The audience at the Artists Without Walls’ presentation of “Crossing Boroughs,” which was written and created by Charles R. Hale, was treated to an outstanding mix of singing, dancing, music, and history last Sunday afternoon at the Museum of the City of New York. Weaving together the intricate blend of the music, dance, history and culture that defined each of New York City’s boroughs, “Crossing Boroughs” showcased the magnificent tapestry that defines New York City. Combining a superb narrative, slideshows, singing, dancing and monologues, the show transported the older members in the audience back to the days of their youth, while giving the younger folk a glimpse into New York City’s past.

Vocalists David Raleigh and Niamh Hyland

The opening slideshow presented visual snippets of New York City, which provided the backdrop for Niamh Hyland who sang “Midnight in Harlem” with enough soul to rock a congregation. Charles R. Hale picked up from there, narrating a brief history of Manhattan and its past, his words accenting and explaining the slides flashing across the screen. This background material led to a duet, “Manhattan,” a song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and performed by Niamh and David Raleigh.

Jack O’Connell, while holding a Spalding, known as a “spaldeen,” recounted Brooklyn born Pete Hamill’s description of “stickball” as he knew it growing up in Brooklyn, including the fact that Spaldings were not manufactured during WWII because of the rubber shortage caused by the war effort. Growing up in the Bronx, I can attest to the fact that stickball was played with the same rules across boroughs.

“Crossing Boroughs” creator Charles R. Hale

Stickball transitioned to baseball when Charles shared a personal story…his father taking him to his first baseball game at Ebbets Field. It was his first chance to see the Dodgers and Charles recounted the game and the chance meeting with Jackie Robinson at a stoplight as Charles and his dad drove home from the game. This personal touch, acknowledging the importance of the father-son bonds that were formed over the game of baseball, drew the audience in as they reflected on their ties to baseball. To add to the realism of the baseball moment, midway through Charles’ story, Jack O’Connell, to the sounds of a ballpark crowd, walked down the aisles dressed as a ballpark vendor: “Peanuts, popcorn, cracker-jacks….getcha cold beer…cold beer here….soodaaa, soodaa.”

Actor Jack O’Connell

From Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, we were transported to Coney Island when Jack O’Connell (Man of a Thousand Faces) appeared as a carnival barker from the Midway where he pitched the various sideshows that were flashing on the screen behind him. This seamlessly transitioned into the story of another carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, from the 1945 Broadway show “Carousel.” Niamh Hyland once again wowed the audience with her rendition of “If I loved You,” Julie Jordan’s thoughts on her relationship with Billie

Moving from Brooklyn to Queens, Charles took the audience to the 1939 World’s Fair and the introduction of nylon stockings, which led to the opening dance number, “Nylon Stockings.”  David Raleigh sang the song, which featured  the very talented young dance duo, Laura Neese and Johnathan Matthews.

Dancers Laura Neese and Jonathan Matthews

Continuing through Queens, Charles once again brought the audience into his early life as he recounted his fond memories of Saturdays at one of the five New York Metro “Loew’s Wonder Theaters.” A short video depicted the grandeur of those theaters, which struck a solid chord with all who had the opportunity to spend time at those theaters, regardless of which borough they hailed from.

From Queens, the show moved over to the Bronx where once again, Laura and Johnathan traversed the floor in magnificent style, dancing the Lindy Hop to Dion and the Belmonts, “I Wonder Why.” The dance scene was followed by a fascinating narrative in which Charles combined the opening of the Triborough Bridge with the concurrent history of the Randall’s Island stadium, located beneath the Triborough, and the part it played in selecting the runners who represented the United States at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Every show has its highlight: This shows highlight was Niamh Hyland’s performance of the Etta James’ song “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Niamh nailed it, boxed it and delivered it to an audience that devoured every note. At the end of her song, thunderous applause spontaneously erupted as several members audience jumped to their feet paying tribute to the superb performance they had just witnessed.

Vocalist and music director Niamh Hyland, guitarist Shu Nakamura and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney

Once again, back in Manhattan at McHale’s Bar, Jack O’Connell took the stage to give us a sobering portrayal of a bartender speaking to an invisible customer (or the audience?) while reciting Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row.” A poem that perfectly describes the seedier side of life–desolation–in New York.

As we headed out to the final borough, Staten Island, footage from the Staten Island Ferry with the Manhattan skyline in the background filled the screen. Accompanying the visual, David and Niamh sang “Leaving New York.” The entire experience was made complete by the accomplished musicians who provided the musical accompaniment led by renowned guitarist Shu Nakamura, drummer Shirazette Tinnin, keyboardist Steve Okonski and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney.

The Band for Crossing Boroughs

For this Bronx boy, who has lived and worked in New York City most of his life, this was a terrific afternoon. It is not very often you see a show that skillfully combines New York City nostalgia, song, dance, music, and fun into one package. Kudos to Charles Hale Productions and everyone that contributed to making “Crossing Boroughs” a most enjoyable show.

Crossing Boroughs was created and written by Charles R. Hale. Charmaine Broad directs the show and Niamh Hyland, in addition to being the show’s lead vocalist, is its musical director.

Photos by Mitch Traphagen


We received a wonderful note from Tom Myles concerning Charles R. Hale Productions’ “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.”

“Congratulations, Charles, on the success of Charles R. Hale Productions.  It is no surprise. You are passionate about the performing arts and tirelessly work at producing and promoting great shows.

I also note that in addition to your hard work, you (and Niamh Hyland at Artists Without Walls) treat everyone who comes to your performances with respect, whether it is a longtime friend or someone who just walked in the door, whether it’s a person with deep pockets or a college student, whether it’s a seasoned professional or a nervous first-timer. You show an interest in all and warmly welcome them.

I have seen dozens of your shows. Talented people from across the globe joyfully work with you. There is no hierarchy and there is no favoritism. I would not keep returning if it were any other way. It’s a pleasure to be a small part of what you have accomplished. Continued success, my friend.”

Thank you, Tom, for your thoughtfulness, your generous support and your role as a co-producer of “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.” 



Charles R. Hale Productions’ first year has been a very rewarding one. In addition to performing my show “Jazz in the City: The New York Connection” fifteen times in a number of locations including The Cell, Lehman College, the American Irish Historical Society,  Triad and The Duplex, the series “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song,” headlined by Niamh Hyland, Miho Hazama and JP Jofre, Harriet Stubbs, Yuri Juarez, Annette Homann, Miho Hazama and M Unit, and Luba Mason was also a great success. Each of seven shows filled The Cell theatre and consistently offered superior performances to appreciative audiences.

Thank you’s abound: Thank you to the producers: Michael Fletcher, Joseph McElligott, John Moran, Tom Myles and Lisa Sullivan. Thank you to the subscribers who purchased tickets to all the shows. Thank you to Mitch Traphagen for graphics, photos and website assistance. Thank you to Alexander Wu for his special performance with Annette Homann and research assistance. Thank you to bassist Danny Weller who appeared  in both Niamh Hyland and Annette Homann’s show. (Danny is also the bass player in “Jazz in the City: The New York Connection.) Thank you to Vera Maura for her photos and never-ending support. Thank you to The Cell, particularly Sulei, Macenzie and Brian for all you do. And thank you to all the performers and their music-making friends. 

We’re looking forward to great 2018.


“New York’s boroughs…where it was fancy on Delancey, stickball reigned supreme and nylon stockings were a hit. Where kids danced to doo-wop, spent Saturday afternoons at Loews…where there used to be a ballpark.
“Right this way ladies and gentlemen…hurry, hurry, hurry into the pubs and clubs of yesteryear. Hold onto your hat…crossing bridges, boroughs and waterways will be the ride of a lifetime. Step right up.”

“Crossing Boroughs,” an Artists Without Walls’ production, and part of Origin Theatre Company’s First Irish Festival, will be performed on January 28, 3pm at The Museum of the City of New York.

“Crossing Boroughs” was written by Charles R. Hale and stars Niamh Hyland along with Jack O’Connell, Laura Neese, Jonathan Matthews, David J Raleigh, Shirazette Tinnin, Maya Kornfeld, Mary Ann McSweeney and Shu Nakamura.

Charles R. Hale/Narrator.
Niamh Hyland/Music Director.
Mitch Traphagen/Graphics and Images

For tix and info CLICK HERE

New Show! Crossing Boroughs January 28, 2018



“What a fantastic evening. Many thanks to Charles for wrapping up the season with this performance. Luba was terrific as was her accompaniment by both on the bass Luques Curtis/and vibraphone Felipe Fournier. Luba has a range in both her voice and music that made this an incredible evening.” Vince Nauheimer

“I had the incredible good fortune of seeing Luba Mason and her remarkable band perform twice on Thursday — once at Lehman College, thanks to Professor Joseph McElligott  and then later at the cell theatre in Manhattan thanks to Charles R. Hale and Charles R. Hale Productions. I can honestly still hear her voice. Stunning is too small of a word.” Mitch Traphagen

“Spectacular show this evening. Thank you Charles R. Hale Productions for bringing Luba Mason to the stage and to the attention of those who have not heard her live or in such an intimate setting with her trio. She is a true talent, with a singularly unique style of singing – heartclutching nuance and an extraordinary vocal range. Looking forward to hearing more from Luba and her wonderful trio!” Vera Hoar

“The “Luba Mason: Triangle,” including Luba, Felipe Fournier/vibes and Luques Curtis/bass proved to be a tightly knit trio whose fabulous music was enhanced by Luba’s witty, tender storytelling, perfectly reflecting the title of the series, “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.'” Charles R. Hale

Photos by Mitch Traphagen

Luba Mason, Luques Curtis /bass, Felipe Fournier/vibes

Luba Mason

Luba Mason and Luques Curtis

Luba Mason and Felipe Fournier

Luba Mason

Luques Curtis

Felipe Fournier 

Charles R. Hale, Luba Mason, Luques Curtis and Felipe Fournier.



On December 7th, 7:30pm, Charles R. Hale Productions will present its final show in the series, “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.” The featured artist will be the enormously talented singer and actor Luba Mason. Luba, a native New Yorker born in Astoria, Queens and first generation American of Slovak descent, is a classically trained singer, pianist, dancer and actor who was nominated for the prestigious 2015 Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel theater awards as “Best Featured Actress in a Musical.” Luba also has an impressive Broadway pedigree, in no small part due to her stunning vocal range and extraordinary versatility as a performer.

Luba has headlined at Vibrato and the Cinegrill in L.A., Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Feinstein’s, Birdland, B.B. Kings, Iridium and the Metropolitan Room in NYC. In 2015 Luba and her husband, Ruben Blades, performed together on stage at Radio City Music Hall in Paul Simon’s sold out benefit for the Children’s Health Fund’s 25th Anniversary alongside Mr. Simon, Edie Brickell, Sting, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and numerous other luminaries. Last November, Luba joined her husband at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and his band in one of the highlights of the evening, Otis Blackwell’s “Fever”.

The show will be performed at The Cell Theatre, 338 West 23rd Street. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by clicking here .

Luba will be performing with Felipe Fournier/vibes and Luques Curtis/bass.

“A voice as big and rich as a star-filled sky.” – Jazz Times
“A Broadway veteran and omnivorous singer.” Billboard
“A force of nature. She goes deep and we want to dive with her.” Huffington Post




Comments after Miho Hazama and M_Unit’s performance at The Cell, Thursday, November 9. All photos by Mitch Traphagen:

“A performance worthy of Carnegie Hall (and almost as full a house). A wonderful musical evening…jazz meets chamber music” Jo Migdal

“Great music! Glad that I witnessed the night!” Shu Nakamura

“A truly great show! Fresh, vibrant, sweet, shadowy. Good work, Charlie…thanks for producing another home run.” Gary Ryan

“What a fine, memorable evening of new music at The Cell tonight. Thank you, Miho and the m_unit, for your awe-inspiring artistry and vitality and for championing creativity and musical possibility. Also, special thanks and gratitude to Charles R. Hale for his curatorial brilliance!” Vera Hoar

“Nothing like having a front row seat for a fabulous live performance. Congratulations to Miho Hazama and the M_ Unit. I had the feeling that the audience were all guests at Charles’s personal concert.” Tom Myles

“Great job of creating and implementing this project, Charles! Each performance was fantastic and added to the musical knowledge of every member of each audience. Thank you.” Vinnie Nauheimer


Miho Hazama

Andy Gravish

Miho Hazama

Tomo Akaboshi

“Blue Forest”

John Lowery

Meaghan Burke

Charles R. Hale and “M_Unit”

Andrew Gutauskas

Dave Pietro

Brilliant Performance!



Charles R. Hale will be presenting “Bringing History, Music and Stories to Life in a Digital World,” at Lehman College on Thursday, September 7th, 12:30pm, in the Studio Theatre at Lehman College in the Bronx. This is a free event. 

For directions, to the Studio Theatre, which is located in the Speech and Theatre Building on the Lower Level at Lehman College, click here.  



With the next show in the Charles R. Hale Productions series, “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song,” slated for November, Charles certainly wanted to create a show that would not only be heard — but felt — among the full-house audience at the cell theatre on Aug. 23. It had to be something lasting.  From Jobim and Gershwin to Rolling in the Deep and Milonga de Angel, from John Legend and Alanis Morrisette to Ashokan Farewell and Chega de Saudade….the show succeeded in too many ways to count.

The event was planned around a return visit of violinist extraordinaire Annette Homann, an early Artists Without Walls’ member. After twelve years in New York City, Annette has returned to her native Germany where she is finding tremendous success as a performing artist in Berlin.  Invited to perform with Annette were bassist Danny Weller, guitarist Shu Nakamura and Charles’s Artists Without Walls co-founder, singer Niamh Hyland. All are of extraordinary talent in their own rights. Together? Charles created something truly remarkable.

“When I was thinking of a theme for tonight’s event I thought, ‘We have great musicians, who can play anything so let’s just make great music.’ And that’s what we aimed for tonight. Many genres and accomplished musicians who can perform it all,” Charles said.


“It’s very nice to see you back in America, Annette.”

America/Bernstein–Alexander A. Wu and Annette Homann


Danny Weller and Shu Nakamura (with Annette Homann)


Billy Jean — Annette Homann and Shu Nakamura


Autumn Leaves/Mercer — Niamh Hyland and Annette Homann


Chega de Saudade— Annette Homann, Shu Nakamura and Danny Weller


Ashokan Farewell — Annette Homann and Shu Nakamura


Fascinating Rhythm — Alexander Wu


Milonga de Angel/Piazzolla– Annette Homann and Alexander Wu


Rolling in the Deep — Annette Homann, Niamh Hyland, Danny Weller, Shu Nakamura


And in the end…. the show, entitled “Annette Homann and Friends: Versatile Virtuosos,” left the audience full of emotion, of joy, of incredulousness. It was a showcase of talent, love and goodwill as few shows can be. Audiences to Charles R. Hale Productions and AWoW shows are generous but also discriminating. This show, this unique collection of grace and love for both music and the spoken word, did not discriminate. The audience did not hold back. They gave the artists not one but two standing ovations. It was the way for them to give back, if even a little, for what they had just experienced; for the beautiful, remarkable respite from a sometimes confused world.

This show will stay with those fortunate enough to have attended. Such feelings rarely leave us.

One of two standing ovations.

Alexander Wu, Niamh Hyland, Annette Homann, Charles R. Hale, Danny Weller and Shu Nakamura

Charles R. Hale

Niamh Hyland and Alexander Wu

Annette Homann and Charles R. Hale


Photos by Vera Maura


As I wandered the city on this Memorial Day weekend I couldn’t help but notice it was Fleet Week, a tradition during which active military ships, recently deployed in overseas operations, dock in a variety of major cities for one week, including New York. Observing the sailors enjoying the city reminded me of my father.

I think about my father on Memorial Day more than at any time during the year: He enlisted in the Navy on his seventeenth birthday, seventy-three years ago this week. He served in the Pacific, during WWII, and then as part of the occupying force in the year following the war. And he would have been ninety this Wednesday, May 30, one day before the “original” Memorial Day.

Like many veterans, my father didn’t talk much about his war experience. Every now and then there’d be a “war” story, but they were often humorous and usually post war stories: How he’d finagle extra coupons for beer at beer bashes on Okinawa or how he and his cousin met up in Okinawa–he was on another ship–commandeered a jeep and drove it into the ocean. Must’ve been after a beer bash, I’ve often thought, but I don’t remember the details.

A story’s details are often not that important
to great storytellers and they didn’t much matter to my father, nor to his listeners.  He’d begin with a
 “twinkle in his eye” smile. The ever present cigarette, punctuating his remarks. Delivering the punch line, pausing…and then…opening his eyes wide. Throwing his head back in laughter. Memorable laughter. You couldn’t help but laugh right along with him no matter how many times you’d heard the story, no matter how many times it’d changed.

He loved reliving the past, but only a small part of the past. There was little mention of his day-to-day life in the Navy. There were a few photos with notations on the back, but not much more. What was the experience of a teenager from Queens, thrust onto the world stage, in the midst of the greatest conflagration ever? I had no idea.

I study family history to get an understanding of the themes and moments that were my families and ancestors’ day-to-day existence. I wonder, how have the lives of those who have come before me influenced whom I have become? Historian Shelby Foote once said, “So you get that thing and you get the weather, you get the soil and you get the coloration of things; get the true feel of it.” I’d ask, “How do I get the true feel of my father’s experience? How do I breathe of my father’s space and time?”

A few years ago I was searching the Internet, looking for information on my father’s ship, the USS Antietam, an Essex-class aircraft carrier. As I searched the website I noticed a book called, “Occupying Force” by D. Charles Gossman. The author’s father, who like my father, was “Charlie” and was also seventeen when he joined the Navy, had served on the Antietam the very same twelve months my father had. Gosman’s diary chronicles visits to Japan, China, and numerous Pacific Islands, while recording reactions to operating dangers aboard the ship, tidal waves and typhoons. I now knew where my father was for the entire year he was on the Antietam. For the first time, I felt connected to my father’s experience. 

I remember my father telling me how he’d lived through a typhoon. But, thanks to Gossman’s diary, I learned that my father left out a major part of the story. On August 21, 1945 the USS Antietam was notified that it was one of the ships chosen to participate in the September 2nd surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay, certainly a great honor. Pride must’ve been running high aboard the Antietam as it set sail for Japan. But on August 24 the Antietam’s hull suffered structural damage during a typhoon–the storm my father had mentioned–and the ship was ordered to Guam for inspection. Repairs were initiated but they were pulled from the surrender ceremonies and redirected to Okinawa. My father had mentioned the typhoon but he never mentioned that he and his shipmates were to be part of the surrender ceremonies. I was incredulous when I learned this. Was this a major disappointment? Why hadn’t he told me? I’ll never know.

I’ve spent the weekend thinking of my father, his dreams, some realized, some dashed, imagining his life aboard the ship and I’ve been thinking of his stories, his smile and his laughter.

I wish I could hear a story, his laughter, one more time.