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This article by Nicole Plett was prepared for the September 17, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
For Music Lovers: Season of Sound at Crossroads
The State Theater has turned the lights back on at
Crossroads, preparing a treat for audiences who crave an intimate
setting in which to really savor the talent of vocal artists.
The New Brunswick Cultural Center built and owns the Crossroads building.
Its 10-year lease with Crossroads expired in 2001, at a time when
Crossroads was dark due to its financial troubles. "The NBCC tried
to keep the building available to them, but two or three seasons went
by with little or no activity there," says Chris Butler, vice
president and chief operating officer of the State Theater. "The
NBCC stepped in and asked the State Theater to assist with programming
and to manage the rental of the building."
Already the attractive small theater is booking up, and neighbors
are happy to see the lights lit again. The African Globe Theater of
Newark has just completed a short run of the musical "Dreamgirls,"
and a revived Crossroads Theater will be back for its 25th anniversary
season under the direction of co-founder Ricardo Khan in November.
This week is the launch of State @ Crossroads, a full season of music
attractions. Butler, beginning his 13th season at the 1,800-seat State
Theater, where he programs all the shows, has selected 20 artists
for Crossroads, which is located just two doors away from the venerable
big State. Butler, too, has stayed close to home. After growing up
in Roselle, he attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick (Class
of 1980), and has lived in the city ever since.
Duo guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad inaugurate the season with a
concert on Thursday, September 25, 8 p.m. Enthusiasts of the classical
guitar will rejoice to hear the instruments in such an intimate space.
The Falla Guitar Trio will follow in May. Other top-drawer offerings
include concerts by Aoife Clancy, Leon Redbone, and Janis Ian.
Butler notes that the musicians he has selected for Crossroads could
all play larger venues. "They’re terrific artists," he says,
"Anyone would consider themselves lucky to hear Dianne Reeves
in this intimate space." Guy Davis has played the 1,800-seat State
Theater before, but most will agree his act is tailor-made for an
audience of less than 300.
Butler says the State’s mission is to round out its own concert offerings
and build audiences for new artists, such as the up-and-coming British
vocalist Stacey Kent. "When Stacey comes to the U.S., she usually
plays only New York’s Oak Room and an intimate venue in San Francisco.
Now," he says, "our audiences can hear her in an intimate
Crossroads Theater Company moved into the $4 million
290-seat theater, custom-built for it at 7 Livingston Avenue, in 1991.
With sleek modern lines and good technical facilities, the theater
offers comfortable seating above a small thrust stage. "We have
presented some musical artists there in the past and there’s not a
lot of amplification required," says Butler. "It’s a beautiful
For this come-back season, the programing has a distinct jazz emphasis.
Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, backed by a piano,
bass, and percussion trio, opens the jazz series on Thursday, October
2. Also featured is Latin and Afro-Caribbean jazz from Jerry Gonzales
& the Fort Apache Band, who appear on Saturday, November 15. British
jazz vocalist and rising star Stacey Kent performs on Wednesday, November
19. In the new year, there’s jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio
on Tuesday, January 20, and Afro-Cuban jazz legend Larry Harlow and
his ensemble on Saturday, April 24.
"These smaller jazz acts were something we wanted to see on our
program," says Butler, "but they just were not suited to our
Most ticket prices for the Crossroads music season are in the $25
range, a price that Butler says is just about comparable to the cover
charge at a New York City jazz club. "This is our first venture
into the small room, and we didn’t want price to be a barrier to attendance,"
he says. The season’s biggest bargains are family shows, for which
seats cost just $10.
"This is more mission-driven than financially driven," says
Butler. "It’s an effort to round out our programing and offer
family attractions in a smaller, intimate environment. This balances
out our big spectacular family shows, like `Sesame Street Live.’"
In 1999, Crossroads won the Tony Award for America’s best regional
theater but the glory was short-lived. The company, buried under $2
million debt, was plunged into darkness in October, 2000. In fall
2002, it emerged with an abbreviated season of imported works. Now
that the State Theater has helped turned the lights back on, it will
be up to the stars Butler has chosen to keep them shining.
— Nicole Plett
State @ Crossroads
classical guitar canon. $30. September 25, 8 p.m.
vocalist backed by a piano, bass, and percussion trio. $40. October
2, 8 p.m.
with guitar-driven Afro pop and reggae. $28. October 17, 8 p.m.
art of juggling and comedy. $10. October 26, 1 p.m.
November 1, 8 p.m.
leading Gypsy musicians. $25. November 4, 8 p.m.
combine for an Afro-Caribbean mix. $25. November 15, 8 p.m.
reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. $22. November 19,
November 22, 8 p.m.
from Nashville leads a guided tour through the cultural landscape
of Africans in America. $25. January 15, 2004, 8 p.m.
one of the most adventuresome on the scene. $30. January 20, 8 p.m.
and spirituals to blues and Be-Bop. $20. February 6, 8 p.m.
banjo, blues harp, and washboard. $25. February 28, 8 p.m.
clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano. $25. March 11, 8 p.m.
clan and former singer with Cherish the Ladies. $30. March 17, 8 p.m.
program of music, movement, and humor. $10. March 21, 1 p.m.
with keyboards, sax, trumpet, drums, bass, and congas. $25. April
24, 8 p.m.
love affair with ragtime, folk, and jazz. $25. May 1, 8 p.m.
the guitar. $25. May 5, 8 p.m.
credit. $25. May 15, 8 p.
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