Arts & Entertainment

From left, Billy Williams, co-president of Three Village Kiwanis; Dr. Laura E. Hogan, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology; Denise Williams, treasurer; and Christine Intrabartola, co-president of Three Village Kiwanis Photo from Billy Williams

On Nov. 15, the Three Village Kiwanis Club donated a check in the amount of $5,000 to Stony Brook University Hospital for its work in the Pediatric Oncology unit to help children and their families in need during this trying time of the holiday season.

If you are interested in becoming part of the Kiwanis Club here locally please contact Billy Williams at 631-828-9048 to find out how you can help with supporting those in need in our community. They meet at Mario’s Restaurant, 212 Main St., Setauket on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

Violet

MEET VIOLET!

Violet is a 5-year-old Shepherd mix rescued off the streets in Thailand, where she was sure to become part of the meat trade there. She is now safe at Kent Animal Shelter. Violet is a sweet dog and would love to have a family to call her own. She comes spayed, microchipped and is up to date on her vaccines. Please come down and meet her!

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Violet and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

From left, Frank Recco, CFO Recco Home Care; Nancy Geiger, director, Gurwin Home Care Agency; Claudia Hammar, president NYS Association of Health Care Providers (NYSHCP); and Taryn Birkmire, executive director of Recco Home Care Photo courtesy of Gurwin Home Care Agency

Nancy Geiger, director of the Gurwin Home Care Agency, recently accepted the Norma Recco Advocate of the Year Award from the Long Island Chapter of the New York State Association of Health Care Providers (NYSAHCP) for her outstanding contributions to public advocacy to advance home and community-based care. 

The award was first presented in 2011 to honor the memory of Norma Recco, a tireless advocate who advanced HCP from a local interest group to a statewide association, and who was the governor’s appointee to the New York State Home Care Council from 1987 to 1997.  

Currently the vice president of the Long Island Chapter of the NYSAHCP, Geiger has specialized in the home care agency field for more than 30 years. She joined Gurwin as director of the Gurwin Home Care Agency in 2007. Under her leadership, the Gurwin agency provides home health aides and companions for Long Islanders who are in need of compassionate care and support.  

“Nancy’s empathy for people is evident, whether she is advocating for her employees or her patients,” said Stuart B. Almer, president and CEO of the Gurwin Family of Healthcare Services. “She is committed to helping to get home care services to those who need them, and we are fortunate to have her leading our Gurwin Home Care Agency.”

Taryn Birkmire, executive director of Recco Home Care, presented Geiger with the award, applauding her for her years in the home care field, her work for the past six years for the chapter and her continued efforts in reaching out to legislators as well as her participation in advocacy events in Albany.  

“I am truly humbled to receive this award and be recognized in the name of Norma Recco,” said Geiger. “Norma was a true pioneer in the home care industry, and she overcame many obstacles back in the early days in the field. Unfortunately, our challenges have become even greater in recent years. Home care plays an important and vital role in the lives of many in our communities, and I am honored to be able to fight for people to continue to receive the services they need to keep them living safely at home.”

Tim Sommerville. Photo by Brian Stallard, 2018/ CSHL

By Daniel Dunaief

Many research efforts search for clues about the signals or processes that turn healthy cells into something far worse. Scientists look at everything from different genes that are active to signs of inflammation to the presence of proteins that aren’t typically found in a system or organ.

Tim Somerville, a postdoctoral researcher in Chris Vakoc’s laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, recently took a close look at a specific protein whose presence in a high concentration in pancreatic cancer typically worsens the expectations for a disease with an already grim prognosis.

This protein, called P63, has a normal, healthy function in skin cells for embryos and in maintaining normal skin for adults, but it doesn’t perform any important tasks in the pancreas.

Tim Somerville at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Photo by Brian Stallard, 2018/ CSHL

Somerville wanted to know whether the protein appeared as a side effect of the developing cancer, like the appearance of skinny jeans someone wears after a diet starts working, or whether it might be a contributing cause of the cancer’s growth and development.

“What was unclear was whether [the higher amount of P63] was a correlation, which emerges as the disease progresses, or something more causal,” he said, adding that he wanted to find out whether “P63 was driving the more aggressive features” of pancreatic cancer.

Somerville increased and decreased the concentration of P63 in tissue cells and organoids, which are copies of human tumors, hoping to see whether the change had any effect on the cancer cells.

The postdoctoral researcher knocked out the amount of P63 through the use of CRISPR, a gene-editing technique. He also overexpressed P63, which is also a transcription factor.

“From those complementary experiments, we were able to show that P63 is driving a lot of the aggressive features of cancer cells,” Somerville concluded. “Rather than being a correlation that’s observed, it is functionally driving the cancer itself.”

Somerville recently published his research in the journal Cell Reports.

As a transcription factor, P63 recognizes specific DNA sequences and binds to them. With P63, Somerville observed that it can bind to DNA and switch on many genes that are active in the worse form of pancreatic cancer. He and his collaborators describe P63 as a master regulator of the gene program.

Pancreatic cancer is often discovered after the irreversible conversion of normal, functional cells into a cancerous tumor that can spread to other organs. It also resists chemotherapy. Research teams in the labs of Vakoc and Dave Tuveson, the director of the Cancer Center at CSHL, and other principal investigators at CSHL and elsewhere are seeking to understand it better so they can develop more effective treatments.

Tim Somerville. Photo by Yali Xu

Vakoc was impressed with the work his postdoctoral researcher performed in his lab. Somerville is “one of the most scholarly young scientists I have ever met,” Vakoc explained in an email. “He is simply brilliant and thinks deeply about his project and is also driven to find cures for this deadly disease.”

At this point, Somerville is pursuing why P63 is activated in the pancreas. If he can figure out what triggers it in the first place, he might be able to interfere with that process in a targeted way. He also might be able to think about ways to slow it down or stop the disease.

The form of P63 that is active in the pancreas is not a mutated version of the protein that functions in the skin. If scientists tried to reduce P63, they would need to develop ways to suppress the cancer promoting functions of P63 without suppressing its normal function in the skin.

Many of the genes and proteins P63 activates are secreted factors and some of them contribute to inflammation. Indeed, researchers are exploring numerous ways inflammation might be exacerbating the progression of cancer.

P63 is also active in other types of cancer, including lung, head and neck cancers. Frequently, elevated levels of P63 in these other forms of cancer also lead to a worse prognosis.

Somerville explained that the changes P63 makes in a pancreatic cancer cell may expose new weaknesses. By studying cells in which he has overexpressed the protein, he hopes to see what other addictions the cells may have, which could include a reliance on other proteins that he could make compounds to target.

A resident of Huntington, Somerville has worked in Vakoc’s lab for three years. While he has spent considerable time studying P63, he is also looking at other transcription factors that are involved in pancreatic cancer.

Somerville wants to contribute to the discovery of why one form of pancreatic cancer is so much worse than the other. “If we can understand it, we can find new ways to stop it,” he said.

Originally from Manchester, England, Somerville is working in the United States on a five-year visa and plans to continue contributing to Vakoc’s lab for the next couple of years. At that point, he will consider his options, including a potential return to the United Kingdom.

Tim Somerville. Photo by Gina Motisi, 2018/CSHL

Somerville appreciates the opportunity to work on pancreatic cancer with Vakoc and with Tuveson, whose lab is next door. The researcher is enjoying his time on Long Island, where he takes walks, enjoys local restaurants and, until recently, had been playing on a Long Island soccer team, which played its matches in Glen Cove.

For Somerville, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has exceeded his high expectations. “The research that goes on here and the interactions you can have at meetings” have all contributed to a “great experience,” he said.

Somerville is excited to be a part of the pancreatic cancer team.

“With the work from [Tuveson’s] lab and ours, we’re finding new things we didn’t know,” he said. “It’s only when you understand those different things and the complexity that you can start thinking about how to tackle this in a more successful way. If the research carries on, we’ll make improvements in this disease.”

By Elof Axel Carlson

Elof Axel Carlson

The first time I heard DNA enter popular culture was hearing a record played by my son Anders. I heard the refrain, “Hey hey, hey hey! It’s DNA that made me that way.” Anders told me it was from a song called “Sheer Heart Attack” by the rock band Queen (1977).  

Since then that idea has spread from teenage rock fans to the public sphere, and in its modified form, I hear “It’s in my DNA” when a person feels passionately about an idea. Metaphors are part of how we speak but they are not always scientifically accurate. Before the era of DNA (that began with the publishing of the double helix model of DNA in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick), a different set of metaphors were in use going back to antiquity. 

Intense belief or fixed behaviors have been attributed to the intestines (I feel it in my gut), to the heart (I offer my heart-felt thanks), to the skeletal system (I feel it to the marrow of my bones), to the blood (royalty are blue bloods and a psychopath’s behavior reflects bad blood) and to the nervous system (argumentative personalities are called “hot headed”). 

Sumerians studied the shape of animal guts and livers to predict the future (haruspicy). Until the Renaissance the brain was thought to be the place where blood is cooled (hence the hot-headed belief). Thoreau was described by one contemporary as sucking the marrow out of life; and blood was considered the vital fluid of life. In the Renaissance the first human blood transfusions were given to provide youthful vigor by old men who believed in rejuvenation.  

When people say, “It’s in my DNA” for a behavior, they are conveying a deeply held belief that it is part of their personality as far back as they can remember or that it is innate. But the evidence for innate human social behaviors is often lacking. There are single gene effects of the nervous system that are well documented such as Huntington’s disease, which leads to dementia and paralysis with an onset usually in middle age. 

There are also family histories of psychosis and learning difficulties. The fragile X syndrome is one such well-documented condition that leads to low intelligence. But human social traits have lots of inputs from parents, siblings, playmates, neighborhoods, regional culture, ethnicity and national identity.  

Children growing up in poverty have different expectations than children whose parents are well off and send them to elite schools. Each generation uses, as best as it can, what it knows. Our knowledge of many important aspects of life and behavior is incomplete. Hence, we keep modifying our interpretations of how life works.  

Much of what is called evolutionary psychology or genetic determinism will be modified or abandoned in years to come as we learn how our genes use memories and other acquired knowledge to shape our personalities. For many cellular processes we know the flow of information from DNA (genes) to cell organelles to cellular function to tissue formation and to organ formation.  

That detailed interpretation of human behavior is not possible now for social traits. I would love to say, “It’s in my DNA” to write these Life Line columns, but my conscience would remind me that it is based on Freudian “wish fulfillment” and not careful experimentation down to the molecular level.

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

Blood pressure readings taken at night may be the most accurate. Stock photo
A simple technique can help indentify cardiovascular risk

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Hypertension affects approximately one-third of Americans, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and only about half have it controlled (1). What could we possibly learn about blood pressure that we have not heard already? Studies teach us about diagnostic techniques and timing, as well as consequences of hypertension and its treatment. Let’s look at the evidence.

Technique

When you go to the doctor’s office, they usually take your blood pressure first. But do they take readings in both arms and, if so, have you wondered why? I take blood pressure readings in both arms because there may be significant benefit from this.

An analysis of the Framingham Heart Study and Offspring Study showed that when blood pressure was taken in both arms, when there was a difference of more than 10 mm Hg in the systolic (top number) blood pressure, then there may be an increased risk for the development of cardiovascular disease — stroke and heart disease (2).

This is a simple technique that may give an indication of who is at greater cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, when this interarm blood pressure comparison showed a 10 mm Hg difference, it allowed the researchers to identify an almost 40 percent increased risk of having a cardiac event, such as a stroke or a heart attack, with minimal extra effort expended.

So, the next time you go to the doctor’s office, you might ask them to take your blood pressure in both arms to give you and your doctor a potential preliminary indication of increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Timing

When do we get our blood pressure taken? For most of us it is usually at the doctor’s office in the middle of the day. This may not be the most effective reading. Nighttime blood pressure readings may be the most accurate, according to one study (3). This was a meta-analysis (a group of nine observational studies) involving over 13,000 patients. Neither the clinical nor daytime readings correlated significantly with cardiovascular events when multiple confounding variables were taken into account, while every 10 mm Hg increase at night had a more significant predictive value.

With patients, if blood pressure is high in my office, I suggest that patients take their blood pressure at home, both in the morning and at night, and send me readings on a weekly basis. At least one of the readings should be taken before antihypertensive medications are taken, since these will alter the readings.

Salt impact

There has always been a debate about whether salt plays a role in high blood pressure and heart disease. The latest installment is a compelling British study called the Health Survey from England. It implicates sodium as one potential factor exacerbating the risk for high blood pressure and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease (4). The results show that when salt intake was reduced by an average of 15 percent, there was a significant blood pressure reduction and that this reduction may be at least partially responsible for a 40 percent reduction in stroke mortality and a 42 percent reduction in heart disease mortality.

One potential study weakness was that physical activity was not taken into account. However, this study’s strength was that it measured salt intake through 24-hour urine tests. Most of our dietary salt comes from processed foods we least suspect, such as breads, pastas and cheeses.

Age-related macular degeneration

When we think of blood pressure-lowering medications, we don’t usually consider age-related macular degeneration as a potential side effect. However, in the Beaver Dam Eye Study, patients who were taking blood pressure medications were at a significant 72 percent increased overall risk of developing early-stage AMD (5). It did not matter which class of blood pressure-lowering drug the patient was using, all had similar effects: calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, diuretics and angiotensin receptor blockers.

However, the researchers indicated that they could not determine whether the blood pressure or the blood pressure medication was the potential contributing factor. This is a controversial topic. If you are on blood pressure medications and are more than 65 years old, I would recommend that you get yearly eye exams by your ophthalmologist.

Fall risk

One study shows that blood pressure medications significantly increase fall risk in the elderly (6). Overall, 9 percent of these patients on blood pressure medications were seriously injured when they fell. Those who were considered moderate users of these medications had a 40 percent increased risk of fall. But, interestingly, those who were consider high-intensity users had a slightly less robust risk of fall (28 percent) than the moderate users. The researchers used the Medicare database with 5,000 participants as their data source. The average age of the participants in the study was 80.

Does this mean that we should discontinue blood pressure medications in this population? Not necessarily. This should be assessed at an individual level between the patient and the doctor. Also, one weakness of this study was that there was no dose-response curve. In other words, as the dosage increased with high blood pressure medications, one would expect a greater fall risk. However, the opposite was true.

In conclusion, we have some simple, easy-to-implement, takeaways. First, consider monitoring blood pressure in both arms, since a difference can mean an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Reduce your salt intake; it appears that many people may be sensitive to salt, as shown by the British study. If you do take blood pressure medications and are at least 65 years old, take steps to reduce your risk of falling and have annual ophthalmic exams to check for AMD.

References:

(1) CDC.gov/blood pressure. (2) Am J Med. 2014 Mar;127(3):209-215. (3) J Am Soc Hypertens 2014;8:e59. (4) BMJ Open 2014;4:e004549. (5) Ophthalmology online April 30, 2014. (6) JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):588-595.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

٭We invite you to check out our new weekly Medical Compass MD Health Videos on Times Beacon Record News Media’s website, www.tbrnewsmedia.com.٭

The Vanderbilt Mansion's library is ready for the holidays

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s holiday centerpiece is the mansion of William and Rosamond Vanderbilt, decorated each year by local designers and garden clubs. Their creative touch brings additional charm and magic to the spectacular, 24-room, Spanish-Revival house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

An elegant dining room table setting

Visitors can see the captivating results during guided tours now through Dec. 30 as lighted trees, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, poinsettias, garlands, toys and elegantly wrapped faux gifts fill the rooms.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt’s director of curatorial affairs, and her staff decorated the Windsor Guest Room, Lancaster Room, Breakfast Nook and Northport Porch.

“Most of these garden clubs and designers have been decorating the mansion for more than 20 seasons,” Gress, said. “We look forward to seeing them each year, and to how they use their creative skills to bring elegant holiday charm to the house.”

Designers Mary Schlotter and Krishtia McCord put finishing touches on their botanical dress

Centerport designers Mary Schlotter and her daughter Krishtia McCord — who operate Harbor Homestead & Co. — created a spectacular botanical dress that is displayed in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom. 

“The challenge was to use natural materials for the skirt,” McCord said. “We used dried birch-branch tips and wove in strings of tiny clear lights.” 

“We wanted to give the dress some sparkle,” Schlotter added. “So, we asked friends and family to share their grandmothers’ and mothers’ clip-on earrings and brooches and added them to the skirt. We made a botanical necklace using lamb’s ear leaves and hydrangea petals and accented it with pearls.” 

They also fashioned a long flowing sash with wide, white birch bark-print ribbon and combined the same ribbon design with greenery to decorate the nearby mantelpiece. 

The mother/daughter team made its first botanical dress for the Vanderbilt two years ago. “We like to use materials that will break down and not harm the Earth. We never use floral foam because it takes many years to break down. Instead, like many floral designers, we use chicken wire and thin tape.”

The library fireplace

The two designers used antique chandelier crystals and other glass objects to decorate the fireplace mantel in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s stunning mirrored dressing room, where their original botanical dress is displayed.

Lorri Toth, who made the velvet top of Schlotter and McCord’s first botanical dress, created the dove-gray velvet top for the new dress. Toth, who worked in New York City fashion houses, now has her own design business, Couture Creations, in Huntington Village, and makes lots of wedding dresses, Schlotter said. 

This year’s mansion decorators also include the Dix Hills Garden Club (dining room), Honey Hills Garden Club (Sonja Henie Guest Room), Nathan Hale Garden Club (Organ Room and Yellow Guest Room), Asharoken Garden Club (Portuguese Sitting Room), Three Village Garden Club (William Vanderbilt’s bedroom), Harbor Homestead & Co. (Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom and dressing room), Centerport Garden Club (library), Hydrangea Home of Northport (holiday floral centerpiece) and volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Suffolk County. Museum guide Ellen Mason contributed her family’s vintage electric train set and accompanying buildings for display around the base of the tree in the library.

The Organ Room in the mansion is ready for visitors.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, said “We’re grateful to these generous volunteers who give their time and talent to create an atmosphere of enchanting holiday grandeur and sophisticated living.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. General admission is $8 adults, $7 students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under.  

Guided tours of the mansion are given on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (and Wednesday to Sunday, Dec. 26 to 30 during school vacation) at regular intervals between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. for an additional $6. 

Special Twilight Tours will be given on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27 and 28, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This event is a treat for visitors, and the only time of the year the Vanderbilt family’s private living quarters can be seen at night. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under. 

For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

All photos from Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

Miniloaves are a great gift idea for the holidays. Stock photo

By Barbara Beltrami

There seem to be very few ways to escape the early onslaught of the commercialism of Christmas. With stores and websites foisting the holiday upon us almost as soon as we’ve put away our sandals and sunscreen, it loses its magic long before it even arrives.

I find that the best way to avoid that is to revert to what Christmas used to mean by making my own gifts. Nothing fancy or lavish, but something that shows originality, care and affection. I’ve made everything from potpourris to potholders, jams and tree ornaments, cookies and candles and candy, but I find that the easiest and most appreciated gifts from my kitchen have often been miniloaves of quick bread in inexpensive ceramic or foil loaf pans. Wrapped in colored cellophane and tied with a length of pretty ribbon, they’re always welcome.

Here are three of the many versions.

Banana Raisin Bread

Banana Raisin Bread

YIELD: Makes 3 miniloaves

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup golden raisins

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2)

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Soak the raisins in hot water. Preheat oven to 350 F and generously grease three 6- by 3- by 2-inch loaf pans. Sift flour with baking soda and salt. Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly. Combine the milk and lemon juice (don’t worry if it curdles a little). Slowly and alternately fold in the flour mixture and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and blending well, but not overmixing. Drain raisins and fold into batter. Divide batter evenly among three prepared loaf pans; bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Serve with hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Bourbon Bread

Bourbon Bread

YIELD: Makes 3 miniloaves

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

2½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 egg, well beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup bourbon

1/3 cup brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F and generously grease and flour three 6- by 3- by 2-inch miniloaf pans. In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, walnuts and sugar. In a medium bowl combine sour cream, egg, oil and bourbon; add to dry mixture and stir just until blended. Divide batter evenly among the miniloaf pans, sprinkle with brown sugar before baking. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Serve with brandy, liqueur or chai tea.

Date Pecan Bread

Date Pecan Bread

YIELD: Makes 3 miniloaves

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup boiling water

8 ounces chopped pitted dates

Half a stick softened, unsalted butter

1¾ cup flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 beaten egg

¾ cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F; generously grease three 6- by 3- by 2-inch miniloaf pans. In medium bowl, pour boiling water over dates; add butter, stir and let sit 5 minutes. In another medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; stir in date mixture, egg and pecans; mix well but do not overmix. Divide batter evenly among three loaf pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks. Serve with eggnog, hot spiced wine or dessert wine.

The cast of ‘Frosty’. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

For too short a time, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport will present its annual production of “Frosty” for the holidays. Directed by Richard Dolce, the interactive show, filled with song, dance and plenty of fun, is a wonderful way to introduce children to live theater.

Kevin Burns serves as narrator and welcomes the audience to Chillsville, a beautiful town way up north that is always covered with a blanket of snow. From the very beginning Burns puts the children at ease by asking them questions and inviting them to sing and clap to the first song, “Snow.” It is the quintessential way to start the story.

Burns introduces us to Jenny, a little girl who loves to play in the snow. With the help of her mother, she builds a snowman who magically comes to life once Jenny wraps a scarf around him. She decides to name him Frosty and the two become fast friends.

The cast of ‘Frosty’ Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, mean old Ethel Pierpot, who wants to make Chillsville warm and snow free so she can build a new factory, invents a weather machine that starts to make everything melt, including Frosty. Will Jenny, her mom, Frosty and the audience come up with a plan to stop her or will Frosty turn into a puddle of water?

Danielle Aliotta, who played Jenny at last Saturday’s performance, alternates the role with Katie Dolce. Soft-spoken and sweet, Aliotta connects with audience from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli returns as the gentle and kind Frosty, a role he has by now perfected. Nicole Weitzman is wonderful as Jenny’s mom and Courtney Fekete seems to be having a ball in the delicious role of Ethel Pierpot. It is Burns, however, as narrator, who draws the most giggles. His constant wardrobe changes to reflect how warm Chillsville is getting are hilarious.

A nice touch is how often the actors turn to the children in the audience for advice and they utilize the aisles often, including an exciting chase scene to catch Pierpot. During intermission, the narrator asks the audience to come up with a plan to save Frosty. When the show continues, the children share their ideas with the cast. The kids also help Jenny write a letter to her mom and even get to wish for snow at the end of the show.

The songs, including the fun “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends,” the sinister “Pierpot’s Solution” and the ever popular “Frosty the Snowman” tie the whole show together.

With the message that love “is pretty powerful stuff,” this fast-paced holiday production is the perfect way to celebrate the season.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Frosty” through Dec. 30. Children’s theater continues with “Seussical The Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3 and Dreamworks’ “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 23 to April 28. All seats are $15 and booster seats are available. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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