Arts & Entertainment

Stephen Fricker and Patricia Shih. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Patricia Shih, an award-winning singer-songwriter, and her rollicking sidekick, Stephen Fricker, return to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, on Sunday, June 14, for another multimedia, audience participation family concert at 4:30 p.m. Their show, Songs in the Key of Earth, with images and video projected onto the planetarium dome, is an hour-long family concert for all ages.

The duo will use the wonder and magic of the planetarium to take the audience on a rocket ship ride through space and back to Earth. Along the way, the audience will appreciate the planet’s beauty and fragility, get to make wishes upon the first star, snuggle up with a lullaby, help to make a thunderstorm, and dance under a huge rainbow. Music, projected images and video all create an enchanting journey under the planetarium’s starry dome. Shih said the evening will celebrate the Earth and “the greatest idea in the universe — love — found only on this planet.”

Shih and Fricker are renowned for including the audience as guest stars, inspiring them to sing and clap along, help write a song, dance and move, and learn sign language. Concertgoers will use the power of their imaginations — with help from the planetarium — to go on a universal adventure.

Shih wrote her first song at age 12 and hasn’t stopped since. Her professional career began when she was 15 and signed a recording and management contract with Unicorn Records of Washington, D.C., as half of a duo. She released a 45-rpm record a year later, and numerous television, radio, concert and club performances followed. Those included an international radio broadcast on the Voice of America and appearances at the legendary Cellar Door. Several years later, she began her solo career in California, notably on her own PBS special “Patty Shih — Music from the Gallery.” Soon after, she returned to the East Coast and settled in Huntington.

Shih has recorded three albums for adults and five for families and children. Her albums have brought her honors including the Gold Award from the National Association of Parenting Publications, two Parents’ Choice Awards and Creative Child Magazine’s Seal of Excellence.

Admission is $8 per person. Seating is limited, and advance purchase is strongly recommended. Tickets can be purchased at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

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From left, Assemblyman Steve Englebright; Phil Palmedo, Honoree; Liz Fish, Daughter of Vinnie Fish (Former Director of Gallery North); Judith Levy, Director of Gallery North; Nancy Goroff, Gallery North President; and Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Sue Wahlert

Gallery North’s “50 & Forward” Gala was held last Friday at The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics on the campus of Stony Brook University. It was an opportunity to “honor the past and look to the future,” said Gallery North Director Judith Levy. Honoree Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) reflected, “Gallery North anchors part of our history and heritage,” speaking of the 1875 boarding house which is the current Gallery North.  He continued by saying that this celebration is, “an important milestone for the North Country Road Historic community.”

Guests entered the sunlit atrium while pianist Conal Fowkes, Woody Allen’s collaborator at the Café Carlyle, set the tone for a lovely evening of socializing, fundraising and honoring those vital to the past, present and future of Gallery North.
Silent auction items lined the edges of the room, some of which were donated paintings by artists Bruce Lieberman, Nancy Bueti-Randall, Terence Netter, elegant necklaces by Pearl Ehrlich and Jan LaRoche; and many more fine choices.   A delicious buffet prepared by Chef Paolo Fontana and his staff of the SCGP Café was served on the second floor where guests also enjoyed the patio and outdoor gardens.

The celebration comes at an exciting time for Gallery North, as they are in the final stages of completing the Community Art Center, which will enable the Gallery to better serve the community’s art needs. “We are really excited about the Community Art Center,” said Nancy Goroff, president of Gallery North. The state-of -the-art, handicapped-accessible building will house a collaborative printmaking studio for artists and students, offer a mentoring program and allow for the expansion of the existing programs such as Studio Art Workshops, ArtVentures for Kids, ArTalks, ArtWorks and ArtAbilities.

The evening was an opportunity for artists, patrons of the arts and community members to join together for a celebration. Levy reflected on the evening, “Members of the community were there to support us and help us raise money.  As a non-profit institution, that is very important to our survival.” A highlight of the evening for Levy was, “listening to the honorees speak about what Gallery North has meant to them as members of the community, art lovers, and appreciators, as well as public officials.”

Following dinner, guests gathered for the honoree ceremony and live auction. The evening’s honorees: Englebright, Virginia “Vinnie” Fish and Philip Palmedo, were introduced by Gallery North’s Secretary/Treasurer Doug Dahlgard.

Englebright was acknowledged by Dahlgard for having “an unwavering commitment to the growth of not-for-profits and honored him for his wholehearted support.” Englebright spoke of the value the Gallery brings to the community and was proud to announce that he secured a $60,000 challenge grant from New York State, which would be used toward keeping Gallery North strong and vital for many years to come. Gallery North must now raise $60,000 within one year, to match the State grant of the same amount. Englebright reflected on the new Community Art Center, saying that it, “will embrace our children.”

The second honoree, Palmedo, was a Gallery North trustee from 1978 to 2008 and is a Trustee Emeritus.  Palmedo spoke of how he and his wife moved from Paris to Long Island many years ago and were delighted that they had found a gallery that was showing contemporary art. His belief is that, “art is indeed important” and that the Gallery is, “as vigorous as it was 50 years ago.” His gratitude is shown through his continuous support of Gallery North.

Although the final honoree, artist and Trustee Emeritus Virginia “Vinnie” Fish, was unable to attend the ceremony, she sent along a short film talking about the early beginnings of the Gallery and the role her mother, Virginia Fuller, one of the gallery’s founders, played in “giving to others and making life better for others.”

She reflected that, “before Gallery North there were only horse shows” and that “it changed the community.”

Fish worked as Gallery North’s president from 1989 to 1997. She created its 30th anniversary show, which “generated acclaim and attention from the greater art world.”  During her term as president, the Gallery received it’s full 501(c)(3) tax status.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) was on hand to present certificates of appreciation to each of the honorees, as well as one to Gallery North, proclaiming “We are honored to have Gallery North in our community.”

Following the ceremony, a lively auction took place, where generous bids were made for a trip to an Austrian chalet, a weeklong vacation in Deer Valley, Utah, and a weekend stay in a Manhattan apartment. The bidding continued, as people donated money to match an anonymous donation of $15,000. Certified Christie’s Auctioneer, Alison Delaney, successfully guided the audience in a lighthearted but important part of the evening.

The Gallery is well on their way to matching the $60,000 challenge grant.

Goroff said of the evening, “It was wonderful to see how many people stepped up at the Gala to help meet the challenge. We still have more to raise, but with such a strong start, we are confident we can do it!”

The event, which wound down with music, dancing, drinks and dessert, marked the beginning of the next 50 years with shows to be curated, a Community Art Center to open and the ongoing support of artists, art lovers and community members.

Gallery North is located at 90 North Country Road in Setauket. If you would like to join the gallery in reaching its potential and beyond, please log onto their website at www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.

Port Jefferson held its annual Boater’s Maritime Festival on June 6 and June 7, bringing pirates, art, animals and water sports to the village’s downtown area on a warm weekend. Residents and visitors learned how to row, stepped onto paddleboards, wiggled into kayaks, went on treasure hunts, stuffed their faces with clams, petted slippery snakes and more.

The Culper Spy Ring has gained much attention over the last 10 years from the publishing of two books and  AMC airing the television series TURN. On June 20, the Three Villages will be sharing its famous story with a day-long event, Culper Spy Day — Our Revolutionary Story. Join them to learn the real history behind the Culper Spy Ring, America’s first. Many historic locations dating as far back as 1655 will open their doors to the public and a local restaurant will offer a spy-themed lunch menu.

Sponsored by Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, the Long Island Museum and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the event will coincide with the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau Path Through History Weekend. The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

1. Three Village Historical Society, 93 N. Country Road, Setauket. Located in the c. 1800’s Ebenezer Bayles/Stephen Swezey house, the Three Village Historical Society is home to the interactive Culper SPIES! exhibit and the Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time exhibit. Stop by and meet a visiting friend from Oyster Bay, Robert Townsend, aka Samuel Culper Jr. The gift shop will also be open.
— A one-hour Tri-Spy Walking Tour will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Walk your way through the history of the Revolutionary War’s Culper Spy Ring. Visit Woodhull’s Farm, the Setauket Village Green, Grist Mill, Patriot’s Rock and historic grave sites. Meet at the entrance of Frank Melville Memorial Park.
— A historic district walking tour as it pertains to the Revolutionary War will depart from the entrance of Frank Melville Memorial Park at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Visit Patriot’s Rock, the cemetery where the leader of the Setauket Spy Ring is buried and the homes of early residents. 631-751-3730.

2. Thompson House Medicinal Garden, 91 N. Country Road, Setauket. Self-guided tour. Doctor Samuel Thompson was a colonial era doctor and farmer. According to his diaries, members of the Culper Spy Ring, including Abraham Woodhull and Austin Roe, were among his patients. 631-751-2244.

3. Caroline Church of Brookhaven, 1 Dyke Road, Setauket. Docents will lead a tour of this church and its adjoining cemetery. Built in 1729, it is the oldest continuously operating Episcopal Church in the United States. The cemetery holds the graves of early settlers of the town, Revolutionary War heroes, ship captains and industry leaders. 631-941-4245.

4. Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave., Setauket. Docents will lead a tour of the historic church, circa 1812, and its adjoining cemetery, which dates back to the 1600s. Abraham Woodhull of George Washington’s Spy Ring, genre artist William Sidney Mount and early settler Richard Floyd, grandfather of William Floyd, are buried here. 631-941-4271.

5. Setauket Village Green, Main Street, Setauket. A replica of a Dutch 1768 single-sail boat will be on display here. During the Revolutionary War, the Village Green was the location of the Battle of Setauket, a skirmish between Tory and Patriot troops that took place on Aug. 22, 1777. Prior to the battle, it was called Meeting House Green where meetings were held during the early settlement period of the mid to late 1600s.

6. Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket. Circa 1892. The library will present a demo of its interactive Spy Ring Tour, and materials and databases related to the Culper Spy Ring will be on the library lawn. Military paraphernalia will be on display in the Library lobby. Stop by and meet Anna Smith Strong and her “magic clothesline.” 631-941-4080.

7. Joseph Brewster House, Route 25A, Setauket. Circa 1655, it is considered to be the oldest home in the Town of Brookhaven. During the Revolutionary War, the house was owned by Joseph Brewster, first cousin of Culper Spy Caleb Brewster and neighbor of the ring’s founder, Benjamin Tallmadge. In order to preserve his home and property from confiscation, Joseph Brewster operated a tavern out of the home, hosting the occupying British forces. A colonial cooking demonstration will take place on the grounds. 631-751-2244.

8. Country House Restaurant, 1175 N. Country Road, Stony Brook. Built in 1710, the restaurant is dedicated to serving the finest food and spirits in one of Long Island’s most historic homes. The restaurant will serve a special Spy-themed menu from noon to 4 p.m.  Adult meals will range from $10 to $16 and children’s meals are $8.95, which includes a soft drink. For reservations, please call 631-751-3332.

9. Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tour the museum’s galleries as well as the outbuildings. The Nassakeag Schoolhouse, circa 1895, will be open with a docent. Two of the museum’s horse-drawn vehicles were owned by Revolutionary War hero Peter Gansevoort, grandfather of author Herman Melville. 631-751-0066.

10. Stony Brook Grist Mill, 100 Harbor Road, Stony Brook. A miller will be on hand for grinding demonstrations. Long Island’s most completely equipped and working mill, the mill, circa 1751, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During the Revolutionary War, occupying British forces confiscated much of the grain to provision their own troops. 631-689-3238.

11. Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook. Docents will guide visitors on a walking tour of historic Main Street. Points of interest will include the Stony Brook Village Center, Hercules and the Educational Center. Tours will depart on the hour from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. 631-751-2244.

Tickets are $20 each (children under 12 free) and can be purchased at the following locations:
• Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.
• The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. 631-751-0066  or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.
• The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, 111 Main Street, Stony Brook. 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

Historian Beverly C. Tyler and Donna Smith, Education Director of the Three Village Historical Society, stand next to the grave of Abraham Woodhull at the Setauket Presbyterian Church. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Barbara Russell

“By the 29th inst I expect to hear further from C_; his Dispatches shall be duly forwarded I would take the liberty to observe that a safe conveyance may be had, by the bearer, for the ink which your Excellency proposed sending to C_”

The writer was Setauket native Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, and the letter was sent to General George Washington July 25, 1779. Tallmadge is assuring the general that he is expecting information soon from C_, alias Samuel Culper, alias Abraham Woodhull, and is referring to an invisible ink provided by Washington to be used by members of the Culper Spy Ring.

Born in Setauket in 1754, Benjamin Tallmadge left Setauket as a teenager to enter Yale College, became a school teacher after graduation, and subsequently joined the Patriot forces. He served as the chief intelligence officer for General George Washington and relied on his childhood friends from Setauket for the intelligence reports so vital to Washington’s success.

The Culper Spy Ring is not a tale but a real and factual account of spying during the American Revolution. Its epicenter was nestled right here in Setauket. Benjamin Tallmadge, Abraham Woodhull, Austin Roe and Caleb Brewster all lived here and knew each other growing up. Tallmadge leaned on his trusted friends to create the web that brought information from New York City out to Long Island and across the Long Island Sound to him in Connecticut. From there, it was transmitted to General Washington.

Spying is very risky, and every person involved knew it. All but Caleb Brewster used fictitious names; invisible ink was provided; a dictionary of code words invented; and success depended on trusting that each person was committed to the fullest. The Culper Spy Ring operated from 1778 through 1783, with additional agents beyond the Setauket friends. One known agent was Robert Townsend of Oyster Bay, who had a business in New York City, allowing him to pick up information on British troop strengths and movements and then pass it on to either Austin Roe, an innkeeper, or Abraham Woodhull, a farmer and business operator. Both traveled to New York City in the course of their businesses.

The residents of Brookhaven attempted to carry on with their lives, while British soldiers were assigned to the Setauket area, following the disastrous Battle of Long Island in August 1776. Town board minutes of the time do not refer to the war but to the general running of a municipality with tax collecting, electing officials, land ownership, and responsibility for the indigent. Newspapers of the time did report unpleasant raids and indignities imposed on the residents. In December 1776, William Tryon, provincial governor of New York, traveled to Setauket to secure the support of Brookhaven residents for his majesty’s government.

Eight hundred one men pledged their support for the British Crown on the Setauket Village Green, then Brookhaven’s central meeting place. Among the signers was Abraham Woodhull, perhaps a move that would reduce suspicion for his intelligence work. Some residents, who feared for their safety, did flee to Connecticut, and remained for the duration of the war. Those who stayed were subjected to British occupation, often having soldiers billeted in their homes, and their livestock and crops seized for use by the British.

Woodhull and Roe continued to live in Setauket throughout the war years, settling into their occupations and carrying on their intelligence work, probably not without fear of being discovered. Brewster, a determined and fearless man, made many trips across Long Island Sound to support the Patriot cause but never returned to Setauket to live.  Tallmadge owed the success of his intelligence work to his friends and likely to others whose names are still unknown or unconfirmed.

Although the information about the Culpers was publicized over 80 years ago by former Suffolk County historian, Morton Pennypacker, it has received national attention in the last 10 years. Its rightful place among the history of the American Revolution was aided by the publication of “Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring” by Alexander Rose in 2006, “George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution” by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger in 2013 and the AMC series “TURN,” now in its second season. And it all happened here.

Lucky is the child who listens to a story from an elder and cherishes it for years. Margo Arceri first heard the Culper Spy Ring story from her Strong’s Neck neighbor and local historian, Kate W. Strong in the 1970s.

“Kate W. Strong, Anna Smith Strong’s great-great-grandaughter, originally told me this story as a child when I used to visit her with my neighbor and Strong descendant Raymond Brewster Strong lll,” said Arceri. “She wrote for The Long Island Forum ‘The True Tales of the Early Days on Long Island.’ One of her stories was about Nancy [Anna Smith Strong’s nickname} and her magic clothesline. That’s where I first heard about the Spy Ring and my love grew from there.”

Today Arceri runs Tri-Spy Tours to share her knowledge of George Washington’s Long Island intelligence during the American Revolution. Her perseverance has inspired the upcoming Culper Spy Day — Our Revolutionary Story, on Saturday, June 20.

Barbara Russell is the Town of Brookhaven’s historian.

The entire company of ‘Puss in Boots’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sarah E. Bush, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

For too short a time, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre is presenting a delightful adaptation of “Puss in Boots” on the Mainstage. Written by Steve McCoy and Jeffrey Sanzel, the story is loosely based on the 17th century fairy-tale by Charles Perrault, sans the ogre and with a surprise ending.

In Theatre Three’s version, ‘Boots’ chronicles the journey of a poor boy named Christopher. Kicked out of his home by his two older brothers and their wives, with no possessions but his father’s cat, Puss, Christopher sets off to the palace of King Vexmus to seek his fortune. He soon discovers that the cat can talk and wants to help him. A plan is hatched to pose as the rich Marquis of Carabas to win the heart of Princess Anafaizia and the adventure begins.

Jeffrey Sanzel directs a cast of 10 adult actors who deliver a first-rate performance. Hans Paul Hendrickson shines in the leading role of Christopher and also serves as storyteller. His kind and sweet personality quickly gains the sympathy of the audience. Amanda Geraci is wonderful as Puss. Your ‘basic cat of all trades,’ she sings and dances in practically every scene with boundless energy.

Jenna Kavaler is the beautiful Princess Anafaizia, who quickly reveals that her beauty is only skin deep. Bobby Montaniz and Andrew Gasparini are a terrific team as Christopher’s mean brothers, Amos and Shank. Their antics up and down the aisles to try to catch Christopher with a large net are priceless. James D. Schultz is in top form as the bumbling King Vexmus. Hilarious as usual, he clearly enjoys being onstage, making children and adults laugh. Schultz is perfectly matched with newcomer Tiffany Bux as Queen Ire. Bickering like an old married couple, they are very entertaining. Dana Bush as Ida, Marquéz as Missy and Gabrielle Comanda as Julia are a great supporting cast.

Choreographed by the super talented Marquéz and accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the musical numbers are a real treat, from the sweet duet “Take a Moment for Yourself,” sung by Geraci and Comanda, to the catchy tune of “Song of the Marquis of Carabas.” At last Sunday’s performance, many children were observed rocking back and forth in their seats to the music, taking it all in.

The set is simple but effective, utilizing props from the set of the theater’s evening performances of “Oliver!” Imagination is called for, especially when Puss takes the royal family on a tour of her master’s lands. The costumes, designed by Aimee Rabbitt are spot on, with sharp contrast between the rich and the poor.

Overall, Theatre Three’s “Puss in Boots” is funny, entertaining and a perfect introduction to the magic of live theater. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for a meet-and-greet and photo opportunities.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Puss In Boots” on June 6 and 13 at 11 a.m. followed by “Jack & the Beanstalk” from July 10 to Aug. 7 and “The Pied Piper” from Aug. 7 to 15. Tickets are $10 each, with group discounts for 10 or more. For more information, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock in a scene from ‘The Producers,’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan     

The musical “The Producers” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last week and did not disappoint. Adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name, it tells the story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, Max Bialystock.

Once nicknamed the “King of Broadway,” Bialystock has recently produced a series of turkeys (“…the critics left at intermission”); so he must produce a hit or go broke. His easily swayed, near psychotic auditor Leopold Bloom shows him how to make millions by producing a flop! Both rummage through a pile of manuscripts until they find one entitled “Springtime for Hitler,” extolling the virtues of the Nazi party. Putting this one on had to be a failure! Off they go in search of the author and to find an “angel.”

Stuart Zagnit and Joel Newsome played the hilarious plotters as Max and Leo, respectively. They were so contrasted as the Machiavellian hard-as-nails fixer to the trembling, quivering weaker partner who still carries a piece of his infant security blanket. Both have lively tenor voices — Zagnit the mighty organ,  Newsome the exquisite violin.

Gina Milo, as Ulla the voluptuary, had all the right (and left) moves, topping this panoply of pleasure with a powerful soprano. Her “If You Got It, Flaunt It” number expressed it all.

The two plotters find their author in Franz Liebkind played by John Plumpis — a wacko Nazi in Luftwaffe steel helmet, imitation jackboots and a stick — he is all over the boards intoning a somewhat mangled German accent but coming on quite strong in Act II’s “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” and in Act II’s “Haben Sie  Gehört Das Deutsche Band?”

The gay community is well represented with Roger DeBris, handled smoothly by Ian Knauer, and Carmen Ghia, played languidly by Christopher Sloan. Knauer is well over the two-yard mark, leading one to believe that height was a requisite. Why? Because the height of the lissome female ensemble only added to their beauty, referring to Emily Blake Anderson, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan and Laura Otremba. A marvelous performance, especially those kicks.

Choreography was by the ubiquitous and deeply talented Antoniette DiPietropolo with direction by Igor Goldin. DiPietropolo had a massive job on her hands. The cast was large and the ensemble equally so. Yet, as usual, she brought out a clear terpsichorean reality, including one done in walkers. Goldin was similarly charged with clear individualization and interpretation of characters. He succeeded handily.

At this juncture your scribe must reveal his impressions of the show’s music. James Olmstead leads a six-piece outfit featuring the incomparable Joe Boardman on trumpet, the trombones of Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall, Russ Brown on bass, Mark Katz on reeds and Josh Endlich on percussion driving it along.

Boardman has a tone redolent of Charlie Shavers with a whiff of Dizzy Gillespie. The sound of gunshots in Act II was actually rimshots by Endlich. Talk about accurate cuing. In fact, after final curtain this group did a little jamming. Your scribe was loath to leave his seat so much was he enjoying a trip down 52nd Street in the late forties.

This was a beautifully mounted production — something the Engeman is quite good at.

The John W. Engeman Theater will present “The Producers” through July 12. Tickets are $69. For more information, please call the box office at 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The Art League of Long Island’s Art in the Park Fine Art & Craft Fair was held at Heckscher Park on Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31. This annual juried fair and fundraiser for the Art League is now in its 48th year and attracts fine artists, craftspeople and art lovers from throughout the metropolitan area to Huntington.

Elsa Posey is to be honored by the Northport Historical Society at the Northport Yacht Club next week. Photo from Posey

By Susan Risoli

Elsa Posey, founder and director of Northport’s Posey School, will be recognized by the Northport Historical Society next week for her lifelong commitment to dance education.

A dinner and dance in Posey’s honor will be held on May 30 at 7 p.m. at the Northport Yacht Club. Proceeds from the event will support the historical society’s community and education programs.

In an interview this week, Posey said she was grateful to be honored and pleased that the recognition would bring attention to the dance school she opened in 1953. She brought her love of dance to Northport because it is her birthplace, she said, and because “I love it here. I’m a sailor. Just being near the water is important to me.”

Posey describes herself as a dance historian. She and her staff teach the legacy of choreography and the freedom of improvisation. Building on tradition in dance means the individual dancer is “never alone. You are supported by all the dancers that went before you,” Posey said.

Dancing is alive with what she called “the spirits, the ancestors” of those who have performed and loved dance through the ages. Posey School students often recreate historic dances, the founder said, including minuets from the 1400s and 1500s. Posey said her students will perform excerpts from the ballet “Swan Lake” — a work from the 1800s, she pointed out — at Northport Middle School on June 6.

A distinguishing characteristic of her school is the lack of recitals. Posey is not a fan, she said, of recitals where children are not really dancing but merely reproducing steps by rote. Instead, “we do performances when the dancers have something to show,” she said. “They’re performing with the music, to bring out the elements that were intended in the role.” That flow between dancer and music is achieved through performance plus education, Posey said. She herself was trained at the School of American Ballet in New York City as a youngster. Today her students — who range in age from preschoolers to seniors — take classes in ballet, modern dance, jazz, folk and country dances.

Elsa Posey is to be honored by the Northport Historical Society at the Northport Yacht Club next week. Photo from Posey
Elsa Posey is to be honored by the Northport Historical Society at the Northport Yacht Club next week. Photo from Posey

The school is not about competition among students. “We don’t compare one person with another,” Posey said. “It’s not that you’re better than somebody else.”

Dance inspires in many ways, Posey said, and can even improve lives. “I help the children understand dance as a part of history and their culture,” she explained. Appreciating cultural differences, and the values held by those who live in other places, “is what makes us better people.”

Make no mistake — though dance is surely physical, it’s much more than athletics, Posey said. “Dance is not a sport. It’s an art.” Musicians, too, she said, know that music and movement can create “an opening of the mind.”

Posey was the founder and first president of the National Dance Education Organization, which gave her its Lifetime Achievement Award. She is current president of the National Registry of Dance Educators, a group of master teachers of dance.

Heather Johnson, director of the Northport Historical Society, said the organization is honoring Posey because “she always talks about how great the community is here. But she’s part of what makes it wonderful.” Posey “is so very dedicated to her students,” Johnson said. “And she’s also been a supporter of the historical society.”

In a press release from the historical society, Steven King, president of the society’s board, said, “The entire Northport community has benefited greatly from Elsa Posey’s commitment to providing dance instruction and performance.”

Kiernan Urso as Oliver, Jennifer Collester Tully as Nancy and Steve McCoy as Bill Sikes in a scene from ‘Oliver!’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Stacy Santini

Bravo! Bravo! The vociferous roar emanating from the admiring standing spectators after the closing act at Theatre Three last Saturday evening was definitely symbolic of the caliber of Jeffrey Sanzel’s “Oliver!” Sanzel recreates Broadway on our local stage as only he can do with this meritorious musical, once again proving that his ability to recreate classical gems in such an appealing manner is unsurpassed. Adults and children alike gleefully piled into the bustling near sold out theater anticipating how this Dickens masterpiece would unfold; and unfold it did, brilliantly.

Of the numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ second novel, “Oliver Twist,” Lionel Bart’s accommodation emphasizes the author’s thematic visions exquisitely, and it is no surprise that Andrew Lloyd Weber credits Bart as the father of the British musical. It premiered at the Wimbledon Theatre on June 30, 1960, and much like the original director/choreographer team of Peter Coe and Malcolm Clare, Theatre Three’s Jeffrey Sanzel and Marquez have created a production of potential award winning magnitude.

“Oliver!” is the tale of a young orphan boy who unbeknownst to him was born into a wealthy lineage. Seemingly destined to a life toiling away in 1800 workhouses, his fate takes a turn when he meets a group of thieving pickpockets masterminded by a man named Fagin. The triumph of good over evil eventually prevails, but the ending is secondary to the journey Oliver must take to reach that destination.

Kiernan Urso as Oliver at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
Kiernan Urso as Oliver at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

With a cast of 57, many still in middle school, this could not have been an easy feat, but the synchronization, timing and actual performances are so exceptional that the enormity of the show takes a back seat to the world-class depiction as it releases itself to the audience.

The moment Kiernan Urso takes the stage as Oliver viewers are held captive. His sweet, melodic British accent and sympathy-evoking countenance are merely precursors for his performance of the infamous song, “Where Is Love?” It is all over after that as the audience is utterly and completely engrossed in the story line.

As his savior, Mr. Brownlow, played by Ron Rebaldo states, “There is something in that boy’s face,” and yes there is. Kiernan, a sixth-grader at Longwood Middle School, undoubtedly will be adding numerous roles to his repertoire in years to come.

Each actor in this musical has certainly earned his or her placement among this ensemble, but there are a few that not only stand out but soulfully elevate their characters to lofty heights and usher this “Oliver!” into a new dimension.

Dickens’ examination of external influences corrupting what is innately pure could not be depicted without the character of Fagin, portrayed by Sanzel. Not only does he direct “Oliver!” but he also takes the stage as this charismatic charlatan. We are all used to seeing him as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” which he does so phenomenally that one would think it would be an adjustment to see him in another Dickens’ role, but our fears are very quickly laid to rest when he comes out of the gate with a rendition of “Pick a Pocket or Two” and commands the stage with all the veteran finesse to which viewers have grown accustomed. Sanzel has a unique ability to take unsavory characters and make us not only like them but want to know them. The abhorrent behavior Fagin displays is transcended by Sanzel, and as he rouses with his adolescent gang of thieves we are periodically thrown into hysterics with one liners such as “Go to bed or I will sing again.”

Returning to Theatre Three’s stage is the stunning raven-haired Jennifer Collester Tully as Nancy. Her vocal range is superior and she is resplendent in this role. Struggling with her relationship with the repugnant character Bill Sikes, played by Steve McCoy, she brings new meaning to the cliché of a woman standing by her man. Her performance is so heartfelt that as she sings the forlorn, “As Long As He Needs Me,” we are beguiled to the point of tears. Partnering her with the baron of maleficent characters, Steve McCoy, was smart and their chemistry is palpable. As expected, McCoy portrays Sikes as intensely as he does Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol” and Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables.”

More than noteworthy are performances by Linda May as Old Sally and Hans Hendrickson as The Artful Dodger. May’s shrill deliverance of her abusive rants are piercing and repugnant, as they should be, and Hendrickson’s Dodger is amusingly coy.

New to the Theatre Three family is Doug Vandewinckel as Beadle Bumble. As one of the initial characters introduced, his presence on stage cannot be overlooked. The banter between him and Widow Corney, played by Phyllis March, is delightful, and the whimsical, “I Shall Scream” is a welcome debut to the comedic elements of the story.

The set sustaining all the mayhem and debauchery is stark and fitting. The costumes and set design induce a feeling of poverty and desperation. Although the simplicity is not indicative of lack of detail, the production staff — including Ellen Michelmore, James Kimmel, Steven Uihlein, Peter Casdia, Alexander Steiner, Tyler D’Accordo, Kristen Lees, Amanda Meyer, Bonnie Vidal, Brad Wilkens, Tim Moran, Michael Quattrone and Jacob Ziskin — have created a daunting synergistic panorama.

The movement upon stage is perfection. Each nuance as choreographed by Marquez seems obligated to sustain the music and acting laid out before the audience. The accompanying orchestra led by Jackson Kohl realizes the purity of Sanzel and Marquez’s vision fully as well and the talent of musicians Mike Chiusano, Marni Harris, James Carroll, Don Larsen and Kohl should not be overlooked.

“Oliver!” is by far one of the finest productions to grace Long Island stages and exactly as it ought to be. It more than entertains — it delivers countless levels of enjoyment and raises the bar for future artistic aspirations universally. Kudos Theatre Three, Kudos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Oliver!” through June 27 on the Mainstage. Tickets range from $15 to $30. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.