an online petition calling on the MTA to bring Metro-North Railroad access into western Queens as part of its plan to expand the line to Penn Station.

In the MTA’s 2015-2019 $32 billion Capital Program, the agency plans a project that would take the Metro-North’s New Haven line directly to Penn Station, adding four new stations in the Bronx. As part of expansion, the line would use existing track, owned by Amtrak, to go directly into Manhattan.

In doing this, the line would go into Queens but without making any stops in the borough.

“Metro-North wants to run trains through Queens but has no interest in serving Queens, especially since western Queens has seen a lot of growth in the past years,” Fadil said.

This is Fadil’s second petition regarding the expanding of Metro-North stops into the borough. In 2012, when he was only 18, Fadil began his initial petition which gathered 263 signatures. He said the support he got the first time around helped him make his plan more specific on what needs to be done.

“I am here to make sure that our communities get what we deserve and Queens shouldn’t be left out in the cold,” said Fadil, who is a senior studying political science and sociology at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. “When it comes to public transportation, it’s Queens that’s the forgotten borough, not Staten Island.”

The 20-year-old’s petition, which started on Monday and as of Tuesday has 44 signatures, calls on the transportation agency to bring the New Haven line to western Queens and also study two locations along the Amtrak line to be considered for stations. The locations are Astoria Boulevard between 41st and 44th streets, and Northern Boulevard at Broadway, which is close to the M and R trains and two local buses.

The petition also calls on Amtrak to make “necessary structural repairs” to the tracks which go over the Hell Gate Bridge in Astoria and would be used during the expansion of the Metro-North New Haven line.

According to Fadil, the existing Amtrak line is “falling apart” and in need of repair.

In the capital program, the MTA said the Metro-North expansion would include upgrades to power and signal systems, installing of new track and realigning existing tracks, and replacing railroad bridges to accommodate more trains.

According to an MTA spokesperson, there are no plans to construct a Metro-North station in Queens because it is too costly to build an elevated station for a low ridership.

“If I see something that isn’t being done right, I want to see it done right for people,” Fadil said. “That’s why I do what I do.”

Fadil said he now hopes to get support from local elected officials and leaders to help make his ideas a reality.

To check out the petition, click here.


Man found stabbed in Elmhurst building

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Updated Tuesday Aug. 26, 11:14 a.m.

A 50-year-old man was found stabbed to death in the front lobby of his Elmhurst building on Friday afternoon, according to police.

The victim, Mukesh Patel, who had multiple stab wounds to the chest, was discovered inside a building located at Broadway near St. James Avenue at about 3:10 p.m., cops said.

He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

No arrests have been made.



The Doe Fund to help clean more Astoria streets

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

More Astoria streets are getting cleaner thanks to the “men in blue.”

After hearing positive feedback from residents and business owners, The Doe Fund, which was initially brought to the western Queens neighborhood in April, will now expand street sweeping services to Steinway Street, Newtown Road, Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue, Councilman Costa Constantinides announced Thursday.

“This will be a boon to residents and small business owners across Astoria. The ‘men in blue’ will continue to provide reinforcements and additional resources to help keep Astoria clean,” said Constantinides, who has allocated over $130,000 for street sweeping by The Doe Fund as part of the new city-wide initiative Clean NYC.

The nonprofit organization, which employs recently homeless or formerly incarcerated people as part of its Ready, Willing, and Able transitional work program, was keeping the sidewalks clean and clearing the corner trash cans along 30th Avenue, Broadway and 31st Street.

“This program will increase the quality of life in Astoria, that’s the most important. Clean the street, find new jobs and community come together to be concerned about the quality of life,” said Ahmed Jamil, president of the Muslim American Society. “At the end of the day [before] you [saw] the garbage on the streets and you now don’t see it anymore.”

Although the Department of Sanitation collects trash from corner trash cans once per day in Astoria, the expansion of The Doe Fund helps alleviate the trash and littered streets which have previously caused problems in the neighborhood, such as sidewalk accessibility and shopping issues, according to Constantinides.

“The Doe Fund, combined with community street and graffiti clean-ups, will continue to make a difference in our district and across the city,” said Constantinides, who has also allocated $30,000 in funding for graffiti removal services. “Clean streets and buildings make our neighborhood more enjoyable and inviting—a win for everyone.”



Woman fatally struck by MTA bus in Jackson Heights

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 4, 4:40 p.m.

A woman was struck and killed by an MTA bus in Jackson Heights Monday evening.

The victim, identified as 25-year-old Martha Tibillin-Guamug, of the Bronx, was struck by the city bus at about 5:55 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and 74th Street, said police. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the scene and her identity has not yet been released.

The NYPD is investigating the accident.



Teen pedestrian killed by hit-and-run driver

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Luis Bravo was walking on Broadway at 58th Street when a car driving by struck and killed him.

Saturday, September 28 around 11 p.m., police responded to a 9-1-1 call of a car accident involving Bravo, 19, police said, within the confines of the 108th Precinct.

Upon arrival, police found Bravo unconscious and unresponsive, with severe trauma about the body. He was transported to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The driver, traveling southbound on Broadway in a dark colored sedan, fled the scene.

There are no arrests, and the investigation is ongoing.



Kinky Boots: Made for Broadway

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

(c)Matthew Murphy


Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s new musical, Kinky Boots, is what Broadway is all about…it is a live wire musical full of fun with a cast that truly seems to be enjoying itself.

The musical, loosely based on a true story of how Charlie (Stark Sands) reluctantly becomes head of a shoe factory when his father suddenly dies, starts off a bit slowly but the pace quickly picks up.  What he finds out is that it appears as though the prospects of the factory continuing in business may soon rival his father’s fate.

What to do?  Close the factory?  Put the residents of his small town out of work?  Become the town’s most hated man?

Of course not.

Singer/dancer Lola (Billy Porter) bursts onto the scene in a raucous and flamboyant presentation that literally steals the scene and the show.  Leading a crew of “Drag Queens,” he explains that transvestites merely dress as the opposite sex while Drag Queens are flamboyant in the role.

And boy does he inhabit the role of Lola bringing down the house.

The book is about as thin as you would expect from a musical…think Cats or Mama Mia, both of which had extended Broadway runs.  The score, the dancing and the ability to draw the audiences in to the performances are what sustained these two shows for so many years.

Kinky Boots should be around for a long time to come.

Perhaps the success of the show can be attributed to the fact that four-time Tony Award winner Fierstein, Grammy winner Lauper and director/choreographer, Tony winner Jerry Mitchell combined to create the show.

Charlie runs into Lola at a show and finds that her (his) boots are falling apart because they are made for women and Lola and castmates are all men.  The boots simply aren’t sturdy enough.  This creates an unlikely collaboration of the button-down collar persona of Charlie and the over-the-top character of Lola.

While Charlie is focused on creating firm and solid footwear for the drag cast, Lola insists on more outrageous designs.  That creates conflict between the two.  The big push is to have wearable designs in place for the big Milan fashion show.

There is a subliminal message broadcast throughout the show; people can be different as long as they are what they are and that they should be accepted by others on that premise.

Charlie and Lola clash, get together, clash again.  There is little suspense as the big show approaches.  You know that unless Charlie can score big, his factory is a goner.  Unless Lola and the drag crew show up, Charlie’s line of boots is a goner.

When Charlie attempts to walk the runway at the show in the garish hip boots designed by Lola, the results are what you’d expect; he falls, flops and can’t walk in the stiletto heels.

On cue Lola and the drag gang appear on stage, save the show and along the way save the factory, the jobs and convert the thinking of people, including that of Don (Daniel Stewart Sherman), the homophobic, red-neck factory worker.

Don and Lola clash and finally agree that they will do a chore selected by the other.  Don challenges Lola to a boxing match, thinking he can easily beat the slight Drag Queen.  He is also champ of the local tavern.

What he doesn’t know is that Lola, in his original persona of Simon, was a boxer before giving in to his true feelings.  In the ring it appears as though he is going to win the match until he takes a KO punch from Don.

The bully, at the tavern, tells Simon (Lola) that he knows he should have lost and the two strike up a friendship when Lola says he didn’t want to shame him.  Don then looks at Lola’s chore, simply “accept people for who they are.”  And that is the message of the play.

While there is really no one song that will become a classic or standout single, the entire score comes together beautifully and often has the audience clapping in unison.  There wasn’t a vacant seat in the house and that has been the story since it opened in previews.

The show will play Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Al Hirschfield Theater
302 West 45th Street
Tickets at the box office ($57-$137), online at www.Telecharge.com or call Telecharge at 800-432-7250


Residents fight against redistricting division

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

In their last attempt before the maps went to the City Council for votes, residents told the New York City Redistricting Commission changes had to be made to keep neighborhoods such as South Ozone Park and Woodhaven in one piece.

“This isn’t about which district we end up with, this isn’t about which representative we get,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) President Ed Wendell. “We just know that when we’re divided, it weakens our position.”

The Monday, January 14 hearing was the third before a final draft is sent to the City Council for a vote. Representatives have three weeks to vote either in favor or against the map; the new Council lines will be adopted if the legislature can’t come to a vote by deadline. The commission will re-explore lines after this latest round of hearings and make any changes it feels necessary.

Concerns about neighborhoods in Flushing and Bayside were addressed at the meeting — particularly Mitchell Linden, Broadway and Murray Hill — where many say the towns were split or dislocated from traditional districts. Councilmember , reading from a prepared testimony, called for the commission to keep these neighborhoods united, as they had been in the past.

Wendell, one of several WRBA members to speak, harkened back to the first draft of Council lines in which Woodhaven was almost completely in one councilmember’s district. The second draft, however, essentially flipped Woodhaven’s representatives and divided the area again.

Colin Bucca, another Woodhaven resident, told the commissioners continuing to keep Woodhaven in two would ruin the integrity and the character of the neighborhood.

“It’s not just equations on a spread sheet, it’s not just lines on a map, it’s people,” he said. “A neighborhood is defined by the people that live there. I live in Woodhaven; that’s my neighborhood.”

Many others spoke about neighboring South Ozone Park being placed in District 28, but wanted the western line of the district pushed to Woodhaven Boulevard — incorporating such landmarks as John Adams High School.
The desire for a unified Indo-Caribbean community has been the driving force behind this push, something that many in attendance spoke to.

“We are disappointed that South Ozone Park, part of the same community of interest, remains falsely divided along Lefferts Boulevard,” said Videsh Persaud, a program coordinator for the Indo-Caribbean Alliance. “While we appreciate the changes that were made in Richmond Hill, the process is incomplete without adjustments to South Ozone Park as well. These are part of the same community, and they must be kept in the same district.”

Kris Gounden, a community activist for the area, said residents want elected officials who understand their cultures and needs. Gounden said the city had suppressed the Indo-Caribbean community in south Queens and had stunted its ability to grow and prosper.