The Paramount Theatre. It goes without saying - one of Peekskill's greatest treasures, and a great resource, is the beautiful, landmark 1500-seat Paramount Theatre. If you haven't visited the Paramount, you're probably not from Peekskill. The Paramount puts Peekskill on the map with internationally-acclaimed musicians and other performers. It is also an economic powerhouse for downtown Peekskill, filling up our restaurants on show nights and benefitting the community in myriad ways.
Ever since moving to Peekskill I've wanted to play the Paramount. (I did play the Paramount, back in the 80s, with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, but that was too long ago to count.) While focusing on presenting out-of-town touring stars, the Paramount also supports local arts and artists. I made the proper introductions and waited, hoping that my chance would come. Meanwhile, every time I stepped out on my terrace, I'd glance over at the back wall of the Paramount, and dream.
Well, guess what? As of yesterday, I've played the Paramount!! Lisa Reiss, the Paramount's Director, booked me for a magic show! OK, so it was 11am on a Tuesday, not a Saturday night, and the theater was filled with bused-in camp kids, not ticket-buying adults, but it was an unqualified thrill for which I am tremendously honored and grateful.
So at 9am yesterday, I loaded my equipment down my stairs and into my car and drove one block to the Paramount's loading dock. My assistants, Brian Taylor and Jessica Bonvissuto, were already there and got to work setting up my tables and props. We were greeted by Jason Boniello of the Paramount who took my wireless headset mic system and had it hooked into the theater's house sound and working beautifully literally within five minutes. I gave Jason my tech sheet. We ran a sound check and a few lighting cues, and was confident that with Jason I was in excellent hands. (This is not always the case!)
Meanwhile, we had a lot of setup to do. The Paramount stage is HUGE, and it was just me, all by myself, expected to entertain hundreds of kids for an entire hour. Plus, this was my big chance - an audition of sorts - and I wanted to make my best impression. I pulled out all the stops, short of levitating an audience kid onstage. (I stopped doing that one - insurance issues...) Onstage I had four tables, a chair and a music stand - all laden with mysterious magical items. Offstage, Jessica had more magic stuff ready - my head-spinner illusion and the mega-giant magic wand.
I wanted to look especially magical, so I wore a glittery long gown (originally a cast-off bridesmaid's dress from the Salvation Army later decorated spectacularly by a friend) and a flowing hairpiece purchased on Monday at Urban Beauty Supply on Main Street. With the extreme heat this week, it was a great relief - instead of styling my hair only to have it wilt anyway - to just make a ponytail and clip on the hairpiece.
Suddenly it was time! Jessica introduced me from a backstage mic, and I stepped onstage into the lights and the applause. In a big theater, there's such a sense of open space. With the house dark, and the lights in your eyes, it's not something you can see. You just sense it. It's quite amazing. Then, when I started to talk, the immensity of the hall and its beautiful accoustics were obvious. And, later, when the kids started yelling during the snake basket and the giant wand trick, it was absolutely deafening. (Note to self - earplugs...)
Whenever I do a show, it's like I'm in an alternate universe. I have absolutely no sense of time, and it just flies by. This show seemed to go very well (subjectively). The kids were with me, and all my tricks and illusions worked as intended. There's an old magic world saying, "You're only as good as your tech support." With Jason, and Jay LaPierre - also of the Paramount - assisting, it was all smooth as silk. All of a sudden, it was over!!! It was tons of fun. I hope they have me back!!!
Jess, Brian & I packed everything up again, loaded it in my car, and I drove the one block home.
And here's my Paramount plug. Like all arts organizations, they face major challenges in these tough times. Check out their schedule and GO TO A SHOW!! Just within the next few weeks, Kenny Loggins, the Capitol Steps, Blues Traveler and The Spinners will all be appearing. Better yet, become a Member of the Paramount Theatre.
Hope to see you there at my next show!