Gowanda native performs original songs at Hollywood Theater

Gowanda native Joe Wiens (left) performed a concert July 16 at the Historic Hollywood Theater featuring a selection of original songs. He is joined by Cindy Ripley, who will be back at the theater the first week in August to direct the Hollywood Theater Camp.

GOWANDA — A special concert by Gowanda native Joe Wiens was held July 16 at Gowanda’s Historic Hollywood Theater.

Wiens’ performance included a collection of songs featuring well-known covers as well as many originals from his new album, “Sounds of Isolation.”

A Gowanda Central School graduate, Wiens has been based in Chicago, Ill., since 2010. Besides being a singer/songwriter, he has also been active on stage as an actor and has appeared in numerous productions in both the Buffalo and Chicago areas.

Among Wiens’ Buffalo credits are a role in a Shakespeare In The Park presentation of “King Lear” and as Buddy Holly in a Musicalfare Theater production of “The Buddy Holly Story,” which won him an Artie Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

While having acted in numerous productions in Chicago, Wiens is currently a member of the Shattered Globe Theater there.

More than just a concert, the Hollywood Theater presentation was also a reunion on multiple levels. It was a chance for Wiens to reconnect with his Gowanda roots and get back in touch with friends and family in Gowanda. He made it clear how important Gowanda was in his life.

“Gowanda is very special ... I’m sure you all know that,” Wiens commented at one point in the concert. “Other places have other things, but this is a great town and I’m proud to be from here.”

Joe Wiens is the son of retired Gowanda teachers David and Anne Wiens, and there were many other former faculty members in the crowd of slightly over 100 that attended the event. One person commented that it looked a lot like a teachers’ reunion.

Wiens mixed humor and stories of growing up in Gowanda in between songs. At one point, Wiens called his father up on stage to join in singing “Danny’s Song,” a sentimental selection for the father/son duet. Most were familiar with the opening lines of the Kenny Rogers’ song. “People smile and tell me I'm the lucky one, and we've only just begun; think I'm gonna have a son. He will be like she and me, as free as a dove, conceived in love, sun is gonna shine above.”

Along the theme of pandemic isolation, while introducing one of the last songs, Joe Wiens remarked, “It’s so great to be out with people in a room communicating this way. I think it’s very important and we just couldn’t do it for a while.”

To emphasize the point, Wiens’ final comment was, “If you were wondering if live theater and live music matters, I think you know now. It matters a ton.”

The comment set the stage for what looks to be a busy fall for the Gowanda theater.

After a prolonged period of pause for live performance venues, Gowanda’s Hollywood Theater is anxious to get things going again. A comment in the concert program noted “we are looking forward to a full future of concerts, live theater and movies.”

Some things that have already been planned include:

• July 23, Chivetta’s Chicken BBQ fundraiser

• Aug. 2-6, 6th annual Summer Theater Camp

• Aug. 6, theater camp public performance at 2 p.m.

• Aug. 16, annual Hollywood Golf Tournament fundraiser

• Aug. 28, Willie Mays Blues Band

• Sept. 18, Maria Sebastian & band

• Oct. 3, Fair To Fiddling

• Oct. 9, silent movie “The Phantom of the Opera” with organ accompaniment

• Oct. 31, All Hallows Eve at the Hollywood with Jamestown Paranormal Investigators.