When Eugene Gillespie left Ireland to visit his brother in New York in 1972, he didn't know that he would be inspired to stay. The Irish economy was down, so Eugene decided to pursue the American dream by moving to the Mid-Atlantic region. He didn't leave Ireland entirely behind him though, and Eugene proceeded to spend the next several decades opening traditional Irish pubs and restaurants throughout New York and New Jersey.
With two locations, Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub demonstrates a commitment to the flavors of Ireland. The menus feature familiar comfort foods—certified Angus burgers and thin-crust pizzas—including a number of Irish favorites, such as beer-battered fish and chips and stews filled with Guinness-braised beef. To achieve an even more authentic taste, the chefs occasionally import ingredients such as Irish cheddar cheese, Irish sausages, and Irish rainbows.
The menu's iconic dishes contribute to the pubs' cozy, inviting ambiance almost as much as accents such as the stone fireplaces or the bar made of imported red mahogany. Spirits remain lively and the mood stays festive thanks to the live entertainment hosted throughout the week. Live bands perform contemporary hits as well as traditional Irish songs.
Winner of the JerseyArts.com 2009 People's Choice Award for favorite Professional Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse has been opening the curtain on top-quality musical theater and plays since its debut in 1938. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Tony Award-winning musical comedy, follows the travails of a group of young students participating in their countywide spell off. With hilarious tunes and frequent fourth wall demolition, the musical expertly tickles audience funny femurs while filling their ears with the harmonious euphony of the Tony-nominated score. Groupon buyers will leave the theater with a Paper Mill Playhouse cup (a $5 value), allowing patrons of the arts to signal their theater affiliation to rival gangs of symphony and museum cup holders.
The Maplewood Theatre's name hovers above the marquee in an art-deco script over a row of lights, conjuring up nostalgia of the classic cinemas of yesteryear. But the retro-style facade doesn't mean that the movies are also throwbacks. Instead, the modern movie screens flicker with first-run films. The theater's 3D capabilities allow patrons to slip on glasses that make them feel as if they're in the middle of the action or to protect their eyes when they accidentally dunk their faces into 3-D popcorns.
The sizzling of Cajun batter-fried shrimp mingles with the sweet twang of acoustic guitars and smoky jazz vocals. This distinct bouquet of sounds and smells is the essence of The Crossroads, a venue that describes itself as an amalgamation of classic Cajun and American stylings: “[It's] as if NY and N'awlins had a baby and moved to the suburbs.” Patrons can sate their appetites with a menu of soul and Cajun fare escorted by a choice of libations, including more than 40 martinis. Nightly musical guests have included local and national acts spanning the genres of jazz, bluegrass, and classic-rock cover bands. Nightly events and specials keep energy high. Every Tuesday, guests pay no cover charges and can climb onstage with their finely tuned instruments or an array of water-filled pint glasses for the open Jazz Jam with the house’s trio of musicians.
Starry Night Dance Studio hosts a never-ending dance party atop its polished wood floors, inviting all to join and even offering free classes for beginners. Instructors wear the shoes of multiple ballroom styles to teach the centuries-old waltz alongside West Coast swing and merengue, a two-step dance outstripped in simplicity only by the one-step known as walking. Aerobic Zumba workouts and belly-dance classes loosen students’ hips while building muscle tone and cardio endurance. Additionally, Starry Night’s experienced dancers choreograph dances for special events such as weddings, quinceañeras, mortgage signings, and bar mitzvahs, and happily help students to prepare for landmark celebrations.
Whether coaching students as individuals or in a group setting, the certified instructors at the Westfield School of Dance draw from years of teaching and performance experience in their chosen styles. All are specialized in one to three disciplines of dance, and pass on their knowledge through a progressive syllabus in a range of classes. They organize students by skill level, coaching them in tap, jazz, modern dance, Russian ballet, and musical-theatre performance. For more experienced dancers and aspiring professionals, they also conduct work-study programs and student-teacher training. These experiences allow students to work alongside their teachers as well as guest artists to learn new choreography, develop teaching techniques, and uncover the mystery of what really happened that fateful night at Swan Lake.
Throughout the year, students are given the chance to showcase what they've learned in two venues. In the more minimalistic setting of the Black Box, beginner-level students perform original choreographed dance concerts. The annual spring Main Stage show folds novice through advanced dancers into a full-scale production, complete with live musicians, costumes, scenery, and props.