Sunday, December 29, 2002
From comedy to concerts to live shows, celebrities kept us entertained in a multitude of ways.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
It was the worst of times for businesses and stock markets during 2002, but it was the best of times for people who wanted to be entertained close to home.
The Mahoning and Shenango valleys have always been stops for a variety of performers who criss-cross the United States. What was different in 2002 was how many of those performers represented the upper echelon of talent in their fields. They included still-sizzling comedian Jerry Seinfeld, omnipresent rapper Ja Rule and rising country music star Kenny Chesney.
The top 10 area appearances by celebrities in 2002:
UJa Rule, July 18 at Cafaro Field in Niles.
UJerry Seinfeld, Oct. 4 at Scottish Rite Cathedral, New Castle, Pa.
UKenny Chesney, Sept. 2 at Canfield Fair.
UActress-singer Lainie Kazan, the mother of the bride in the runaway hit film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," Nov. 10 at Stambaugh Auditorium, Youngstown.
UClarence Clemons, saxophonist and member of Bruce Springsteen & amp; the E Street Band, Sept. 1 at B & amp;B Backstage, Boardman.
USculptor Don Gummer and his wife, actress Meryl Streep, March 16 at Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, where Gummer's works were on display. (That's Gummer's sculpture in front of the Butler's Trumbull branch in Howland.)
UClarinetist Richard Stoltzman, April 18-20 at YSU and in concerts with Youngstown Symphony Orchestra at Edward W. Powers Auditorium.
UActress Kate Mulgrew of "Star Trek" fame, an artist-in-residence April 25-26 at YSU.
UPop singer and TV game-show host Donny Osmond, April 24 at Edward W. Powers Auditorium.
UActor Aidan Quinn, Sept. 29 with students at Youngstown State University and with movie buffs at Austintown Movies 3.
Other notable visitors: musician Branford Marsalis, Nov. 23 at Powers Auditorium; pianist Michael Feinstein and Pittsburgh Pops, April 17 at Scottish Rite Cathedral in New Castle; and country music newcomers Phil Vassar and Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Oct. 30 at Stambaugh Auditorium, Youngstown.
The top 10 local events of 2002:
ULeonardi Legacy Concert, Jan. 28 at YSU. "Awesome" best describes the diverse group of Dana School of Music alumni who assembled to pay homage to the late Tony Leonardi, founder of YSU's jazz studies program. The players blew away an estimated audience of 1,000 not only with what they've accomplished since leaving YSU, but with their emotion-filled performances that evening.
UFilming of the season-opening episode of the NBC drama series "The West Wing" in August in and around Volant, Pa. Hundreds of people were hired as extras as the western Pennsylvania community stood in as an Indiana farming community. In the story, the town was a campaign stop for President Josiah Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen.
ULive radio broadcast of "Tom Joyner Morning Show" Aug. 30 from Edward W. Powers Auditorium, featuring roof-raising performances by legendary soul singer James Brown and some highly entertaining dance contests. Estimated national listening audience, 8 million.
ULive broadcast of "Whad'Ya Know," Michael Feldman's funny public radio talk and quiz show that made celebrities of some locals and fools of others April 27 at Powers Auditorium. Estimated national listening audience, 1.3 million.
UVocal Group Hall of Fame & amp; Museum induction concert, Sept. 18 at Cafaro Field. The surviving members of The Mamas and the Papas, Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty, were reunited. Mary Wilson of the Supremes sang, as did The Drifters, The Temptations, The Orioles, The 5th Dimension and others. The acts performed without compensation, since this was a fund-raiser for Vocal Group Hall in Sharon, Pa. Otherwise, their collective tab for the evening would have been as much as $700,000.
UThe arrival of European masterpieces from the John & amp; Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla. that were loaned for an exhibit this summer at Butler Institute of American Art. It's not every day that works by Rubens and Rembrandt are in our backyard.
UBrainchild reunion concert, June 29 at Yankee Lake Ballroom, Brookfield. Brainchild was a local rock band that thrived at the same time as Glass Harp and Left End. The reunion show was another awesome assemblage in terms of homegrown talent -- Bill Bodine, Ronnie Lee Cunningham, John Grazier, Larry Paxton and Joe Pizzulo have since worked with nationally known rock, jazz and country musicians -- as well as a fund-raiser for YSU's Rich Center for Autism.
UBest classical concert: The 2002-2003 season-opening, all-Mozart program by Youngstown Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 26 at Powers Auditorium. Reviewer Robert Rollin called it "among the best in recent years" and cited the top-notch performances by violinist Ani Kavafian and her sister, violist Ida Kavafian. "... The symphony forces, sensitively directed by [Isaiah] Jackson, fully equaled the skill and graceful emotion of the soloists," Rollin wrote.
UBest play: "Nunsense," as performed by New Castle Playhouse. Reviewer Garry Clark summed it up as follows: "Michael Cavalier ... assembled a perfect cast for this show, as each cast member turned in a stellar performance. Set design by Jack Hanna gave a just-right impression of a school hall, complete with half-tilted walls and lockers. Choreography by Julie Garda and musical direction by Maura Fornataro were also well above par." (Honorable mentions from Vindicator reviewers to Salem Community Theatre for its costuming of "The Wizard of Oz," YSU Theater for the setting of "Doctor Faustus" and Victorian Players for making great strides in its presentation.)
UBest musical worth a short road trip: It's a tossup between Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida," which was performed in February and March in Benedum Center, Pittsburgh, then State Theatre in Cleveland and "Mamma Mia!" the all-ABBA show that reached Cleveland first, then Pittsburgh over the summer.