Theater

A scene from 'Julius Caesar'

By Leah Chiappino

An osprey lands on its nest on top of a bell tower located above the gate in the Vanderbilt Museum Courtyard as the sun sets over William K. Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest mansion. The orange hues hitting the four walls make the Spanish Revival estate, one of the last remaining Gold Coast properties on the North Shore, glow.

It is the perfect setting for the Vanderbilt’s annual Shakespeare Festival, Shakespearean play readings by The Carriage House Players that are performed on an outdoor stage in the mansion’s courtyard. The tradition, which is celebrating its 31st anniversary, often puts a modern twist on the Bard’s classic masterpieces. 

A scene from ‘Julius Caesar’

The current production of “Julius Caesar” chronicles the internal struggle of Brutus (Mary Caulfield) in joining Cassius (Nicole Intravia) to assassinate the Roman dictator Julius Caesar (Jae Hughes). Believed to have been written in 1599, it is one of several plays written by Shakespeare based on true events from Roman history.

Though it helps to be a fan of Shakespeare to truly appreciate this production, audience members can’t help but be drawn in by the raw talent of the performers. 

Hughes as Caesar is particularly gripping and riveting. With each line carried out with such emotion and conviction, Hughes’ delivery leads the audience to forget the script comes from a Shakespearean play and forces them to believe they are being spoken genuinely in real time.

Christine Boehm directs a cast of 14 who all give excellent performances. This is especially evident during the assassination scene, which looks realistic to the point one may second guess whether or not the blood comes from the actors. 

The costumes take the modern version up another notch in terms of quality, with Brutus sporting a leather jumpsuit throughout the entire production. Katie Ferretti as Portia, his wife, stuns in a classic Shakespearean gown, and her natural chemistry with Caulfield make for a perfect pair between the two, as does Elizabeth Sackett in respect to Hughes, in her role as Caesar’s wife Calpurnia.

A scene from ‘Julius Caesar’

Some modern lines and euphemisms are thrown in as well, such as the show opening with the dropping of a tarp sign reading “Hail Caesar” in street graffiti, and passersby flipping off Brutus as a sign of rebellion in one of the opening acts.

The cast also includes Airen Craig, Jess Ader-Ferretti, Erika Hinson, Zoe Katsaros, Brielle Levenberg, Teresa Motherway, Dana Tortora, Colleen Tyler and Gianna Zuffante.

With all of this, the true gem of the night is the experience the play offers. Arrive early to access the beautiful grounds of the estate before the show starts and bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the lawn overlooking Northport Harbor, with views of Asharoken to Connecticut.  

The atmosphere allows visitors to reflect on all Long Island has to offer, surrounded by some of the most stunning architecture in the nation, coupled with natural beauty. Ultimately, the performance, a fitting example of the rich arts and culture of the island caps off the ambiance perfectly, is a must-do summer activity.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport and The Carriage House Players will present “Julius Caesar” through Sept. 1. Performances are held Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children. To order, visit www.carriagehouseplayers.org.

By Heidi Sutton

For too short a time, the classic tale of “Pinocchio” comes to life on Theatre Three’s stage in a most magical way. While most are familiar with Walt Disney’s 1940 animated feature, Theatre Three’s original retelling, written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, is suggested from the 1883 children’s novel, “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” by Carlo Collodi.

Annabelle the Fairy (Krystal Lawless) has spent two centuries trying to earn her magic wand so that she can fly. Summoned before Ondine, the good and righteous Queen of the Fairies (Ginger Dalton), she is given one last chance to prove her worth or she has to leave the land of the fairies forever. 

Matt Hoffman and Steven Uihlein in a scene from ‘Pinocchio’

Teaming up with Cassandra the Magic Cricket (Michelle LaBozzetta), she is tasked with getting Geppetto (Steven Uihlein), a miserable and lonely woodcarver (think Scrooge), to care about people the same way he cares about wood.

Annabelle decides to cast a spell on the wood, making it talk, and Geppetto is inspired to carve it into a wooden boy he names Pinocchio (Matt Hoffman). Things go sour quickly as Pinocchio constantly misbehaves; so Annabelle casts another spell on him where his nose grows every time he tells a lie.

However, when Pinocchio gets mixed up with con artists Ferdinand Fox (Emily Gates), Carpacious Cat (Nicole Bianco) and Ranklin Rat (C.J. Russo) and is tricked into giving them all of Geppetto’s money, things go from bad to worse. Will Annabelle ever get her wings? Will Ferdinand, Carpacious and Ranklin get their comeuppance? Will Pinocchio ever become a real boy? 

Jeff Sanzel skillfully directs a cast of eight adult actors who take this delightful tale and run with it. There’s a lot to cover in an hour and a half, but the story flows nicely and keeps the audience at the edge of their seats.

The three troublemakers!

The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Doug Quattrock, are lighthearted and entertaining, from “Lovely Thoughts” by Annabelle to “Bad Harmony” by the trio of con artists, to the wonderful “The Festival El Grande.” Choreography by Nicole Bianco fits the story perfectly and the costumes by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John are sweet and fun.

There are so many special moments in this show, made even grander thanks to the addition of 40 children from the theater’s summer acting camp who play various extras including fairies and townspeople. 

Much to the delight of the young audience, the actors utilize the aisles often and special effects are around every corner. Annabelle and Cassandra hide under a magic umbrella that deems them invisible, Pinocchio’s nose really grows and wait until you see what falls from the ceiling at the end! Theatre Three has taken a story that is over 130 years old and given it new life. Grab the kids and catch a performance of “Pinocchio.” They will love you for it.

Souvenir fairy wands are sold for $10. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson, presents “Pinocchio” through Aug. 10. Children’s Theatre continues with “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 5 to 26 and “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 28. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

See more photos from the show online at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

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Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The final two shows for “Cinderella” at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will be held on Aug. 8 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 9 at 1:30 p.m. The classic love story finds its power in a pumpkin a palace, a prince—and a young girl whose belief in herself can overcome any obstacle. When her Fairy Godmother adds a dash of excitement, the magical possibilities are endless. Don’t miss this musical enchantment for the entire family!

Children’s theater continues with “Pinocchio” from Aug. 2 to 10; and “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 5 to 26. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Read the review here: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-theatre-threes-cinderella-is-a-fairy-tale-for-the-ages/

The cast of ‘Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale’. Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer/ Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

Question: What do you get when you combine the classic Grimm Brothers fairytale “Rapunzel” and Disney’s animated feature “Tangled”? 

Answer: “Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale,” a wickedly funny musical adaptation written by David Crane and Marta Kaufman, the creators of the hit TV show “Friends.” The children’s show opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this past weekend and runs through Aug. 25.

Simon, trusted valet to the Prince, serves as storyteller and gives the audience the backstory on how Rapunzel ended up in the tower. We meet up with the young girl on the morning of her 16th birthday where her only wish is to be able to leave her imprisonment for one day and see the world.

Her “mother,” Gretta the witch, at first promises to grant her wish but then changes her mind. “I just want to know what’s at the end of the road!” begs Rapunzel. “The DMV – nobody wants to go there,” quips the witch. 

Meanwhile, Prince Brian has run away from the castle and vows only to return once he has slain a dragon or rescued a maiden. “As a hero, I’m a zero,” he laments. When the prince comes upon Rapunzel in the tower, he seizes this rare opportunity and hatches a plan to rescue her. What follows is a fun, exciting and hilarious adventure the entire family will enjoy.

Director Jennifer Collester knows her target audience well and has assembled the perfect group of actors to tell this hairy tale to young theatergoers. 

Making her Engeman debut, Joanna Sanges is terrific as the naive but strong-willed Rapunzel who will stand up to the witch, the king and anything else that comes her way — a wonderful role model for the many little princesses in the audience.

While not in a disco on the Engeman’s stage in the evenings (“Saturday Night Fever”) Christopher Hanford spends his morning weekends rescuing fair maidens as Prince Brian and does a fine job. Hanford spends the second half of the show wearing sunglasses (the witch cast a spell to make him blind) and is a good sport when Rapunzel forgets to help him navigate the stage. 

The indefatigable Bobby Montaniz plays multiple roles throughout the show (Simon, a cow, innkeeper, the king) and draws the most laughs. He quickly becomes the audience favorite.

But it is Suzanne Mason, as Gretta the witch, who gives the strongest performance and “with a twist of her wrist and a turn of her ring” takes this juicy role and runs with it. Like a sour patch kid, her character is both sweet and sour but not scary — just diabolical!

Perhaps the best part of the show is when Rapunzel and the Prince make their way into the audience on their way to the village and interact with the children, asking them questions such as what they like to eat.

The costumes, special sound effects and lighting pull it all together nicely to produce a marvelous morning of live theater.

Stay after the show and meet the cast in the lobby for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through Aug. 25. Costumes are encouraged. Children’s theater continues with an audience favorite, “The Wizard Of Oz” from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27, followed by the theater’s annual production of “Frosty” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29 and Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” from Jan. 25 to March 1. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Back row, from left, Anthony M. Panarello, Angelina Mercurio (understudy for Veronica Fox) and Brody Hampson; front row, from left, Luke Hampson and Ryan Cavanagh. Photo by Tommy Ranieri

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh off the massive children’s theater production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts scales things down with a musical retelling of Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The show opened last weekend and runs through Aug. 18.

Written and composed by the award-winning duo of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Seussical”), the “fractured fairytale” takes the 19th-century Danish author’s best known story and adds song and dance to create a delightfully charming treat.

At only 14 years old, Emperor Marcus the Third is nervous to take the throne. After all, he’s only finished Chapter 1 of “How to Be an Effective Emperor”! To make matters worse, the kingdom’s river is starting to overflow and a hole in the road is getting wider. The villagers come to Marcus for help, but the newbie has difficulty making decisions. When the palace’s mop boy Arno suggests he dress the part, Marcus becomes obsessed with his royal attire.

Outfit after outfit produced by Deena the Royal Clothesmaker is rejected. Seizing an opportunity, a swindler named Maurice weasels his way inside the palace and offers to make magic clothes that are “invisible to fools and liars.” Ignoring the counsel of his Royal Advisor William, the emperor gives Maurice the green light and begins plans to hold a parade to show off his new wardrobe. Will someone get Marcus out of this royal mess, or will he reveal more than he bargains for?

Tommy Ranieri directs and choreographs a talented quintet of actors that grab this comedic masterpiece by its royal coattails and run with it, effectively producing something very special.

Luke Hampson is exceptional as the clueless new ruler; Veronica Fox and Anthony M. Panarello do an excellent job portraying worrywarts Deena and William who fear they will lose their jobs because they can’t see the magic clothing; and Brody Hampson plays the role of con artist perfectly.

But it is Ryan Cavanagh in the role of Arno who steals every scene he is in and quickly becomes an audience favorite. In the end, it is he who teaches Marcus the important lesson of “it’s not what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside that counts.”

The wonderful songs tie the show together, with special mention to “The Ancestor Song,” “Only a Guy Like You,” “How Am I Ever Gonna Get To Sleep?” and “Invisible.”

The show offers no special effects or fancy sets, just good old-fashioned live theater the way it was meant to be. The actors are funny and entertaining and are as devoted to making the audience reflect as to making them laugh. Hans Christian Andersen would be proud.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “The Emperor’s New Clothes” through Aug. 18. Children’s theater continues with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure Jr.” from Sept. 14 to Oct. 27 and “Shrek the Musical Jr.” from Feb. 1 to March 1. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Michael Notardonato star as Tony Manero in 'Saturday Night Fever'. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

On Tuesday, July 23 at 8 p.m., the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport will host a special benefit performance of Saturday Night Fever to benefit the Village of Northport and promote clean waterways in the Northport Harbor.

In honor of the 125thanniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Northport, the John W. Engeman Theater will donate 100% of the ticket proceeds of the July 23 performance of Saturday Night Fever to the village to promote clean waterways through the procurement of an Oyster/Clam FLUPSY in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program.

The F.L.U.P.S.Y. or Floating Upwelling System is a shellfish growing machine. Typically built like a rectangular dock, the FLUPSY is able to grow up to 500,000 oysters in a season by holding large amounts of shellfish in square containers suspended off the harbor bottom. Once the oysters grow to one and one-half inches, they will be seeded throughout Northport Harbor.

“Since the inception of the 125th Anniversary Committee last fall, Kevin O’Neill has been fully committed to our mission to promote clean waterways and return Northport Harbor to its natural state of health,” said Mercy Smith, Trustee for the Village of Northport. “Hosting this benefit performance is a testament to that commitment of community partnership and truly demonstrates the amazing generosity of The John W. Engeman Theater.”

In addition to the funds that will be raised by the benefit, organizations and businesses within the community have put forth donations in support of the project.

“Giving has become contagious! Upon learning about the benefit’s purpose, Linda Armyn, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, at Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Peter Howard, President of the Northport Police Benevolent Association have also donated significant funds to ensure the Flupsy project is a success!” said Smith.

Doors open at 7 p.m. that evening. To purchase tickets for the show, visit www.EngemanTheater.com or call 631-261-2900.

 

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About Saturday Night Fever

Based on the 1977 blockbuster film, Saturday Night Fever whisks you back to the 1970s, where open shirts, bell-bottoms, and disco were all the rage. Featuring music by the Bee Gees, this musical adaptation of the classic film is the story of a talented, streetwise kid from Brooklyn who attempts to escape his dead-end life through dancing. Packed with disco classics including “Stayin’ Alive,” “You Should Be Dancing,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” and many more, Saturday Night Feversizzles with explosive energy and sensational dancing.

 

About the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is Long Island’s only year round professional theater company, casting actors from the Broadway talent pool. From curb to curtain, we have made it our business to provide affordable, quality, theater in an elegant one-of-a-kind location with outstanding facilities and extraordinary service. The renovated Theater offers stadium-style seating, state-of-the-art lighting and sound, a full orchestra pit, and a classic wood-paneled piano lounge with full bar.

For a complete show schedule and more information contact the theater directly at 631-261-2900, visit the box office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com

 

By Melissa Arnold

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is bringing out its disco balls and bell-bottoms this summer as it kicks off its 2019-20 mainstage season with “Saturday Night Fever.” 

The high-energy musical delivers all the 1970s hits and fashion that’s made it a beloved classic for more than just baby boomers. The musical is based on the famous 1977 film of the same name that rocketed John Travolta into stardom. The film was adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oaks, and the North American version was written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti.

Directed by Richard Dolce, “Saturday Night Fever” is the story of Tony Manero, a 19-year-old ladies’ man from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. It’s 1977, and Tony is restless, working a dead-end job in the shadow of the Verrazzano Bridge and dealing with his family’s scathing disapproval. It doesn’t help that his brother Frank Jr. is a priest, making Tony even more of a black sheep. 

All of that fades away on the weekends, though, when Tony escapes to the local disco Odyssey 2001 to show off his skills on the dance floor. He’s got real talent and sets his sights on winning an upcoming dance competition that could be his ticket to a more fulfilling life.

Tony is quickly frustrated with his overeager dance partner, Annette, who’s more interested in winning a trip to his bedroom than a dance competition. To Annette’s chagrin, Tony is drawn to Stephanie, a lovely yet guarded dancer he meets at the club. Stephanie reluctantly agrees to enter the contest as Tony’s partner on the condition that it’s strictly business. But their passion at the disco is unmistakable, and romance is hard to resist. 

While it’s difficult to compare anyone to John Travolta, Michael Notardonato makes the role of Tony seem effortless. A newcomer to the Engeman, Notardonato has also played Tony elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad — he was even nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Musical by the Connecticut Critics Circle for a past performance of the show. Notardonato’s silky vocals and expert footwork are a treat to take in.

Annette (Andrea Dotto) and Stephanie (Missy Dowse) are in contrast throughout most of the show: One is bold, the other withdrawn; one is full-on Brooklyn, the other tries to forget her roots. Both Dotto and Dowse are great dancers with strong vocals; newcomer Dotto tugs on the heartstrings with a powerful rendition of “If I Can’t Have You,” while Dowse’s multiple duets with Notardonato (“100 Reasons,” “What Kind of Fool”) are where she really shines.

Also at the heart of “Saturday Night Fever” are Tony’s knucklehead best friends who are prone to making bad decisions, including some that change their lives forever. Matthew Boyd Snyder, Christopher Robert Hanford, Steven Dean Moore and Casey Shane act like they’ve known each other forever. They play well off of one another and have no trouble getting laughs out of the crowd while also drawing empathy in the show’s darker moments.

The standout work for this show goes to the ensemble and orchestra — after all, it’s the soundtrack and dancing that drive “Saturday Night Fever.” Chris Rayis leads the band in foot-tapping, dance-in-your-seat favorites from the Bee Gees, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Boogie Shoes” and “Disco Inferno.” The ensemble’s dance numbers, including “Jive Talkin’” and “Night Fever,” are among the best in the show. 

Dance captain Kelsey Andres, choreographer Breton Tyner-Bryan and associate choreographer Emily Ulrich deserve accolades for the obvious hard work and effort that went into preparing the cast to be at the top of their game. Keep an eye out for Gabriella Mancuso who plays Candy, 2001 Odyssey’s professional singer. Her vocals are among the strongest in the entire cast, and definitely the most memorable. 

The extra touches to the Engeman’s production of “Saturday Night Fever” help the audience feel like they’re a part of the show. Disco balls can be found both above the stage and in the lounge area, covering the entire theater in those characteristic funky lights we all love. The set is equally dazzling and showcased a wide variety of scenes. The mirrors in the dance studio, neon lights in the club, and a stunning, climbable Verrazzano Bridge made the show more realistic.

The only drawback in the musical version of “Saturday Night Fever” is the number of unanswered questions by the end of the show, but it’s still a fantastic performance that’s not to be missed. Stick around after the curtain call for a few extra songs, and don’t be afraid to dance in the aisle.

See “Saturday Night Fever” now through Aug. 25 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. For showtimes and to buy tickets, visit www.EngemanTheater.com or call 631-261-2900.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

By Rita J. Egan

Theatergoers will be delighted to come and meet those dancing feet at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. The musical “42nd Street” debuted at the theater July 6.

Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and 1933 film of the same name, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1980. During its nine-year run, it won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In 2001 the production was revived on Broadway and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival and others. Filled with memorable musical numbers, “42nd Street” features the book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren.

As for the Smithtown production, it’s expertly directed and choreographed by Ryan Nolin. Tap dancing is one of the focal points of this musical, and each of the actors should be applauded for their skillful and delightful tap dancing throughout the show.

Set during the height of the Great Depression, the story centers around the fictional musical “Pretty Lady“ directed by Julian Marsh, and young Peggy Sawyer’s journey from a young starry-eyed girl from Allentown to the star of the show after the musical’s lead actress, Dorothy Brock, is injured.

Courtney Braun as Peggy is endearing as the naive starlet and sounds terrific during “Young and Healthy,” “About a Quarter to Nine” and “42nd Street.” Jon Rivera plays Marsh, the no-nonsense director, with the right amount of authoritative tone. It is during the second act that he really gets to show off his musical chops with a wonderful version of “Lullaby of Broadway,” and displays his comedic side when he shows Peggy how to greet a love interest convincingly for a scene she is rehearsing.

Tamralynn Dorsa is stunning as temperamental diva Dorothy and shines vocally, especially singing “I Know Now” and “About a Quarter to Nine.” Ryan Cavanagh is charming as Billy Lawlor, the young actor who has his eyes on Peggy, and gives a powerful performance during “Young and Healthy” and “Dames.” 

Scott Earle and Ann Marie Finnie provide the right amount of comedic relief as the show’s songwriters Bert Barry and Maggie Jones, and Finnie’s vocals take front and center during her parts in “Go Into Your Dance,” “Getting Out of Town” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” Alex Pinals plays Andy Lee, the choreographer of “Pretty Lady,” and is perfect for the role with smooth dance moves of his own, and Veronica Fox as Anytime Annie provides a nice amount of sass.

Rounding out the cast perfectly are Erich Grathwohl as Abner Dillon, Brendan Noble playing Pat Denning, Karina Gallagher as Lorraine Flemming, Nicolette Minella in the role of Phyllis Dale and Michael Sherwood easily taking on multiple roles. The colorful, 1930s-inspired outfits, designed by Ronald Green III, and the band led by musical director Melissa Coyle tie it all together nicely.

From the lead actors to the ensemble, everyone is spectacular in the numbers the musical has become known for through the decades. Right from the start, the cast impresses with their dancing feet in the opening number “Audition.” Vocally “We’re in the Money,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “42nd Street” are the stand out numbers they were meant to be thanks to the talented cast. 

Just like the 1933 movie, this production of “42nd Street” is a feel-good piece that has arrived just in time for a fun summer treat.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown, will present “42nd Street” through Aug. 18. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Running time is approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets range from $22 to $38. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700. 

Photos by Lisa Schindlar

By Heidi Sutton

Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale, especially one like “Cinderella,” which is reputed to be one of the most adapted and re-interpreted children’s stories of all time?

To the delight of all the little princesses out there, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson kicks off its 2019-20 children’s theater season with an original musical retelling of the “rags to riches” tale through Aug. 9. With book, music and lyrics by Douglas J. Quattrock, this version of “Cinderella” combines Charles Perrault’s classic tale with Mark Twain’s “The Prince & the Pauper” to produce a lovely afternoon at the theater.

Perrault (Steven Uihlein) serves as narrator as well as “squire to the sire” and transports audiences to the kingdom of King Charming (Andrew Lenahan) who wishes to retire to Boca Raton and pass the crown to his son, Prince Charming (Matt Hoffman). However, the king feels that his son should get married first and invites all eligible maidens to a royal ball.

The squire delivers the invitations to the home of Cinderella (Meg Bush) who after 300 years is still being treated badly by her stepmother Lady Jaclyn (Nicole Bianco) and stepsisters Gwendolyn (Michelle LaBozzetta) and Madeline (Krystal Lawless). When Cinderella asks if she can go to the ball, her stepmother tells her she has to do all her chores first, including washing the cat, but we all know how that ends. 

Left behind while the step meanies go to the ball, the poor girl is visited by her fairy godmother, Angelica (Emily Gates) who cooks up a beautiful gown and sends her on her way.

Meanwhile, the prince concocts a plan to switch places with the squire in hopes of meeting a girl who will like him “for who he is, not what he is.” Things go horribly wrong at the ball, thanks to the ill-mannered stepsisters, and it ends before Cinderella can get there. When she finally arrives, Cinderella is greeted by a squire (the prince) who asks her to dance because “the band is paid till 1.” Will she take him up on his offer? Will they waltz the night away?

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the eight-member cast does an excellent job in portraying this adorable story. One of the funniest scenes is when the prince and squire show up at Cinderella’s house with the glass slipper and the stepsisters and even stepmother try it on with the same result: “I think it’s on. All hail the queen! Ouch, take it off!”

Accompanied on piano by Douglas J. Quattrock, all of the sweet musical numbers are wonderfully choreographed by Nicole Bianco, with a special nod to “Please, Mother, Please!” and “A Girl Like Me (and a Boy Like You).” 

The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John, are flawless, from the royal garbs worn by the king and prince to the fancy gowns worn at the ball. The wings on the fairy godmother even light up — a nice touch. Lighting design by Steve Uihlein along with some special effects pull it all magically together.

If you’re looking for something to do with the kids for the summer, Theatre Three’s “Cinderella” fits the bill perfectly. Souvenir wands are sold before the show and during intermission. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson presents “Cinderella” through Aug. 9. Children’s theater continues with “Pinocchio” from Aug. 2 to 10; and “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 5 to 26. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com. See more photos online at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

A sensory-friendly performance of 'Cinderella' will be held on July 7. Photo from Theatre Three

By Melissa Arnold

Jason Furnari was 11 years old when he appeared onstage for the first time as part of a school production. Acting immediately became his passion, and he was eager to be in as many shows as possible.

Jason Furnari

One day, Furnari’s school took a field trip to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. His life would never be the same. “As soon as I saw the stage I knew I had to be up there,” recalled Furnari, now 34. He auditioned for his first Theatre Three show in 2002, and soon became one of the theater’s full-time actors, appearing in local shows and becoming a part of their professional touring troupe. His credits include “The Laramie Project,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” and “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” to name a few.

In a gesture of gratitude to the theater, Furnari has announced that his Port Jefferson Station based real estate company, EXIT Realty Island Elite, will sponsor Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre and offer complimentary tickets to its sensory-friendly performances. 

“I love acting so much because you get to go onstage for a few hours and tell a story. If people are having a bad day, you can bring a smile to their face,” Furnari said. “Every day when we go onstage, we get to see how much the kids really enjoy live theater. They get a glimmer in their eye, and I wanted as many people as possible to experience that joy.” 

That desire to do good has run through the entirety of Furnari’s career journey. He studied nursing, worked in restaurants, and ultimately launched a successful real estate career, helping families find their dream homes. All the while, he continued to do occasional shows with Theatre Three, hoping for the day he could give back to them, too.

Furnari’s moment finally came during rehearsals for “Barnaby Saves Christmas” this past December. Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director of the theater, was preparing the cast for their upcoming sensory-friendly performance. 

Each Children’s Theatre production has one performance that is specifically tailored to those with sensory processing disorders or other special needs. The shows provide lower volume levels, remove sudden noises, leave the house lights on and are accepting of audience noise and movement. Sensory-friendly shows also offer complimentary social stories, booklets which explain the parts of the theater, its employees, what to expect at a show and more, all accompanied with helpful pictures.

“I was talking to them about the sensory-friendly shows, and I said that I would love for someone to come along and underwrite those performances, so we could just give the tickets away for free and we wouldn’t have to charge,” Sanzel recalled. “Jason pulled me aside and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He committed in that moment and [the free tickets] began immediately with the next show. “I was stunned but not surprised because Jason is such a profoundly generous person. It was an amazing moment for us.”

In addition to underwriting the sensory-friendly shows, EXIT Realty Island Elite will be the official sponsor for Theatre Three’s children’s performances for the 2019-20 season. 

Jason Furnari, center, in a scene from last year’s ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’

Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three, noted that, while the theater is a not-for-profit, they still have expenses and need support. “At the theater, we want to treat everyone equally and provide an experience that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their needs,” Koutrakos said. “I’ve known Jason for a long time, and he’s done so well for himself. He always wanted to give back to the theater and make sure it was cared for, even when he didn’t have the means to do so himself.”

Sensory-friendly performances at Theatre Three began in 2016 when the parent of an actor with special needs encouraged Sanzel to pursue it. Since then, he said the feedback from audiences has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The families and organizations that come to the sensory-friendly shows are so appreciative and grateful,” Sanzel said. “And now that we’ve eliminated the costs, it’s an opportunity they’ll always be able to enjoy.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Upcoming sensory-friendly children’s performances include “Cinderella” on July 7; “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” on Oct. 6; “Barnably Saves Christmas” on Nov. 24; “Little Red Riding Hood” on Jan. 19, 2020; “Hansel and Gretel” on March 8, 2020; “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on April 19, 2020; and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on May 31, 2020. All shows begin at 11 a.m. and tickets are free. 

For more information or to make a reservation, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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