Anniversary Weekend: A Salute to Woodloch Entertainment
Born in Easton, PA, Joey Casella began his career in entertainment in the late 60’s (the “golden age” of the Pocono resort) as a lighting and sound technician for Mt. Airy Lodge. It was there he got the opportunity to spotlight legendary acts like Bob Hope, Tony Bennett and Richard Pryor. Thirsting for a taste of the spotlight himself, it wasn’t long before Joey ended up playing drums and guitar and singing in their house band.
Joey’s love of the stage led him across the country through the 70’s to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he performed in multiple musical revues. In the late 70’s, he ended up at a small but booming resort in the Poconos called Woodloch. Wanting to take root and settle down, Joey was introduced to Harry Kiesendahl and ultimately offered the position of Entertainment Director, coordinating and recruiting the resort’s entertainment. Like our guests, Joey felt at home at Woodloch. “Most of the resorts in the Catskills didn’t give enough respect to their performers,” said Joey. “One of the things that drew me to Woodloch? They did everything right.”
In 1979, Casella staged the first “Theme Show” at Woodloch, which was a tribute to westerns. The evening began with costumed characters greeting guests as they arrived for dinner, followed by a parade and ultimately to The North Lodge where the cast would perform the show. Our theater has gotten bigger, the show a little more involved, but the night is a tradition we still happily celebrate twice a week to this day- about 100 shows a year! Joey also fronts “The Company,” Woodloch’s house band that performs live music during midweeks at the resort and all throughout the Poconos.
Every year, Joey not only performs in the current Theme Show but also spends over 6 months writing, directing, and recruiting for the next Theme Show. 40 years later, he remains humble. Although every entertainer enjoys a round of applause, “for me, it’s less of a personal thing,” says Joey. “I’m happier for the resort than for myself.”
Joey is a recipient of the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau Lifetime Achievement Award, and we are happy to salute him this year!
A well-traveled man of the world, Sam Abuschinow was born in Munich, Germany before flying back stateside to Philadelphia, PA. Growing up, music was an essential part of Sammy’s life. He played clarinet through his school years before heading to Lafayette College to study Geology. Of course logically, this would explain his persistent draw to “rock” music (get it?). Pushing his inclinations further, Sam learned to play guitar, keyboards, drums, and harmonica before ultimately deciding that the bass guitar was his calling.
Performing in various jazz bands through the years, he eventually answered the call of the road and joined touring bands which explored the east coast, including Atlantic City showrooms. As years passed, Sammy too longed for a place to settle and call home and eventually crossed paths with Joey Casella and the company, which he joined.
This, of course, led to Sammy joining Joey’s Theme Show cast as well. Through the years, Sammy has showcased his great diversity by performing in our Theme Shows as James Brown, Ozzy Osbourne, Slash from Guns N’ Roses, “The Modern Major-General” and everything in between. His love of entertaining others also led Sam to write, direct and star in a one-man musical revue which a perennial favorite of many of our midweek guests as well as visiting day bus groups. Sammy not only stars in our Theme Show twice a week but also works with our activities department, playing games with the guests he loves and sharing stories with all.
Both of these esteemed gentleman will be honored in a special ceremony on April 22nd. In addition to a weekend full of great springtime activities like Scavenger Hunt, zip lining, climbing wall and more, we will host a special Anniversary Weekend Ceremony with video throwbacks, guest speakers and a special champagne toast to Joey and Sammy and cheers to Woodloch’s 59th year of business. All of this, of course, followed up by our Theme Night dinner and show as this year, Woodloch celebrates “The Magic of the Musicals.” It’s going to be quite the occasion!