Holidays

By Melissa Arnold

Whether you’ve been playing carols for weeks or are just now contemplating putting up the tree, the end of Thanksgiving signals the official arrival of the holiday season. If this is the most wonderful time of the year in your house, there’s no better way to enjoy it than by catching “Elf`The Musical” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

Based on the beloved 2003 film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf” tells the story of a little boy who crawls into Santa’s gift bag and ends up at the North Pole. Raised as an elf, the ever-growing Buddy has no idea he’s really human, even though he’s a terrible toymaker. When Buddy learns the truth about his identity, he sets out on a journey to New York City to reconnect with his roots and find his family.

Insulated by the always cheery atmosphere of Christmastown, it’s an understatement to say Buddy faces culture shock upon arriving in the Big Apple. But it will take a lot to keep Buddy from spreading Christmas cheer, especially to the person that needs it most: his Scrooge-y father.

“Elf” made its Broadway debut in 2010 with book by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan and music by Michael Sklar and Chad Beguelin. Devoted fans of the film will appreciate the show’s faithfulness to the original script, including Buddy’s classic one-liners that make it so iconic. The musical numbers aren’t especially memorable and feel unnecessary at points, but they do open up the opportunity for some great dance routines.

The production begins with Santa (Gordon Gray) inviting the audience to join him as he reads the story of Buddy the Elf. There’s something so fun about these moments that allow actors to interact with the crowd and draw viewers in. And the little details in Santa’s scenes (his oversized chair with a bag of Doritos and the remote control stuffed in the cushion) feel genuine and cozy. Gray’s portrayal of Santa is effortless, funny and truly believable — his belly laughs will make you wonder if he’s the real deal.

Erik Gratton is no stranger to the role of Buddy. He also starred in the national tour of “Elf” and last year’s Madison Square Garden production. While it’s hard to shake off the image of Will Ferrell in that famous green hat, Gratton leaves it all on the stage with tons of energy and all the zany enthusiasm Buddy deserves. His first experience and subsequent obsession with a paper shredder will have you in stitches. It’s also worth noting that he approaches the show’s rare emotional moments with surprising tenderness. Gratton will break your heart at the end of the first act during “World’s Greatest Dad (Reprise).”

After fantasizing endlessly about what life with his dad will be like, Buddy meets his overworked, agitated publisher father, Walter Hobbs (Joe Gately). Tension rolls off Gately in waves, and when Hobbs loses his temper, Gately fills the theater with powerful, roaring tirades. He’s a wonderful foil to Christianne Tisdale and Zachary Podair, who play Hobbs’s wife Emily and young son Michael. Tisdale and Podair have great chemistry as mother and son, and their duets in “I’ll Believe in You” and “There Is a Santa Claus” were personal favorites.

Of course, Buddy’s life is further turned upside down when he finds himself smitten with a beautiful, yet world-weary Macy’s employee, Jovie (Caitlin Gallogly). Gallogly is delightfully edgy and jaded for the majority of the show, making her character’s eventual thawing that much more enjoyable. She also has one of the strongest voices in the cast, and her vocals in “A Christmas Song” and “Never Fall in Love With an Elf” are a treat for the ears.

The ensemble in “Elf” has several different roles to play, from elves in Santa’s workshop to retail employees and bitter mall Santas. They deserve major props for their elf scenes — since elves are tiny, the actors perform on their knees. It’s no small feat to sing and dance to “Christmastown” from that position!

Choreographer Mara Newbery Greer and associate choreographer Tiger Brown are to be applauded for their hard work with the cast. The intense tap dancing in “Nobody Cares About Santa” is another impressive surprise.

Set designer Nate Bertone creates a whimsical backdrop for the show, grounded by huge arches covered in snowflakes. The giant logos for Macy’s and Greenway Press are eye-catching, as are the creative use of props and background silhouettes to show scene changes in real time. While musical director Charlie Reuter and the small orchestra are tucked out of sight in the pit, they provide the perfect, almost cartoonish, accompaniment to this silly show.

All told, director Matt Kunkel has led the Engeman’s cast of “Elf” in a production that’s loads of fun for the whole family — a perfect fit for the holiday season.

A note on content: “Elf” does contain some brief mild language and lighthearted innuendo that most children won’t notice. The show is generally appropriate for all ages.

If you have some extra money to spare, consider making a donation after the show to the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry, which supports more than 150 local families each week. Cast members will collect donations as you leave. For more information, call 631- 261-4357.

See “Elf The Musical” now through Dec. 30 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets range from $73 to $78 with free valet parking. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Michael DeCristofaro

By Rita J. Egan

For four decades the Three Village Historical Society has been illuminating the way to the holiday season with its Candlelight House Tour, showcasing historic properties dressed in all their festive finery by a team of local decorators.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, ticket holders can take part in the society’s 40th annual Candlelight House Tour. Titled 40 Years Honoring a Sense of Place, the tour will include five homes in East Setauket, the grist mill at Frank Melville Memorial Park and the historical society’s headquarters on North Country Road.

This year’s tour is the seventh one organized by co-chairs Patty Cain, historical society vice president, and Patty Yantz, a former president. Yantz said the title of the tour is a natural fit for the society that offers various programs that educate residents about former residents and local history, which in turn gives them a sense of place.

“People can come and go, but that history still lives on and is hopefully appreciated by generations to come,” Yantz said.

One of the homes on the tour this year was featured during the first Candlelight House Tour and is owned by the same owner, Eva Glaser. Glaser was one of the first co-chairs of the event and came up with the idea to hold a candlelight tour to raise money for the refurbishment of The Setauket Neighborhood House, where the historical society was initially housed. “It’s a treat to have her home on it,” Cain said.

This year’s tour includes other homes from past tours, mostly from the event’s first decade, and even though the owners have changed, the historical aspect of the houses hasn’t, according to Yantz and Cain.

“Some of these houses are favorites of tour-goers and the community, so they do like to see them again,” Cain said.

Cain said in the past some recently built homes were included on the tour because they were situated on properties of historical significance, but this year all the houses are significant on their own merits. The co-chair said they all date back 100 years or more, and the owners have maintained the unique historical character for each.

Among the spots are one structure that belonged to a sea captain and a beach house that overlooks Conscience Bay. Cain said a Dutch Colonial home that is a familiar sight to locals will also be one of the stops giving ticket holders the opportunity to see what the new owner has done with it.

The theme of each house is different either depending on the décor or the architecture of the home, according to Yantz, and each spot highlights and honors the area.

“Not only do we get to see the houses but sometimes we get a glimmer or concept of who built the house,” she said. “We get the history. We get an idea of who came here before [us], which I think is a wonderful thing in the more of a transient world we live in. Sometimes it’s very nice to be very grounded.”

Cain said she thinks attendees will take away a lot from this year’s event.

“I hope what they get out of the tour this year is to really see a beautiful sampling of the historic homes that we have in the area and can appreciate the fact that each owner has really cherished the fact that it is a historic home, and they have maintained the bones of the house,” Cain said.

The 40th annual Candlelight House Tour will be held on Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the Nov. 30 evening tour is sold out). Tickets are $50 per person, $45 members. An optional breakfast at the Old Field Club from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. is available for an additional $20. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-751-3730, email info@tvhs.org or visit www.tvhs.org. Tickets may be picked up at the Three Village Historical Society located at 93 North Country Road, Setauket.

Photos by Rita J. Egan, 2017

From left, Emily Edwards, Michael Mingoia, Adriana Scheer and Ryan Cavanagh in a scene from ‘White Christmas’

By Heidi Sutton

Fans of Irving Berlin are in for a treat this holiday season as the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presents its latest offering, the stage version of “White Christmas.”

With book by David Ives and Paul Blake, the musical features 17 songs written by Berlin including what he considered his greatest song ever, “White Christmas.” Sung by Bing Crosby, the song would receive an Academy Award in 1943 for Best Original Song and sell more than 50 million copies, making it the best-selling Christmas song of all time.

A scene from ‘White Christmas’

Based on the classic 1954 film that starred Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, the musical centers around Bob Wallace (Michael Mingoia) and Phil Davis (Ryan Cavanagh), World War II veterans who team up to become a successful song and dance act, even making appearances on the Ed Sullivan show.

Always on the lookout for new talent, they head to a nightclub to see the Haynes sisters, Betty (Emily Edwards) and Judy (Adriana Scheer) perform. While Phil and Judy hit it off right away, Bob and Betty need a little more time.

When Bob and Phil follow Betty and Judy to their next gig at the Columbia Inn in Pinetree, Vermont, they discover that the ski lodge is owned by their former general, Henry Waverly (Eugene Dailey). When the housekeeper, Martha Watson (Anne Marie Finnie) informs them that the inn is in financial straits, they decide to stage a benefit show in the barn on the property on Christmas Eve. Will everything go on as planned?

Directed by Ronald Green III, the 27-member cast transports the audience to the 1950s and does an excellent job portraying the story through song and dance.

Emily Edwards and Adriana Scheer perform ‘Sisters’

With choreography by M.E. Junge, Edwards and Scheer shine in “Sisters,” Finnie, Edwards and Scheer’s “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun” is delightful while Mingoia delivers a beautiful version of “White Christmas” at the very beginning of the show. As a special treat, 10-year-old Cordelia Comando, in the role of  the general’s 9-year-old niece, belts out a rendition of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” that will take your breath away. There are big tap dance numbers also like “Happy Holidays/ Let Yourself Go,” “I Love a Piano” and the rousing “Blue Skies” that are a joy to watch.

The various sets are impressive as well, from a night club to the lobby of the inn to a barn, and the costumes designed by Green, from the army uniforms to the glittery gowns are top notch. The show closes with a “White Christmas” sing-along sure to get one in the holiday spirit. Running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St. Smithtown kicks off its 17th season with Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas The Musical” through Dec. 30. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Photos by Courtney Braun

Photo by Mark A. Suban

On Saturday, Nov. 17 the Centerport United Methodist Church, 97 Little Neck Road, Centerport will kick off the holidays with its Santaport Fair, an annual holiday fair and marketplace featuring an array of boutiques, games and crafts for children, a luncheon cafe and professional photographs with Santa, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 631-261-5222 or visit www.centerportumc.org.

The holidays are just about here again, and before panicking about buying gifts, consider a unique, first time event slated for Setauket called.

TBR News Media is hosting Retail Lives, a private shopping experience Tuesday, Nov. 13, at The Bates House, located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket, at which local retailers and service-based businesses will set up booths to offer attendees a chance to knock out some holiday shopping early, and all in one place. The event will feature discounts on certain products and services as well as prewrapped items ideal for gift giving.

“We are going to have a wonderful, select group of local retailers who have decided to join us,” said Evelyn Costello, TBR News Media event planner and organizer of the first incarnation of the event, which will also be live streamed on tbrnewsmedia.com. “It’s a real community feel event.”

Publisher Leah Dunaief shed light on the thinking behind putting together the experience.

“We very much want to support the retail businesses in our communities,” she said. “They are the backbones of our villages in the sense of places to go when we need support for the Little League, or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the musical groups. They are, physically, the center of our towns. It’s the stores that make the physical presence. We want to help them to stay in business against the mammoth Amazon and other businesses that are threatening their existence.”

The event is sponsored by The Bates House, Simple Party Designs, Empire Tent Rental & Event Planning and Elegant Eating. It will feature retailers and businesses Ecolin Jewelers, Hardts and Flowers, DazzleBar, Blue Salon & Spa, East Wind, North Fork Fire, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Chocolate Works, Three Village Historical Society, East End Shirt Co., Signs by All Seasons, Nicole Eliopoulos of State Farm and The Rinx.

For more information contact Costello by phone 516-909-5171 or by email at ec@tbrnewsmedia.com.

East Setauket

VFW Post 3054 will host a veterans recognition service at the Memorial Park at the corner of Shore Road and Route 25A in East Setauket on Nov. 11 at 11:11 a.m. Residents are invited to join local veterans for a short ceremony that will feature the laying of wreaths from local community groups. For further details, call 631-751-5541.

Greenlawn

Hosted by American Legion Post 1244, a Veterans Day ceremony will be held at Greenlawn Memorial Park, Pulaski Road, Greenlawn on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. with neighboring American Legion posts plus many community groups and Scouts. Call 516-523-9391.

Huntington

The community is invited to join Town of Huntington officials, the Veterans Advisory Board, and local officials for a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. at Veterans Plaza, 100 Main St., Huntington. The Northport High School Tour Choir will perform patriotic music and refreshments will be served following the ceremony. Call 631-351-3000.

Port Jefferson

American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 invites the community to attend its Centennial Veterans Day/Armistice Day Memorial Observance Remembrance at Veterans Memorial Park on East Broadway in Port Jefferson (across from Village Hall) on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. For more information, call 631-626-2911.

St. James

Sgt. John W. Cooke VFW Post 395 will host a Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11. The parade will kick off at 10 a.m. and head down Lake Avenue to St. James Elementary School. For more info, call 516-987-6201.

Smithtown

Smithtown American Legion Post 833 and Smithtown Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10870 will host a Veterans Day ceremony at Smithtown Veterans Plaza, Main Street, Smithtown on Nov. 11 at 10:45 a.m. Featuring local Scouts, schools, community groups, guest speakers, a salute to the troops and patriotic music and a rifle salute. In case of rain, ceremony moves to the American Legion Hall, 51 Juniper Ave. Smithtown. Call 631-724-1804. 

Sound Beach

Join the Sound Beach Civic Association for a Veterans Day ceremony at the Sound Beach Veterans Memorial Park, New York Avenue, Sound Beach on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. Call 631-744-6952.

Izzy F. of Lake Grove

Thanks to all the children who entered Times Beacon Record News Media’s annual Halloween contest and for helping to make it so successful! Congratulations to Julianna P. of Setauket and Izzy F. of Lake Grove for being this year’s winners and receiving a family four-pack of theater tickets to “The Little Mermaid Jr.” courtesy of the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.

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BiblioFlames and Breathe Inspiring Gifts are among the places in Port Jefferson Village cited by Village Center building manager Bob Hodum as hotbeds for paranormal activity. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are the old stories told only in whispers, and then there are the legends, which hide in the dark corners of local homes and shops. Port Jefferson has a long history, and such a village always has one foot in modern times with compelling ghost stories of days gone by constantly trailing in its wake.

Bob Hodum, the building manager of the Port Jefferson Village Center, annually takes willing participants on a ghost tour of the village to peer into its haunted past. Back in the days when Port Jeff was known as Drowned Meadow, a port settlement with a thriving shipbuilding industry and only a few shops to its name, spirits made their way into the woodwork of these lasting structures, according to Hodum. In the 19th century there was no Main Street as it’s known today, and instead East Main Street was considered the real commercial district.

BiblioFlames and Breathe Inspiring Gifts are among the places in Port Jefferson Village cited by Village Center building manager Bob Hodum as hotbeds for paranormal activity. Photo by Kyle Barr

All along East Main Street, stories abound about a haunted past. Jena Turner, the owner of Breathe Inspiring Gifts, which sells a number of spiritual items — such as crystals, minerals, tarot cards, incense and oils — said she has sensed a number of spirits who live in her store. One she and her friends named George or The Captain and another they named Charles. Another apparition once came into the store just a few months after Turner moved in 2009, a Mae West-looking woman they dubbed The Madam, she said.

“The day I came to look at the building I sensed it right away,” Turner said. “One day I felt like I was pushed, and I broke a mirror. Another day I was in a store with a customer, it sounded like somebody was trying to get out of the bathroom. The mirror came off the wall and landed on the floor. … There’s an office door next to cash register which opens at random times and freaks people out.”

During the 1930s, the space that Turner occupies was a bar, Hodum said, which gained the gruesome name The Bucket of Blood because of the number of fights started by sailors and shipwrights. Hodum added legends say the local village doctor was a regular attendant to those hurt in fights at The Bucket of Blood, and those who survived his treatment were offered a free drink.

“The place was a real dive — men fought all the time in it, and knives were their weapon of choice,” Hodum said.

The house across the street from Breathe was owned by a man named Capt. George Washington Brewster, a well-known mariner of the mid-19th century, Hodum said. Turner suspected his spirit must be the one making an appearance, perhaps among others who once visited the saloon. Despite the spirits being hosted in the building, she said she feels the ghosts aren’t malicious, and they add a little bit to the atmosphere of her shop.

Many other buildings on East Main Street belong to the late-19th and early 20th centuries. In the shop now occupied by BiblioFlames, a book-inspired candle shop on East Main Street, Hodum told another story of Lee Jong, an amiable laundryman and Chinese immigrant to Port Jefferson. Jong was known as a model citizen, and often gave refuge to people down on their luck. That is how he came into contact with John Rys, who was given space by Jong after the young man found himself homeless. Rys later went on a robbing spree, which Jong found out about and subsequently told the police. As Rys was being led away, he vowed revenge on his benefactor.

“One day I felt like I was pushed, and I broke a mirror. Another day I was in a store with a customer, it sounded like somebody was trying to get out of the bathroom. The mirror came off the wall and landed on the floor.”

— Jena Turner

The robber got his revenge in 1922 by murdering Jong in his own shop, according to Hodum. The crime was witnessed by a woman in the shop next door, and he was sentenced to death at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. Both Rys and his accomplice John Emieleta were put to death in 1925 via the electric chair, gravely given the sobriquet “sparky.”

Sometimes Hodum said people can still hear Jong in his shop, continuing his lifelong profession by ironing shirts.

Hodum told another story of a lurid murder spree by Henry Walters of his wife Elizabeth Darling-Walters and her son-in-law over the family’s inheritance in 1857. The tragedy took place near the site of the Port Jefferson Power Station. Emmet Darling, the youngest member of the household, survived and managed to escape. Knowing that he would most likely be caught, Walters hung himself, according to Hodum. If you listen on a cold November day, some locals still say they hear the murderer’s voice.

“In November, when the murder took place, in the evening you can actually hear Walters moaning, where he’s crying about the fact that he would be discovered, and how sorry he was for it,” the building manager said.

Hodum hosted ghost tours to help promote the Port Jefferson Conservancy and the Village Center’s Haunted Mansion night Saturday, Oct. 27. The night will included fun and scares for all ages, mad scientists, ghosts, spooky fortune tellers and more. 

The funds raised by the event will go toward supporting the conservancy.

'Finis Incertus' by Chase McGill

By Melissa Arnold

An eerie chill is beginning to settle over Long Island, and with it comes the creepy sort of magic that only Halloween can bring. Whether you’re in it for the candy or the costumes, celebrating All Hallows Eve encourages young and old alike to get creative and maybe even spooky.

To celebrate the season, the Huntington Arts Council is sponsoring its 7th annual Nightmare on Main Street at the Main Street Gallery, a juried student art show showcasing some of our area’s most talented young artists.

The exhibit allows students in grades 6 through 12 to submit their favorite Halloween-themed artwork for consideration. In total, 41 artists from Nassau and Suffolk counties were chosen, and more than 85 spooky pieces in varied mediums will be on display. 

‘Complement Me’ by Anna Laimo

This year’s juror, Jessica “Ratgrrl” Valentin, is primarily a digital and collage artist. Her “heartbreaking pop” style has graced galleries throughout Long Island and New York City. Her latest project, Muñeca Arthouse, is a unique gallery space in Patchogue.

Valentin also played a part in shaping the theme for this year’s exhibit. “I love spooky, but not horror,” she said. “I blend my work with spooky themes, color, and sweetness so I can deal with the things that scare me. How do you face the things that scare you?” she asked, setting the tone for the entries.

Anna Laimo, a senior at Half Hollow Hills High School East, was overjoyed to be chosen for this year’s Nightmare on Main Street, an exhibit she said is a perfect fit for her.

“My dad is a horror novelist, and I grew up watching scary movies with him. I love everything about the horror industry,” said the 17-year-old. “I submitted a few pieces for the exhibit last year but I wasn’t chosen, so it feels great to know I’ve improved this year.”

Laimo’s submissions include “Complement Me,” an acrylic and oil painting of skeletons on a date, and “Swell,” a drawing based on another interest of hers — special effects makeup.

North Babylon High School senior Zoe Hartmann is also making her debut at the exhibit this year thanks to an art class assignment. “My teacher had all of us do a Halloween-themed piece to submit. I was really surprised and excited when I found out I was picked. This is my first juried exhibit,” said Hartmann, 17.

Her contribution, a colored pencil drawing called “Rise of the Dead,” depicts a female skeleton alone in a cemetery. Hartmann said that she was inspired by the 2017 Disney-Pixar film, “Coco,” and the idea that, eventually, the dead are forgotten.

Along with Laimo and Hartmann, the works of Olivia Belluomo, Brooke Blumberg, Sage Boiko, Grace Burkart, Giavanna Castro, Ziqian Chen, Maxwell DeFalco, Alysse Fazal, Gloria Gang, Rachel Taylor Goldsmith, Elizabeth Gordin, Jenna Hart, Morgan Hlaing, Jiayi Huo, Evelyn Johnson, Aya Karimealaoui, Evgenia Kennedy, Siyu Lei, Juliette Liberatoscioli, Angelina Lomangino, Jessica Lyle, Sara Madsen, Chase McGill, Madalyn Metzger, Frida Misko, Benjamin Pollard, Sophia Polizzi, Dylan Roca, Matthew Rubenfeld, Jessica Rush, Mehr Sharma, Martina Simone, Juliah Triana, Leia Ulrich, Anna Vig, Emily Villavicencio,  Isabelle Waldorf, Hephzibah Yoo and Ida Zuo will also be on view.”

Prizes were awarded in two categories: grades 6 to 8 and 9 to 12. In the junior division, Best in Show went to Frida Misko for “Spooky But Sweet” with Angelina Lomangino receiving an Honorable Mention for “Wick.” In the senior division, Sage Boiko won Best in Show for “Werewolf of Wysteria” while Honorable Mentions were awarded to Anna Laimo’s “Complement Me” and Siyu Lei’ “This Red or This One.”

“I was honored and excited to be chosen as a juror,” said Valentin. “It was surprising; the layered complexity and the technical skill of these young artists. I love the places that they took the theme. It was hard. There was lots of good work to choose from.”

“Nightmare on Main Street continues to receive an incredible response from the student artists who enter the show as well as the surrounding community,” said Huntington Arts Council Executive Director Marc Courtade. “The artwork featured in this exhibit reflects an incredible level of talent.We are always thrilled to see the work of young adults in our gallery.”

Nightmare on Main Street will be on display through Nov. 3 at the Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington. A costume reception will be held on Oct. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the gallery, where prizes will be awarded to select artists and for best costume. All are welcome. Refreshments will be served. For information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

 

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Double double toil — but it’s no trouble decorating for Halloween for a Smithtown resident whose creativity knows no bounds.

Myra Naseem, owner of Elegant Eating, brings a fun and almost whimsical spirit of the holiday alive in her Smithtown home. She handcrafts dolls into witches holding pumpkins and brews, their clothes made from scraps of antique cloth and drapes. Spiders are set out to guard potion vials marked with  titles including “Graveyard Dust” and “Moth’s Delight” throughout the various rooms of her house.

The decorations create a spooky atmosphere that showcases  Naseem’s talent, both in the kitchen and out, while providing a one-of-a-kind atmosphere for catering events. 

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