Steve Colucci is serious about exposing people to what he considers the highest of high art. After a year-plus where performers in those fields have suffered and been forced to spend months off-stage, he’s eager to give them a boost as well.
That’s where the Westhampton Beach Project comes in.
Colucci, a Westhampton resident, has worked in the arts for nearly half a century, and created the Project three years ago as a way to expose everyone in the community, regardless of social status or income, to the kind of art often reserved only for a select few. He is particularly interested in exposing young people to the arts, to help them decide if they want to pursue singing, dance, or another form of artistic expression.
On Friday and Saturday, July 30 and 31, the Great Lawn on Main Street in Westhampton Beach will host a free-to-the-public event showcasing an impressive group of performers, dancers and musicians. The event will serve two purposes — it will give everyone a chance to see top notch performers for free, and will give those performers a chance to get back on their feet, literally and figuratively, after a long period of time where they were sidelined.
On July 30, spectators will be treated to a performance by Steven Maglio, the world’s premier Frank Sinatra tribute singer, accompanied by the Maglio Orchestra, and another performance by Eva Sita, a West African and French-American singer-songwriter, featuring the Eva Sita Band and Dancers. They will perform songs in three different languages, and Sita will also sing alongside Maglio in several Sinatra duets.
Maglio and his 11-piece orchestra have performed their Sinatra tribute show at The Carnegie Club in New York City since 2004, making them the longest running nightclub act in the city.
For lovers of dance, Saturday, July 31, promises to be a special day. American Ballet Theatre soloist dancers will be featured, including Luciana Paris and Aaron Smyth, among others, while there will also be a performance by the Alison Cook Beatty Dance Company, a non-profit modern dance company based in New York.
The show kicks off at 8 p.m. both nights.
The two-day event is a passion project for Colucci, who said he put a significant portion of his own money into getting it off the ground, and then found sponsors to help build up a network of support. The event debuted in 2018 and ran in 2019 as well, but was canceled last year due to COVID-19. Colucci is excited to bring the show back this year, and as usual, he has high standards about the performers he invites.
“If Mozart was available, I’d call him,” he said in a phone interview. “Getting good talent is a difficult thing. You want to introduce high, high art; you don’t want to introduce gimmicks. I know all these bands, I’ve worked with them. They’re highly skilled and highly educated musicians and dancers.”
Colucci said he wants everyone, especially young children, to have a chance to see talented performers because he knows how profound an impact it can have. He said he wasn’t among the privileged few whose parents could afford to take him to Lincoln Center or other homes of high art when he was a child, but that when he was able to study abroad in Europe as he got older, he realized he wanted to dedicate his life to the arts.
Guests at the two-day event who make a donation of $25 and up will receive a VIP seat on the Great Lawn. All proceeds go to the Musical Mime Theater Company, Inc., of which Colucci is president. The theater company is a non-profit organization dedicated to assembling artists from a wide spectrum of interests and talents, and collecting information on corporeal movement and on art in general.
For the full Westhampton Beach Project schedule or to purchase VIP seating, visit whbproject.com. Free performances begin at 8 p.m. on July 30 and 31 on The Great Lawn, 35 Main Street, Westhampton Beach.