BWW Review: THE BOWERY BOYS: GHOST STORIES OF OLD NEW YORK chills at Joe's Pub
I'm not the type to go in for ghost stories. "They're not my thing," I'll tell my friends. "They're all just the same old reheated dinner," is what I tell myself and for the most part I think I'm being honest with myself. When I was a kid I was afraid of my own shadow, so Halloween was the holiday I dreaded most in my life. I've grown up. I've conquered my fears. I can sit through House of a Thousand Corpses, Jordan Peele's US, all the Halloween movies without so much as a gasp. As a native New Yorker I'd like to think there's really not much that can scare me at this point in my life. I expected Bowery Boys: Ghost Stories of Old New York to be more fun than fright. But good storytelling is different than a slasher film and it wasn't long before storytellers Tom Meyers and Greg Young had me shook.
Maybe it was the extensive repertoire of blood-curdling shrieks provided by musical guest Bessie D. Smith that had me shivering in my seat. I'm certain music director and composer Andrew Austin's foley work on the piano had something to do with it-he prepared the piano to haunting effect, at times playing the inside of the piano. It wasn't that long into the first tale of a Greek-revival mansion in Clinton Hill, with its long-gone views of the harbor, long since replaced Brooklyn navy yard, that I was besieged by goose-bumps, chilled to the bone, clutching my pearls in fright.
I won't go too deep into the details of each fascinating tale. Suffice it to say the stories are real treats involving historical legends like Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and even Judy Garland. Just as intriguing as the paranormal aspect of each tale is the history of New York City that unfolds in every story. Ghost Stories of Old New York weaves a rich tapestry of history, geography, and mystery. If you're a scaredy-cat like me you may appreciate that they let up on the gas enough with choice puns and gorgeously sung musical numbers to give a very well-rounded evening of entertainment-Smith's exuberant rendition of "I Put A Spell On You" was particularly delightful. Beyond spooky stories, the show offers insights into a New York that seems to have vanished but, as you'll learn, is still lurking right there beneath the surface.
Greg Young and Tom Meyers started The Bowery Boys Podcast in 2007 on a whim with just a laptop loaded with Garage Band, an old karaoke mic, and a desire to produce a fun New York-themed radio show. 12 years later that little endeavor has grown into a bi-weekly podcast, a blog, a series of small Bowery Boys branded group walking tours, the book Bowery Boys Adventures of Old New York: An Unconventional Exploration of Manhattan's Neighborhoods, Secret Spots and Colorful Characters, their annual Ghost Stories of Old New York at Joe's Pub-now in its second year-and no less than 13 Ghosts Stories of Old New York Halloween Specials. Not to mention a devoted fandom.
I was struck by the conversations of audience members I overhead before and after the show. They spoke to each other about this or that story they wanted Young and Myers to cover. Some mentioned plans to research stories they were passionate about to show Young and Myers. It's exciting to see so many people so heavily invested in learning and sharing New York City history. In a city that changes as rapidly as New York, it's wonderful to see the spirit of its varied past preserved and served up in such an engaging fashion.
I almost let October come and go this year without giving Halloween so much as a second thought. This show was just what I needed to get into the spirit of the holiday.
You can still catch The Bowery Boys: Ghost Stories of Old New York on October 31st at 7pm at Joe's Pub. Tickets are available Here.
To learn about The Bowery Boys you can visit their Website.
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Photo Credit: Benjamin Stone