BRIGHT IDEA: Providence plans family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration
By Linda Murphy
They’ll be plenty of clowning around at this year’s Bright Night Providence festival on New Year’s Eve. “We’re really excited about it this year, it’s going to be a great festival,” said Festival Director Adam Gertsacov.
This year’s festivities feature more than 160 performers in various locales throughout downtown Providence, new partnerships with performing arts venues, ice skating, a masquerade ball, and Bambouk, a headlining clown act staging three shows at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
Bambouk’s Brian Foley and Mathew Duncan, bald-headed clowns sporting snappy tuxedos and old-school red clown noses are a vaudevillian style physical comedy act that’s taking New York’s off Broadway scene by storm. “They sacrifice their dignity for people’s enjoyment. I saw them off Broadway and I thought they were amazing. And I’m a professional clown, so that says a lot,” said Gertsacov, who hangs up his clown gear on New Year’s Eve to act as ringleader of the artist-run Bright Night, Providence.
In addition to sharing the stage with the Moscow Circus, Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe, Big Apple Circus and Cirque du Soleil, Bambouk also won the prestigious Sherman Brothers Award for Best Clown Duo and the 2010 Golden Nose Award winners for Audience Choice Best Clown Act. “The headlining act has to have broad appeal. They’re silly enough for kids to enjoy them, and smart and talented enough for adults to appreciate them,” said Gertsacov. “There’s also a fair amount of audience interaction.”
The festival gets under way at noon with strolling performers, half-priced skating at the Bank of America Center in Biltmore Park and storytellers, clowns, jugglers and performers taking the stage at four different venues. The Providence Children’s Museum will host puppet shows and other children’s activities, storytellers will take the stage at Perishable Theater from 1 to 5 p.m., the Beneficent Center will feature jugglers, clowns and acrobats, and URI’s Shepard Building offers up a circus workshop with Marvelous Marvin, Indian story and dance workshops with Shanti Muthu, storyteller/performer Keith Munslow and the ever-popular Big Nazo Puppet Band at 5:30 and 7 p.m.
The performances at all of the venues, which also include the AS220 Cafe, Grace Church and the First Baptist Church, start at 6 p.m. after the official opening ceremony in Biltmore Park at 5 p.m.
Singer/songwriters take the stage at Perishable Theater from 6 to 10 p.m. at the annual Bright Night Acoustic Coffeehouse followed by A Night at the Disco: The 70s Strike Back performing a fun retro tour through the gilded age of mirrored disco balls and leisure suits at 10 and 11 p.m.
The First Baptist Church is host to local jazz legend Greg Abate, Fishin’ with Finnegan, a Celtic music act, and Rhythm Room, a first at the festival. “They’re kind of a rogue music group with 10 players and 40 different instruments,” said Gertsacov. “They have a wonderful, danceable sound: I’m expecting the place to be rockin’ it out.”
Two other Bright Night favorites, mentalist Rory Raven, and sideshow artist Matt the Knife are slated to perform at AS220 in advance of the annual Bright Night Poetry Slam at 10 p.m. flowed by an array of bands on the AS220 stage performing up to 2 p.m.
The Bright Night Blues Bash with the Black and White Blues Band kicks off at 8:30 p.m. at the Beneficent Center, and an array of performers are also scheduled to perform in its sanctuary starting at 6 p.m. with master steel drummer Jason Roseman. “I’m really excited about him,” said Gertscov. “He learned how to make steel drums from his father and he’s been performing for 35 years. He plays calypso music, but he also plays jazz.”
The Rhode Island Children’s Chorus and the feminist chorus, Woman Spirit Rising are scheduled to perform at the Grace Church, which will also feature storytellers Mark Binder and Bill Harley.
“There’s a wide diversity of performers, and we also have some extraordinary street performers too,” said Gertsacov.
Bright Night Providence is also pairing up with the Providence Performing Arts Center, which is offering discounted tickets to 8 p.m. performances of Mama Mia on Friday and Saturday, and Trinity Repertory Company is also discounting tickets to its New Year’s Eve plays: “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Another partnership this year offers a reduced ticket to the World Masquerade Ball, a black tie, 21 and older event at the Rhode Island Convention Center. See the Bright Night website for the fine print details on these partnerships.
Bambouk: A New Vaudevillian Escape will be held at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. at the R.I. Convention Center. A Bright Night ticket (a Tyvek wristband) will guarantees admission to one of those three performances, plus more than 50 other performances at 12 other venues throughout the day and evening (on a space available basis).
With New Year’s Eve taking place on a Friday, Gertsacov is expecting a good turnout at this year’s artist-run New Year’s Eve event. Tickets purchased before Dec. 24 cost $10. Tickets after the 24th cost $15; group discounts are also available.
Check out www.brightnight.org for a full schedule of events and a listing of ticket sellers.