Rising stars on Long Island
From the South Shore to the East End, Long Island's got talent. In this new feature, we put the spotlight on locals who are making names for themselves in the entertainment world.
ERIC WILZIG, 22, of Woodmere(Credit: Beryl Ostroff)
GIG He's a magician and illusionist.
HIS STORY When he was 5, Wilzig got a magic kit and was entranced. He attended Tannen's Magic Camp in Manhattan when he was 12 and learned tricks of the trade from David Copperfield and Criss Angel. In his teens, Wilzig began mounting his own show and has since performed at Times Square Arts Center, Resorts Hotel-Casino in Atlantic City, and he just wrapped a summer tour on the East Coast college circuit. His signature trick -- being handcuffed and escaping from a locked steel box -- was inspired by his idol, Harry Houdini. He also has a degree in finance and marketing from Rutgers University. "You can have the greatest show in the world, but it's nothing if you can't promote it," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT Wilzig is lining up holiday- show gigs and ultimately wants his own show in Las Vegas.
RAFFAELA CAPP 22, originally from Westbury(Credit: Robert Kazandjian)
GIG She's an actress and screenwriter.
HER STORY Capp, who also lived in Nesconset and Sayville, started acting when she was 5 and played a princess in a local production of "The King and I." She also played Eponine in "Les Misérables" at Broadhollow and has appeared in commercials and music videos. She studied drama and musical theater at Sarah Lawrence College and at CAP 21's conservatory in Manhattan, and was understudy for Ado Annie in "Oklahoma!" at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. She moved to Los Angeles two years ago, hoping to work in films. In the Christmas release "The Bandit Hound," about a bank-robbing dog, Capp plays a waitress.
WHAT'S NEXT Capp wrote the screenplay for a romantic comedy called "Taking a Chance on Love," and she and her mom are producing the play "Dog See God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" in Los Angeles. Correction: An earlier version of this story said she played Ado Annie and had the wrong title of the play she's producing.
MIKELPARIS, Douglaston(Credit: Mikelparis.com)
GIG A keyboardist touring with rockers O.A.R.
HIS STORY MikelParis, whose parents live in Floral Park, started sitting and experimenting at the piano when he was 4, and has been hooked ever since. In seventh grade, he joined his school's jazz band as a keyboardist and realized he wanted a career in music. After studying jazz piano, music composition and theater at The Hartt School, the University of Hartford's music conservatory, MikelParis was Off-Broadway bound, landing in "Stomp" for several years. "By 2005, I was really starting to get the itch to play again, plus my body was in physical need of a rest," MikelParis says. That summer he played with The Dan Band, and, through the tour manager, heard that O.A.R. needed a full-time keyboardist. He also sings backup vocals.
WHAT'S NEXT MikelParis is putting together a pitch reel for a web series called TuneTrek, a travel and music show.
SAM TESCH, 15, Rosyln(Credit: Elizabeth Liberatore)
GIG He sings standards and opera.
HIS STORY As a child, Sam grew up listening to the music of the Rat Pack, and fell in love with it. He began vocal training at 8 and by age 10 began performing at charity events, including one sponsored by Freeport radio station WGBB. He also has entered numerous local talent competitions, including Nassau County Reach for the Stars and Huntington's Got Talent, where he was a finalist. Though Sam aspires to become the next Michael Bublé, he wouldn't rule out an operatic career. "When I started with high classical opera training, I rebelled a little because it's very difficult and could be tedious," he says. "I have more patience now that I'm older."
WHAT'S NEXT Sam will sing "God Bless America" at Madison Square Garden at the New York Liberty game on Aug. 8 and "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Camden Yards in Baltimore on Sept. 12.
DAN WOLPOW, 28, originally from Dix Hills(Credit: Matt Murphy)
GIG He's a playwright and lyricist.
HIS STORY Wolpow, who now lives in Brooklyn, was a psychology major at Cornell University, but his mind was really set on theater. While there, he took a playwriting class and even had his original one-act musical performed onstage at Cornell. After college, he enrolled in the BMI workshop, which he said was "two years of intense musical writing training." His training paid off last month with the premiere of "Cloned!," a sci-fi musical he collaborated on with Adam Spiegel that can best be called a mashup of "Back to the Future" and "The Comedy of Errors." Wolpow wrote the book and lyrics for the show, which had an extended run at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
WHAT'S NEXT There's talk of a regional production of "Cloned!" and he has been commissioned to write "The Whole Megillah," a children's musical for Purim.
BETTINA SKYE, 53, originally from Merrick
GIG An actress who has appeared onstage, on TV and in indie films.
HER STORY Skye's introduction to theater began when she was 10 and studied at Five Towns Theater Workshop in Lynbrook. She won a scholarship to SUNY Albany in theater, and, after graduating, studied at the Actors Studio in Manhattan. Since then, she's worked everywhere from Ellis Island, as a Polish immigrant in a theatrical production, to Madison Square Garden, where she appeared in "A Christmas Carol" (F. Murray Abraham was Scrooge). She's also been in the film "Escape From King's Park" and the daytime soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."
WHAT'S NEXT Skye appears in the upcoming films "Girl Clown" as a "crazy clown agent" and "The Inherited" with Annabella Sciorra, and has roles in October on "Cake Boss" and Cartoon Network's "The Eric Andre Show."
ANDREW KOSS, Floral Park(Credit: Kristin Hoebermann)
GIG He's an actor.
HIS STORY While studying law at St. John's University, Koss began taking acting classes in Manhattan. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles where he was cast as an underworld heavy in the HBO film "True Friends." He eventually returned to New York, where he appeared in several short films that played the festival circuit. Koss is also a playwright whose one-act drama "Officers of War," in which he also starred, played at Lincoln Center. His latest project is "Zizi and Honeyboy," a short film he wrote and appears in with Doris Roberts. The "Tuesdays With Morrie"-ish story of an Italian aunt and her nephew is currently shooting in Glen Cove.
WHAT'S NEXT He's hoping to get financing to make a full-length version of "Zizi and Honeyboy." "I would love to take this to Cannes, Sundance, and hit all the big festivals," he says.
AMY POWERS, 53, originally from Seaford(Credit: Demann Crawford)
GIG A songwriter and a co-producer of Off-Broadway's "Heathers."
HER STORY Powers attended Harvard Law School, where she spent much class time writing song parodies. She did eventually join a law firm, which literally made her sick. "I got chronic fatigue syndrome, and while recovering, I wrote my first song at the suggestion of my then-boyfriend to amuse myself," says Powers, who now lives in Los Angeles. The song was her entry into a musical theater writing workshop run by BMI, the music rights organization. That led to a job with Andrew Lloyd Webber to develop lyrics for "Sunset Boulevard." She's since written songs for other shows as well as Mattel's Barbie movies, and with "Heathers" can now add producer to her credits.
WHAT'S NEXT She wrote the lyrics for the musical "Doctor Zhivago," which she hopes will open in London's West End later this year.
ROB HINDERLITER, 28, Westhampton Beach(Credit: Dirty Sugar Photography)
GIG He's an actor and co-producer of several Broadway shows.
HIS STORY Hinderliter says that when he was 6 he wanted to act, but didn't discover theater until attending Westhampton Beach High School. He studied musical theater at Pace University, and after graduation landed roles Off-Broadway in "Pinkalicious" and "Fantasy Football: The Musical." Last year, he and fellow Pace alum Dominick LaRuffa formed R&D Theatricals, which coproduced the Tony-winning "All the Way." Hinderliter says he's following the advice given to him by his idol, Brian Stokes Mitchell. "He said, the smartest thing you can ever do is to be creating your own concepts and producing and still be an actor if you want to be an actor," Hinderliter says.
WHAT'S NEXT Hinderliter stars in the psychological movie drama "3 A.M.," and he and LaRuffa will co-produce the fall Broadway revival of "You Can't Take It With You."
MELISSA GIATTINO, originally from Bellport(Credit: John W. Engement Theater)
GIG A dancer-choreographer who stars in "Two on Tap".
HER STORY Dancing was in Giattino's blood -- her parents opened a dance school in Bellport when she was 2, "so I was crawling around the studio," Giattino says. She made her stage debut as one of the orphans in "Annie" at Gateway Playhouse and performed at the theater every summer as a child. At 17, she joined the touring company of "A Chorus Line," which led to two years with the Rockettes and a spot in the 2001 Broadway revival of "42nd Street." "I was a swing and an understudy, so I played everyone in the show at least once," she says. More recently, she choreographed "42nd Street" at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where she appeared in "Two on Tap" earlier this year.
WHAT'S NEXT Come July, she'll begin rehearsals for a holiday edition of "Two on Tap."
GIANNI PACI, 21, Oyster Bay(Credit: Jen Painter)
GIG A singer-songwriter who just released his debut single.
HIS STORY Paci knew he wanted to be a musician the moment he began playing the guitar at age 11. As both a member of various bands and as a solo artist, Paci's opened for Ace Frehley of Kiss, Steven Adler of Guns n' Roses, Owl City and others. In January he graduated with a B.A. in musicology from New York University and in February released his first single, "Goodbye." Teen mag Tiger Beat also dubbed Paci "the cutest boy you're not crushing on yet" in a feature on his former band, Pine Hollows. "Five years from now, I see myself having a platinum album and doing world tours," he says. "It feels like 26 years old is when artists that I love had their big album or a classic album released."
WHAT'S NEXT Paci will perform at Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington on June 13.
EMERY KELLY (center), 16, Holbrook(Credit: Hot Rock Media)
GIG He's in the boy band Forever in Your Mind.
HIS STORY Kelly was 5 when he began performing at CM Performing Arts Center, Gateway Playhouse and other L.I. venues. Last spring, he tackled a new stage -- auditioning for Fox's "The X Factor." After the judges cut him early on, Kelly was invited back and paired with eliminated contestants Ricky Garcia and Jon Klaasen to form Forever in Your Mind. They didn't make the finals, but the group has done well with a gig at Digifest L.A. and the single "Sweet Little Something."
WHAT'S NEXT Forever in Your Mind has two local gigs this week: Digifest NYC at Citi Field on Saturday and Revolution in Amityville on Sunday. "I haven't been home in five months, so I really want to see my family and friends," says Kelly. The group's EP is also due to come out later this year.
MEGAN MINUTILLO, 28, St. James(Credit: Tiffany Farley)
GIG She's a playwright and a director.
HER STORY After graduating from New York University, Minutillo planned on teaching theater. Instead she started writing about her experiences looking for a job and shared those stories with family and friends. "My mom was the first person who said, 'You can make this a play.' She was laughing so hard when I was recounting the things that had happened," Minutillo says. Since then her plays have been presented at Manhattan Repertory Theatre and she also has directed them. Directing has since become her passion -- "I like creating the pictures everybody sees" -- and she's helmed productions at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
WHAT'S NEXT She's directing the May 2 cabaret show "Duets," featuring pairings of Broadway pros and theater hopefuls, at 54 Below in Manhattan, and a staged reading of "Crimes of the Heart," at Guild Hall on May 6.
CHRIS ROACH, 45, Ronkonkoma(Credit: NONE)
GIG He's a stand-up comic and actor.
HIS STORY Roach was a taking a management course 12 years ago when he realized he had to overcome his fear of public speaking. Doing open-mic nights not only solved the problem, but led to a new career as a stand-up, opening for comics including Bobby Collins. He next studied acting for four years and landed roles on stage ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") and TV ("One Life to Live" and "The Michael J. Fox Show"). His latest project is "Umbrellas Kill," a short film he wrote and stars in that will be shown at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson tomorrow night at 8. "It's a mockumentary about one man's journey to ban oversized umbrellas on the streets of New York," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT He's in Barry Levinson's movie "The Humbling" with Al Pacino, and Steven Soderbergh's upcoming HBO miniseries "The Knick."
KAYLA STOCKERT, 16, Sayville(Credit: startraksphoto.com / Michael Simon)
GIG This singer has a Roslyn concert Wednesday night.
HER STORY Stockert loves the "oldies" and has performed at venues from Queens College to the Apollo Theater. Her repertoire includes songs by Connie Francis, who gave Stockert a language lesson. "A friend of mine knew her. I told her how much I liked her song 'Mama,' so she helped me with the Italian in that song," says Stockert. Kayla appeared on Fox's "The X Factor" last fall, and, though Simon Cowell and his fellow judges didn't advance her, they were encouraging. "They all said I'm going to be a star someday . . . 'and to keep doing what you're doing,' " Stockert says. She's following their advice and is planning her second CD. Stockert, who also writes her own songs, will perform at Roslyn High School tonight at 7 with the band Iridesense.
WHAT'S NEXT She's in the movie "The Grief of Others," featuring Rachel Dratch.
CRISTINA FAICCO, 25, Commack(Credit: Robert Mannis)
GIG She played young Cosette and young Eponine in Broadway's original "Les Misérables."
HER STORY Faicco was 4 when she made her debut as a pirate in "Peter Pan" at Star Playhouse in Commack. At 10, she appeared in a musical at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, where she was spotted by a casting director for "Les Miz." She sang "Castle on a Cloud" twice at her audition. "The second time, I had kind of an out-of-body experience, like I was no longer in the audition room," she says. Faicco was with the show for seven months. Since graduating from Ithaca College, she has appeared in musicals for Theatre Three, Plaza Productions and the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
WHAT'S NEXT Faicco plays Patsy in "Bingo the Winning Musical," which opens April 12 at Theatre Three. She also has her own voice studio.
CARLY TAMER, 12, East Northport(Credit: Yolanda Perez)
GIG She's appeared on stage, screen and TV.
HER STORY At age 6, Carly landed a role on the Nickelodeon children's show "Team Umizoomi." After that, she appeared on "Sesame Street" and "30 Rock," with fellow Long Islander Alec Baldwin, whom Carly said was "really nice." Carly, who is trained in jazz, tap and ballet, showed off her dancing talents during the national tours of "Billy Elliot" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." "I absolutely loved being on tour. Different sites, different places, different food," she says. Her most challenging role so far has been Gloria in the thriller "Wait Until Dark" at Engeman last year.
WHAT'S NEXT Carly was part of a recent reading of "First Daughter Suite," a new musical starring Carolee Carmello that may be Broadway bound. She hopes to eventually have a career like Sutton Foster's.
JASON CROSBY 39, originally from Roslyn
GIG He just toured with the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
HIS STORY Crosby started out playing violin at age 3 and piano at 4 and within a few years was a violist with the Long Island Youth Orchestra. In high school, he considered becoming a lawyer, but his band teacher convinced him otherwise. "He said, with my abilities, it would be a shame for me to give up music," says Crosby, who now lives in Northern California. Though he still plays classical music, he's made his living performing with Susan Tedeschi, Blind Boys of Alabama and Robert Randolph & the Family Band, which he appeared with at the 2004 Grammy Awards. He's also opened for Eric Clapton.
WHAT'S NEXT Crosby will perform at Still Partners in Sea Cliff on Thursday, March 27, and he's working on a new album.
ZEISS, 26, Lindenhurst(Credit: John Martin)
GIG He's a singer-songwriter with retro style.
HIS STORY Everyone called Matthew Zeiss by his last name when he was growing up. "And it rhymes with ice, not geese," he says. "Everyone always told me what a cool name it was and how catchy it was. So I figured I may as well use it." His first taste of fame came when a Lindenhurst newspaper wrote about his rendition of "Johnny B. Goode" in a fifth-grade talent show. He's performed professionally since high school and now has his own band, which includes Billy Joel saxophonist Richie Cannata. In 2012, Zeiss cut his first album, "Last Train to Rock n Roll," and later that year released a cover of Charlie Rich's "Midnight Blues" featuring Charlie Rich Jr. on piano. Zeiss is now working on a new album.
WHAT'S NEXT He and his band play Resorts World Casino in Jamaica Saturday and Montauk Music Festival in May.
STEVEN THOMAS CAPP, 11, grew up in Sayville(Credit: Nancy Jo Gilchrist)
GIG He's a stand-up comic and an actor.
HIS STORY Steven has been performing since he was 5 and began taking acting and comedy classes while he still lived on Long Island. Now he gives 'em the stand-up routine in Los Amgeles, where his family moved in 2012 (they still have a residence in Sayville). Since then, he's signed with an agent and performs regularly with the Standing Tall Comedy Troupe at the Hollywood Improv. "I do a lot of jokes comparing New York and Los Angeles. The pizza, the kids at school," he says. Steven also acts, and last season he played a soccer goalie in an episode of ABC's "The Neighbors."
WHAT'S NEXT "How I Met Your Mother" fans can catch him in the March 17 episode. "It was really cool to see Jason Segel, Neil Patrick Harris and Josh Radnor," Steven says. "They're all just regular people and were really nice."
JEFF LEBLANC, 28, Center Moriches(Credit: Jacques LeBlanc)
GIG A blues-pop musician.
HIS STORY LeBlanc says he didn't find music until he was 17. "I went to Center Moriches High School, and there was a student that used to leave his guitar in class all the time. I started picking it up and goofed around," he says. That Christmas, he found a guitar under the tree and has been playing it since. He started getting gigs while attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., which led to opening for pop star Matt Nathanson, Gavin DeGraw, Chris Isaacs, Karmin and Luke Bryan. "I like opening. I like winning over people, and people hearing you for the first time," says LeBlanc, who released his album, "My Own Way There," in July.
WHAT'S NEXT Though he's been playing the college circuit, his next local gig is at City Winery in Manhattan on April 5.
CHANDRA THOMAS, Rockville Centre(Credit: Colman Domingo)
GIG She co-stars with Kate Winslet in the film "Labor Day."
HER STORY Since appearing as "lady in waiting, like No. 45" in "The Emperor's New Clothes" in high school, Thomas has loved being onstage. A month after earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from Columbia University, she was cast in a regional production of the gospel musical "Crowns" and got her Actors' Equity card. Since then, she's worked constantly onstage, on television ("The Good Wife," "As the World Turns") and in film. She's relishing her current screen role in "Labor Day" as a bank teller involved in a pivotal plot twist. "I've always been curious to go say, 'Grandma, you should go to the movie theater and just go see me,' " says Thomas, who now lives in Manhattan.
WHAT'S NEXT Thomas is producing a Manhattan film festival set for May showcasing movies dealing with social justice and environmental issues.
MATT, 24, AND ANDREW COMO, 22, Mount Sinai(Credit: Rick Wenner)
GIG The Como Brothers Band has just released its first album.
THEIR STORY Since pairing up as a band two years ago, the siblings have opened for The Wallflowers at the Alive@Five music series in Stamford, Conn., and David Cook at 89 North in Patchogue. In October, they released the CD "Baby Steps," and shot videos for two of the songs in Port Jefferson. "Overcoming struggle was an overarching theme throughout the album," says Matt.
WHAT'S NEXT On the heels of winning songwriter and album of the year at last week's Artists in Music Awards honoring emerging artists, the Comos plan to line up new gigs to promote their album.
TIM KROMPIER, 40, Amityville(Credit: Leanna Conley)
GIG He's a stand-up comic.
HIS STORY Krompier, who worked his way through college as a break dancer, is a radio writer who started doing standup 13 years ago. "I was told, 'You should try standup because you write like a standup,'" he says. "I always wanted to do it, and once I did, I never looked back." Krompier's humor has always been rooted in his observations about life, which lately has focused on being a stay-at-home dad to his two children. He's toured with comic John Pinette over the past three years and last month opened for Rosie O'Donnell at Governor's Comedy Club in Levittown.
WHAT'S NEXT He plays the Brokerage in Bellmore Feb.13 and McGuires in Bohemia Feb. 21 and 22, then heads to Las Vegas with Pinette in April. He's also waiting to hear back from NBC about his "America's Got Talent" audition.
ELLA WATTS, 13, Southold(Credit: Randee Daddona)
GIG She played Louisa in NBC's "The Sound of Music Live."
HER STORY Ella, who made her acting debut at age 6 as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at Islip Arts Center, beat out about 800 girls for Louisa. The audition process was intense, she says, and involved learning choreography and being filmed. "That was a good start in getting to know what it was like to have cameras around you all the time," she says. The night of the live show, Ella says, "I wasn't as nervous as I probably should have been. I had a lot of energy before I went on. I don't know where that energy came from."
WHAT'S NEXT Since "The Sound of Music," Ella has auditioned for several films and at press time was waiting to hear back from producers. Her dream is to appear on Broadway as Elphaba in "Wicked."