Good vibrations Secaucus kicks off outdoor summer concert series

Thursday evenings at Buchmuller Park are about to get very crowded.

The annual Secaucus Alive concert series is back for its ninth season. From rock to pop, the free shows offer a little something for everyone.

The concerts will be held each Thursday evening throughout July and August. The two-hour performances begin at 7 p.m.

“We try to change it up every year,” said Recreation Director John Voli. “We have a couple of staples, but we try to have a mix of old and new. We try to bring back acts that have been popular in the past, and then have some ones that are new.”

The Secaucus Town Council and the Secaucus Reporter newspaper are cosponsors of the series.

Something old, something new

This year’s lineup includes the swing-style jazz act Somers Dream Orchestra; a Motown revue; contemporary pop cover band the Infernos; and oldies group the Cameos.

Two of last year’s biggest crowd pleasers are back again for the 2008 series. The Blue Smoke Band, a rockabilly group, will perform with Elvis impersonator Anthony Liguori Jr.

And local kids ages 4 to 17, dubbed the “Secaucus Showstoppers,” will put on an original variety show set to the music of “Hairspray,” “High School Musical,” and “Grease” on Aug. 7.

Secaucus High School Band Director Robert Fournier will close out the concert series on Aug. 28 with a live performance by school alumni.

“I’d estimate that last year, the concerts attracted roughly 500 to 600 people a show,” Voli said, adding that Blue Smoke and the Secaucus Showstoppers were particular standouts during the 2007 series.

Secaucus Showstoppers

Having organized and produced the annual Secaucus Showstoppers performance for the last five years, the Buonauro clan – Tony, Donna, and daughter Christina – knows what it takes to put on a great concert.

“The best shows may be complex in their execution, but they should look effortless from the audience’s perspective,” Tony Buonauro said last week. “And, of course, using good music always draws people in.”

Buonauro, who develops the concept for the Showstoppers’ concert each year, has the daunting task of writing a theme-based variety show for a large group of kids with varying degrees of artistic talent.

“This is a totally all-inclusive, non-audition show. In other words, if you show up for the rehearsals, you’re in the show,” Buonauro said. “We don’t leave anyone out.”

This means the success of the concert rests on the voices and toes of kids who aren’t always the best singers and dancers. (Every child who wants to perform a solo is given the opportunity to do one.) Still, Buonauro said, the performances are a hit each year because “sheer joy and enthusiasm, coupled with hard work, can take you a long way.”

Buonauro should know; the New York Grand Opera singer has been working with young performers, with the help of his wife Donna, a professional vocalist, for years. Their daughter Christine choreographs the performances.

So far, 80 children have signed up to be in the show. Although the first rehearsal has passed, Buonauro said children who are still interested in being a Showstopper can still sign up at the Secaucus Department of Recreation at (201) 330-2078.

However, Buonauro encourages interested youngsters to sign up soon. The Showstoppers cast has only 12 rehearsals to learn their lines, choreography, stage directions, and songs.

“Soon we’ll go into a recording studio to record a rehearsal CD, which the kids use to drive their parents crazy, but which really helps them learn the song lyrics. That’s really the most difficult part of the show,” Buonauro noted.

“By show time they usually have it all down,” he added. “We pray that will be the case again this year.”

All concerts are free and open to Secaucus residents. Shows begin at 7 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. In the event of rain, concerts will be moved indoors to the ice rink, located behind Buchmuller Park.


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