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Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne star in ‘Fantastic Beasts 2.’ Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

By Jeffrey Sanzel

The thirty minutes prior to seeing “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” were taken up with trailers for movies that were almost exclusively CGI. One film after another displayed a visual and auditory assault of effects. This was an appropriate herald to the main attraction.

The latest addition to the Potterverse is a hodgepodge of characters too numerous to mention — and, in the case of the script — too numerous to develop. Several plots (and what seems like myriad subplots) wander around the two hours and fourteen minutes of playing time.

Eddie Redmayne in a scene from the movie. Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

Vaguely at the center is Eddie Redmayne, returning from the first film, as Newt Scamander, an expert in exotic magical creatures.  Redmayne has created a character that mumbles and meanders his way through the story to the point where the audience wants to scream  “Please make eye contact with anyone!”

The first film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” had a benign whimsy with dark edges. The newest entry is basically a mess of hidden secrets and a very frightening look at fascism through the actions of the titular villain (played by Johnny Depp, alternating restraint and scenery-chewing) as a budding Hitler — complete with a chilling nod to the Nuremberg Rally.

There are other villains and half-villains; there are holdovers from the first film; and there are new characters with shifting or surprising allegiances. In short, there are just too many characters. This would all be well and good if the movie had a modicum of charm. It plods, alternating between grand effects and brooding close-ups.

Director David Yates has directed much of the film like it’s ready to be the newest ride at Universal’s theme park.  Visually, it is stunning and the designs are striking but the center is hollow. There is a lack of depth and the actors are left to play with little-to-no dimension. 

Sadly, blame must go to Potter creator J.K. Rowling, who is credited with the screenplay.  The Harry Potter books are works that will endure as great literature. The world Rowling created was populated with people whom we grew to know, care about, and, ultimately, love.  There was honesty and humor, and, most importantly, humanity.   

Unfortunately, she brings very little of this here and seems to contradict or reinvent elements that were part of and at the heart of the series. Even the glimpses of Hogwarts and Jude Law’s Dumbledore seem foreign in this setting.

Finally, we are left with what feels like a very long set-up to the next film. Rowling has announced that there are three more films to come. We can only hope that she finds the magic that was so lacking in this sophomore outing.

Rated PG-13, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindenwald” is now playing in local theaters

Red ribbons adorned businesses, homes and other public areas in Shoreham to honor Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 161 who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a continuing show of support for a fallen youth in the North Shore community, Shoreham-Wading River High School will play host to the first annual Andrew’s Run Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. to support a local Boy Scout troop after its tragic loss. 

“Andrew was going to do his first run for the cross country team in Shoreham before the tragedy,” said Matthew Yakaboski, the scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 161. The troop experienced the tragic loss of 12-year-old member Andrew McMorris from an alleged drunk driving incident in October. “This is a significant run,” Yakaboski added. “He just started his cross country career. He enjoyed running and just wanted to be part of the team.”

The race is coming together through the efforts of 16-year-old Miller Place student Danelle Rose, who is taking her passion for running and using it to support her neighboring communities.

“I, like many people, was extremely heartbroken by this tragedy,” Rose said. “I really wanted to help them heal the best that I could.”

Andrew, who was a seventh-grader at Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham, died Oct. 1 after an alleged drunk driver struck him and four of his fellow Scouts in Boy Scout Troop 161 while they were walking along the shoulder of David Terry Road in Manorville during a hike. Only days after the tragedy, community members from Riverhead to Miller Place came out in strong support of the family and troop, posting red ribbons on mailboxes, street signs and outside shops. The McMorris family was adamant that any monetary donations should go to Troop 161, the Shoreham-Wading River School District’s Wildcat Helpers of the Arts and Music and the nonprofit advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

All proceeds from the Dec. 15 run are slated to go toward the construction of a 3,200 square foot Adirondack cabin at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Wading River, which will be named McMorris Lodge in honor of Andrew. 

“[Troop 161] is beginning to recover from the event, but the McMorris family still has a long, long road ahead,” Yakaboski said. “Whatever we can do to show the community is behind them is tremendous.”

Rose, who is a member of both the Miller Place High School’s varsity track and cross country teams, said she knew the family through John McMorris, Andrew’s father, who is a guidance counselor in her school district.

“I wanted to help these three communities; Miller Place because Mr. McMorris works there, Shoreham because that’s where Andrew lived and Riverhead because that’s where the troop members were from, too.” 

The 2.5-mile run/walk will start at the high school baseball field, then take participants down the lower lacrosse fields, back up around the upper soccer fields then enter into the trails briefly before exiting out onto the upper soccer fields again before coming back to the finish line.

Jackie Rose, Danelle’s mother, said she is proud of her daughter’s efforts, adding, “She’s just a well-rounded excellent student, and she does what she needs to do.” 

There is a $10 entry fee to sign up, but donations are also accepted. Sign-ups start on the day, Dec. 15, at 8 a.m., but people can register before the race at runsignup.com/race/ny/
shoreham/andrewsrun until Dec. 13.

*This post was amended to restructure Jackie Rose’ biography

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

By Heidi Sutton

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

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

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

The cast of ‘Frosty’ Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stock photo

By Leah Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The conversation in a New Jersey classroom of first-graders got around to the subject of Christmas, and the substitute teacher unleashed a bombshell. She told them that Santa isn’t real, that parents just buy presents and put them under a tree. On a roll, she didn’t stop there. Reindeer can’t fly, she advised the students, elves are not real, the elf on the shelf is just a doll that parents move around, there is no tooth fairy and no Easter bunny, either. She summed up with the news that there is no magic anything and that magic doesn’t exist. Whoa!

This made the top of the news earlier this week for CBS, NBC, Fox, USA Today and other major news outlets. No one, as far as I know, has interviewed the children to get their reactions, but the school superintendent and the principal were moved to speak, as the district apologized to the parents.

Montville superintendent of schools, Rene Rovtar, was “troubled and disheartened by the incident.” Cedar Hill Elementary School principal, Michael Raj, sent home a message to the parents in which he mentioned the “poor judgment” of the teacher and asked parents to “take appropriate steps to maintain the childhood innocence of the holiday season.” At least one parent, Lisa Simek, took to Facebook, expressing dismay. She urged that Christmas magic is real and expressed through acts of kindness, love, positivity and grace — from and for loved ones and strangers. The superintendent added, “The childhood wonder associated with all holidays and traditions is something I personally hold near and dear in my own heart.”

We don’t know how the children reacted, but we certainly know how upset the adults are. And we have not been told if the teacher will be allowed to substitute again. How should we react to this?

On the one hand, we know that the idea of Santa Claus brings joy and excitement to children and therefore to the adults around them. This is hardly innocence exploited by adults but rather an opportunity for adults each to be Santa, to be their best, most generous, most loving selves. While the person of Santa is a fiction, the embodiment of all that Santa stands for most surely is not. Fictional characters can provide inspiration for the lifetime of a child as he or she grows up. Intergenerational mythmaking exists in many contexts, not only to entertain but also to inspire.

Children sooner or later catch on, especially when they see 20 Santas walking down the street together on their return from their Salvation Army posts. But on the other hand, how do children feel when they realize the adults around them have told them untruths? If they go to school expecting to believe what they are taught there, should the teacher acquiesce in mythmaking? For sure, this teacher handled the situation with poor judgment. It would have been far better for her and the children had she told them to ask their parents about the magic of Santa. For whatever reason, she did not do that.

How did you feel when, as a child, you learned that Santa was a story made up by the adults closest to you? Did you understand the greater good embodied in the concept or were you left to distrust on some level whatever those adults might subsequently tell you? Does misleading a child bring psychological questions into play?

It did not negatively affect Virginia O’Hanlon, who asked that question of her father when she was 8 years old in 1897. She said the answer inspired her for the rest of her long life. Her dad told her to write to The Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper, and added, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” The Sun’s hard-bitten, cynical editor, Francis Pharcellus Church, wrote the answer that turned into the most reprinted editorial over the next century in the English-speaking world: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Stacy Davidson

Calling all Santas and Hanukkah Harrys or those who just want to help make a difference this holiday season! For the past 13 years, Stacy from Pattern Finders in Port Jefferson has been part of a group of everyday people that answer the direct clothing needs and toy requests of 10,000 of Long Island’s less fortunate children living in homeless shelters, temporary foster care, Child Protective Services, sober houses, teen mother homes and domestic violence safe houses every year.

This year, the group’s goal is to sponsor 50 children. You may drop off any children’s new clothing and new toys or gift cards for donations at the shop at 128 East Main St., Port Jefferson. Or, adopt a child and purchase his or her specific clothing and toy requests. Stacy will have actual letters from the children with their clothing sizes, requirements and toy requests. Anyone who makes a donation will be entered for a free raffle prize. Feel free to call Stacy at the shop with any questions at 631-928-5158.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce will light the tree on Dec. 1.

Centereach

The Centereach Civic Association invites the community to its annual tree lighting on the lawn of Capital One Bank, 2100 Middle Country Road, Centereach on Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 7 to 8 p.m. Enjoy caroling, hot cocoa, candy canes and a visit from Santa. Rain/snow date is Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. 

Cold Spring Harbor

Santa Claus will light the Christmas tree at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery, 1660 Route 25A, Cold Spring Harbor on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. Cookies, tea and hot chocolate will be served. $10 suggested donation. Call 516-692-6768 for further information.

Holtsville

The Town of Brookhaven will host its annual tree lighting at the Holtsville Ecology Site, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville on Friday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. Enjoy entertainment, hot chocolate and character strolling while waiting for Santa to arrive by helicopter. Call 631-451-6100.

Kings Park

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce will host a tree lighting at Veterans Plaza, 1 Church St., Kings Park on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 4:30 p.m.

Lake Ronkonkoma

Celebrate with a tree lighting at Raynor Park, Ronkonkoma Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma on Dec. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. Hosted by the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce. Call 631-963-2796 for further details.

Mount Sinai

Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai invites the community to the annual lighting of its community tree on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. With hot chocolate, a performance by the Mount Sinai Middle School Jazz Choir and a visit from Santa. Call 631-509-0882.

Nesconset

Join the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce for its annual tree lighting at Gazebo Park, 127 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Call 631-724-2543 for details.

Port Jefferson

Join Danford’s Hotel at Bayles Park on East Broadway in Port Jefferson for its 3rd annual tree lighting on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. Featuring live holiday music, hot chocolate and holiday cookies. Call 631-928-5200 for more information.

Port Jefferson Station

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual tree lighting at the Chamber Train Car, corner of Route 112 and Nesconset Highway, on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. Enjoy holiday music, refreshments and a visit from Santa. Call 631-821-1313.

St. James

Enjoy holiday music, pictures with Santa and light the BIG tree on the great lawn of Deepwells Farm County Park, 2 Taylor Lane, St. James on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 4:30 p.m. Hosted by St. James Chamber of Commerce. Call 631-584-8510.

Stony Brook

Santa arrives at the Stony Brook Village Center, 111 Main St., Stony Brook on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. atop the Stony Brook Fire Department’s 3000-light float for the annual tree lighting ceremony on the Village Green. Call 631-751-2244.

Wading River

East Wind Long Island, 5720 Route 25A, Wading River invites the community to its annual tree lighting with Santa at The Shoppes on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. Call 631-929-3500.

Children enjoy last year's Menorah Lighting in Stony Brook. Photo by Peter DiLauro
Happy Hanukkah! Celebrate the Festival of Lights at the following events:

Centereach

The Centereach Civic Association invites the community to its annual menorah lighting on the lawn of Capital One Bank, 2100 Middle Country Road, Centereach on Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 7 to 8 p.m. Rain/snow date is Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. Visit www.centereachcivic.org.

Dix Hills

The Chai Center, 501 Vanderbilt Parkway, Dix Hills will hold its annual outdoor grand menorah lighting ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 5 starting at 4:30 p.m. Enjoy latkes, doughnuts, hot chocolate, music and a special performance by comic hypnotist Ronnie Baras. RSVP by calling 631-351-8672.

Farmingville

Join the Town of Brookhaven for a menorah lighting at Town Hall, One Independence Hill, Farmingville on Monday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. followed by entertainment, hot latkes and doughnuts in the second floor cafeteria. Call 631-451-6100 for more information.

Kings Park

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce will host a menorah lighting at Veterans Plaza, 1 Church St., Kings Park on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. Visit www.kingsparkli.com.

Lake Ronkonkoma

Celebrate the holidays with a menorah lighting at Raynor Park, Ronkonkoma Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma at Sunday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. Hosted by the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce. Call 631-963-2796 for further details.

Mount Sinai

Temple Beth Emeth will host the annual Heritage Trust Menorah Lighting at Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Questions? Call 631-928-4103.

Nesconset

Join the Nesconset Chamber of Commerce for its annual menorah lighting at Gazebo Park, 127 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Call 631-724-2543 for details.

Port Jefferson Station

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce will host its annual menorah lighting at the Chamber Train Car, corner of Route 112 and Nesconset Highway, on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 4 to 5 p.m. Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center will perform the blessings/prayer for the first night of Hanukkah. Call 631-821-1313.

St. James

The community is invited to the St. James 2018 menorah lighting ceremony at The Triangle, Route 25A and Lake Ave., St. James from Dec. 2 to 9 at 5:30 p.m. (Friday night lighting at 4:30 p.m.) Call 631-584-8510.

Stony Brook

Join Chabad at Stony Brook for a Hanukkah on Main Street celebration at the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn, 48 Main St., Stony Brook on Monday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. with latkes, donuts, giveaways, a fire juggling show and music followed by the lighting of a menorah. Call 631-585-0521.

By Heidi Sutton

Barnaby, Santa and Franklynne in a scene from the show.

This weekend the Village of Port Jefferson will celebrate its 23rd annual Charles Dickens Festival. Among the many events to attend this year will be Theatre Three’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas.” Written 15 years ago by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel, the adorable musical, with its wonderful score and dance numbers, is the perfect way for families with young children to kick off the holiday season.

It’s Christmas Eve at the North Pole and Barnaby, the smallest elf in Elf School, is busy making a toy that Santa requested — a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest. When he realizes that Santa has left without it, he enlists the help of Franklynne, the littlest reindeer, to track down Santa and give the toy to him.

S.B. Dombulbury is up to his old tricks again!

During their adventures they meet Sarah and Andrew who teach them about Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights. They also bump into the sneaky S.B. Dombulbury and his henchperson Irma who are trying to ruin Christmas by stuffing all the chimneys with coal.

As director, Sanzel has assembled an outstanding cast to convey the story.

Eric Hughes returns for his third year as Barnaby, perfectly capturing his character as just wanting to fit in, and Michelle LaBozzetta tackles the role of Franklynne (It’s spelled with two n’s and a y — that makes it a girl’s name!) with just the right amount of spunkiness one would expect from a flying fawn. Andrew Lenahan is incredible in the dual role of Santa and Andrew, and Ginger Dalton is charming as both a slightly confused Mrs. Claus and Sarah.

Nicole Bianco and K.D. Guadagno play Crystal and Blizzard, two of Santa’s elves who are constantly hypnotized by S.B. Dombulbury to help him carry out his evil plan and at one point chase Barnaby and Franklynne through the audience like zombies in one of the funniest moments in the show. As a special treat, Jason Furnari, who originated the role of Barnaby, plays Sam the stressed-out head elf. However, it is the comedy tag team of Steven Uihlein as S.B. (spoiled brat) Dombulbury and Dana Bush as Irma that steal the show with their many antics. Their journey to redemption is heartfelt.

Santa’s elves, Barnaby, Sam, Blizzard and Crystal

The nine songs, accompanied by Quattrock on piano, are delightful, with special mention to “Miracles” and “Within Our Hearts.” The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John, are fun and festive as is the choreography by Bianco, and the special effects through the use of lighting is magical.

With the underlying message to “be the very best you can be,” “Barnaby Saves Christmas” is a beautiful story of hope, miracles and love. Don’t miss this one.

Souvenir elf and reindeer dolls will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo with Santa Claus if you wish — the $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund — and meet the rest of the cast in the lobby. Running time is one hour and 10 minutes with one intermission. Booster seats are available.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” through Dec. 29. Children’s theater continues with “Jack & the Beanstalk” from Jan. 19 to Feb. 23. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

New York City Ballet’s Brittany Pollack and Daniel Ulbricht are this year’s special guests. Photo courtesy of New York Dance Theatre

New York Dance Theatre, under the direction of former New York City Ballet soloist Frank Ohman, will present its 37th season of “The Nutcracker” at Hofstra University, 1000 Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead, on Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16 with performances each day at noon and 5 p.m. 

Special guest artists Daniel Ulbricht and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet return to perform as the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier.   

Over the years, Frank Ohman has created original dances and scenes that have been incorporated into the ballet, but as a former student and soloist under George Balanchine he is one of a select few authorized to use the original pas de deux choreography of his mentor. Ohman will continue his tradition of playing the role of the grandfather in the party scene that opens the ballet.

The role of Clara’s mysterious godfather Herr Drosselmeier will be played by former New York City Ballet soloist Robert Maiorano.   

With the elegant Christmas party scene, the drama of the magical growing Christmas Tree, the Battle of the Toy Soldiers and Giant Mice, the live Snow Storm and the brilliant dancing in the Land of the Sweets, “The Nutcracker” appeals to all ages.

In all, a cast of 80 children, preprofessional and professional dancers will bring this classic story ballet to life on the stage of the university’s John Cranford Adams Playhouse. The children’s roles are performed by students of the Frank Ohman School of Ballet in Commack, representing a variety of towns in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Tickets for this full production ballet are $42 adults, $32 seniors and children 12 and under. To order, visit  www.ohmanballet.org or call 631-462-0964. 

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

“Not to brag (well, this is my story, so I guess if I’m going to brag, this is the place to do it, right?) but my house is the most beautiful, most magical, most jaw-droppingly fabulous place in the world …”

So begins Jenna Gavigan’s charming young adult novel “Lulu the Broadway Mouse,” appropriately subtitled “Tiny Dreamer. Big Dream.” And what is the protagonist’s house? It is the Shubert Theatre, located at 225 West 44th Street in New York City. Here is where the sassy young mouse and her family work and reside.

Jenna Gavigan

Gavigan made her Broadway debut as a teenager in the 2003 “Gypsy” revival, which starred Bernadette Peters. It is clear that Lulu is both a celebration of the author’s experience as well as a peek behind the curtain. “Show business is an uncertain path full of highs and lows, hills and valleys, sunshine and clouds … but still …” The tale (tail?) paints a picture of a theater world that is both exciting and challenging, full of rewards and disappointments — but, most of all—lessons in life.

Lulu works with her mother in the wardrobe department and has one goal:to perform on a Broadway stage. While it’s a daunting proposition, she is a wonderful role model of inspiration and drive:

“Here’s the thing, though. In case you’d forgotten. I know I’m eloquent and funny and it’s easy to forget … I’m a mouse. A darn cute and talented one, but, well mice can’t be on Broadway. At least, none of us ever have been. I know it’s not fair. It’s just the way it is. True, plenty of things never happened until they did. No one had ever walked on the moon until that Neil Armstrong guy did it.”

Lulu we learn (like all mice) can talk. “We can talk everywhere … but so far, only theatre people listen.” Gavigan creates a mythology with the story of a seamstress, Bet, who befriends Poppy, the first mouse ever to work in the building. It is a wonderful story in the narrative’s rich tapestry. “These mice are here to help us,” says Bet. “They’re our coworkers, not our enemies.” 

Lulu’s world is populated with a winning variety of characters including the stage manager, the child wrangler, the dance captain, backstage staff, actors and, of course, the show’s star, the regal-yet-kind Stella James. “What’s important is to remember that it takes a team, a village, a family to put on a Broadway show and take care of the theatre.” Here is the bustle of theater life, the demands of rehearsals and the excitement of performance. And we are appropriately reminded that it is not just the performers but everyone from box office to backstage who make the magic.

Driving the story is the arrival of young and diminutive Jayne, the new understudy for the show’s child star, Amanda. Amanda is the epitome of selfish and self-absorbed; she is a bully and a manipulator.  “Sometimes dreams come with terms and conditions. Sometimes dreams come with Amanda.” But Gavigan ultimately presents a dimensional character, whose harshness is rooted in a deep-seated insecurity.

What ensues in this enchanting work and how Lulu pursues her dream make for an eventful and engaging journey: “Because everyone — no matter what size or species — deserves to live their dream.”

While the book will be embraced by children (and adults) with a passion for theater, the lessons that are offered are universal and told in a way that all readers will embrace the joy that is both the heart of Lulu and Lulu the Broadway Mouse.

Recommended for middle school readers, “Lulu the Broadway Mouse” is available at your local Barnes & Noble bookstore; can be ordered at Book Revue in Huntington; and is online at Running Press Kids, Hatchette Book Group; Barnes & Noble; and Amazon. For more information on the author, visit iamjennagavigan.com and on Twitter and Instagram @Jenna_Gavigan.

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