“She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when she comes. She’ll be driving six white horses when she comes.” And so it is as we enter the last quarter of 2016. It has been a long, sometime arduous year. A lot of people have passed on to the next dimension including my mother, Harriet DeLaney, Dr. Stanley Nelson, Lennie Williams, Jemel Crumbs, Dr. Roscoe Brown, Estelle Noble, the brother and sister of Jake McGhee and Langston Williams, whose body has yet to be laid to rest because of a family dispute. Rest in peace y’all.
Not resting at all but keeping it alive and kicking is the Tato Laviera Theater at Harlem Prep Elementary School, as the company will present a thrilling vision of “The Wizard of Oz.” The new and refreshed presentation comes right on the heels of the company’s performance of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” The performance of “The Wizard of Oz” will take place Oct. 8 through Dec. 13, at the Taino Towers Cultural Building, 240 E. 123rd St., at Third Avenue. The production, co-produced by the Yip Harburg Foundation, features a young multiracial cast, with Taylor-Rey Rivers starring as Dorothy. The rest of the cast includes A.J. Acevedo, Derrick Montalvado, Dexter Thomas-Payne, Ben Harburg, Barbly Noel, Paula Galloway, Bereket Mengisti, James Jenna, Keiko Tomita and Wilyuly Lopez.
Directed by Keith Lee Grant, the classic, based on the book by L. Frank Baum, and original theater performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company, closely follows the script while projecting how important it is that as one grows to realize one’s potentials, it is equally important to follow one’s dream.
The lyrics to “Over the Rainbow” were written in the early 1930s by Yip Harburg for the original screen production starring Judy Garland. Harburg wrote the lyrics with the intention that the song was to encourage people to better themselves while imagining living in a place where there are blue skies and rainbows, and troubles melt like lemon drops. Harburg also wrote the lyrics to “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” which became the anthem of the Great Depression. Harburg’s Broadway musicals include “Finian’s Rainbow” and the David Merrick production of “Jamaica,” starring Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban.
Although you can’t click your heels three times for tickets to the Tato Laviera Theater at Harlem Prep Elementary School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” you can call 212-868-4444 for further information.
The Central Park Conservancy, an organization that I can only dream of ever becoming a member of, held their annual Conservancy Luncheon at the Mandarin Oriental, located across from the 59th Street entrance to the park (What can I tell you? I love Central Park.) The luncheon was sponsored for the sixth consecutive year by Van Cleef & Arpels. I wonder if a jewel was one of the items in the goody bag.
The reason I like this organization is because of their mission to restore, manage and enhance Central Park. Central Park is one of the iconic institutions (if you can call a park an institution) of our city. The moment you set foot in the park, your senses are immediately transformed into somewhere over the rainbow. Have you ever been in Central Park in the springtime, when the cherry blossom trees begin to bloom and the walkways are lined with daffodils? Breathtaking. Or how about the fall? I recall being in the park on a somewhat foreboding looking day. The wind was a little gusty, and the sky looked as though it would open up and release a tumultuous rain storm any moment. The leaves had turned a golden red, yellow and orange, and as they swirled around me, I could have been right outside of the Emerald City. It was beautiful.
My good friend Nina DeWees once called into a radio talk show (happy birthday Nina) featuring then Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and asked him for a job. He gave her one with the New York City Parks Department. My other good friend, Jackie Rowe Adams, has worked for the Parks Department for years, and was in large part responsible for bringing groups such the Chi-lites and Blue Magic to the Jackie Robinson Park for a free, public performance.
Getting back to the luncheon, the Conservancy, which is a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1980 by a group of some of the city’s most influential, powerful and elite, provides for 75 percent of the Park’s $67 million parkwide expense budget. They are also responsible for all of the basic care. So the next time you are in the park and you see a vehicle with “Central Park Conservancy” written on the side, you will know what the deal is.
Speaking of the park, when will Mayor de Blasio open up the 110th Street entrances for cars and permit evening traffic to come up past 72nd Street again? Assemblyman Keith Wright zealously advocated that vehicular traffic be permitted to travel to the northern end of the park, especially during the early evening hours, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., after de Blasio unceremoniously and unilaterally decided to close it off. However, it was to no avail, and traffic continues to be an uptown, congested nightmare during the morning and evening commutes.
Terria Joseph and Alicia Keys, along with Janice Savin Williams and Christopher J. Williams, Alexander Smalls, Rona Sebastian and the Herb Alpert Foundation and Rodney Williams cordially invite you all to the Harlem School of the Arts Fall 2016 Benefit Gala Masquerade Ball. The event will be held on the most mystical night, Monday, Oct. 31, at the Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue at Central Park South. The evening includes a reception, beginning at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and a performance, at 7 p.m., and ending with a monster mash masquerade ball, from 9 p.m. to the bewitching hour of midnight, with DJ D-Nice. Presiding as master of ceremonies is David Ushery, NBC 4 New York news anchor, and charity auctioneer CK Swett.
Honorees include Michael Feinstein, receiving the Dorothy Maynor Award; Sandra L. Richards Morgan Stanley, receiving the Betty Allen Lifetime Achievement Award; and Stan Lathan and Sanaa Lathan, receiving the Visionary Artist Award. Attire is masquerade formal with a mask. Tickets are rather expensive, but if you are looking to splurge for a good cause, call 212-889-4694.
As the sunny summer skies continue to give way to fall, and if a gray day gets you down remember, “Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby/Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
Until next week … kisses.