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Last year, while chronicling the growing presence on the L.I. arts scene of Port Washington's Landmark on Main Street, I branded the theatre there the "new kid on the arts block." This year, it looks as though that kid is growing up.

With the recent release of their 2002-03 concert calendar, Landmark serves notice that their Jeanne Rimsky Theatre is ready to challenge the bigger venues in the Long Island concert market for artists, audiences and attention.

Boasting an eclectic slate of world-class performers, the fall and spring line-up reads like the Arts & Leisure section of the Sunday New York Times. From classics to cabaret, folk to family shows, the 25-plus gigs promise to satisfy every artistic palette.

"We try to get a mix of well-known names and interesting theme programs," said Executive Director Debbi Honorof recently. "We want to present a season that will appeal to all tastes, but also one that will bring in an audience."

Last year, performances at the cozy 450-seat proscenium theater benefited from new audience seating, upgrades to the sound and lighting systems, and a stiff infusion of creative elbow grease by dedicated staffers. A new theme-based booking policy yielded improvements on stage and at the box office. Remarkably, all this maturity is unfolding against the backdrop of a shaky economy and downsized funding for the arts.

Honorof spearheads a new promotional effort utilizing everything from word-of-mouth to traditional advertising. This year, by partnering with outside groups on some shows, Landmark hopes to tap into their membership.

"We target different audiences through advertising, direct mail and partnering with other organizations that may be interested in helping us market our performances to their membership," she said. "For example, Sons of Italy is working with us to market the Chamber Ensemble of Rome's Great Italian Composers concert (Oct.19) to their constituents."

Honorof noted there are now discounts for multiple-ticket buyers. "We are trying something new this year to encourage people to buy tickets early," she said. "If someone buys tickets to three or more performances, they will receive substantial discounts."

The Music Masters Series kicks-off the fall schedule on Sept. 22 with the return of Marilyn Horne Master Class. Performing well-known arias, the operatic diva instructs several developing singers in the fine points of vocalizing. She even demonstrates proper technique with her world-class pipes.

Landmark nurtured its folk music pedigree since it opened as a concert hall and community center in 1995. The Folk Music Series continues that tradition with the return of Richie Havens (Nov. 16), Tom Chapin (Feb. 1). In a minor coup, seminal folk-rocker Roger McGuinn (The Byrds, Bob Dylan) performs May 31.

The Great Composer Series spotlights the music of composers Richard Rodgers (Nov. 23), Bernstein & Sondheim (Mar. 8), and Irving Berlin (May 10).

The Contemporary Music & Dance Series samples swing, cabaret, Latin dance, and oldies. Nelson may be gone, but son Chris now fronts the Nelson Riddle Orchestra (Oct. 5), Mickey B's Golden Oldies Show remembers when (Oct. 26), and singer Chris Calloway continues her father Cab's cabaret style (Apr. 5), professional Latin-American Dance Champions heat-up the stage at Ballroom Dancing - Latin Style (Dec. 7).

Legends of Jazz remembers Mel with A Tribute to Mel Torme (Mar. 1), and the Harlem Renaissance in A Tribute to Basie and Ellington (June 7).

The Special Theatre Series courts the jester in A Salute to Danny Kaye (Nov. 2) and Mark Twain On Stage (Feb. 8).

The Children's Series and Family Series features concerts, theater, and dance tailored to younger audiences. I'll explore those in future articles, as we watch the 'new kid' grow-up.

Tickets for all shows are available at the Landmark Box office 767-6444.


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