Eight-time Grammy award winning singer, musician and producer Stephen Marley performs at WHBPAC on July 10. COURTESY WHBPAC
The Village People, legendary icons of the '70s, perform at WHBPAC on August 19. COURTESY WHBPAC
Candace Bushnell, creator of "Sex and the City" presents her new one-woman show at WHBPAC on July 9. COURTESY WHBPAC
Chris Isaak “rockabilly’s greatest modern ambassador” performs at WHBPAC on July 30. COURTESY WHBPAC
Stand-up comedian Dave Attell performs at WHBPAC on July 29. COURTESY WHBPAC
Humor writer David Sedaris performs at WHBPAC on October 7. COURTESY WHBPAC
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center's Executive Director Julienne Penza-Boone. KELLI HULL PHOTOGRAPHY
Comedian Jay Leno performs at WHBPAC on July 23. COURTESY WHBPAC
Broadway, television and film leading man Jeremy Jordan performs at WHBPAC on August 20. COURTESY WHBPAC
Broadway star Kelli O’Hara performs at WHBPAC on July 17. COURTESY WHBPAC
Vocalist, guitarist and pianist Melody Gardot performs at WHBPAC September 9. COURTESY WHBPAC
Singer, pianist, composer and arranger Michael Feinstein performs at WHBPAC on August 6. COURTESY WHBPAC
Musician Dave Mason performs at WHBPAC on July 2. CHRIS JENSEN
Mentalist Oz Pearlman performs at WHBPAC on August 21. COURTESY WHBPAC
Comedian Rita Rudner performs at WHBPAC on September 4. COURTESY WHBPAC
Musician Taj Mahal performs at WHBPAC on July 24. COURTESY WHBPAC
Actor, comedian and writer Tom Segura performs at WHBPAC on August 28. COURTESY WHBPAC
Comedian Tim Dillon performs at WHBPAC on August 7. COURTESY WHBPAC
Comedian Whitney Cummings performs at WHBPAC on July 1. COURTESY WHBPAC
Savage Pianos, a dueling piano show by multi-instrumentalists Matthew Tobin and Steve Savage, will perform at WHBPAC on September 2. COURTESY WHBPAC
With life slowly returning to normal on the East End after two years of pandemic shut downs, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) is doing the same — and while last summer, the theater’s biggest events were offered at outdoor venues because of the uncertainty that remained surrounding COVID-19’s spread, this year, a full schedule of live indoor shows will be returning to the theater.
So too are audiences, who seem to be more than ready for some in-person entertainment.
“Kenny G was sold out and was spectacular, and so was Tracy Morgan,” said WHBPAC’s director Julienne Penza-Boone, referring to shows offered at the theater in recent weeks.
It’s an interesting time for Penza-Boone. She took the helm as director of the venue in early 2020, right before COVID-19 shut down live entertainment coast-to-coast, so this summer represents her first of glimpse of relative normalcy in programming for the WHBPAC.
“Now I get to see it up and running,” laughed Penza-Boone, who formerly ran the theater’s Arts Academy program. “I know the history so deeply, that’s a benefit, and knowing the people who come and having run the educational program — I know the parents of the kids and what they want to see and what wasn’t typically programmed in the past.
“It’s a diverse season but there’s truly something for everybody and they can find something to get excited about,” she added.
This summer, welcoming in-person audiences back to the theater is the theme and Penza-Boone explained that booking marquee names to perform there has really been the focus.
“The season is a love letter to the people who supported us over the last two years,” she said. “We have Chris Isaak, Michael Feinstein, Lyle Lovett, Chris Botti — people our audiences love and will want to see back here and are excited about.”
Penza-Boone is also looking forward to welcoming new names to the stage who have never before performed at the WHBPAC, including comedians Whitney Cummings, Tim Dillon and Tom Segura.
“He’s wildly popular and we’ve sold out two of his shows,” she said of Segura. “Also coming this summer is Candace Bushnell, creator of ‘Sex in the City,’ with her one-woman show. These are buzzier kinds of shows people can get excited about.”
Also on the comedy front, on the evening of July 23, WHBPAC will welcome a more traditional comedic name to its stage — Jay Leno, who will cap off the Westhampton Beach Concours, a car show fundraiser for WHBPAC to be held earlier in the day in conjunction with Rally Point East, an automotive enthusiast club. Given Leno’s well-known love for classic and vintage cars, the day makes for a perfect pairing.
“I love comedy, so that’s an interest to me. Our comedy hits every age group,” said Penza-Boone. “Same with our Broadway shows. We’ll have Kelli O’Hara, who attracts a more traditional Broadway audience, and we’ll also have Jeremy Jordan who is like the heart throb and a Broadway version of Harry Styles. The first two rows sold out immediately and they were all bought by our Arts Academy students.”
When asked if she finds that audiences are comfortable coming back to live theater, Penza-Boone said she has noticed that not only is the WHBPAC seeing a return of its longtime patrons, but there are also a number of new faces in the seats, including many who are coming from points further west than has been typical in the past.
“I think there’s a willingness of people to maybe travel farther,” she said. “For people who love live music the last two and half years have been torture. They are willing to travel to see great art.”
For Penza-Boone, her goal as director is not only to bring back loyal audiences or those from farther afield, but she notes that in recent years, WHBPAC has been focused on diversifying both its programming and its base of patrons by connecting and engaging with local populations who may not have traditionally thought to come to events at the theater in the past.
“We have a Cultural Equity Council that has a say on our internal practices in terms of the workplace, but also in terms of things we should be programming,” she explained. “We always had pretty diverse programming, but not always the most diverse audiences.”
One of the challenges has been to get the message out to underserved audiences who may not even be aware that WHBPAC is presenting performers that they would like to see.
“I think awareness is key,” said Penza-Boone, who explains that the theater has been developing educational initiatives with two Riverhead-based groups — the Butterfly Effect Project, which creates safe spaces for girls to dream and succeed, and Stop the Violence, which empowers Black boys through sports — and that when parents come to drop off their children at the theater, that’s when they may first learn about upcoming shows.
“The names are drawing, but it’s a matter of making people aware they’re here,” said Penza-Boone. “This theater is a place for everybody. We don’t want it to feel intimidating or pretentious. We’re bringing people in, in all different ways, and doing outreach in an organic way. The Arts Academy is another way we bring in new audiences, and that’s been rewarding and wonderful.”
But it all takes time, she notes, especially for audiences who may have felt that for some reason, the WHBPAC was not a place for them.
“The Butterflies at first were not sure about it. It takes consistent outreach, not just one time, one artist, it’s about creating meaningful partnerships,” Penza-Boone said. “We’ll be a host site for OLA’s [Organización Latino Americana] Latin film fest, but we’re also bringing in a Latin artist in the fall, so we’re thinking of educational opportunities for that group as well. You can’t just slap something up on your website, you need to find partnerships and create new partnerships.”
But now that summer is here, it’s all about getting people back into the theater to reconnect and enjoy all the entertainment offerings that WHBPAC will have in the house.
“I wanted it to be exciting for our tried and true audience, but at the same time, I’m trying to engage new audiences, find what younger people will come see and bring in more diverse audiences,” Penza-Boone said. “I want people to look at this season and say, ‘Wow.’ The buzz is really loud. Memorial Day weekend was very exciting, and Main Street in Westhampton Beach is just beautiful and there are new restaurants in town.
“It’s the place to be in town.”
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For tickets to all shows, visit WHBPAC.org.
Thursday, June 30, 7 p.m. — Pianofest in the Hamptons. See promising prodigies before they transform into stars of the classical music world. $23.
Friday, July 1, 8 p.m. — Comedian Whitney Cummings presents her “Touch Me” tour. Ages 18 and up. $95 to 130.
Saturday, July 2, 8 p.m. — Musician Dave Mason and his band perform. $76 to $96.
Saturday, July 9, 8 p.m. — Candace Bushnell presents her new one woman show “Is There Still Sex in the City?” $81 to $111.
Sunday, July 10, 8 p.m. — Eight-time Grammy award winning singer, reggae musician and producer Stephen Marley (and second son of music icons Bob and Rita Marley) performs. $102 to $142
Saturday, July 16, 8 p.m. — Four-time Grammy-award winning contemporary blues and Americana artist Keb’ Mo’ performs. $81 to $126.
Sunday, July 17, 8 p.m. — Broadway’s Kelli O’Hara, star of stage and screen, performs. $101 to $146.
Thursday, July 2, 7 p.m. — Kate Schumacher and Carinn Jade of the podcast “Pop Fiction Women” talk with author Emily Giffin about her latest book “Meant to Be.” $43 (includes book).
Saturday, July 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Westhampton Beach Concours: A Fundraiser to Benefit WHBPAC. Car show featuring the finest new and vintage automobiles from near and far.
Saturday, July 23, 8 p.m. — Comedian Jay Leno Dubbed “The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz,” performs. $201 to $306.
Sunday, July 24, 8 p.m. — Influential blues musician Taj Mahal performs. $101 to $136.
Friday, July 29, 8 p.m. — Stand-up comedian Dave Attell performs. Ages 18 and up. $106 to $126.
Saturday, July 30, 8 p.m. — Chris Isaak and his longtime band Silvertone perform. $161 to $201.
Sunday, July 31, 8 p.m. — Lyle Lovett and His Large Band perform. $136 to $211.
Saturday, August 6, 8 p.m. — Michael Feinstein, a singer/pianist/composer/arranger/musical archivist and keeper of the Great American Songbook, performs. $131 to $171.
Sunday, August 7, 8 p.m. — Stand-up comedian Tim Dillon performs. Ages 18 and up. $106 to $126.
Sunday, August 14, 8 p.m. — American instrumental artist Chris Botti performs. $106 to $171.
Friday, August 19, 8 p.m. — ’70s’ icons the Village People perform. $101 to $156.
Saturday, August 20, 8 p.m. — Broadway, television and film leading man Jeremy Jordan performs. $76 to $101.
Sunday, August 21, 8 p.m. — Mentalist Oz Pearlman performs. $75 to $100.
Friday, August 26, 8 p.m. —Veteran Broadway, film and television star Norm Lewis performs. $66 to $86.
Saturday, August 27, 8 p.m. — Big Shot, who made its name playing the music of Billy Joel, performs. $86 to $116.
Sunday, August 28, 8 p.m. — Actor/comedian/writer Tom Segura performs. Ages 18 and up. $96 to $116.
Friday, September 2, 8 p.m. — Savage Pianos, everyone’s favorite dueling piano show, returns for a night of on-demand music performed by Matthew Tobin and Steve Savage. $23 to $203.
Saturday, September 3, 8 p.m. —That Motown Band performs. $41 to $61.
Sunday, September 4, 8 p.m. — Comedian Rita Rudner performs. $86 to $106.
Friday, September 9, 8 p.m. — Vocalist, guitarist and pianist Melody Gardot performs. $101 to $136.
Friday, October 7, 8 p.m. — America’s preeminent humor writer David Sedaris performs. Ages 18 and up. $91 to $116.
One fine body…