Kids

By Heidi Sutton

The holidays have arrived at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts in a most delightful way. While a spunky orphan commands the spotlight in the theater’s current main stage production of Annie, a spirited young girl named Emily stars in the second annual children’s theater production of Ken Ludwig’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. 

Directed by Christine Boehm, the 45-minute fast-paced show with the underlying message “to make life an adventure” is the perfect choice to introduce young children to live theater.

It’s Christmas Eve and Uncle Brierly (Evan Donnellan) greets the audience with a recitation of “the greatest poem of all time,” Clement C. Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. He gets as far as, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” only to be interrupted by Amos the Mouse (Jae Hughes) who is in fact stirring, cookie dough that is, to make cookies for Santa in hopes that he’ll show up this year. You see, Amos and his best human friend Emily (Lorelai Mucciolo) were left off the Naughty or Nice list last year and never received any presents.

It is then that Calliope the Elf (Lisa Naso) shows up to investigate and, after telling Emily and Amos that many other children around the world had the same thing happen to them, convinces them to accompany her back to the North Pole to tell Santa the troubling news and to save Christmas.

When they arrive at Santa’s workshop, they overhear a former elf, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Donnellan), and his sidekick Mulch (Anthony Panarello), plotting to sell the Naughty and Nice list to retailers just like last year.

What follows is a whirlwind attempt to retrieve the list complete with a surprise appearance from Amos’ brother (the amazing Hughes in a dual role), a hilarious case of mistaken identity, a sword fight, an elf cheer, a visit from Santa Claus (Panarello) and a chase scene through the theater to the Benny Hill theme song. There is no shortage of excitement in this show and the cast does a wonderful job portraying this sweet holiday story.

Booster seats are available and snacks are sold during intermission. Stay after the show for a meet and greet and photos with the cast in the lobby.  

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown presents Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Dec. 15, 22, 28 and 29 at 11 a.m. Children’s theater continues with Shrek The Musical Jr. from Feb. 1 to March 1 and Flat Stanley Jr. from May 16 to June 21. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org

All photos by Cassiel Fawcett

 

Frosty, Jenny and the Narrator sing ‘One Friend Is Better Than No Friends’ in a scene from the show.
Interactive show is a big hit with young audiences

By Heidi Sutton

In perfect timing with the frigid weather, the John W. Engeman Theater presents its annual production of “Frosty” through Dec. 29. Directed by Jennifer Collester, the wintry show has become a holiday favorite for many families over the years.

“I’m here to take you on a little adventure,” teases the Narrator (Jessica Gray) as the audience is introduced to the town of Chillsville, “A beautiful town way up north that is always covered with a blanket of fresh snow.” 

The cast of ‘Frosty’

There we meet Jenny (Katie Dolce), a little girl who’s favorite thing to do is to play outside. With help from her mother (Nicole Weitzman), Jenny builds a snowman she names Frosty (played by Dylan Poulos). Once she puts the finishing touches on the snowman, including a hat and scarf, he magically comes to life. Just like the song, Frosty is a jolly, happy soul and wait until you see him sing and dance!

Unfortunately, mean Ethel Pierpot (Sari Feldman), who makes snow shovels, snow blowers and ice scrapers in her factory on the other side of town, has just invented a weather machine that will eventually make all the snow melt in Chillsville so that she can build a bigger factory. Frosty has only a few hours before “He’ll be nothing more than a puddle and a carrot.”

The songs, including “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends” and “Thanks to You,” are playful and fun with the exception of “Pierpot’s Solution,” which is quite sinister! In the grand finale, the audience joins the cast in a rousing rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”

From the opening number, “Snow!,” the audience is encouraged to clap and sing, help Jenny write a letter and find a way to help save the melting snowman. “How can we save Frosty?” the Narrator asks.
“Put him in a blast chiller!” is one response. “Get the key and turn off the machine!” is another. Of course! 

Frosty and Jenny in a scene from the show.

What will happen to Frosty? Well, you’ll have to see the show to find out. There is a great snowball fight and it will snow in the theater but I’ve already given away too much so I’ll stop. I do recommend taking the kids and heading to Northport to catch a performance of “Frosty” — it will be one of the best presents they’ll receive this holiday 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 presents “Frosty” through Dec. 29. The theater’s 2019-20 Youth Season continues with Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” from Jan. 25 to March 1. All seats are $15. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Jennifer Collester

File photo by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson’s Santa Parade, scheduled for today, December 1, at 3 p.m., and Santa’s Workshop has been cancelled due to the weather. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce sent out the following statement:

“The weather projection  from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight is saying 100% precipitation, rain maybe a little snow, sleet…etc.! Because the Santa’s workshop would have been open in conjunction to the parade that is ALSO closed for today, resuming next week for Dickens!”

There is no rain date. For further information, call 631-473-1414.

 

Image from Walt Disney Animation Studios

By Jeffrey Sanzel

In 2013, Disney released Frozen, a computer-animated musical fantasy. Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, it was the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, and a journey of deep discovery. Visually stunning, with a powerful message of “true love” not being connected to marrying a prince, the film was an international sensation. 

The voice talents of Idina Menzel as Elsa, the princess with the power, and Kristen Bell as Anna, the sibling on a quest, were perfectly supported by Santino Fontana as the seemingly ideal prince, Jonathan Groff as a self-deprecating ice harvester, and a hilarious Josh Gad as the slightly manic snowman obsessed with summer. The delightful score, by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, spawned the anthem “Let It Go.”

Joining the latter-day classics such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, Frozen quickly became an international phenomena, grossing over $1.2 billion. The only surprise is that it took six years for a sequel. Frozen II reunites Menzel, Bell, Groff and Gad, along with a host of additional voice artists.  

Image from Walt Disney Animation Studios

The film opens hopefully with King Agnarr of Arendelle (Alfred Molina) relating the story of the Enchanted Forest to his young daughters, Elsa (voiced by Mattea Conforti) and Anna (an adorable Hadley Gannaway). It sets up the plot of Agnarr’s grandfather, King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto), and a treaty-gone-wrong with the tribe of Northuldra, a clan that posses a deep magic of which the Arendelle are suspicious. 

The film then goes forward to pick up three years after the previous film.  Elsa (Menzel) is queen and keeping her wintry powers in check. Anna (Bell) is a free-spirited princess, now courted by the smitten Kristoff (Groff) who spends most of his screen time attempting to propose, egged on by his reliable reindeer friend, Sven (also voiced by Groff).

What ensues is a complicated mythology involving the elemental spirits of earth, fire, water and air — and a fifth, unnamed element that becomes clear about half-way through. It is a convoluted folklore that is resolved a bit too simply. Ultimately, what is lacking in the plot is true conflict. 

Much of Frozen was driven by the friction and misunderstanding of characters in action — all trying desperately to get what they want — building up to several powerful revelations. They were human and flawed and that made them all the more wonderful. The underlying theme was threaded throughout, and the climax was the wholly satisfying result of overcoming challenges and solving problems. Frozen II substitutes genuine tension and depth for a string of incidents and “adventures” that just don’t build to any surprises.

Image from Walt Disney Animation Studios

The sequel is now without its entertaining moments, and the score (by Lopez and Lopez-Anderson), while not approaching the first’s innovation and delight, is more than serviceable. Gad shines as the chatterbox Olaf, and a highlight is the snowman’s recapping of the entire first movie. It’s a delightful bit of madcap in a film that is sorely lacking moments of humor. Unlike the first that found a wryness even in the darkest moments, Frozen II feel relentlessly serious.  

The additional voice artists are not as well-served as they should be, with some very talented performers given what amounts to glorified cameos: Molina, Sisto, Evan Rachel Wood,  Martha Plimpton and Jason Ritter barely register. It is not so much the length of their screen time but the quality. Sterling K. Brown’s lieutenant shows great promise but  is unfortunately not developed nearly enough.  

There are several pieces that are clearly envisioned toward promotional items. The fire element turns out to be a very cute froglike creature that will no doubt be making its debut in Happy Meals across the country. Rock monsters and water horses are ideal of stickers and folders and whatever else the marketing department can dream up. And what is cuter than a reindeer? Lots of reindeers.

Pictorially, it is breathtaking. The images are beautiful, and there is never a false or inconsistent moment in its landscape. The characters are animated with honesty and project genuine emotion. The fantastic elements are gloriously realized in a true rainbow of variety. But it is this triumph of style over substance that makes the movie fall short on its ability to engage. The film feels not just long but stretched. The scenes meander and then seem to be repeated again 10 minutes later. There is a great deal of padding in the 100+ minutes.

Conceptually, Frozen II probably seemed to be a great idea on paper and, certainly, in its artists’ eyes, it is. One could just wish for a little more fire under the snow.

By Heidi Sutton

While Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes a transformation on Theatre Three’s Mainstage in “A Christmas Carol,” Santa’s littlest elf Barnaby experiences a metamorphosis of his own in the theater’s adorable children’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas.” The show runs through Dec. 28.

With a clever script by Douglas J. Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel with music and lyrics by Quattrock, the holiday production teaches us that Christmas lies within our hearts.

It’s Christmas Eve and the North Pole is a flurry of activity. Barnaby (Eric J. Hughes), the littlest elf in Elf School, is busy making a toy that Santa (Andrew Lenahan) requested — a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest — while desperately trying to fit in. His constant attempts to be helpful fail, as he knocks down presents, bumps into fellow elves Blizzard (Krystal Lawless), Crystal (Nicole Bianco) and Sam (Jason Furnari) and makes a big mess.

When it’s time to deliver the presents to all the good little girls and boys, Barnaby and Blizzard’s fawn, Franklynne (Michelle LaBozzetta), are left behind with Mrs. Claus (Lorrie Maida). “You’ll have to wait to grow a little bit,” explains Sam. Barnaby soon realizes that Santa has left the stuffed bear behind and convinces Franklynne to embark on a journey to find Santa and “save Christmas.”   

On their adventure they crash land on the roof of the house of Sarah (Lorrie Maida) and her nephew Andrew (Andrew Lenahan) and learn all about Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights. They also come across S.B. (spoiled brat) Dombulbury (Steven Uihlein), a Scrooge in his own right who has stuffed up all the chimneys with coal with his partner in crime Irma (Dana Bush), in order to ruin Christmas. Yes, Barnaby will save the day — as evident in the title — but just wait until you see how!

Directed by Sanzel, the cast perfectly executes this beautiful story. The wonderful songs, accompanied on piano by Quattrock, are the heart of the show, with special mention to “Still With a Ribbon on Top” and “Within Our Hearts.”

Costumes by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John are colorful and festive and the choreography by Nicole Bianco is fresh and fun. Special effects abound, elevated by the futuristic lighting and, spoiler alert, it even snows in the theater!

With the ultimate message to be the very best that you can be, “Barnaby Saves Christmas” is a must see this holiday season.

Souvenir elf and reindeer dolls will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo keepsake with Santa Claus on stage if you wish — the $5 donation supports the theater’s scholarship fund — and join the rest of the cast in the lobby for a meet and greet.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents “Barnaby Saves Christmas” through Dec. 28. Children’s Theater continues with “Little Red Riding Hood” from Jan. 18 to Feb. 22 and “Hansel & Gretel” from Feb. 29 to March 21. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions Inc.

THANKFUL FOR THE SEASON

Thanks to all the children who entered Times Beacon Record News Media’s first Thanksgiving Coloring Contest and for helping to make it so successful! This year we had 27 entries making it very difficult to choose a winner. Congratulations to Jameson Flaiz of Miller Place, sisters Deryn and Shaelea McNamara of East Setauket and Andrew Cleary of Rocky Point for being this year’s winners and receiving a family four-pack of tickets to see “Barnaby Saves Christmas” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Special thanks to Theatre Three for sponsoring our contest! 

See all of the wonderful entries on this slide show. Happy Thanksgiving!

Annual museum tree lighting set for November 30

Keri Hollander and her family purchased a small live spruce 30 years ago as their first Christmas tree. After the holiday, they planted it in their front yard in Centereach. Now it’s 40 feet high and they offered to donate it to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum for display in the Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard.

When the museum holds its 32nd annual Tree Lighting event on Saturday, November 30, the Hollander family will be there to turn on the lights. The free family-friendly event, from 4 to 6 p.m., draws several hundred visitors each year.

The program will include performances by the Northport Chorale and singer Eva Erickson, carol singing, ornament-making for children, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (a great photo opportunity). Visitors can enjoy treats provided by Lidl, Long Island’s next new grocery store. Stop by the Lidl food truck for free snack samples.

J.G. Brands Christmas Tree Sales, Inc., of Woodside, Queens, also donated a tree. The 15-foot balsam will stand in front of the arc of thousand-year-old Carthaginian columns at the entrance to the Vanderbilt Estate.

Sponsored by Northwell Health, the event includes a raffle basket ($129 value): Vanderbilt Family Membership, a one-hour photo session (plus 10 prints) at the Vanderbilt with Janelle Brooke photography, and lots of Vanderbilt gift items and children’s toys from the Museum Gift Shop.

Holiday visitors who purchase tickets for guided Mansion tours will see the magic created by local designers and garden clubs, who deck the halls each November. This year, in addition to the beautifully transformed rooms, visitors will see a spectacular installation in the lobby of the Museum’s Memorial Wing – Enchanted Flight of the Cardinals by the designers at Ethan Allen in Huntington Station, N.Y.

For many years, the Museum was able to harvest large pines and spruces from the wooded areas of the 43-acre Estate. In September, the Vanderbilt announced it was seeking a local family that could donate a sizeable tree for this year’s celebration. The Museum agreed to cut it down and transport it to the Mansion.

 Keri Hollander responded, and wrote an email to Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt’s operations supervisor: “I believe I have, on my front lawn, the perfect holiday tree for your Mansion’s Courtyard. It’s approximately 30 years old and was our family’s first Christmas tree. We thought it would be fun to buy a tree that we could bring into the house – it was only about six feet high at the time – and then later plant it in our backyard.

 “Right after Christmas, we planted it ‘temporarily’ in the front of the yard with plans to move it in the spring. Well, 30 years later, it still stands in the middle of our front lawn. If you will have it, we would be very happy to donate it to the Vanderbilt Museum.”

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt, said, “We’re very grateful to the Hollander family and to J.G. Brands for their generosity. The J.G. Brands tree will welcome visitors at the gate. And the Hollanders’ spectacular spruce will be the delightful holiday centerpiece for the Vanderbilt Mansion – part of the magic of the grand house, which is decorated every year by local volunteer designers and garden clubs.”

For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Stacy Davidson

Calling all Santas and Hanukkah Harrys or those who just want to help make a difference this holiday season! 

For the past 15 years, Stacy from Stacy’s Finds/Pattern Finders in Port Jefferson has been part of a group of everyday people that answer the direct clothing needs and toy requests of 9,000 of Long Island’s less fortunate children living in homeless shelters, temporary foster care, Child Protective Services and domestic violence safe houses every year — and the numbers are still growing. Last year her group answered the needs of 50 of the children.

Stacy will have actual letters from the children with their clothing sizes, requirements and toy requests. You can purchase one item or fulfill the needs of a child’s entire clothing and toy wish list.

You may also drop off any children’s new clothing and new toys or gift cards for donations at the shop at 128 East Main St. in Port Jefferson. For more information, call 631-928-5158.

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Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven join Port Jefferson officials in dedicating the new peace pole in Rocketship Park. Photos by Kyle Barr

An 11-foot wood pole installed inside the fence of Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson is looking for residents to stop and think about how peace may prevail around the globe. 

Members of Building Bridges in Brookhaven join Port Jefferson officials in dedicating the new peace pole in Rocketship Park. Photos by Kyle Barr

The civic group Building Bridges in Brookhaven gathered together with Port Jeff village officials Nov. 19 to dedicate the new pole. On it reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 10 different languages, including sign language and Braille. Art depicts small handprints and flowers, courtesy of Setauket resident and artist Maryanne Hart, also of the North Shore Peace Group. 

Community activist group Building Bridges in Brookhaven got themselves behind the project and after buying a 16-foot length of cedar from Riverhead Lumber they cut it down to 11 feet, where now 3 feet is in the ground.

Reverend Gregory Leonard of the Bethel AME Church spoke to those congregated to unveil the pole. The pole features a solar-powered light at the top, and the reverend led those there to dedicate the pole in singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

“The elements of peace are many, but I think it’s important to think of how we treat one another, how we are humble toward one another,” he said. “Of all the things, communication is so important — being able to talk to one another.”

Mayor Margot Garant said she had met with civic leaders Tom Lyon, Myrna Gordon and the director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ransome. Once she was told it was a peace pole, the mayor said she didn’t ask any other questions but “when and where.”

“We really wanted to make a message about providing peace,” Gordon said. 

Lyon said the idea for the polls came to the group from The Peace Pole Project in Wassaic upstate, who are working to put up peace poles all over the globe.

“This should be visible — out where kids are going to see it, children are going to grow up talking about the peace pole and talking about the park,” Lyon said.

The pole is one of more than 250,000 in more than 200 countries. Each one is inscribed with the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in hundreds of languages. The project began in 1955 with Japanese peace activist Masakisa Goi, and Ransome said they’re looking to spread his message into today.

Building Bridges was formed almost four years ago and host the MLK Community Festival yearly at the Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Lyon said this could be just the start of what could end as a project covering the whole of Long Island. He said his group, working alongside local Rotary organizations and Pax Christi could set a goal by the end of 2020 to plant 100 peace poles across the Island, whether in churches or in playgrounds such as Port Jeff’s Rocketship Park. 

By Heidi Sutton

As the holiday season rolls around, the Village of Port Jefferson is one of the first towns on Long Island to fully embrace its joyful spirit. Z-Pita Café on Main Street is already decked in holiday lights from top to bottom, elves are busy getting Santa’s workshop ready on the corner of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway and preparations are underway to transport the seaport village back to the Victorian era for its 24th annual Charles Dickens Festival on Dec 7 and 8.

The latter was inspired by Theatre Three’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” Now in its 36th year, the show continues to delight and touch audiences of all ages, a testament to the brilliance of the theater’s Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel and the caliber of its cast. Last Saturday’s opening night performance received a much deserved standing ovation.

Based on the 1843 novella by Charles Dickens, it tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Sanzel), a successful business man who loves money more than anything else and has become bitter, lonely and stingy over the years, especially around the holidays. “I’ve devoted my life to the cultivation of business,” he explains.

We first meet the miserly old curmudgeon on Christmas Eve and witness him turn away the needy and a charity group and lose his temper with his clerk Bob Cratchit (Douglas J. Quattrock) and his always optimistic nephew Fred Halliwell (Steven Uihlein). “Keep Christmas in your own way and I will keep it in mine,” he warns Halliwell before kicking him out.

That evening Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner Jacob Marley (Andrew Lenahan) who offers him one last chance at redemption. Draped in the chains he has forged in life, Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future – in an attempt to save his immortal soul.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Michelle LaBozzetta) takes Scrooge to Wellington House, the boarding school he attended as a young boy and where he spent many Christmases alone; we meet his adored sister Fan and his apprenticeship at Fezziwig’s, where the audience is introduced to Scrooge’s one and only love, Belle (Nicole Bianco). This is also where he meets Marley for the first time and where his life takes a terrible turn.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Stephen T. Wangner) takes Scrooge to meet Bob Cratchit’s family and learn about the failing health of Tiny Tim and to a dinner party hosted by his nephew in one of the funniest moments in the show.

Lastly, the most intimidating specter, a 14-foot Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (operated by Steven Uihlein), shows Scrooge the shadows of what is yet to come, including his own death and how those around him are affected. In the end, Scrooge learns that “life is not about facts and figures. It’s about joy and family and Christmas.”

While the entire cast is excellent, it is Sanzel who commands the stage. One of his finest moments occurs when the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to Fezziwig’s holiday party. While at all other times he remains in the shadows as an observer, Sanzel suddenly jumps into the role of a younger Scrooge with boundless energy and dances the night away. The transformation is breathtaking.

As director, Sanzel succeeds in keeping the annual production fresh and exciting while maintaining its familiarity, allowing families to share in a story that touches on empathy, selflessness and charity, while providing lots of laughs, visual amazement and more than a few surprises. This year the lighting and sound effects by Robert W. Henderson Jr. take center stage and elevate the flawless production to the next level, a feast for the eyes and ears.

Arrive early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors in the beautifully decorated lobby and stay afterward for a photo keepsake with Scrooge. The $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund.

The Cast: Nicole Bianco, Ginger Dalton, Holly D’Accordo, Kailey D’Accordo, Ellie Dunn, Suzie Dunn, Alexa Eichinger, Julie Friedman, Eric J. Hughes, Kyle Imperatore, Audrey Kelly, Sophia Knapp, David Lafler, Edward Langston, Michelle LaBozzetta, Cassandra LaRocco, Andrew Lenahan, Douglas J. Quattrock, Michaela Reis, Leah Romero, Jeffrey Sanzel, Aiden Sharkey, Finn Thomas, Cameron Turner, Amber Walkowiak, Stephen T. Wangner, Steven Uihlein, Addyson Urso and Kiernan Urso.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 28. Please note all evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Running time is 2 hours. Tickets are $20 per person through November; $35 adults, $28 seniors and students in December. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger/ Theatre Three Productions Inc.