The audience at the Artists Without Walls’ presentation of “Crossing Boroughs” was treated to a scrumptious 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


Two years ago, Kathleen Bennet Bastis’ mixed-media art exhibit was shown at the First Street Gallery. One night featured an event that melded Kathleen’s art with performance art. The night was enormously entertaining and a great success. Click here to read what poet and author Connie Roberts had to say about the evening.

In conjunction with Artists Without Walls, Kathleen will be doing another event on Saturday, May 6, 6:00pm to 10:00pm, called “One Night Stand.” The evening will feature Kathleen’s work and three great jazz musicians, Thana AlexaJosh Cohen and Nicole Zuraitis

Mark your calendar for what is sure to be a special evening. First Street Gallery is located at 526 W 26th St #209, in Manhattan.


By Charles R. Hale

I’ve often wondered what it must be like to live one’s entire life in a small town, surrounded by the same sights and sounds, day after day. And now I realize that my ancestors, living in the crowded and congested tenements of lower Manhattan, shared a parallel existence with those who have done that. “A bell for birth, a bell for marriage, a bell for death.” I had never considered the universality of their experience.

Click here for the article about my great grandmother, Margaret Horrigan, as it recently appeared in Irish Central.  

Charles R. Hale


Peter Quinn
Peter Quinn

“Dry Bones,” the third and final novel in Peter Dunne’s Fintan Dunne trilogy, is now on sale.


Here’s what they’re saying about  AWoW member’s Quinn’s book:


“…another work of intricate structure, suspense and wit…”
Wall Street Journal


“A savvy, suspenseful tale of WWII espionage and Cold War skullduggery.”
William Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize Winner


Quinn writes with elegant restraint; he’s a master of tone and a deft orchestrator of people and events….Gripping up to the end, the book—which takes its title from the old spiritual about everything being connected—will send readers who were new to Quinn back to his other books in the series.

Kirkus Reviews


Available at Dry Bones available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble


One of the objectives of Artists Without Walls is to “promote members’ careers in the arts, whether they have already established themselves or are at the beginning of their artistic career.” 
With that in mind we’ve created an event called “Night on the Town” when members and friends can support a fellow artist by attending one of our artists’ events. Not only is it a nice show of support, but it’s also an opportunity for members to share an enjoyable evening together.  


imagesAnd so, we’re asking members and friends to join us for Artists Without Walls’ member Sarah Fearon’s comedy performance on March 1, 9:30 at the Metropolitan Room, located at 34 W. 22nd St. in Manhattan. Sarah, along with a select group of top comics, will be performing her latest stand up material, born of her numerous attempts at maintaining sanity in an insane world.


You can call the Metropolitan Room to make reservations at 212-206-0440, (Tell them you are booking to see Sarah Fearon). The weekend shows at the Metropolitan Room sell out fast so don’t wait to make reservations.  Tickets are twelve dollars.


Sarah is a very supportive of other artists and is often seen at members and friends’ events. It’d be great if we could show Sarah the same support she shows others. And, I’m betting it’ll be an evening filled with laughs and merriment. Who couldn’t use a night like that.