Sep 23, 2010 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
In the late 19th century Syracuse sailed on rivers of suds.
Ever since Johann Mang established his small brewery in 1804 at Wolf and North Salina streets, bigger breweries began springing up across the city as Irish, English and German immigrants harvested hops and brewed beer to their hearts’ content.
By 1896, Syracuse breweries cranked out about 300,000 barrels of beer and employed about 400 workers, according to biologist and home brewer Peter Ensminger, a writer for the Great Lakes Brewing News. At one time, 32 different beers were brewed in Syracuse, making the city the state’s brewery capital.
Last week, downtown’s Erie Canal Museum opened an exhibit celebrating Canaltown Suds: Syracuse Breweries of the Canal Era. Visitors will gawk at Haberle trays and Congress coasters, bottles and cans from Zett’s, National and Bartel’s.
Curators Dan Ward and Jeffrey Renno even dug up an unopened green bottle of Greenway’s, from one of the city’s biggest breweries which operated from 1858 to 1952. So the beer on exhibit is at least as old as I am. Unlike that flat suds, however, I’m still carbonated and plenty fresh!
Canaltown Suds is complemented by the museum’s standing exhibit, Bartolotta’s Tavern, a reproduction of a mid-1800s towpath tavern where Erie Canal travelers would stop for food, drink and gossip.
The Erie Canal Museum is located downtown at 318 Erie Blvd. East, a couple blocks east of Hanover Square; 471-0593; eriecanalmuseum.org.
Cavallo at Shhots and Paradise
Jimmy Cavallo entertained hundreds of downtown revelers at Festa Italiana last weekend, and he’ll continue to let the good times roll from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Sept. 25, at Shhots Pub, 2026 Teall Ave. Admission, which includes a buffet dinner, costs $20; 399-5700
Syracuse’s 83-year-old Godfather of Rock’n’Roll will play a free show the next day, from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at The Paradise Market, 3179 Erie Blvd. East; 445-1445.
As usual at his hometown shows, Cavallo will be backed by members of the State Street Band including guitarist John Latocha, bassist Chuck Sgroi and drummer Tommy Rozzano.
Elegy in Blue
Two cops, two street people and one kid.
Budding Syracuse playwright Donna Stuccio, a former Syracuse police officer, wisely keeps her characters to a minimum in her new two-act, Elegy in Blue, running through Saturday at Jazz Central. And by casting a handful of the city’s best actors, she ensures that her bittersweet script resonates with emotion, from humor to romance to pathos.
Stuccio creates contrasting characters: an antsy, intelligent, pissed-off policewoman named Celeste Luna and, Jesse, her laid-back, lumbering backwoods male partner; Rodney, a nosy, wheelchair-bound alcoholic and Lucas, an ex-con on a mission. Thirteen-year-old Anthony is the only character without a counterpart, but he’s a crucial catalyst for the others’ interaction at Angelsea Park in Atlantic City.
An impressive cast
Veteran actress Moe Harrington makes a convincing cop with a chip on her shoulder. In one of the script’s best lines, Celeste complains that her male colleagues have always been “either overprotective of me or they steal my collars.” Mark Eischen’s slower-witted Vermonter well-complements Celeste’s hyper nature and endears him both to her and the audience.
Al Marshall turns in a terrific performance as Lucas, the ex-con with a bit of con man still in him, and David Simmons’ unctuous cripple functions as a greasy Greek chorus who knows where certain skeletons are buried…and has Polaroids to prove it.
The plot hinges on Celeste’s past and how it affects her present as she forges a working relationship with Jesse who wants something more. Lucas, fresh from a 40-year jolt in a Southern prison, also seeks to solve part of his past by locating his long lost son. And Jesse’s running from his past, a particularly messy divorce that left a daughter abandoned in the Green Mountain State.
Just as a detective unravels a mystery piece by piece, Stuccio skillfully reveals a bit here another bit there so that the audience slowly gets the full picture.
Unfortunately, Jamaal Wade’s Anthony was often inaudible, an especially troubling problem in the penultimate scene when he delivers an unintelligible two-minute speech as the ghosts haunting Celeste and Lucas finally tangle in a dramatic stand-off in a cemetery.
‘Joisy’ accents absent
But as good as this play is – and I urge you to check it out yourself – Elegy in Blue could’ve been even better.
Almost every scene would benefit from trimming, and the actors need to remember that, in such close quarters at Jazz Central, every gesture counts. Wade, for instance, constantly tugs on his T-shirt as though he’s more concerned about his costume than his character.
And here’s an even more important suggestion: perform the characters with appropriate regional accents!
Since the action’s set in Atlantic City, we should hear the locals’ distinctive Joisy twang. And, hey, there’s a character’s from Vermont. He should sound like Coach Mac. Another guy hails from Louisiana. Give him a Creole patois like the one Michael Jeter adopted in The Green Mile.
Just think how much more interesting the dialogue would sound and how much richer the characterizations would be if each of these people talked like they actually came from their places of origin.
Elegy in Blue, presented by Rarely Done Productions, will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25, at Jazz Central, 441 E. Washington St., downtown. Tickets cost $20; 546-3224.
By the way, a little birdie told me that the Jazz Central theater will soon be re-christened as the Orange Line Theater, an offshoot of the art gallery at the old Firebarn location on Montgomery Street, downtown, across from City Hall.
Saluting ‘The General’
Several years ago, vibraphonist Warren Chiasson joined his old friend, clarinetist Jack Maheu, in a combo headlining the Jazz’N Caz festival at Cazenovia College.
Maheu, the co-founder of the Salt City Five and Salt City Six, no longer plays after suffering a stroke a few years ago, but his presence will still be felt at Jazz’N Caz this year.
Chiasson has assembled an all-star Swingtet to pay tribute to Maheu and his music with a 9:15 p.m. set on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the Catherine Cummings Theater, 8 Lincklaen Ave., in Cazenovia. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.
The classic small combo will feature Chiasson on vibes, Ken Peplowski on clarinet, Danny D’Imperio on drums, Linc Milliman on bass and Harold Danko on piano.
“We’re playing this tribute to Jack Maheu to let him know we all love him,” said Chiasson, who co-led a group with the clarinetist in the early-1980s at Eddie Condon’s in New York City. Among the tunes the Swingtet will play Sept. 25 are “Caravan,” “Memories of You” and “Blue Prelude.”
Maheu moved from Upstate N.Y. to New Orleans in 1990 and became one of the most sought-after musicians in town. At Fritzel’s Jazz Pub on Bourbon Street, he was known as “The General.”
“The reason they called him The General is because he brooked no nonsense,” said his friend, Roger DeVore. “All the musicians in New Orleans loved him, but they knew that on stage, they’d better be ready to toe the line.”
Maheu is now 80 years old.
For Jazz’n Caz info, call 655-7238.
Polkas at Regional Market
Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr, who last appeared here at the Polish Festival in June, returns to headline the Great Syracuse Oktoberfest at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at the North Side’s Regional Market.
Horas in DeWitt
Don’t miss Jonathan Dinkin & Klezmercuse at the Jewish Music and Cultural Festival from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept.26, at the Jewish Community Center, 5655 Thompson Road in DeWitt. Dinkin’s octet will play his original klezmer tunes from his fabulous new CD, Lily’s Hora, which will be available for sale and is well worth every penny.
Other performers will include: Siora, Zetz!, Susan Gaeta, West of Odessa, Keyna Hora Klezmer Band, Kenesset Shalom Singers and Syracuse Chorale Chamber Singers with conductors Cantor Francine Berg and Warren Ottey and Jayde Martin.