Imagine playing the same gig every Saturday for the past 14 years. Now imagine doing that gig as a John Lennon impersonator. For Tony Garofalo, there is no greater role than continuing the work of the iconic mop-top and his three fellow musicians, better known as The Beatles, and doing it as a member of the Strawberry Fields tribute band. And there's no greater honor than being called upon to play for the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first landing/American TV appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" at the Lehigh Valley's own celebration tonight at 7:30, at the Musikfest Café at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
Garofalo, who resides in Long Island, N.Y., is the 1991 founder and producer of Strawberry Fields, billed as "the ultimate Beatles tribute band." His group has played Bethlehem's Musikfest and will return once more on Aug. 9, for an evening performance at Festplatz.
Tonight's performance will feature Strawberry Fields in appropriate costume for "an early and later Beatles" experience through the 60s, beginning with 1964, explained Garofalo, who donned another guise for 20 years with the New York Police Department. Known to his colleagues as "the real Sergeant Pepper," Garofalo retired from the force in 2005, having been with its central robbery unit, narcotics division, detective division, and internal affairs bureau. He also was active in the Sept. 11 rescue and recovery effort both at Ground Zero and the Staten Island Fresh Kills location.
Garofalo said he formed Strawberry Fields "in an effort to bring forth a complete Beatles performance package accessible to every type of audience and budget." His goal for the band always was to stay true to the music of the Beatles. Strawberry Fields enters its 15th year performing during the Beatles Brunch every Saturday at BB King's Blues Club in New York City's Times Square. Garofalo, along with his mates – Billy J. Ray as Paul McCartney, John Korba as George Harrison, and Michael Bellusci as Ringo Starr – convincingly look and sound like the Beatles because they were the Beatles back in the 80s and 90s as former members of the hit Broadway musical, "Beatlemania."
"We're as close to a real Beatles concert as you can get," described Garafalo who, along with Bellusci, portrayed John Lennon and Ringo Starr, respectively, in the touring company. Billy J. Ray was Paul McCartney in the original Broadway cast. Korba played with the Beatles tribute band, Rain.
Garofalo said he got to meet Sir Paul McCartney and his band last July at an after-concert VIP party at Brooklyn's Barclay Center, when McCartney held Garofalo's actual NYPD sergeant's badge for a photo.
"He was a really nice guy," Garofalo said.
Strawberry Fields performed at the 40th anniversary recreation of the Beatles' historic 1965 concert on the field of New York's Shea Stadium on Aug. 16, 2005, before 45,000 fans. The band was part of the entertainment lineup last week when Yankee Stadium hosted the NHL Stadium Series games.
Footnote: One thing I learned from my interview with Garofalo was that he worked with Mark "Farquar" Vacaccio for 13 years at the Beatles Brunch. Vacaccio was the original John Lennon in Broadway's "Beatlemania" when he performed at my August 1980 wedding at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, at the request of my Best Man, actor Joseph Scalzo. Sadly, I now learned that Vacaccio passed away in June 2011.
For further info: artsquest.org
Northampton Community College will be celebrating the Beatles' 50th anniversary with the actual telecast of their American TV debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Sunday at 7 p.m., at Lipkin Theatre on the main campus, 3835 Green Pond Rd., Bethlehem. The Large Flowerheads will be on hand and, according to drummer Moe Jerant, will be playing a good amount of Beatles with a mix of "some other British invasion and a bit of American pop." There also will be a display of Beatles memorabilia. The evening is free, though tickets are required.
The event is part of a three-year campus project by English Professor James Von Schilling in an effort to highlight events of the mid-60s. This past fall focused on the March on Washington and the Kennedy assassination. The spring will feature the 1964 New York World's Fair.
Von Schilling, who hails from Hackensack, Bergen County, NJ, said he was just out of high school when he and his best friend ventured to Shea Stadium to see the Beatles perform in August 1965. He recalled paying $5.50 for his ticket and sitting near the speakers.
He added that NCC will host the Beatles film, "A Hard Day's Night," on March 6, at 11 a.m., in Lipkin Theatre.
For further info: 610-861-4145.
Other related events: "All You Need is Love: A Beatles Tribute Concert," Feb. 21, 8 p.m., Sands Event Center in Bethlehem; The Fab Faux, March 1, 8 p.m., State Theatre in Easton.
Children will know that familiar call when the Reading Public Museum hosts the new, interactive exhibition, "Dora and Diego – Let's Explore!" beginning Saturday through May 11. Nickelodeon's beloved characters Dora and Diego, from the hit preschool series, "Dora the Explorer" and "Go, Diego, Go!" bring along friends Boots, Map, Backpack, Isa, Tico and Swiper. The exhibit follows the adventures of the seven-year-old Latina heroine Dora and her friends in an imaginative, tropical world. Diego is her eight-year-old cousin, a bilingual animal rescuer who protects animals and their environment.
Other exhibits opening Saturday: "IHLENFELD/BERTOIA: An Artistic Friendship" (sculptors Klaus Ihlenfeld and Harry Bertoia; celebration of Bertoia's birthday on March 10, 5:30 to 7 p.m.) and "Infinite Place: The Ceramic Art of Wayne Higby" (opening reception Saturday, 4 to 6:30 p.m.).
For further info: readingpublicmuseum.org
(Photo: © 2014 Viacom International Inc. All rights reserved. Nickelodeon, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go! and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.)
Matthew Bogacki, a student at Fleetwood Area High School, was named first place winner in the student artists category of the 2014 Fast Lane Art competition, sponsored by the Berks Arts Council. His work, "Character Magic," and all winning art will be displayed on billboards around Berks County beginning this month, courtesy of Land Displays.
Bogacki was one of four student winners to receive a scholarship prize. Other students were: second place, Yarilin Chimelis of Reading High School, for "Sucrose;" Honorable Mention, Cesar Gonzalez of Reading High School, for "Accidental Work," and Erin Bleacher of Governor Mifflin High School, for "Lazer Flower."
In addition to juror Matthew Daub's choice, Berks Arts Council held a people's choice contest through Facebook "likes," and those winners will have their work displayed on digital billboards. In the student artist category, people's choice went to Emily McGuigan of Wilson High School, for "Majesties."
Professional artists who placed in the competition and received cash prizes are: First place, Maria Ruoff, for "Jazz Fish;" second place, Miles DeCoster, for "Three Blue Birds (Why My Father Cries)," and people's choice went to Cheryl Geiger Sheeler for "The Intruder."
For further info: berksarts.org
Haverford College professor William Earl Williams will present an illustrated lecture, "A Stirring Song Sung Heroic: African-Americans from Slavery to Freedom, 1619 to 1865 and Beyond," on Sunday at 1 p.m., at the Allentown Art Museum. Local singer Kari Holmes will perform spirituals, gospel music, Civil Rights anthems, and other music from the black American tradition, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. The free program was organized by the museum's Society of the Arts (SOTA) in honor of Black History Month.
Williams is a professor of fine arts and curator of photography at the college. His lecture will include historical documents, newspapers, art, and photographs of historical sites to give meaning and appreciation of the places and people that shaped the struggle for freedom for all Americans, eventually leading to the Civil Rights movement. His photographs are in the permanent collections of various museums in the nation, among them, the Allentown Art Museum.
Holmes is a member of Lehigh Valley's "First Family of Gospel" (aka The Holmes Family). She has shared the stage with Christian contemporary singer Steve Green and gospel recording artist Crystal Lewis. Holmes is the lead curator for the Young, Black and Gifted Arts Initiative, which exhibits the work of young, accomplished urban artists.
For further info: allentownartmuseum.org
Muhlenberg College in Allentown celebrates 20 years of dance with a special edition of its annual "Master Choreographers" dance concert beginning tonight at 8, through Saturday in the Empie Theatre in the Baker Center for the Arts. Featured will be a restaging of "D-Man in the Waters (Part 1)" by choreographer Bill T. Jones, plus seven world-premiere dance pieces choreographed by guest artists and faculty members – Germaul Barnes (Restager), Charlotte Boye-Christensen, Heidi Cruz-Austin, Corrie Franz Cowart, Karen Dearborn, Dorrell Martin, Shelley Oliver and Jeffrey Peterson.
The Tony Award-winning Jones ("Spring Awakening," "Fela!") is a recipient of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company has performed worldwide.
For further info: muhlenberg.edu/dance
Photo credit: Matthew Wright
The Parkland High School Chorale, under the direction of Frank Anonia, and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Chorus, with director David Macbeth, will be part of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra's "Classic Music for Film" concert on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, at 3 p.m., at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. The student groups will be featured in the Prokofiev "Alexander Nevsky" Cantata selections. The program also will feature Eliezer Gutman on violin and Jameson Platte on cello.
For further info: millersymphonyhall.org
The latest work by Lehigh Valley colored pencil artist Jeffrey M. Green is on display at the 4th annual art exhibit of the Paint Box Art Club at Nazareth Center for the Arts, 30 Belvidere St., Nazareth. The work, titled "Top of the Stairs," 16-inch-by-20-inch, features the family cat, Bleau, in dramatic lighting. The group show runs through Feb. 25. Hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon to 2 p.m.
Green is active in the Forks Area Arts Society. His work, "Sunset Over Barnegat Bay," is featured in a new book, "CP Treasures II," by Ann Kullberg, with more than 80 artists from 13 countries sharing the creative process.
For further info: forksareaartsociety.yolasite.com
Eric Armusik of Berks County shares some interesting news on his latest work -- paintings on oil on birch, titled "Tragic Love." The work centers on the theme of love throughout the ages in the stories of mythology, literature and religion. His work includes Daphne (Apollo and Daphne), Andromeda (Andromeda and Perseus), and Delilah (Samson and Delilah). Though many of the themes of his paintings do not have happy endings, the intention is to celebrate love in one of his exhibits currently running at The Empty Spaces Project gallery in Putnam, Conn. Armusik has been recognized for his ability to portray emotion and profound drama while retaining the quality one would find only in the paintings from the Old Masters.
For more info: ericarmusik.com
Allentown, PA 18102