Kids

From left, Bobby Montaniz, Amanda Geraci and James D. Schultz in ‘The Littlest Pirate.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Avast ye! Theatre Three’s world premiere of the musical adventure, “The Littlest Pirate,” which opened last Saturday, takes us from a baseball diamond to a treasure hunt on Diamond Isle and is a rollicking home run.

Written by Tim Peierls and Jeffrey Sanzel, the play tells the story of Annalise, a young girl who wants to play on the Petaluma Pirates Little League baseball team who are always losing to the Rovers from Roger’s Refrigeration. When the coach tells her that the only way she can be on the team is to cheat, Annalise is torn between playing a sport she loves and doing the right thing. She falls asleep on a bench and is swept away into a Pirate Dreamland where she faces the same dilemma when she encounters a band of pirates who want her to switch a real treasure map with a fake one.

Sanzel, who also directed the show, has gathered an enormously talented group of seven adult actors who all tackle duel roles with inexhaustible energy. The petite Amanda Geraci is the perfect choice to play Annalise, the littlest pirate. An incredible actress and singer, Geraci’s solo, “Always Wanted to Play Baseball,” is amazing.

James D. Schultz shines as Coach Wallop and Captain Pyrate who only speaks Pyrish. The one and only Bobby Montaniz is hilarious as he tells numerous jokes as Bobbo and Pirate Parrot. Hans Paul Hendrickson plays the role of twins, Fred and Norville and the Pirate Forvilles, which wasn’t an easy task, but he pulls it off with ease. Jenna Kavaler is wonderful as Jenny, the Petaluma Pirates’ best baseball player who really just wants to play the oboe. Evelyne Lune, as Erin Petaluma and The Pirate Queen, is the all-knowing matriarch of the group and switches roles effortlessly. Rounding out the cast is Andrew Gasparini as Boyd and Pirate Boyd, a terrific actor who has found his own niche on stage and clearly enjoys what he’s doing.

Although the set is minimal with only a few props, costume designer Margaret Ward has spared no expense with matching baseball uniforms and colorful pirate outfits. Choreographed by Marquéz Stewart and accompanied on piano by Peierls and on bass by David Goldberg, the musical numbers are superb, especially “How to Speak Pyrish” and the delightful “Great Day for a Treasure Hunt,” which you will be humming on your way out of the theater.

As with most children’s shows at Theatre Three, there are moral lessons sprinkled throughout the performance. In this case, kids will learn about cheating and the everlasting lesson of “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” It is no easy task getting a young audience to sit still for periods at a time, but “The Littlest Pirate” does the trick. No restlessness here  — just children sitting wide-eyed on the edge of their seats, enthralled by the enchantment of live theater. Kids of all ages will enjoy “The Littlest Pirate.” It is funny, entertaining and a great way to spend a Saturday morning.

The entire cast will be in the lobby after the show for a meet and greet and photo opportunities.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Littlest Pirate” on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. through May 9. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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Community rallies to raise $1,000 after funds go missing

The Mickey Mouse collection box that Sound Beach’s Kristen Abbondondelo decorated. Photo from Kerri Bové

By Erin Dueñas

Community members from Rocky Point and Sound Beach opened their wallets and their hearts over the weekend to replace a local family’s lost Disney vacation fund.

Sound Beach mother of three Kerri Bové had $1,000 cash in an envelope tucked in her purse on April 1, ready to use the funds to pay back a friend who had laid out the money for plane tickets to the amusement park.

Bové first had to drop her daughter off at a local gymnastics center where she used some of that cash to pay for tickets to an upcoming recital.

“I went to hand over my credit card to pay for the tickets when they told me it was cash only,” Bové said.
While a line formed behind her, she said she carefully thumbed through the Disney money to get out the amount she needed for the recital tickets.

Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové
Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové

In midst of the transaction, Bové started a conversation with her daughter’s gymnastics teacher and tended to her crying 2-year-old. She then left the facility to stop at the bank to replace the cash she had just used for the recital, and headed out to meet her friend to pay her for the tickets.

Less than a half hour later, Bové was tearing apart her car and her purse, searching everywhere for the money but it was nowhere to be found.

“My heart was pounding, I was searching frantically,” Bové said. “It was totally gone.”

In a panic, Bové called the gymnastics place hoping she had left the envelope there, but they said they couldn’t find it. She drove back to see if she dropped it in the parking lot, but still turned up empty.

“I was getting choked up thinking about all the months we spent planning this trip,” Bové said, noting that her husband Ray had been working 16-hour days, seven days a week to pay for it. “I was sick to my stomach. There was no way we would be able to pay my friend back and re-buy the tickets.”

The couple filed a police report, but the officer told them there was little chance that the money would turn up. That night, she took to the Rocky Point and Sound Beach community pages on Facebook to make a plea to the person who took the money.

“Please I beg you if you know anything or accidently took the money PLEASE return it,” Bové wrote. “I know we live in a good community and I want to show my children there are good, honest people in this world.”
“I was hoping the person who took it would see it,” Bové said. “I wanted them to just return it and to know that my kids were devastated.”

Bové said that the trip would be the first her family had taken since suffering a series of losses over the past few years, including the sudden deaths of her brother and nephew, as well as the death of her father just last year.

“We were so looking forward to it since the past couple of years had been so hard for us.”

Bové said she never dreamt of the response she got to her post. Soon community members sought to replace the $1,000. Roseann Sobczak and Mary Heely, neither of whom Bové had met, put out the call on Facebook to get the money back.

Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové
Notes support the Bové family. Photo from Kerri Bové

“I was devastated for them,” Heely of Rocky Point said. “I thought to myself I wish I had a $1,000 to give them and then thought, what if everyone could donate a little and maybe then we could recoup the loss.”

Sound Beach’s Kristen Abbondondelo jumped at the idea. She decorated a box in Mickey Mouse paper and sat in the gymnastics center for six hours while donations from people that had seen the Facebook post trickled in.

Abbondondelo estimated that at least 50 people dropped off money that day and still more donated the next day when the box was posted at another location in Rocky Point.

“They were all there to right a wrong and to show how much they cared,” she said. “People were concerned about there not being enough.”

Bové said her family was able to recoup the loss and the trip is on for May. She said she was greatly touched by the messages included with the donations. One child drew a picture of Cinderella’s castle and told the family to have fun. Another note was decorated with rainbows and hearts. One said how grateful they were to be part of the Rocky Point community. Yet another included the message that “miracles do happen.”

“It put pure happiness in my heart that my community did this for me,” Bové said. “It regained my faith that there are so many who are good.”

Bové said she credits her angels in heaven — her brother, nephew and father — and the ones on Earth for the happy ending.

“I feel my angels pulled through for me,” she said. “That the whole community pulled through for us, it is something we will never forget.”

Jillian Warywoda gets in a hug after reading ‘Farm Alarm!’ to Sally at the Sachem Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

By Sue Wahlert

From April 12 to 18, libraries across the nation will be celebrating National Library Week. According to the American Library Association, “It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.” The quality and variety of programming libraries offer communities has grown exponentially and fulfills the needs of all residents, regardless of age. It is one of our most valuable community resources in a time when our communities have become more and more fragmented.

One such program that deserves celebration has literally, “gone to the dogs.” For more than 15 years, various libraries across Suffolk County have been inviting certified therapy dogs into their children’s department to encourage reluctant readers to develop their love of reading. Each participating library has their own unique name for their program, such as “Puppy Pals” or “Book Time with a Dog,” but the purpose is always the same, “We want to build confidence in young readers.  The dog is not going to critique the child as they are reading,” said Brian Debus, Emma S. Clark Library’s Children’s Department Head. It is an opportunity to make reading a fun process and it certainly takes the stress out of reading aloud.

Over the past month, we have visited five Suffolk County libraries and spent time with the dog handlers and children who attend these programs. Each library has their own style, but the formula is the same: take one certified therapy dog, a handler who loves what they do and a kid, place them in a quiet room and watch something magical happen.

Brothers, from left, Liam and Daniel Regan, with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Brothers, from left, Liam and Daniel Regan, with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

This all-volunteer program would not be possible without the dedication of the dog owner/handlers, their dogs and the willingness of the libraries to engage in this type of program.  It is an opportunity to strengthen the love of reading while developing a connection between families and the library that can last a lifetime.

North Shore Public Library, Reading to Mac
On Saturday mornings in the children’s department of the North Shore Public Library you can find the lovable Mac, an 11-year-old black lab nestled against the book cases awaiting young readers to arrive. Jane Broege, Mac’s handler and owner, said that Mac has been listening to readers for three years now, after spending his life as a guide dog. “Dogs feel better if they are doing something,” said Broege. “Dogs were put on this earth to make us happy.” The “Reading to Mac” program does make kids and their families happy while encouraging the love of reading in children.

Recently, readers eight-year-old Daniel Regan and his five-year-old brother Liam came prepared with their books. It was Daniel’s second time with Mac and Liam’s first. Daniel settled in on the cushy beanbag chair and began his story while Mac snuggled up against him. After completing “Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat,” he was able to spend time petting and talking to Mac and Broege. His response to the program, “I love it; it makes me calm!”

Broege echoes the mantra of all programs similar to this one, “The dog is not judgmental and it does not mind what the child reads.” As a reward, Broege gives each reader a blue rubber bracelet with a paw print on it to remind them of their time with Mac. The program runs on Saturday mornings, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. To schedule a 15-minute session with Mac, call North Shore Public Library at 631-929-4488, ext 223.

Sachem Public Library, Book Time with a Dog
Established in 2001, Book Time with a Dog at Sachem Library invites not just one, but four dogs into its Children’s Department program room. You might think that four dogs in one room would encourage mayhem, but it is the complete opposite, calm and quiet. Each of the dogs is certified through an organization called Therapy Dogs International. Their handlers couldn’t be prouder to share their peaceful and obedient dogs with the young readers who come to this once-a-week program.

Children’s Librarian Marybeth Kozikowski has made this program one of her passions. “It is an esteem-building program, not an academic experience,” Kozikowski reflected. Amy Johnston, Head of Children’s Services, said of Kozikowski, “She has helped to make this program a success. She has written and obtained grants to purchase blankets for the dogs to sit on and chairs for the handlers to use during the program.”
Suzanne DiRusso began this program with a dog named Dakota and it continues to be very popular, reaching out to the library’s younger patrons. The goal of Book Time with a Dog is to provide a place for reluctant readers to sit with a dog and read. Because the dog is non-judgmental, it provides a non-threatening environment for readers. “Anytime they [children] want to sit and read, it is a win-win situation,” said Johnston.

Daniel Regan visits with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Daniel Regan visits with Mac at the North Shore Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

Sachem’s program is open to children in first to fifth grades with a reservation for a 20-minute session with a dog. Parents can watch through large glass windows as their children get comfortable with an assigned dog.

On this particular evening, 12 readers had reserved spots with the dogs. Handler and dog owner Beverly Killeen accompanied her ten-year-old dog Maureen, a golden retriever. Killeen has been participating in this reading program for six years and has had many other dogs involved in the program as well. “I love children. It is good to see them make progress from year to year,” said Killeen.

Sisters Morgan and Calleigh Quirk were so excited to read to Emma, a greyhound, and Sally, a golden retriever. Their mother Kelly said, “They sit and read to our dogs too!” According to another parent, Sandra Kyranakis, whose son Jake has been attending this program for two years, “It is a wonderful program that has given him confidence. He has struggled with reading. This program has helped him to enjoy it.”

After the story is complete, readers sit and talk with the handlers while petting the dog. Upon leaving, the readers are given a card with the dog’s picture and information on it — a fun way to remember the experience!

Reservations are required for “Book Time with a Dog,” which is held on Thursdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, call Sachem Library at 631-588-5024 and ask for the Children’s Department.

Emma S. Clark Library, Reading with Angela or Alfie
On a recent Thursday afternoon, dog handler and owner, Fred Dietrich, brought Angela, a  seven-year-old purebred yellow Lab, to the Children’s Department of Emma S. Clark Library. Angela had a special job — to sit, relax and listen to a story. Dietrich said Angela completed an 8 week training program at Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy and had been doing therapy work for over 2 years.

Emma S. Clark’s Library programs “Reading with Angela” and “Reading with Alfie,” began last spring after patrons inquired about a program of this type and the librarians researched journal articles about the benefits of therapy dogs with children.

Today’s half-hour reservation was held by six-year-old Thomas Tunstead, who came equipped with his own book, “The Bravest Dog Ever.” It was his first time reading to a dog. “I love reading to doggies!  If I ever tried to read to my dog, he would eat my book!” he said with a big smile.

Thomas Tunstead reads with Angela at the Emma S. Clark Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Thomas Tunstead reads with Angela at the Emma S. Clark Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

The dog, handler and reader were brought into the colorful program room in the Children’s Department. Angela and Thomas settled in on the floor next to Dietrich who held the leash at all times.  Thomas leaned into Angela’s furry body and got busy reading his story. This was the place to be, as Tunstead read about Balto, the famous dog, to Angela. There were no moans or moments of frustration when he came across a tough word because Thomas knew Angela wouldn’t judge him for not knowing.

After the reading session ended, there was time for Thomas to bond with Angela by giving her treats and building a house for her made of soft blocks. Thomas’s mother Melissa said, “Thomas loves dogs and I want him to read, so this is the perfect match.”

Emma S. Clark Library holds their programs on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. Reservations are required by calling 631-941-4080.

Harborfields Public Library, Tail Waggin’ Tales
At Harborfields Public Library, children can have their parents reserve a spot to read to a dog in their Tail Waggin’ Tales program. Since 2004, the program has brought together the calm creatures and young patrons to read aloud. “An animal is not judgmental and the kids feel that,” said Patricia Moisan, director of Youth and Family Services at the library.

Cutch, a golden retriever, is the dog of the hour. Handler Sue Semple greets the readers and their families who come for a 15 minute sessions.  The program is open to children Kindergarten through third grade and is held on Fridays. Siblings are invited to sit-in on this program, which makes it a family friendly activity.
Moisan spoke of a family’s experience with Tail Waggin’ Tales, “A mother came in and talked about how shy her daughter was, but when the young girl came in to read with the dog, she was not shy at all!” The program is an opportunity for children to become more relaxed with reading. Moisan feels it is a “really safe place” for children to take chances with their reading.  Unlike parents or adults, Cutch does not make any comments about the child’s reading, he just relaxes and listens.

Olivia Cortez reads ‘Click Clack Moo’ to Barbie the therapy dog at Huntington Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert
Olivia Cortez reads ‘Click Clack Moo’ to Barbie the therapy dog at Huntington Public Library. Photo by Sue Wahlert

The library will be hosting a weekend program in the near future, where the handler or librarian read a story while families interact with a dog. Please refer to their event schedule to find out the exact dates.
Tail Waggin’ Tales happens twice a month on Fridays, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., with four 15-minute reading sessions. If you are interested in reserving time with Cutch, contact Harborfields Library at 631-757-4200.

Huntington Public Library, Puppy Pals
Huntington Public Library holds their Puppy Pals program monthly, alternating between the Main Library on Main Street in Huntington and their branch in Huntington Station, on New York Avenue. The Library invites dogs who are part of Therapy Dogs International’s “Tail Waggin’ Tutors” program each month for a half-hour reading session. Laura Giuliani, head of Youth and Parent Services, said the library has been doing this for the past seven years. “It allows children who may not be confident in reading to sit with a dog and read. All the kids love it!” On the most recent Thursday visit, Ana O’Brien, the handler who organizes the dogs that visit the library, brought her ten-year-old Portuguese water dog, Nina, who was wearing pink bunny ears. “Reading is important. It can be intimidating, and so with our costumes and pets we can make it a little better,” said O’Brien.

Burt Rowley, who brings his six-year-old Vizsla, Maggie, feels it is very helpful for children who are afraid to read. He told the story of a child who has been coming  to the program since 2011, adding “he’s become a very good reader.” All of the handlers are passionate about their dogs and the children who come to read to their companions. Terry Gallogly brought her Labradoodles, Barbie and Ken. “I always believed in the connection between animals and humans,” said Gallogly.

On this particular day, first grader Olivia Cortez brought the book, “Click Clack Moo,” to read to the Barbie. Her mother, Jennifer Cortez, said that Olivia practiced with the book before she came. As Olivia worked her way through the book, she took some time out to smile and pet Barbie while receiving words of encouragement from Gallogly. “I just want to stay here forever!” Olivia exclaimed.

Words such as hers are a testament to how powerful a program such as Puppy Pals is to these youngsters and their families. It’s a feel-good experience that can only encourage continued reading. The Puppy Pals program is held monthly, alternating between library locations, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Call the library at 631-427-5165 for reservations.

Children were delighted by tricks and treats at the Brookhaven parks department’s Spring Happening in Centereach on April 7.

The spring celebration featured a show by magician James Amore, along with crafts, games and face painting. In addition, some talented kids paraded their best spring hats for the special occasion. Claire Wagner, 7, of Sound Beach, whose hat featured New York City’s Empire State Building, took home the best hat award.

Michael Verre tries to squeeze a shoe on Kate Keating as Alyson Clancy and Maryellen Molfetta look on during a scene from 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport was a sea of blue princess dresses last Saturday morning at the theater’s opening of the classic fairy tale, “Cinderella.” Directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, the story follows the original plot closely with lots of fun and laughter. The inclusion of a few younger actors is a nice addition, making this show the perfect choice to introduce children to the magic of live theater.

Allie Eibler and Michael Verre fall in love in a scene from ‘Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Allie Eibler and Michael Verre fall in love in a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

Allie Eibler stars as the sweet and innocent Ella, a young girl whose father dies, leaving her at the mercy of her evil stepmother and mean stepsisters. Forced to do all the chores and sleep in the kitchen by the fireplace, she is nicknamed Cinderella. Her miserable plight attracts the attention of her fairy godmother, played wonderfully with a warm Southern accent by Suzanne Mason, who is determined to rescue her. Aided by her helpers, energetic 13-year-olds Ryan J. McInnes and Meaghan Maher (both last seen in “A Christmas Story”), the fairy godmother arranges for Cinderella to attend the royal ball, where she steals the heart of the young prince, played by the handsome Michael Verre, and, after the shoe fits, lives happily ever after.

The talented Maryellen Molfetta plays the role of the stepmother with just enough selfishness and greediness, and Alyson Clancy as Henrietta and Kate Keating as Gertrude are hilarious as the jealous stepsisters.

Maryellen Molfetta, Alyson Clancy, Kate Keating and Allie Eibler star in 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Maryellen Molfetta, Alyson Clancy, Kate Keating and Allie Eibler star in ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

It is the incomparable Kevin Burns, however (seen most recently as the Cowardly Lion in the “Wizard of Oz” and as Frosty in “Frosty the Snowman”), in the role of the king, who steals the show.  Blind as a bat, he fumbles around the set, always headed in the wrong direction, mistaking a topiary for a guard, and almost falls off the stage at one point, drawing the most laughs.

There is a lot of audience interaction in this show — something the kids just love. The actors walk up and down the aisles during scene changes, serving as a nice distraction. The king even wanders up and down the aisles with Cinderella’s glass slipper, asking little girls to try it on as the prince stands by with eager anticipation. Even the youngest guests won’t have time to grow restless as they participate in “The Sneeze Polka” dance and are asked questions by the cast.

Suzanne Mason bewitches the audience in a scene from 'Cinderella' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully
Suzanne Mason bewitches the audience in a scene from ‘Cinderella’ at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jennifer C. Tully

Designed by Laurén Paragallo, the colorful costumes, ranging from the stepsister’s hilarious outfits to Cinderella’s breathtaking ball gown, to the royal garbs for the king and prince, are spot on. Choreography by Marquez Catherine Stewart is terrific, especially evident during the “The Sneeze Polka.”

Meet the cast after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located in the back of the program. The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Cinderella” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through May 10. Tickets are $15 each.

For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright is putting pressure on the knocking down of Pine Barrens forrest in favor of a solar farm. File photo

A new bill protecting children from toxic chemicals is making its way through the state Assembly as elected officials work to keep chemicals out of children’s products.

The bill — commonly known as the Child Safe Products Act — would empower New York State to identify and phase out dangerous chemicals in products marketed to kids, lawmakers said. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) helped craft the legislation and has been pushing it forward with hopes of keeping young people safe from what they cannot see.

If the legislation is passed, the state would compile a list of high-concern chemicals made up of those known to cause health problems such as cancer, learning and developmental disorders, asthma and more, officials said.

Then, a list of priority chemicals used in children’s products will be drafted for disclosure, lawmakers said.

“This bill addresses issues of poisonous products for children,” Englebright said. “It’s very important to protect the children. And that’s what I intend to do.”

The makers of children’s products would also be required to report their use of priority chemicals in their merchandise after a year, and phase out their use of such chemicals three years later.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said legislation like this is important because there is always a need to prevent innocent children from being exposed to such harmful chemicals like arsenic, mercury, cadmium, formaldehyde and more.

“Kids are more vulnerable and more likely to put things in their mouth,” Spencer said. “Almost any toy could potentially have toxic chemicals.”

Spencer also said toxic chemicals are found in many children’s products such as clothes, dolls, toys and more. He said they can be in found things such as paint on a button or a bracelet a child wears.

According to Englebright, there are some 84,000 chemicals on the market today. The federal law that was supposed to protect against them — the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 —  “is a very weak law and has never been updated,” the lawmaker said.

The assemblyman also said he feels a bill like this is important for everyone in the state as it sets the standards manufacturers would be held to.

“We all benefit when children are protected from poorly regulated toxic chemicals that have the potential to harm development, cause illness and impair learning,” Englebright said. “I think it’s very important to get this bill to the governor’s desk.”

Spencer also said while he does support the bill, there should be guidelines and parameters set as there is the ability to detect parts per million, billion and even trillion. He said it is unnecessary to be overly restrictive as something at a certain parts per billion or trillion, may not be harmful.

Late last year, a press conference was held in Hauppauge to show parents the toxins present in certain items geared toward kids. While many of the toys at the conference had toxic chemicals in them, such a Hot Wheels cars or dresses bought in Long Island stores, there are toys on the market that are manufactured without them.

“A lot of times the effects of these toxic substances aren’t seen right away. But the impact lasts for a lifetime,” Spencer said at the December conference.

When asked why certain toys have chemicals and others don’t, Spencer said some manufacturers may be unaware of the chemicals present and others could possibly use the chemicals to maximize profit.

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Parents Glenda Corvera and Jose Granados welcome baby Christopher Granados to the world as Patrick Vecchio, supervisor of Smithtown, offers them honorary residence. Photo from Karla Mason

Smithtown’s St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center welcomed a newborn baby only a day after the town marked the beginning of its sesquarcentennial.

Baby Christopher Granados met his parents Glenda Corvera and Jose Granados when he was born March 4 at 8:49 a.m., weighing 8 pounds, 3.4 ounces at birth.

Members of the Smithtown 350 Foundation officially welcomed the infant as the first to be born since the town celebrated its 350th year. Although Christopher was born at a medical facility in Smithtown, the couple who had him are actually residents of Brentwood.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) awarded the family with honorary lifetime residence in the town of Smithtown during a reception in St. Catherine of Siena’s own St. Luke’s Medical Library.

“Christopher is a star already,” said father Granados.

To further congratulate the family, the couple received a gift basket with baby essentials and $350 for their new son’s savings.

“We are proud of the staff at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center and are happy to be part of the 350th birthday celebration of Smithtown,” said Paul Rowland, St. Catherine’s executive vice president and CAO. “We are all pleased to have the first sesquarcentennial baby here at the hospital and look forward to participating in future events.”

The cast of "Elephant & Piggie's 'We Are in Play'" at the SCPA. Photo by Samantha Cuomo

Currently in production at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!'” is based on the popular “Elephant & Piggie” book series by award-winning children’s author Mo Willems, with script and lyrics by Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma.

Directed and choreographed by Melissa Rapelje, with musical direction by Melissa Cowell, the first part of the show follows Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie as they embark on a musical adventure solving problems and learning friendship etiquette with the help of the dancing trio, the Squirelles.

Eventually, the characters realize that they are in a play and engage the audience, having them join in by shouting out funny words like “banana,” clapping and doing the “Flippy Floppy Floory dance.” A nice touch is the conversational bubbles between Gerald and Piggie projected on a large screen on stage.

Bobby Montaniz is perfectly cast as Gerald. With the boundless energy of a young child, he jumps, skips and rolls on the floor, eliciting much laughter from the young audience. His rendition of “Ice Cream Hero” was very entertaining. Montaniz is always wonderful to watch, especially in children’s theater, and this performance is no exception. Piggie is played wonderfully by the talented Courtney Braun whose subtle wit and humor is spot on. The spunky Squirrelles, played by Allie Brault, Hayley Phaneuf and Samantha Foti, and the Ice Cream Penguin, played by Bella Lardaro, are a great supporting cast and do a terrific job.

Costumes by Ronald R. Green III are simple but effective. Montaniz’s gray jacket and pants, Braun’s pink outfit with striped tights and dark brown dresses for the Squirrelles reflect the characters’ animal traits and personalities.

For many young children in the audience, this was their first exposure to live theater, and the cast left quite an impression. Cooper Alberti, 2, of Babyon sat in the balcony with his father after deciding his original seat was a little too close to the stage. Grinning from ear to ear the entire time, he rocked back and forth to the music and clapped enthusiastically. His favorite characters were the Squirrelles and, according to his dad, Cooper loved all the singing and dancing.

Parents, a warning — the play is approximately an hour long with no intermission — so try to hit the bathrooms before the show. Stay after the show for autographs and photos with the cast.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, will present “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!'” on weekends through April 11 (no show on Easter) with special Spring Break performances from April 6 to April 9 at 10:30 a.m. All tickets are $15. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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Gordon Brosdal addresses parents about full-day kindergarten on Wednesday. Photo by Erika Karp
A small contingent of parents erupted into a round of applause at Mount Sinai’s Wednesday night school board meeting, as Superintendent Gordon Brosdal announced that full-day kindergarten is included in his 2015-16 budget proposal.
Gordon Brosdal addresses parents about full-day kindergarten on Wednesday. Photo by Erika Karp
Gordon Brosdal addresses parents about full-day kindergarten on Wednesday. Photo by Erika Karp

The meeting marked the first time district administrators committed to making the jump from half-day kindergarten. However, they were quick to remind parents that the move helps more than just the youngest students.

“It’s not a full-day K budget,” Brosdal said. “By giving our kids full-day K, you’re benefiting our entire program.”

The school board still must vote on whether to adopt the budget next month before it goes to a community vote on May 19. The proposed $56.7 million plan increases spending by a little more than 3 percent over the current year and stays within the school district’s tax levy increase cap of 1.86 percent.

Last month, a group of residents spoke in support of full-day kindergarten, saying students need the additional classroom time to meet the new Common Core Learning Standards.

Supporters of the plan had previously expressed concerns that students would fall behind under a half-day program, as there isn’t enough time to cover all the topics required by the Common Core. This was also a worry for Brosdal, who said under a full-day program students would have extra time to learn and would benefit down the line, as would their teachers, who will no longer have to worry about playing catch-up.

Last month, Renee Massari, one of the parents who supported the full-day plan, said she supported full-day kindergarten because she is seeing her son struggle this year as a first-grader who went to a half-day program. On Wednesday, she thanked the district administrators for proposing the change.

“I think I am speaking on behalf of plenty of people when I say thank you and we are excited.”

While the district is receiving $459,125 in state aid to help implement the program, it will still have to spend $90,000 of its own funding to cover the cost. In past budget presentations, officials had estimated a higher district cost.

At previous meetings, school board members agreed that full-day kindergarten was important for student success, but were hesitant to propose the change, as they wanted to make sure the district’s current Kindergarten through 12th grade offerings were maintained and the full-day program would be sustained in the future.

“The board and myself annoyed you perhaps, but you have to look at the budget down the road,” Brosdal said.

On Wednesday, school board President Robert Sweeney spoke about some of the challenges in budgeting for the upcoming school year, as the district grapples with a dwindling surplus, which could run out by 2017-18.

Even so, he said he remained optimistic about the future, as the school board members advocate for additional education aid and legislators move to restore the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a reduction in aid for each school district that was once used to plug a state budget deficit.

Sweeney thanked residents for their patience, but was blunt about the importance of voting in the future.

“Where will you be in the future, as a community, in terms of supporting your school?” he asked.

By Heidi Sutton

I always know that spring is right around the corner when Theatre Three presents its adorable annual musical production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this show is a personal favorite of mine and seems to get better every year. Directed by Tazukie Fearon for the second year in a row and accompanied flawlessly on piano by Steve McCoy, it follows the adventures of Peter Rabbit (played by James D. Schultz) and his cousin Benjamin Bunny (played by Fearon) as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to steal his vegetables.

Like two peas in a pod, Schultz and Fearon work very well together. They know their target audience well and draw the most laughs. Amanda Geraci plays Mrs. Rabbit and charms the audience with her beautiful rendition of “Morning.” Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, played by Marquéz Catherine Stewart, Jenna Kavaler and Caitlin Nofi (who has a fondness for Trix cereal), respectively, are a terrific supporting cast. Dan Brenner and Sue Anne Dennehy return as Mr. and Mrs. McGregor and shine in their duet, “A Friend.”

Of special note is the constant interaction with the audience — asking them what to do next or answering a child when she asks a question. While being chased by Mr. McGregor, the cast runs up and down the aisles, sitting in chairs to hide, much to the delight of the young theatergoers. A nice touch.

The set is minimal, with just a few props including a scarecrow and a basket of vegetables, allowing your imagination to run wild. Listening to the dialogue, one can envision a garden full of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, string beans and parsley and understand how two little rabbits could find this forbidden bounty irresistible. Utilizing a trap door on the stage as a rabbit hole is very effective.

Masterfully choreographed by Stewart, the musical numbers, arranged by Kevin F. Story, are all showstoppers, especially “One More Time Around” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

James D. Schultz as Peter Rabbit and Tazukie Fearon as Benjamin Bunny in a scene from ‘The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sophie Jeong, 4, of Coram, came prepared for the show by wearing a pretty pink shirt with a bunny sewn on it and by bringing her favorite stuffed rabbit along. She sang along to all the songs, and, when asked who her favorite character was, she replied without hesitation — “Peter Rabbit.” Her favorite scene? “When the bunnies were eating their lunch [of blackberries, milk and toast].”

Don’t forget to take a picture with the cast in the lobby after the show. Bunny stuffed animals will be sold before the show and during intermission, and booster seats are available. Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 11, perfect for spring break. Up next is “The Littlest Pirate” followed by “Puss-in-Boots” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.