Music, Musicals and More Form a Special Performing Arts Scene in Binghamton
Something special happens when you have a seat at the Forum Theatre in Binghamton, New York. At a time when mobile devices and streaming shows dominate the entertainment experience, there’s just something that happens when the lights go down and the curtain goes up at a live performance. It is life unfolding right in front of you – live and unedited in ultimate high definition.
“And hopefully something happens, something emotionally – your heart, your head, maybe your soul connects with something on stage and you have this extraordinary experience that says to you, ‘I really enjoy this and I’d like to come back,’” Albert Nocciolino said.
Now the CEO and president of his own NAC Entertainment, Ltd. and multi-time Tony Award winner as a producer, Nocciolino has had a big hand in restoring the more-than-a-century-old Forum Theatre. Among his contributions: introducing the spectacularly successful Broadway series at the Forum, which also hosts the Tri-Cities Opera and the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I began the Broadway Theater League, which evolved into Broadway in Binghamton, and then eventually NAC Entertainment, which became a pretty significantly diversified entertainment company,” he said. “It’s become a business model that has made the Broadway touring industry stabilized and grown. And so we continue to do that. But it all started right here at the Forum many years ago.”
Nocciolino’s gift for promotion grew in college at the University of Pennsylvania, where he ran a ticket agency and put on concerts. When he returned to his hometown of Binghamton, he was hired as the assistant manager of what is now the Visions Federal Credit Union Veterans Memorial Arena next door to the Forum. At that time, the theater known as the Capri was an old movie house with roots in the vaudeville era. Nocciolino became part of a team dedicated to reviving it as a performing arts center in the heart of Binghamton. It worked.
“You come and see this beautiful Forum Theatre, which is an old vaudeville theater. And I’ve seen a lot of them in New England,” said Dr. Paul Cienniwa, whose career as a musician and orchestra organization director has taken him across the Midwest, East Coast and even Europe. “This is the best-looking theater I’ve been in. It’s beautiful. So, you have the experience of being in such a beautiful and important place in the cultural life of Binghamton.”
Today, the Forum is home to not only Broadway in Binghamton, but also the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra among others.
“Binghamton is unusual, not just because it has a professional philharmonic orchestra, it has three orchestras, and if we throw in Tri-Cities Opera, four orchestras. What communities of this size have that?” said Cienniwa, Binghamton Philharmonic Executive Director. “It’s also downtown. So, there’s a lot going on around it.”
The Binghamton Symphony started in the 1950s as a volunteer organization of amateur musicians. Today it is a fully professional collection of players, many of whom come from New York City. They advertise openings nationally and draw musicians from all over the country.
“Binghamton has a fantastic legacy in the arts, which started with Endicott Johnson and George F. Johnson who created the Goodwill Theatre so that his workers had entertainment. So, there are roots in the arts here.”
Nocciolino agrees the national reputation for the arts is fed by the community’s longtime, continuous appreciation.
“It’s not just the Forum. We have other arts organizations in this community, whether it’s the theater department at the university or a Goodwill Theatre or the shows that go to the arena or the other local arts organizations and theater companies,” Nocciolino said. “When you start adding up all of those, they become a significant part of the way of life in our community. People come from around the region to our shows.”
Both Nocciolino and Cienniwa encourage people to engage in the live experience. They believe there’s no better place to do it than in Binghamton.
“Even if you don’t know what it is you want to hear or what to expect, you will have a great time. And what we present is not just a concert, it’s the entire downtown experience,” Cienniwa said. “So, I encourage people to come and enjoy that, enjoy a night out on the town with great music, great food and great people.”
Come on in to the Forum, have a seat, watch and listen as the lights go down and the curtain goes up. No matter who you are, you’re a part of something special. You’ll be part of the Binghamton story.