The Long Island Puppet Theater amazes audiences with a cast of colorful marionette puppets, each with a story to tell. Its shows cater to audiences aged one and up and include familiar characters including The Little Mermaid. Special events encourage kids to play with Barbies or dance alongside Cinderella and Batman, whereas traveling shows bring interactive fun to the tristate area with pirates and jungle animals. In addition to performances, the theater also offers private themed parties for special occasions, such as a birthday or day you transform from a wooden puppet into a real boy or girl.
Cultural Arts Playhouse has been fostering the development of up-and-coming actors for more than 15 years. At its Musical Theatre and Acting Academy, students from 1st–12th grade hone their on-stage skills by taking classes on singing, acting, and improvisation under the tutelage of an experienced teacher. Kids get to show off these skills in full theatrical productions, with main-stage shows opening up auditions to the entire community so people can see their neighbors' acting chops and dusted-off fake skulls. Cultural Arts Playhouse alumni have found success in New York and throughout the country, appearing in HBO's The Sopranos, and such Broadway productions as Les Miserables and Aladdin.
Inspired by acts in Las Vegas and around the country, entertainers and pianists cover rock classics on twin grand pianos at Ha! Comedy Club's weekly Dueling Pianos extravaganza. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, dueling performers tickle the ivories and—when competition becomes especially fierce—each other, fielding crowd requests for pop favorites from the 1960s through to today. Musicians such as Mark Rivera, saxophonist for Billy Joel, join in the fun on stage as the kitchen and full bar keep the audience nourished with snacks and libations.
Hosting the evening's set, the historic Gramercy Theatre first opened its doors in 1937 and spent some 60 years as a movie palace and art house. Now wedged between two skyscrapers, it still retains some art-deco columns and flourishes striped into its façade. Inside, an intimate main room shares space with the eclectic Samsara Lounge where persian rugs and funky wall art imbue audiences with a rock 'n' roll spirit and inspire the spontaneous formation of nomadic tribes.
As a native of the Dominican Republic, Claudette Munné loves merengue beats—but as classical pianists, she and her husband Massimiliano Facchini also cherish traditional piano pieces by European composers. To celebrate these dual passions, the pair arranged a series of fresh, merengue takes on old classics, a project that resulted in a sold-out two-piano show at Carnegie Hall and an interview with NBC.
Revamping traditional piano music isn't the couple's only collaboration, however. They also worked together to found Belle Arti Center for the Arts, a music school that caters mainly to children. Their toddler classes focus on training young ears and building a sense of rhythm that moves beyond freestyle clapping. During private lessons, they train students on instruments from the guitar and violin to woodwinds. Their classes follow a semester schedule, with each semester session culminating in a recital for family and friends.
In 2004—on a mission to bolster its community’s wellspring of art, creativity, and education—the nonprofit Bergen Performing Arts Center took over the former John Harms Center, an art deco–style movie and vaudeville palace built in 1926. Today, in the same antique theater where Shakespeare screened his first car-chase movie, the Bergen Performing Arts Center hosts 150 yearly events that bring dance, music, and theatrical productions to an estimated 250,000 annual audience members. Networks like HBO, PBS, and MTV all have filmed international broadcasts on Bergen Performing Arts Center’s stage, which has seen the likes of Tony Bennett, Woody Allen, and the Dixie Chicks.