...as a theater! How cool is that?!
I don't know if Jupiter aligned with Mars on Saturday night (and I certainly know that peace isn't guiding the planet), but the full moon looked spectacular rising over the old carousel building in Asbury Park, NJ. The structure sat vacant and crumbling for many years until rising once again for the first time this weekend...
Here's the beautiful building in the daylight:
And if you haven't guessed from my "subtle" lede, the production is Hair.
The play is being staged by Revision Theatre, a new regional company setting up their base of operations in Asbury Park. Asbury Park was once the cat's meow of the Jersey Shore, a playground for wealthier suburbanites and New Yorkers starting at the turn-of-the-century. The town has seen some rough times in the past several decades, notably the riots of 1970. People and businesses left in droves, and all that remained were the crumbling facades of once-bustling waterfront attractions like the Paramount Theater, the Casino and the carousel that once anchored a suite of rides and attractions housed in the Palace Amusements complex, also home to Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love (Palace Amusements, sadly, did not get a stay of execution from its date with the wrecking ball). The Stone Pony, where Bruce got his start, miraculously stayed put all these years, despite numerous threats of eminent domain interventions.
Fast forward to the last couple of years. Asbury's relatively close proximity to Manhattan (a 95 minute train ride to a station that's walking distance to the beach; just over an hour drive if you don't hit traffic) made people (and developers) say, "A ha!" There's been several failed (re: half-assed) attempts to kick-start this town, but this most recent appears to be the real deal.
If you're in the vicinity, please give Asbury Park a try and please try to go see Hair! (The show runs through August 31.) Revision did a great job staging this production "in the round," and the talented cast was full of energy and enthusiasm. The acoustics in the building are a little wonky, but make no mistake - this is a professional production. I especially thought Berger (played by Scoop Sloane...and no, I'm not making that name up but I think he is) and Claude (Casey Gensler, pictured below when I could sneak a lap shot) were quite well cast, and the "tribe" (re: supporting cast) had amazingly good voices, in particular Marah Meese, whose character Chrissy gets to sing the beautiful "Frank Mills" (and sing Ms. Meese did) and cast member Deirdre Grace who belted out "White Boys." She was so good I almost hugged her after the performance. I hope to see (and hear) her again.It's the perfect play for a town in transition that's rising up before our very eyes thanks to a lot of people of different backgrounds and means coming together to make something good happen. You probably already know I'm partial to this area (I can see the carousel from my widow's walk in fact!) and if it sounds like I'm also partial to Hair, you'd be right...
Yup. That's me in Hair. Eighteen years ago (gasp). I don't know what will be more shocking to people reading this (including people who know me); that I actually dabbled in musical theater or that the clothes I'm wearing in the cast photo were my own.