After being absent for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the downtown summer concert is…
Jeff Feola negotiates on Broadway against Main Street.
A graduate of New Castle High in 2002, he spent the last few years in New York managing off-Broadway and national touring theater companies. Now he’s back in New Castle with his newly created Feola Entertainment, bringing karaoke nights to The Confluence and reviving the pandemic-claimed downtown summer concert series at the adjacent Riverwalk Park.
“I come from the world of general management for off-Broadway,” said Feola, who studied acting at Slippery Rock University. “I work in the entertainment industry. I’m often like the business manager.
“It’s always been a passion for me that I enjoy, bringing an artist’s vision to life, and the commercial end makes that possible.”
Feola’s off-Broadway credits include “Three Sisters” with Maggie Gyllenhaal. On Broadway, he was the company’s associate director for 12-time Tony Award-nominated “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812,” starring Josh Groban.
He also toured nationally with “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Elf: The Musical”. “Magnificent: The Carole King Musical” and “Hamilton”.
“I love traveling a lot, and I love traveling with 75 actors, musicians, singers and dancers every week, from city to city,” Feola said. “It was a great joy.”
Indeed, a year ago, he was ready to hit the road again with a musical called “The Cher Show”, celebrating Cher’s life and music. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, closing theaters on Broadway and across the country, and sending Feola home to western Pennsylvania.
“I started thinking, is there a world that I’m trying to bring entertainment to, not just in New Castle, but in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio , south of Erie,” he said. “We have all these little nooks and crannies of people who I think want to see a Broadway star or a celebrity from the 90s or 80s. There are really big stars that could come to New Castle.
“I achieved my dream, but now is the time to implement what I learned. The road led here, and I feel like all of my contracts, my payroll, my marketing and advertising, all those meetings I’ve had over the last few years now come into play.”
Feola shared his vision with family friend Pat Amabile, owner of downtown Shipping Depot+, and Amabile in turn sent him to The Confluence, where Feola will host karaoke nights.
Then came a meeting with Angie Urban, director of New Visions for Lawrence County, who brought up the Riverwalk Park summer concert series, which she was looking to revive after COVID-19 anticipated her 2020 slate.
“Jeff is truly an asset to New Castle and the region,” Urban said, “and we’re looking forward to giving him that small step into the local arts scene, but hopefully he’ll be able to develop huge opportunities for so that people here can enjoy a variety of entertainment.
“While the pandemic has certainly been difficult and a change of pace for many, it has also brought home a lot of talent who are eager and eager to be part of the revitalization efforts here. We are so lucky to be connected to Jeff and are confident this will be the best season yet.
The series is expanding from six shows to eight – an enthusiastic Feola proposed 10, but settled for two less – and kicks off on June 25 with iconic local band The Dorals.
Along with seven other bands also signed, Feola now strives to bring featured food trucks to every gig night. So far, he said, Nina’s Italian Ice is on board, as is local winery VentiSei, which will sell its wine bags.
“What an innovative idea for a place where it says no glass,” Feola said. “(VentiSei Owner) Denny Flora truly values community and we share that value.
“One of the things I learned in New York is ’embrace your uniqueness.’ That’s what I do, and I think that’s what he did.
As Feola continues to recruit sponsors for his efforts, he also envisions a time when he hopes to bring even bigger shows to the area, particularly at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
“As a theatergoer and performer all my life,” he said, “to know that there’s a 2,800-seat venue at the top of the hill that has lights and sound that works hurts my heart.”
What if New York were to call once the pandemic was officially history?
“I lived in New York for 10 years,” Feola said. “I did it, I knew it, I loved it, I lived it. I don’t need to do it again. I don’t need to live there.
“If there was an opportunity where I needed to go do a show or a workshop or something for three weeks or two months, I would.
“Six months from now, if ‘Hamilton’ calls and says, ‘Can you come and replace the manager of the company for two months?’ “I would do that. For me, that’s perfect. I’m going to have that experience under my belt and I’m going to use it to continue to snowball my career here into something bigger.”