Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Shattering a record with a spectacular Christmas show

Local artist Jessica Lynn makes Paramount history
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Image of the Paramount by Peekskill business Fox Burrow Designs.com

The stars aligned for performer Jessica Lynn at Peekskill’s landmark Paramount Theater on Saturday and Sunday as she made history with sold out shows for two days in a row. 

Her Very Merry Country Christmas concert was the first show in the theater’s 93-year history to sell out all 1,024 seats for two consecutive days. 

Jessica Lynn’s shows include all sorts of special effects programmed by Lynn and her dad. Photo by Arthur Gonzales

Lynn first performed on the stage of the Paramount as a 13-year-old in a high school battle of the bands. She recalled in a recent interview with the Herald seeing a sign outside the chorus classroom at Lakeland High School. “I walked into the classroom and said ‘hey, does anyone want to form a band so we can play in this’? Now, at age 33, to break a record at the theater, I had to keep from bursting into tears,” she said. 

“There were a lot of gems throughout the night,” she recalled. For instance, because of Covid, her grandparents were unable to come to any of her concerts the last several years. But they were there in the audience on Saturday night. And the Lakeland Choir – which Lynn was once a part of in high school – performed in her show. 

She opens every show with a Broadway-style scene, and this year it was The Wizard of Oz. As an 8-year-old in the Lakeland School District, Lynn played Dorothy in the iconic musical. “I was standing backstage waiting to go on and seeing our performer who was playing Dorothy – and realizing it all began for me with that performance. That was another one of the gem moments,” she said. “It felt like this was all supposed to happen. What a full circle.” 

Another magical moment came when she announced to the audience that her show was on the cusp of breaking a record at the Paramount with the next day’s matinee. A few numbers later, a fan shouted out that there were some 20 tickets left for the next day. People were checking their phones to how ticket sales were progressing, marveled Lynn. 

Lynn vets local talent to include in her shows and works with them throughout the months leading to the show. Photo by Arthur Gonzales

“We were at the last few songs of the concert and someone shouted there were only 5 tickets still available for the next day.” When she walked backstage she learned that the show had sold out and she had set a new milestone for the nearly century-old theater. “I still get goosebumps thinking about it,” she said. “It’s not just a local girl breaking the record,” – this has come full circle for me here. 

She noticed in the weeks before the show’s scheduled date that the tickets were selling quickly and she was aware they had sold out the past few years. She had reserved the Paramount for the next day and when she saw the numbers for Saturday night, she decided to “make the scary choice and open a second show for the next day,” hoping it would have a crowd. It takes two full days to set up the props and get the technical special effects down for a production. When she performs in a city doing one show, her team is setting up the stage at 9:15 in the morning and working straight through till the show, and then taking it down and leaving the theater at 12:30 a.m., explained Lynn.

Her shows have a definite community feeling to them. She prides herself on including local dance companies and schools. She looks for dance schools, choirs and organizations that have a sense of community, either by marching in parades or visiting nursing homes or doing fundraisers for charities.

“We had two dance schools in this show that did cancer fundraisers,” said Lynn. More than 1,400 children from 55 organizations were a part of this year’s nine-stop tour on the east coast. “It’s those types of organizations I like to align with because of their positive and encouraging attitude.” She’s also aware that a lot of the members of the bands and choruses she has in her show are from different schools and they compete with each other, but when they come for her shows they are performing together. 

Lynn remembers being on the stage as a youth at the Paramount and offers that opportunity to local aspiring performers. Photo by Arthur Gonzales

Lynn describes herself as a perfectionist and she handles all the connections with the local talent, sending them videos of dance routines and working on musical arrangements during the summer. As soon as this year’s tour was over, she was planning next year’s show. “We took a trip to Florida to visit family and I had the set list for next year finished by the end of the plane trip,” said Lynn. 

The band and crew go by the nickname, “The Little Engine That Could”, (one of her favorite childhood stories) since there are only seven of them. “The band doubles as the crew. Lynn and her dad program the lights, and her best friend runs the special effects that contribute to the spectacularly extravagant feel of her show.

They sold out five of the seven shows they did on this tour in venues ranging in size from 600 to 1,700 seats.  One show was a virtual version, and another was a preview at the Jefferson Valley Mall. “I never saw that many people in the mall,” said Lynn. 

“I cannot tell you the amount of families that say coming to this is now our family tradition.  It’s spectacular and a classic.” Lynn and her company use snow machines, sparkles, fog and many special effects. For the Peekskill shows this weekend, fans came from Ireland, England, Scotland, Denmark and Germany, and have booked tickets to return for next year’s December 14th show at the Paramount. 

Her perfectionist nature comes into play with this show explained Lynn. “Every gift box has to be perfectly placed,” especially because this is the show that is taped by Firerock Productions, a fifteen time Emmy award winning production company. 

The community feel that she says makes this a more intimate production than the Christmas spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. Her show is also the largest fundraiser for Westchester’s Toys for Tots. The charity collected 1,100 toys from the Peekskill show. 

Abigail Adams, executive director of the Paramount, said one of the characteristics that makes Lynn’s performances different is the way she incorporates budding artists into her shows. “It aligns with what the goal of the Paramount is: to be a place to gather as a community and have a good time.” 

 

  

 

About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante