Music

Pete Mancini & the Hillside Airmen

By Heidi Sutton

Featuring the best in traditional and contemporary folk music, the seventh annual Fiddle & Folk Festival returns to Benner’s Farm in East Setauket this Sunday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

The day-long event will showcase three stages. Emceed by guitarist and singer Bob Westcott, the Main (Back Porch) Stage will feature four acts this year. The Shady Grove Stage, which will be hosted by WUSB’s Charlie Backfish, will allow visitors to meet the performers and attend workshops, and the Jam Hollow Stage will highlight a sing-along and a fiddle workshop. There will also be a roaming fiddler, appropriately named Jack Fyddle, who recently appeared as a reenactor in TBR News Media’s feature film, “One Life to Give.” The evening will end with a family contra dance in the barn. 

Larry Campbell and Theresa Williams

Reached by phone, Amy Tuttle, program director at the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council who’s also on the festival committee, said she’s familiar with the groups and looks forward to their performances, adding that this year’s headliners will have more of “a rock feel, more on the Americana, modern folk spectrum.”

Back by popular demand, The Stony Brook Roots Ensemble will open the festival. Formed in 2015 by Taylor Ackley, the ensemble features grad students from Stony Brook University. Tuttle said the group “takes the mountain music and the western music that [Ackley] grew up with in Montana and Washington State and play it with classical instruments and it’s really cool — everybody loves it.”

The festival will continue with a performance by Brooklyn-based The New Students, who “do a modern twist on traditional folk music,” and will be followed by Pete Mancini & the Hillside Airmen. According to Tuttle, Mancini was the former frontman of Butcher’s Blind. “He just started this band and was recently signed to Diversion Records based in Chicago,” she said.

Larry Campbell and wife Theresa Williams will close out the festival. “They are musicians’ musicians,” explained Tuttle. “Larry was a member of Bob Dylan’s Band, and Theresa is also a songwriter and singer and they have been in Levon Helm’s band and have become the musical director of Levon’s Midnight Ramble. They’re the ones that are carrying on the torch now that Levon has passed.” 

The New Students

She is most excited to introduce the community to this duo, having tried for several years to get them to come. “These folks are known worldwide among people who appreciate great musicianship.”

Tuttle said there will be plenty of activities that children can participate in as well by taking part in the sing-along workshop, enjoying stories and creating artwork in the Kids Corner.

Visitors are also encouraged to stroll around the 15-acre working organic farm, meet the resident farm animals, tour the vegetable gardens, purchase organic produce and feel like a kid again on the Big Swing. For Tuttle, this is one of those special events that she looks forward to every year. “The quality of the music is just top notch, the setting is gorgeous and the vibe of the festival is relaxed and friendly.”

Presented by Benner’s Farm, Homestead Arts, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, TBR News Media and WUSB Radio, the music festival will be held rain or shine. 

Benner’s Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Admission to the festival is $18 for adults, and $13 for children and seniors at the door. Please bring seating. For a full schedule of events, visit www.fiddleandfolk.com. For more info, call 631-689-8172.

All photos courtesy of Amy Tuttle

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Bob Westcott

Save the date! Grounds & Sounds Café, located at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 380 Nicolls Road, East Setauket will welcome acoustic, folk, classical and blues singer/songwriter Bob Westcott, left,  in concert on Friday, Sept. 14 at 9 p.m. The evening will be preceded by an open mic at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 per person at www.groundsandsounds.org or at the door. For more information, call 631-751-0297.

Tom Manuel

Making Memories with Music, a special program for people with dementia and their care partners, returns to the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington on Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. Facilitated by Marcy Rhodes, the morning will feature a performance by The Jazz Loft Trio — Tom Manuel on cornet and vocals, Steve Salerno on guitar and Keenan Zach on double bass. Admission is $5 per person. Popcorn and beverages will be served. Registration is required by calling 631-423-7610, ext. 0.

The festival will have lots of carnival rides and games for families to enjoy. File photo by Bob Savage

By Sabrina Petroski

Souvlaki, gyros, baklava, oh my! Is your mouth watering yet? Try all of these dishes and more as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson celebrates its 57th annual Port Jefferson Greek Festival from Aug 23 through 26. This year’s event will feature carnival rides, traditional dance performances, live music, games and culinary delights. 

Come for the delicious food and stay for the dancing!

Authentic Greek dishes such as gyros, moussaka, tiropita, souvlaki and spanakopita will be served up, along with sweet desserts such as melomakarona, galaktoboureko, kourabiedes, koulourakia, baklava and loukoumades, a fried dough pastry favorite.

According to Marisa Raptis, the president of the Parish Council, members of the church will be making the food on sight and fresh to order. Popcorn, cotton candy and pretzels will also be available. 

Guided tours of the church will be available throughout the day, and over 30 vendors will be scattered around the church grounds selling jewelry, home                                                                                           goods, clothes, beauty products, candles and other handmade items. 

One of the main attractions at the festival is the over-the-top sweepstakes that the church holds. This year 315 prizes will be awarded including cars — a 2018 Mercedes Benz GLC 300 4Matic is first prize — an Alexa Smart Device, a Bose Home Theater, an iPod Touch, a Nespresso Mini, cash prizes and much more. Tickets for the sweepstakes are $100 each, limited to 4,999 tickets — meaning that one out of 16 will win a prize. The drawing will be held on Aug. 26 at 7 p.m.

The festival will have lots of carnival rides and games for families to enjoy. File photo by Giselle Barkley

In addition, there will also be live performances throughout the weekend for guests to enjoy. The Hellenic Dance Troupe will be performing on Saturday as well as the church’s Youth Dance Troupe, showing off the traditional Greek style of dance. A five-piece band will take the stage Friday through Sunday with tunes that will make you want to get up out of your seat, and a DJed fireworks show will turn heads on Friday and Saturday night, weather permitting. 

“People should come because we are one of the largest Greek festivals on Long Island,” said Raptis in a recent email. “Where else can you go on a Friday night and eat dinner under the stars while listening to live music and watching fireworks?,” adding, “I am most excited about being with my Greek community for four days as we show our love for our culture to everyone with music, food and dancing!”

The festival will take place, rain or shine, from 5 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 23, 5 to 11 p.m. on Aug. 24, 1 to 11 p.m. on Aug. 25 and 1 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 26. Tickets are $2 per person, and children under 12 can attend for free. A shuttle service will be available from Ward Melville High School to the church. Raffle tickets may be purchased online at www.portjeffgreekfest.com. 

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption is located at 430 Sheep Pasture Road, Port Jefferson. For more information, call the church office at 631-473-0894.

Burt Block, David Amram, Tom Manuel and jazz vibraphonist Harry Sheppard at last year’s festival. Photo from Tom Manuel

By Sabrina Petroski

Calling all jazz lovers! The Harbor Jazz Festival returns for its fifth year of smooth sounds from Aug. 15 to 19. Held at The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook, the festival is a fun way for music fans to celebrate jazz while surrounded by treasures of the past. 

“What’s unique about our festival is that it has a vintage, or retro, feel,” said Tom Manuel, the curator and owner of The Jazz Loft in an interview last Monday. “What’s really exciting is we have over 12 performers and they are some of the top internationally and nationally recognized talents,” he said.

Dan Pugach and his band will perform at this year’s Harbor Jazz Festival. Photo from Dan Pugach

Each night offers new acts to enjoy, with food and drinks available at the bar. The opening night ceremonies on Wednesday include The Art of Jazz: The Jazz Loft Trio with the Atelier Artists, as well as a special VIP Reception and Art Gallery opening at 7 p.m., showcasing the art of Frank Davis ($75). 

On Thursday, Israeli drummer and composer, Dan Pugach and his nine-piece ensemble will take to the stage at 7 p.m. with their original jazz music, as well as some covers of famous songs like “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. 

“This is our first time playing at the Harbor Jazz Festival, and our second time playing at the loft. I love interacting with the audience, and meeting new people,” said Pugach in a recent phone interview. “It always fascinates me that people will go out and sit through a concert when they don’t know the artist and don’t know what to expect, but they’re just right there with you. It’s all about the music.”

The Matt Wilson Quartet will kick off Friday evening at the loft at 7 p.m. With the group’s improvisational style, known to challenge and entertain audiences, it will be a night of upbeat jazz tunes to remember. 

On Saturday there will be an all-day event, starting at 11 a.m. in front of the Stony Brook Post office. The Interplay Jazz Orchestra will start off the morning with its original compositions and arrangements written by members of the band. Following this will be the Warren Chiasson Quartet at 1:30 p.m. led by Chiasson himself, who has been regarded as “one of the six top vibraphonists of the last half century” by the New York Times. Next up will be the Nicki Parrott Quartet, featuring Houston Person at 4 p.m., Frank Vignola and his Hot Guitar Trio at 6:30 p.m. and the Bill Charlap and Warren Vache Duo at 9 p.m. There will also be a free children’s Instrument Petting Zoo at 1:30 p.m.

Steve Salerno performs at a previous festival. Photo from Tom Manuel

“The whole festival is a throwback to the old states of jazz festivals,” said Manuel. “When you come to the loft and walk through it, it doesn’t feel like every other museum. It has that charm that’s unique to the village, so when we were going outdoors we were trying to still maintain the same feel that people have at the loft.”

On Sunday, Mark Devine and Tom Manuel will perform at noon, followed by the Stony Brook Roots Ensemble at 3 p.m. To close the festival, The Jazz Loft Big Band will have a free concert in front of the Stony Brook Post Office facing the Village Green at 7 p.m. 

The business community will also be involved in the festivities, with special jazz-themed dinner menus and dishes being served at local restaurants including Fratelli’s, Sweet Mama’s and the Three Village Inn. There will be merchandise and vintage items available for sale at the Village Green on Saturday, as well as food and drinks. 

“[The Jazz Loft] is a very special place, especially because of where it’s located; it’s not on a busy street in the middle of the village. It is becoming a desired place for musicians to go and play, because everybody knows that the vibe is great,” said Pugach. “This is a spot where music lovers go to listen to great music.”

Individual concert tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors and $20 students. Day passes are available for Saturday ($135 adults, $110 seniors and $85 students) and Sunday ($50 adults, $40 seniors and $30 students). The full festival pass (Wednesday through Sunday) is $250 for adults, $205 for seniors and $180 for students. Opening night reception tickets can be added on to other ticket purchases for a discounted price of $50. For more information or to find out about sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, call 631-751-1895 or email stmanuel@thejazzloft.org.

Some of the cast members pose for photos at the end of last Saturday’s performance. Photo courtesy of John W. Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

When the computer-animated fairy tale “Shrek” hit the movie theaters in 2001, it was a huge commercial success. Critics loved it also, calling it “an adorable, infectious work of true sophistication” (NY Daily News). The DreamWorks film went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, sprouted several sequels (including one in 3-D) and eventually morphed into “Shrek The Musical.” With book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, the show ran on Broadway from 2008 to 2010.

Loosely based on William Steig’s picture book by the same name, it tells the story of a green ogre named Shrek whose life is turned upside down when all of the fairy tale creatures in the kingdom are banished to his swamp by order of Lord Farquaad. Shrek strikes a deal with Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a fire breathing dragon in order to get his land back. Along with his sidekick, Donkey, he sets off on an adventure that will change his life forever.

Now everyone’s favorite ogre and his fairy tale friends have set up camp at the Engeman Theater in a children’s theater production of “Shrek The Musical.” The show, which runs through Sept. 2, is a condensed version of the Broadway musical yet manages to keep many of its wonderful songs and beloved scenes.

Directed by Kevin F. Story, the 14-member cast embraces the clever script and runs with it. Evan Schultz is terrific as the grumpy hermit turned hero, Shrek, who has little patience for his chatterbox companion, Donkey, perfectly executed by Marlin D. Slack. Channeling his inner Eddie Murphy, Slack shines in “Make a Move” and steals the show.

Sari Feldman plays a sassy Princess Fiona who is waiting for true love’s first kiss in order to break a witch’s spell. Young audience members will love “I Think I Got You Beat,” which features a farting and burping contest between Shrek and Fiona. “Better out than in I always say,” quips Shrek. 

Daniel Schinina tackles the role of Lord Farquaad, the ruthless ruler of Duloc, on his knees and with ease, and Jenna Kavaler is wonderful as the ferocious dragon who keeps three knights alive in the castle to sing backup when she’s feeling blue.

The members of the ensemble — Veronica Fox, Katie Dolce, Amanda Geraci, Sam Kronenfeld, Samantha Masone, Meaghan McInnes, Robbie McGrath, Jojo Minasi, Daniel Schinina and Jeff Tierney — round out the talented cast and play multiple roles throughout the show.

Many of the beloved storybook characters from the film make an appearance, including Gingy, Big Bad Wolf, Peter Pan, Wicked Witch, the Three Blind Mice, Pinocchio (yes his nose grows!) and the Three Little Pigs. Several of the popular lines from the original script that made the movie so great have been recycled as well, from Shrek’s “Ogres are like onions. We both have layers” and Donkey’s “In the morning I’m making waffles!” and of course, “Men of Lord Farquaad’s stature are of short supply.” 

There’s a lot to enjoy about this show, whether you are amazed at Pinocchio’s nose, grinning at the creativity behind the Gingerbread Man or laughing at Lord Farquaad’s legs. In the end, the beautiful finale, “This Is Our Story,” teaches us that you shouldn’t judge someone before you know them and that what makes us special makes us strong. Take your kids or grandkids to see “Shrek The Musical” — they’ll love it and so will you!

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program. Booster seats are available.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Shrek The Musical” through Sept. 2. Children’s theater continues with Disney’s “The Little Mermaid JR” from Sept. 22 to Oct. 28 and “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

By Sabrina Petroski

My, my, how could you resist seeing “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”? After a 10-year hiatus, the original cast returns to the Greek island of Kalokairi for the grand opening of the Hotel Belladonna. The sequel again showcases the upbeat and fun-filled music of the 1970s pop group, ABBA. With similar themes to the first (love, family, adventure), this movie is sure to be a huge summer hit. 

Written and directed by Ol Parker, the PG-13 movie, which is loosely based on a lesser-known 1968 Italian film, “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell,” opens on Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) getting ready for the opening party for the Hotel Belladonna, named after her late mother Donna Sheridan (Meryl Streep), with help from her stepfather Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and hotel manager Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia). Sophie gave up her life of traveling to manage the hotel, in hopes of making her mother proud. Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), childhood best friends of Donna, arrive to help Sophie with preparations and begin telling her stories of Donna’s wild past.

Tanya (Christine Baranski), Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Rosie (Julie Waters) in a scene from the movie.

The flashbacks begin with a young Donna Sheridan (Lily James) walking in late to her college graduation, her floor-length graduation gown failing to hide her gold go-go boots. The headmistress of the college calls her up on stage to give her valedictorian speech, but instead, in true dynamo fashion, she breaks into song and invites her backup girls, young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and young Rosie (Alexa Davies), to perform ABBA’s hit song “When I Kissed the Teacher.” 

The film constantly flip flops between past and present, following Donna on the adventure of her lifetime and Sophie in the most stressful time in hers. In present time, a huge storm destroys the decorations and flowers, devastating Sophie and all those involved with the party. The storm also stops the ferries from running, keeping Sophie’s dads, Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), and her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), from being able to reach the island. 

Going back in time, Donna is traveling the world to find herself, and along the way we see how she met Harry Bright (Hugh Skinner), Bill Anderson (Josh Dylan) and Sam Carmichael (Jeremy Irvine).

If you’ve seen the original “Mamma Mia!” then you know what comes next. Donna gets pregnant while in Kalokairi, is given the old farmhouse to live in and fix up, and decides to stay on the island to raise her baby despite having no one. She doesn’t know who the father is, but doesn’t care. In parallel, Sophie finds out she is pregnant at the same age and in the same place as her mother was. 

Young Tanya, young Donna and young Rosie in a scene from the movie.

Sophie begins to lose hope of being able to open the hotel successfully but is saved by Sky, Bill and Harry, who convince a group of fishermen to bring their friends and family to Kalokairi. Three boats pull into the docks, full of people ready to enjoy the Hotel Belladonna’s opening night.

Toward the end of the movie there is a twist that no one sees coming, including Sophie’s grandmother (Cher) arriving in a private helicopter and crashing the party. She announces she is ready to take on the role of being a grandmother, and now great-grandmother. 

As the party ends, the film jumps ahead in time, following Sophie up the path leading to the church where her child will be baptized. At the same time, young Donna is doing the same walk on her way to baptize Sophie. When they both reach the front of the church, young Donna transforms into her older self and sings a haunting duet with her daughter. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater as Sophie held her mother’s hands for the last time.

Throughout the film, the audience is drawn in by the dramatic themes laced with comedic moments and the romances blooming between the characters. There is passion and fun, as well as somber moments of heartbreak. Each character is well developed and well received, and the younger versions of the main characters shine with the same awkward, funny and sweet personalities of their older counterparts. 

There are some scenes where Lily James mimics the mannerisms of Meryl Streep’s Donna so well you would think it was Streep in disguise. Young Tanya and Rosie capture the aspects of the friendship so well you would think they had known each other for decades.

Of course, it is the exciting musical numbers featuring many well-known ABBA hits from the original movie including “Waterloo,” “The Name of the Game” and “Dancing Queen” along with more obscure songs (“Kisses of Fire”) from the Swedish pop group that tie it all together for two hours of good fun.

With spot on casting, along with the great costumes and beautiful filming locations, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a must see for this summer.

Suzanne Bona

WSHU Public Radio will present a special concert at The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook on Sunday Aug. 5 at 3 p.m. in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Sunday Baroque, the station’s program of Baroque and early music.

Sunday Baroque host and flutist Suzanne Bona and pianist Brenda Moore Miller will perform works by Bach, Handel and more. The concert, which will be held in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room, will be followed by a meet and greet with the musicians. Tickets are $30 and are available online only at www.wshu.org.

Pure Led in concert

Led Zeppelin tribute band, Pure Led, will return to the Vanderbilt Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport for a concert on Sunday, July 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Playlist will include “The Song Remains the Same,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Whole Lotta Love” and more. Tickets are $20 adults online, $25 at the door; $15 children ages 5 to 15; under age 5 free. For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

By Kyle Barr

It is a real testament to the late, great Freddie Mercury and the band Queen that their songs sit so squarely in the public zeitgeist. “We Are the Champions” is still the go-to sports song for anybody’s home team, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is that one song that, when played 50 times on a road trip, still never gets old.

It also means that the show “We Will Rock You,” which held its Northeastern regional premiere opening at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts on July 7, really needed to encapsulate just what Mercury and Queen meant to culture just before the turn of the century. Thankfully, the talented 18-member cast at SPAC managed to pull it off with ease.

With book by Ben Elton, the story takes place 300 years in the future in a vague dystopian world where all music but that which is produced by the corporation is banned. All those living on the iPlanet, as it is called, exist under the thumb of the Globalsoft Corporation, headed by the stiff-necked Khashoggi (Dylan Bivings) and the raucous Killer Queen (the-great-as-always Brianne Boyd). Two young rebels, Galileo (Andrew Murano) and Scaramouche (Danielle Nigro) are captured by Globalsoft right out of high school for being too out of the mainstream. This leads them on a quest to find the rebels called The Bohemians and then to find the true meaning of rock and roll and set the world free.

Featuring more than 20 hit Queen songs, the show is accompanied by a live band, with Melissa and Craig Coyle on keyboard, Chad Goodstein and Mike Lawshé on guitar, Rob Curry on bass and Jim Waddell on drums. At first it’s hard to tell from where the band is playing. They are not on stage, nor on the balcony. It is well worth staying until the end to see exactly where these band members were cleverly hid.

Tim Golebiewski, who directed last year’s very fine production of “Young Frankenstein,” returns this year to showcase his talents for stimulating musical sequences and cutting humor. This time the stage is set with what appears to be a very simple layout, just a two-level affair with a white screen hanging above it all. Yet this display holds more than a few surprises. 

Golebiewski and Chris Creevy, the head of lighting design, must have had a lot of fun setting up the LED lights all around the stage, whose multiple colors coordinate with a projector screen behind the stage. Every musical performance has a corresponding color and video that plays in time to the music. It’s a surprising sensation seeing the performance and video, like attending both a musical and rock concert all at once.

Danielle Nigro and Andrew Murano in a scene from the show

In a production such as this, where the story is not much more than a vehicle to get to the next Queen song, the vocal quality is probably the biggest selling point and the cast is very much up to the task. 

Nigro does a great job with the punk-styled, quick-mouthed Scaramouche, and she is great both in lead vocals in songs like “Somebody to Love” and in chorus in songs like “Under Pressure.” Mark Maurice, as Brit, and Courtney Braun, as Oz, are both absolutely hilarious, especially with Maurice’s random bouts of martial arts. Their duet on “I Want It All” is fun and energetic. Terrific in last year’s SPAC performance of “Man of La Mancha,” Boyd  pulls out all the stops with her usual considerable stage presence. She’s a perfect fit for the part of Killer Queen, especially with such loud and sometimes racy renditions of “Play the Game” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

If you have even a passing interest in Queen, Freddie Mercury or rock in general, then this is a great night outing to rekindle that old rebel rocker spirit.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “We Will Rock You” through Aug. 19. Parental discretion is advised. Tickets range from $25 to $38. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

Photos courtesy of SPAC

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