New Jersey Stage

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Legendary Jersey Shore DJ Lee Mrowicki To Host Beyond The Palace Radio Show

(ASBURY PARK, NJ) —  For years he was known as “The Voice of The Stone Pony”, the disc jockey who kept the tunes going in-between acts and the guy who knew more about the Jersey Shore music scene than anyone else.   Starting on Thursday, June 19, Lee Mrowicki begins sharing his love for Jersey Shore music with the entire world as he takes over as host of the “Beyond the Palace” radio show.   The show originates on Thursday nights at 8pm and 11pm (EST).  It is repeated on Saturdays at noon (EST).

Gary Wien, Station Manager at The Penguin Rocks, created the “Beyond the Palace” radio show two years ago.  The show was designed to put a spotlight on the music of the Jersey Shore from the legendary acts like Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny to artists currently hitting the local clubs like Arlan Feiles, Rick Barry, and Emily Grove.   In a way, it was created to bring the music of the artists found his book (“Beyond the Palace”, 2003) to life.

“I’m thrilled to be able to hand over the show to Lee,” said Wien.  “When I was a kid, I learned much of what I know about Jersey Shore music history from Lee.  He introduced me to many of the acts that became a major part of my life.  When I realized I no longer had the time to create a weekly radio show, he was the only person I wanted to take over the show.”

Mrowicki was born in Jersey City and moved to Neptune when he was 12.  After graduating from Monmouth College, he began work as a DJ for WJLK.  It was there that he first played a major role in Jersey Shore music history.  Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were holding their debut record release at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park and it was to be broadcast nationally on radio.  Mrowicki got WJLK to be the local outlet for the broadcast, which included 8 or 9 stations (mainly on the East Coast and Mid-West).  That broadcast introduced The Stone Pony to the national stage.

In 1986,  while working as the Stone Pony DJ, he helped found the organization Jersey Artists for Mankind (J.A.M.).  Comprised of local musicians like Southside Johnny, Glen Burtnick, Nils Lofgren, Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, and Garry Tallent, the group recorded the song “We Got The World” to help raise money for food banks and other charities.  Arista Records released the single and the video was seen throughout the world.

Over the years, Mrowicki has been known as much for his charital work as for his musical knowledge.  He’s organized benefits for such organizations as Toys for Tots, the Make a Wish Foundation, and World Hunger Year, to name a few.  His work earned him a spot on the NJ Governor’s Advisory Council - Community Service & Volunteerism.

These days, Mrowicki keeps himself busy and remains a major part of the Jersey Shore music scene by spinning tunes at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park.  The Penguin and Mrowicki are currently building a syndicated network of online and FM stations for the “Beyond the Palace” radio show.  The show is available to stations free of charge. For more information contact

The “Beyond the Palace” radio show was created by Gary Wien, author of “Beyond the Palace” — the first comprehensive look at the history of rock music in Asbury Park.  The show features songs from classic Jersey Shore artists like Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny to newer artists like The Gaslight Anthem and Rick Barry.  The show originates Thursday nights at 8pm and 11pm (EST) on  Each show is repeated on Saturdays at 12:00pm (EST).

About The Penguin Rocks
The Penguin's motto is "We don't follow the charts... we make our own." In addition to its regular new music playlist, the station features several original and syndicated shows each week. Shows include: "Beyond the Palace", "Lazlo's Den" by Lazlo of, "Rock 'N Roll Gas Station" with Jim Testa, "Radio Show with dw dunphy," "Best of British Unsigned," "Sideways With A Badger," "Deuce Radio Show," "Classic Artists Today," and "Rock On Radio with Danny Coleman." For more information on the station, please visit the station's website at or on Facebook and Twitter @thepenguinrocks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wasserstein's Work Shines Again In Two River's Production of "Third"

By Gary Wien

In the late sixties, Laurie Jameson began her work as a college professor at an elite, New England liberal arts college. As the Vietnam War raged on, Jameson was a rebel, fighting the establishment and its traditional views. Well known throughout academia for her work, she's challenged thirty years later by a student that is able make coherent and sometimes brilliant arguments against the values she holds deeply. In short, she has become the establishment and the student, Woodson Bull III, is the new rebel.

In a classic "get off my yard" like senior moment, Jameson strikes back in the only way she knows how — charging Woodson, or "Third" as he is nicknamed, with plagiarism.

That's the basis for "Third", the final play written by the great Wendy Wasserstein who received the Tony Award and Pulitizer Prize for "The Heidi Chronicles" in 1989. Two River Theater Company is presenting "Third" now through June 22 and it is a production not to be missed. Crisply directed by Michael Cumpsty, "Third" is an intellectually stimulating and challenging look at how political views and stereotypes can shape our worlds and our lives. It's also very, very funny.

Annette O'Toole stars as Laurie Jameson, portraying her as a stern but confident college professor. As Woodson Bull III, Christopher Sears shines as her intellectual equal, but one the finds as much goodness in the world as Jameson sees problems. Amy Hohn does a wonderful job as Nancy, a friend and colleague of Laurie's who is battling cancer for the second time. Emily Walton plays Laurie's daughter, an apple that doesn't exactly fall close to the tree. Rounding out the cast is J.R. Horne as Jack Jameson, the lovable father of Laurie whose memory is failing more and more by the day.

"I want you to speak up, don't be afraid to contradict me or challenge the norms of the dominant culture," says Laurie Jameson on the first day of class and she believes those words; unfortunately, her words ring hollow when she's challenged by Third.

Third wonders why her analysis of "King Lear" is so radically different from what he learned in high school and asks if he can reschedule a mandatory viewing of the film because he will be busy with the wrestling team on the day it is scheduled. She instantly sizes him up as a young Republican from a wealthy family who's a jock — obviously someone who will never see things from her perspective. The problem is that her judgement is wrong on all accounts.

"Are you a Republican?" Jameson asks, treating the word as an admittance of original sin.

"I'm pro choice and I recycle", he replies with a smile.
Regardless, she suggests that he consider transferring because she doesn't believe he will fit in at the school. The truth is that Third purposely chooses challenges for himself. He enjoys putting himself in situations that others cannot understand what he's doing there such as the feminist classes on his class schedule. In fact, it's his love for challenges that led him to take Laurie's class.

Meanwhile, outside the college, the world is following the impending Iraq War vote and Laurie Jameson is obsessed with the possibility of war. She's glued to the news at every opportunity. Nancy's breast cancer has returned, Laurie is beginning to feel hot flashes, her father is losing his mind and disappearing each day, and her marriage is stuck in an image of the past when her husband was a rising star in academia. All of these factors combine to make her refuse to believe that the brilliantly constructed work submitted by Third could actually be his own creation.

She disagrees with the paper, of course, but recognizes its brilliance. She feels threatened by her life's work being challenged by someone she deems inferior. The war, her hot flashes, and Nancy's cancer has Laurie sensing her own mortality. In an effort to take back the world as she knows it (or at least within the safe confines of the college), she accuses Third with plagiarism.

Deep down, I think Laurie knows that she's met her match and simply cannot handle it. Third is challenging the establishment the way Laurie did when she first entered the system. Unfortunately, she has become the system and doesn't have a shred of proof to go along with the plagiarism charge. She also doesn't have a clue as to how her actions will affect his life or her own.

"When someone like me, a Midwesterner, and athlete, on the fence politically, comes looking to you for answers, I am dismissed, even before I ask the goddamn question. And from my point of view, that's how you lost this country," says Third.

The dialogue is wonderful, the pace is perfect, and the acting is superb. This is a very good revival of a play that may resonate even more now in our heated political climate than when it was written. It offers a nice reminder that people are not always who we think they are and dismissing them outright can sometimes lead to our own downfall.

"Third" is playing now through June 22 at the Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ. For more information visit

Photos by Michal Daniel

"Grease" At Paper Mill Is The Perfect Kick Off To The Summer!

By Gary Wien

(MILLBURN, NJ) -- There's just something about "Grease" that makes it one of the quintessential musicals of all-time. The story includes the universal high school concepts of fitting in and self-identity, falling in and out of love, and the play contains wonderful characters and the 1950s vibe, but, in the end, it's all about the music. The songs have the uncanny ability to be silly and sincere at the same time, and you'll undoubtedly find yourself singing along. As the production at Paper Mill Playhouse proves "Grease" is still very much the word. It's nearly impossible not to smile during this performance. The show is too much fun.

It's hard to think about "Grease" without remembering the film that starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, so it's rather appropriate that the play begins with a grainy film showing the young lovers (Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko) on the beach during the summer. Summer then ends, the video stops, curtains rise, and we're instantly transported to Rydell High School where we meet the students — everybody from the Pink Ladies to the T-Birds, the geeks, and the student council members — as the theme song "Grease" is performed on the first day of school.

During lunch, the Pink Ladies are introduced to Sandy, a new student at the school. Sandy's innocence is in stark contrast to the rough and rebellious Betty Rizzo. The group eventually gets Sandy to tell the story of the boy she met at the beach this past summer, and he sounds like someone they know. Sure enough, the two lovebirds are reunited, although in front of his friends Danny pretends to be aloof rather than in love. And so begins our tale of star-crossed lovers.

While the movie focuses much more on the relationship between Sandy and Danny, the play paints a broader picture of the entire group of friends and their trials and tribulations as teenagers. Virtually every character gets his or her moment in the spotlight from Doody strumming his guitar in the locker room and performing "Those Magic Changes" to Marty in her bedroom with "Freddy, My Love" and even Roger and Jan enter the fray with "Mooning". The last two being numbers which were left out of the film version.

I've always been a fan of "Grease" and Paper Mill's production is spectacular! If you've only seen the film, you need to head to Millburn and see it in the theatre. Seeing it on stage adds an almost surreal feeling to the story; Minimalistic sets change throughout the play while a live band blasts out the numbers. The minimalism even adds to the nostalgic factor as it sort of emulates the way memories are kind of fuzzy, often leaving some details out. And there's something utterly fantastic about seeing the "Beauty School Dropout" number performed live as if it really was a strange dream.

The entire play is full of classic songs, performed perfectly. From "Summer Nights", which helps establish the characters from the innocent to the wicked to "Greased Lightning" which bursts with as much electricity as you'll ever see on stage, and "Hopelessly Devoted To You" which leads tears to fall throughout the crowd. "Grease" has show stopping number after number after number until it reaches a crescendo with "You're The One That I Want" and Paper Mill's cast nails every tune!

The play stars Taylor Louderman (Sandy Dumbrowski) alongside Bobby Conte Thornton (Danny Zuko). Even though the play has a larger universe than just these two, the roles are paramount to the success of the production and the spotlight loves both of them. In fact, Taylor has a star-in-the-making performance.

Morgan Weed is a scene stealer as Betty Rizzo - portraying her as the original 'mean girl'. She slithers around the stage like a serpent in a Disney cartoon, but waters down the venom a bit during "There Are Worse Things I Could Do", proving she can be vulnerable as well.

Robin DeJesus (Doody) and Telly Leung (Teen Angel) showcase amazing voices on numbers like "Those Magic Changes" and "Beauty School Dropout".

Rounding out the cast is Tommy Bracco (Sonny LaTierri), Matt Wood (Roger), Shane Donovan (Kenickie), Leela Rothenberg (Jan), Tess Soltau (Marty), Dana Steingold (Frenchy), Donna English (Miss Lynch), Eloise Kropp (Patty Simcox), Sean Patrick Doyle (Eugene Florczyk), Joey Sorge (Vince Fontaine), Brad Simmons (Johnny Casino), and Gillian Munsayac, Kat Nejat, and Kevin Santos as students.

The play, which contains book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is beautifully directed by Daniel Goldstein with choreography by Joann M. Hunter. Highly recommended!
"Grease" runs now through June 29, 2014 at the Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive) in Millburn, NJ. For more information visit .

PHOTO 1: Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Matthew Murphy; From left to right: Shane Donovan (Kenickie), Morgan Weed (Betty Rizzo), Taylor Louderman (Sandy Dumbrowski) and Bobby Conte Thornton (Danny Zuko).
PHOTO 2: Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Jerry Dalia; From left to right: Matt Wood (Roger), Bobby Conte Thornton (Danny Zuko) and Taylor Louderman.
PHOTO 3: Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Jerry Dalia; From left to right: Taylor Louderman (Sandy Dumbrowski), Tess Soltau (Marty), Dana Steingold (Frenchy), Telly Leung (Teen Angel), Morgan Weed (Betty Rizzo) and Leela Rothenberg (Jan).
PHOTO 4: Grease at Paper Mill Playhouse; Photo by Jerry Dalia; Shane Donovan (Kenickie) and the boys of Grease.