Theater

Alex Bertolini and Michael Locissano star in SPAC’s Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast JR’.
A tale as old as time opens at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts

By Heidi Sutton

The French fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast,” was written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740 and then revised and popularized by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. Translated into many different languages over the years, it has become a tale as old as time. Most children, however, are familiar with the Disney film versions — the 1991 award-winning animated musical and the live-action musical starring Emma Watson released earlier this year.

Now the beloved fairy tale comes to life on the grand stage of the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts as Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast JR” and does not disappoint.

Gaston (Zak Ketcham) and his admirers

Expecting a shortened version of the story to appease the young children in the audience, many who came dressed as Belle, imagine my surprise and certainly others in the theater when the curtain goes up last Saturday afternoon and for the next 2 hours and 20 minutes, the audience is transported to a small provincial town in France in what feels like a full-blown Broadway production with an amazing set, incredible costumes, wonderful singing, stupendous dancing and terrific acting — all followed by a well-deserved standing ovation.

If that isn’t enough, you’ll get to experience all the wonderful songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman again including “Belle,” “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest,” “The Mob Song,” and everyone’s favorite, “Beauty and the Beast” sung by Mrs. Potts.

The classic story of love and sacrifice, a girl by the name of Belle searches to find her place among the townspeople in her village, all while dodging the advances of a self-loving brute named Gaston. When her father is taken prisoner by a monstrous beast in an enchanted castle, Belle chooses to take his place. The Beast is really a young selfish prince who is cursed to live forever as a hideous creature unless he can learn to love and in return find someone who will love him before all the petals on an enchanted rose wither. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his staff will be doomed for all eternity. Will Belle be the one to break the spell?

Jordan Hue skillfully directs a cast of 33 talented teens, who all seem to be having the time of their life. Alex Bertolini is perfectly cast as the beautiful Belle. With her sweet voice and mannerisms, she instantly steals the audience’s hearts. Michael Locissano gives a magnificent performance as the Beast, switching effortlessly from losing his temper to a sad and broken man. Zak Ketcham takes the juicy role of the arrogant Gaston, pompadour and all, and runs with it; and Kyle Westgate-Addessi, as Gaston’s dim-witted sidekick, Lefou, is equally impressive.

Lumiere (Luke Ferrari) and Babette (Brooke Miranda)

Although the entire supporting cast is superb, special mention should be made of the castle staff (humans who have been magically transformed into household objects under the curse) — the enchanted candelabra Lumiere (Luke Ferrari), Cogsworth the talking clock (Logan O’Leary), Mrs. Potts the teapot (Aubrey Alvino), Babette the feather duster (Brooke Miranda) and Mme. De La Grand Bouche the wardrobe (Nikki Sponaugle). And last, but certainly not least, the sweet and adorable teacup Chip (played by Raquel Sciacca during last Saturday’s performance).

Costumes by Ronald Green III are rich and colorful and look as if they stepped straight out of the Disney film, especially during “Be Our Guest,” where the stage is consumed with dancing flatware, napkins, plates and a floor rug. The Beast’s costume has both the royal appearance of a prince and the ragged edges of a cursed monster, and Belle’s dinner gown in signature yellow is breathtaking. However, without giving too much away, it is the castle staff costumes that take it over the top. M.E. Jung’s choreography, highlighted during the musical numbers “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest,” pulls it all together brilliantly.

Light-up roses may be purchased before the show and children can meet Belle and the Prince in the lobby after the show for photos. Costumes are encouraged and booster seats are available.

The main cast of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast JR’

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast JR” through Oct. 29. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Courtney Braun

Above, the cast of ‘A Kooky, Spooky Halloween’ at Theatre Three.

By Heidi Sutton

There’s something kooky going on at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. As a matter of fact, there’s something spooky going on there as well. In perfect timing with the upcoming holiday, the Children’s Theatre presents a brand new musical treat, “A Kooky Spooky Halloween,” through Oct. 28.

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Steve McCoy, the adorable show emphasizes the importance of telling the truth and helping others. Skillfully directed by Sanzel, the talented cast of eight adults embraces the brilliant script and, with plenty of audience interaction, presents a wonderful afternoon of live theater.

The cast sings ‘It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast’

Ghost Abner Perkins (Dylan Robert Poulos) has just graduated from Haunted High School and awarded a medallion of invisibility. His first assignment is to be the spooksperson on Halloween for Ma Aberdeen’s Boarding House, “the most haunted house in Harrison County, USA,” which is also known for serving the best toast. There’s only one problem — Abner is afraid of the dark. “It’s like a vampire who’s afraid of necks!” quips his friend Lavinda (Jessica Contino), a good natured witch, before presenting him with a night-light to wear on his hat. Lavinda promises to help Abner with his haunting duties for the first few days.

When they arrive at the boarding house, they come upon Ma Aberdeen (Ginger Dalton), the finest toast maker in the land, and her boarders, Kit Garret (Meg Bush) and the Petersons — Paul the periodontist (Steven Uihlein), his wife Penelope (Nina Moran) and their son Pip (Eric J. Hughes), whose alliterations using words that start with the letter P are perfectly prodigious!

As the sun sets, Abner plays silly tricks on the unsuspecting group, making them stuff Halloween goodie bags in double time, exercise, sing, dance and get stuck to each other. Things are going hauntingly well until fellow graduate Dora Pike (Elizabeth Ladd) shows up. A ghost with a grudge (she was hoping to be assigned to Ma Aberdeen’s boarding house), Dora steals Abner’s night-light and medallion out of revenge and makes her way to Black Ridge Gulch, the deepest, darkest gorge in the entire world (where it’s really, really dark).

Dylan Robert Poulos and Jessica Contino star as Abner and Lavinda in the show.

Now visible, Abner convinces the boarders, who are still stuck to each other, to accompany him and Lavinda on a quest to retrieve his property. Will Abner be able to overcome his fear of the dark? Will the two ghosts be able to reach a compromise?

From the first number, “A-Haunting We Will Go” by the entire company, to the downright creepy “It Will All Fade to Black” by Dora, and the catchy “It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast,” the original songs by Steve McCoy are the heart of the show. Utilizing the set from the current Mainstage production, “The Bridges of Madison County,” the show features excellent choreography by Nicole Bianco. Ditto the costumes by Teresa Matteson.

“A Kooky Spooky Halloween” is the perfect show to get into the spirit of Halloween and a wonderful way to spend a fall afternoon. But be forewarned — for some strange reason, you’ll exit the theater having a craving for toast! Meet the cast in the lobby for photos on your way out.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” on Oct. 14, 21 and 28 at 11 a.m. and Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. with a sensory-sensitive performance on Oct. 15 at 11 a.m. Running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes with one intermission, and Halloween costumes are encouraged.

Children’s Theatre will continue with everyone’s holiday favorite, “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30 and “Rapunzel — The Untold Story” from Jan. 20 to Feb. 24. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Photo by Ellen Williams

By Heidi Sutton

The slipper fits! Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

For many, Disney’s “Cinderella” will always have a special place in their hearts. Released in 1950, it was Walt’s 12th animated feature film and rumored to be his favorite.

Now, under the direction of Matt Kunkel, the timeless, “rags to riches” fairy tale takes on new life in “Cinderella KIDS” at the Engeman Theater in Northport through Oct. 29. Performed by a cast of nine teens, each one more talented than the next, the show features the original story and wonderful songs, much to the delight of the little princesses in the audience, with a comedic twist.

Now, 67 years later Cinderella (Kira Williams) is still at the mercy of her stepmother (Ava Dell’aquila) and stepsisters Anastasia (Katherine Gallo) and Drizella (Lexie Spelman), who seem to take much pleasure in making her miserable. When a messenger from the castle drops by and announces that all unmarried girls are invited to the Royal Ball, the stepmother tells Cinderella she can go if she finishes her chores. Her mouse friends, Gus and Jaq (Melissa Aliotta and Samantha Foti), make her a beautiful gown from items the stepsisters have discarded. When the stepsisters see how beautiful Cinderella looks, they throw a tantrum and destroy the gown.

The three meanies, Drizella, the stepmother and Anastasia. Photo by Ellen Williams

When all seems hopeless, Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Maeve Barth-Dwyer) appears and with a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, concocts a beautiful blue gown, glass slippers and a fancy coach and sends the young girl off to the ball. There she meets the handsome prince (Theron Viljoen), they fall in love and dance the night away, that is, until the stroke of midnight. Will Cinderella’s dreams come true? Will she marry her Prince? Will her stepmother and stepsisters finally get their comeuppance?

From the very beginning, the narrator (Danny Feldman) makes it is clear that the audience will be a part of the story. When Cinderella is given a four-foot-long list of chores, the stepsisters ask the audience what else they should make her do. “Bake a muffin!” yells one child. “Scrub the toilet!” offers another. Tough crowd.

When the fairy godmother tries to help Cinderella get to the ball, she asks the children, “What can we use for a coach?” “A pumpkin!” is the immediate response. When Cinderella disappears at the stroke of midnight, the prince and his herald frantically run through the theater searching for her with the help of the children who eventually find the glass slipper. Later on, Cinderella walks through the aisles singing “So This Is Love,” as the young theatergoers sit mesmerized. The interactive concept is genius and works to a T. Even the youngest guests won’t have time to grow restless and that is the greatest wish of all.

So this is love. Photo by Ellen Williams

The beautiful costumes by Jess Costagliola and the delightful choreography by Emma Gassett complete the experience. Disney’s “Cinderella” may be timeless but Disney’s “Cinderella KIDS” is a real fall treat and the perfect show to introduce young children to live theater. I guarantee they’ll love you for it.

Stay after for a meet and greet and autographs with the cast in the lobby. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program. Running time is one hour with one 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. The theater also hosts birthday parties (Happy Birthday, Chloe!).

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present Disney’s “Cinderella KIDS” through Oct. 29. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Michele Ragusa as Rose in a scene from ‘Gypsy’

By Heidi Sutton 

Since its Broadway debut in 1959, “Gypsy” has often been referred to as one of the greatest musicals of all time, with such classic hits as “If Mama Was Married,” “Together Wherever We Go,” “Let Me Entertain You” and everyone’s favorite, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Now the award-winning show arrives at the Engeman Theater in Northport through Oct. 29 and lives up to its reputation in spades.

Michele Ragusa (as Rose), Kyla Carter (as Baby June) and Amanda Swickle (as Baby Louise)

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Gypsy” is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of the 1930s burlesque star Rose Louise Horvick, known professionally as Gypsy Rose Lee. Her mother Rose has big dreams for her youngest daughter June (actress June Havoc) to make it in show biz and drags both sisters around the country to perform their Vaudeville act, which isn’t very good.

Rose hires dancers and an agent, Herbie, to help them get gigs, but the act never gets off the ground. When June has finally had enough and runs off to elope with one of the dancers, Rose turns her attention to the less talented Louise. It is then that the audience realizes that Rose is the one craving stardom and Louise is just a pawn to achieve that goal.

With a totally revised show, Louise and her dancers mistakenly end up in a burlesque house. With not a dime to their name, Rose convinces Louise to give stripping a try and Gypsy Rose Lee is born. Now famous all over the world, Louise eventually tires of her mother’s controlling ways and breaks away, leaving Rose devastated and alone in the final scene.

Austen Danielle Bohmer (Louise) and Charity Van Tassel (June) in a scene from ‘Gypsy’

Directed by Igor Golden, the large cast features Michele Ragusa as Rose, Austen Danielle Bohmer as Louise, Charity Van Tassel as June and John Scherer as Herbie. From her first solo, “Some People,” to the finale, “Rose’s Turn,” Ragusa shines in the role of the quintessential stage mother. Last seen on the Engeman stage as the scheming Mrs. Meers in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Ragusa can easily take a seat alongside her predecessors Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler and Tyne Daly.

Bohmer, making her debut on the Engeman stage, gives a rousing performance as Louise. Watching her transform from a shy, awkward teenager to a burlesque star is truly remarkable. Though only seen in the first act, Van Tassel has her work cut out for her as the star of a failing Vaudeville act that sometimes includes a cow. Scherer is brilliant as Herbie and quickly garners sympathy from the audience as he patiently waits for years for Rose to marry him, only to walk away in the end.

Bryan Thomas Hunt and Austen Danielle Bohmer perform “All I Need Is the Girl.”

There are too many wonderful performances to mention, and the entire ensemble is terrific — particularly when delivering Drew Humphrey’s clever choreography. But special mention must be made of Jennifer Collester Tully, Suzanne Mason and Amber Carson for their showstoppping rendition of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” and to Bryan Thomas Hunt as Tulsa who gives an incredible performance in “All I Need Is the Girl.”

The set, designed by Nate Bertone, is impeccable and lighting by Zach Blane is brilliantly executed. Kudos to Kurt Alger for capturing America’s fading Vaudeville circuit with beautifully detailed costumes and to the six-member powerhouse band led by Alex Bart that tie the show together in a neat little package that is not to be missed.

Let the Engeman entertain you. Go see “Gypsy.”

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Gypsy” through Oct. 29. Tickets range from $73 to $78. Free valet parking. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

TracyLynn Conner and Brian Gill in a scene from 'The Bridges of Madison County'

By Michael Tessler

You know you’ve seen an incredible production when you find yourself pondering your own life and place in the universe after exiting the theater. That was the case last Sunday afternoon after attending a production of “The Bridges of Madison County” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

TracyLynn Conner and Brian Gill with the cast from ‘The Bridges of Madison County’

Based on the award-winning novel by Robert James Walker and the beloved film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, this musical adaptation has a score worthy of Broadway, and Theatre Three provides a cast equally deserving of that designation.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, this is an unconventional love story. Not cliched but brutally honest and so refreshingly human.

As not to spoil much, we meet our protagonist Francesca, an Italian refugee fleeing a war-torn Italy and a life she’s ready to leave behind. To accomplish this she marries Bud Johnson, a simple-minded but well-meaning American soldier who left life on the farm to serve his country. Both travel back to the United States where they build a home and a beautiful family. Their son Michael doesn’t want to live the life of a farmer like his father; their daughter Carolyn, however, embraces it as she trains an award-winning steer for the annual state fair.

Francesca, lovingly called Fran by her husband, longs for the life she dreamed of as a little girl. She feels it is far too late to begin anew, and while there is food on the table, there’s no money for her to visit her home in Italy and the life she left behind. So she settles for a life as a farmer’s wife, trying to find contentment packing lunches.

From left, Marissa Girgus, Dennis Creighton, Steve McCoy, TracyLynn Conner, Matthew Rafanelli and Ella Watts in a scene from ‘The Bridges of Madison County’

Everything changes for Fran when her husband and children take a trip to the state fair. She gets a rare opportunity to breathe and relax. That is until a beat up pickup truck rolls into her driveway and with it the arrival of Robert Kincaid — a professional photographer from National Geographic putting together a photo series on bridges throughout the United States. He’s lost and needs some directions. He’s well-traveled, having just recently visited Italy and having seen every corner of the globe. Fran invites him into her home and, by extension, her life. Thus her world changes forever.

Though I won’t spoil the rest, the show is a real treat. You’ll feel just about every emotion in the book in this two-act musical. Once again Jeffrey Sanzel shines as a director capable of any genre. His unique vision can make a timeless story feel brand new again.

Undoubtedly some lines are picked up directly from the book and film adaptation, but Sanzel’s production takes you for a ride in that worn down pickup truck. You get a glimpse into someone’s world, and that’s a beautiful thing. Sanzel guides his incredibly talented cast, making it impossible not to feel for these characters. I found myself so invested in characters who managed to emote so much in such a short time. Sanzel has no problem setting the bar higher and higher with each passing performance.

This show’s phenomenal cast certainly made his job easier though! Leading the production is the show’s star, TracyLynn Conner who portrays Francesca. First off, her accent is marvelous and never breaks even once. Her voice is one of the finest I’ve ever heard on a stage. Operatic, emotional and just so beautiful to listen to.

Much credit goes to Jeffrey Hoffman who handled the show’s musical direction and turned this small cast into an incredible musical ensemble.

Matthew Rafanelli and Ella Watts

Fran’s husband Bud is played by Dennis Creighton, who really captures the essence of the character and shows his musical tenor in the show’s second act and final number. He’s accompanied by two incredible young actors — Ella Watts as their daughter Carolyn and Matthew Rafanelli as her bookish brother, Michael. I was particularly impressed with Watts. This former star of NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!” has a voice so incredibly refined that you wish she had even more time on stage. Rafanelli really shines in his role and you’ll find yourself constantly rooting for him and his dreams and flashing back to your own childhood sibling drama. No doubt we’ll be seeing both actors on stage many times in the future!

Theatre Three veteran and Bryan Cranston look alike Steve McCoy remains one of my favorite company members. He plays Charlie — the friendly, simpleton neighbor of the Johnsons and provides comic relief throughout some of the show’s tougher moments. His wife Marge provides nonstop laughter followed by some incredibly endearing scenes. She is portrayed by the incredibly talented Amy Wodon Huben.

Brian Gill’s low and powerful voice brings Robert Kincaid, the world traveling photographer to life. His duets with Conner are some of the highlights of the show. His personality is infectious and translates beautifully on stage.

Last, though certainly not least, is the incredibly diversified performances of Marissa Girgus who plays not one but over four roles. She steps into each of them flawlessly, creating performances both touching and comedic. I felt all sorts of emotions during her nothing short of groovy performance of “Another Life.”

Being a smaller cast, you can get a sense that each character was crafted to perfection not just by the actors but by their director. They feel so real and so dynamic, which is exceptional as several actors play multiple roles … something that usually takes you out of an experience but now suddenly enhances it.

Brian Gill and TracyLynn Conner

My favorite part of the show (outside of its cast) was its unique score, which combines two radically different genres to make something genuinely unique. Strings played as though from the Italian countryside, harrowing and haunting — a reminder of an old world, an abandoned life combined with the lively sound of the great American Midwest, and the wholehearted lifestyle of the American farmer. For a brief moment these sounds clash into something unique and unforgettable.

This may be one of the most beautiful sets I’ve seen at Theatre Three. Randall Parsons transports you to the great American Midwest. Robert W. Henderson Jr., the show’s lighting designer, ensures the light breaks through the barn wood in spectacular ways. One can’t help but feel nostalgic when looking at the kitchen they designed as well.

From top to bottom this show is local theater at its finest. Provoking several audible gasps from the audience followed by thunderous rounds of applause, “The Bridges of Madison County” is something you wish you could photograph and treasure forever.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Bridges of Madison County” on the Mainstage through Oct. 28. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 not permitted. Contains adult subject matter. Parental discretion is advised.

A special event, “Behind the Curtain with ‘The Bridges of Madison County’” will be held on Oct. 22. Join Director Jeffrey Sanzel, musical director Jeffrey Hoffman and actor TracyLynn Conner for a freewheeling exploration of this powerful contemporary musical. The full buffet supper and talk will begin at 5 p.m. $30 per person. The event will be followed by the Mainstage performance of “The Bridges of Madison County” at 7 p.m. Tickets for the performance may be purchased separately.

For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Stephen Treglia as Sancho Panza and Michael Bertolini as Don Quixote’ in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’ Photo by Courtney Braun

By Kyle Barr

 

In the conflict between cynical realism and colorful idealism, “Man of La Mancha” is fully in support of the latter even while being so close to giving into the former. It is a production that teeters on this line even in the most silly of circumstances, and it is this fine line that requires quite a lot from everyone involved from music to set design to acting so that the meaning does not get confused.

It is good then that the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is up to the challenge.

Michael Bertolini as Don Quixote’ in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’ Photo by Courtney Braun

While classic productions like “Man of La Mancha” (a 1960s Broadway production ran for over 2,000 performances) give local theaters the opportunity to perform something familiar, these shows can have the side effect of giving the impression that it is “amateur hour.” However, the SPAC, even on its opening night, not only manages to have a show with great performances on every level, but it also manages to capture the depth and heart of the play.

The story first centers upon the “bad poet and idealist” Miguel de Cervantes who, along with his manservant, is arrested by the Spanish Inquisition under the charge of foreclosing on a church. In prison, all their possessions are taken by the other inmates, including the tough yet sympathetic “Governor,” who declares they will put on a mock trial for Cervantes and that if he is found guilty everything including his precious manuscript will be taken or burned.

The aging gentleman declares he wishes to present his trial in the form of a play about a man named Alonso Quijana, who has become so fed up with the evil of the world and has spent so much time around books on ancient chivalry that he goes insane, dons a breastplate and helmet and makes himself a knight errant named Don Quixote. He has the other inmates act out characters throughout his defense, all while time is ticking down before he must meet his real trial in front of the Inquisition.

The cast of ‘Man of La Mancha’. Photo by Courtney Braun

What is remarkable about the production, and what director Kenneth J. Washington and the other folks at the SPAC have managed to convey, is how well the theme and meaning builds over time. At first the audience must agree with the inmates, thinking Cervantes is an idiot idealist who has little excuse for his actions. Slowly it is clear through the obtuse silliness of Don Quixote that Cervantes might have a point, and eventually it is clear the production is a metanarrative about theater and fiction itself.

It is a theme expressed even by the set design, headed by resident designer Tim Golebiewski. At first the set seems well designed, with good work on the foreground and the paintings of stonework that seems truly lifelike. But it all seems a little dull and gray, easily blending into each other.

However, this works to the play’s themes. The audience is there inside this dungeon, and just like the inmates the place is dull and harrowing. Once Don Quixote is on stage, running around with broken lance and bent sword, both inmates and audience imagine a more colorful scene much in the way that Quixote seems to imagine it. It is all enhanced by lighting designer Chris Creevy who does a fine job on the subtle hints of lighting to fit the scene.

Of course, this setup would not work at all unless the actors convey that they too are being transported into Cervantes’ world, and on opening night last Saturday the entire cast went above and beyond what was expected.

Stephen Treglia as Sancho Panza and Michael Bertolini as Don Quixote’ in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’ Photo by Courtney Braun

While actors are often expected to play multiple parts on the stage throughout a play, lead Michael Bertolini has the harder job of switching between Cervantes, Quixote and Quijana often in the middle of a scene. Nevertheless, he manages it flawlessly, with each character having a distinct presence on stage. Cervantes is composed and gentlemanly, while Quixote is loud, boisterous while cripplingly old. It was a joy to watch Bertolini put on makeup right on stage, quickly transforming himself into another character in a scene only usually reserved for behind the stage.

SPAC veteran Brianne Boyd, who plays Alonsa, the kitchen wench of the local inn, fills her roll with a great melancholy that is pitch perfect, not to mention her voice that captures that loneliness and hopelessness especially in her song “It’s All the Same,” which musical director Melissa Coyle and choreographer Danielle Nigro must have spent countless hours getting just right. The song stands out as the most memorable and affecting number of the entire production.

The other standouts of the cast are easily Stephen Treglia as the manservant Sancho Panza, the unflappable sidekick to both Cervantes and Quixote, and Steve Ayle, his first time at the SPAC, as both the Duke and Dr. Carrasco, who has a stern face when talking of the merits of cynicism and realism over idealism.

If you have never seen “Man of La Mancha,” then SPAC’s production is a great introduction to the magnificent story. If you have seen La Mancha before, then this is a good way to remember why you loved it so much.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Man of La Mancha” through Oct. 22. Tickets are $35 adults, $32 seniors, $20 students with valid ID. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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From left, Robert Cogliati, president of the board of trustees, VNSHS; Todd Latchford, group sales manager, Engeman Theater; Barbara Sorelle; event planner, VNSH; Linda Taylor, CEO, VNSHS; and Kevin J. O’Neill, owner, Engeman Theater. Photo from Engeman Theater

On Aug. 9, John W. Engeman Theater owner Kevin J. O’Neill presented a check to Robert Cogliati, president of the board of trustees; Barbara Sorelle, event planner; and Linda Taylor, CEO of Visiting Nurse Service & Hospice of Suffolk Inc. (VNSHS).

At a July 12 performance of “Grease,” VNSHS hosted a VIP pre-show event, consisting of an open bar, a food spread donated by Northport Caterers and several raffle items. A significant portion of the proceeds from every ticket sold for the evening’s performance went back to VNSHS, along with a contribution from the theater, totaling $12,500.

Taylor stated that the funds raised by the event support the organization in various capacities, but that the area most in need of support is the hospice house.

“We really enjoy working with everyone at the theater on these events,” Taylor added. “It is a real team effort to contribute to Visiting Nurse Service and the hospice house.”

The event was part of the Engeman Theater’s Fundraising Program, through which not-for-profit organizations within the community can raise funds to support their specific programs and causes through Main Stage performances at the theater. At each fundraising event, a significant portion of the ticket sales proceeds goes back to the host organization.

VNSHS is a not-for-profit, community-based home health care and hospice agency, responding to community needs as they arise, maintaining a tradition of charitable and compassionate care in the home, and providing community service activities such as blood drives, bereavement support and flu clinics.

“Visiting Nurse Service does phenomenal work, and I think Northport is a better place as the result of their efforts,” said O’Neill. “They are another staple in the community, and we’re proud to support the incredibly valuable work they do.”

The spot at 225 Main Street will be where Northport Village will begin construction for a new inn. Photo from John W. Engeman Theater

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Blueprints and floor plans can be drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn, which overcame its first legal hurdle last week.

Northport Village trustees voted 3 to 1 to approve a code modification that paves the way for the construction of hotels and/or inns within the village’s downtown business district. Mayor George Doll and Trustees Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen voted in favor, and the sole dissenting vote was cast by Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin.

The village code approved Aug. 22 sets basic guidelines to regulate any future construction of a hotel and/or inn including maximum height and required parking spaces.

“There’s a tremendous need for lodging in this area” said Kevin O’Neill, managing director of John W. Engeman Theater. “Long Island is one of the most underserved locations in the United States for lodging.”

An artistic rendering of what the proposed hotel and restaurant at 225 Main Street in Northport Village may look like. Photo from Kevin O’Neill

O’Neill, along with his business partner Richard Dolce, the theater’s producing artistic director, first presented a proposal for a 24-room Northport Inn and restaurant to be built at 225 Main Street in May, feet away from the Engeman.

“With the entrepreneurial juices that we both have, we were trying to figure out different ways that we can hedge the risk of a show being successful or not to help keep us afloat,” O’Neill said. “The vision came into play where we could create a restaurant that synergizes with the theater and an inn.”

The main inspiration for the proposal came from The American Hotel in Sag Harbor, according to O’Neill, in addition to several boutique lodgings that Dolce and O’Neill visited in Camden, Maine, last year. The partners said their goal is to bring first-class harborside lodging to the village along with a restaurant to serve meals and drinks to both overnight visitors and theatergoers.

“We have no intention of this becoming a glitzy Hampton-type thing,” O’Neill said. “We think it could be a charming harbor town like you have in Maine, but seven hours closer.”

Since the initial presentation in May, the main public criticism voiced by residents and the sole dissenting trustee, Tobin, has been what the potential impact the addition of the hotel and restaurant would have on the village’s parking and traffic congestion. Public comments were accepted by the village board from May 16 to July 18.

“We’re already stressed for parking on Main Street,” Tobin said. “I support the hotel, I support the restaurant. The question is what size restaurant will work within downtown Northport?”

The proposed plans as set forth call for a ground-level, 200-seat restaurant, according to O’Neill. Tobin said a parking and traffic study should have been conducted prior to the trustees’ vote to modify the village code to allow for the construction of the hotel/inn.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark.”

—Kevin O’Neill

“[A parking and traffic study] would give us guidance on how many seats a restaurant could have and yet have minimal parking and traffic problems,” Tobin said. “We could use a study to determine the balance between the economic needs of the hotel and the logistical needs of the village and its residents.”

O’Neill stressed that he and Dolce are “very conscious” of parking concerns in Northport, citing that the village currently has approximately 600 public parking spaces, largely at the west end of the business district. He said it is their plan to convert the existing two parking lots, of 12 spaces each, currently on the property into a total of 54 parking spots. This is more than the number required under the village code passed on Aug. 22, according to O’Neill.

“We have done tireless research and we are confident that the parking we are providing, along with our valet that we’ve provided for the last 10 years, that we will have a seamless process to handle this,” he said.

The John W. Engeman Theater currently offers a valet parking service for  its attendees, managing to service and park vehicles for 390 patrons up to twice a day for weekend matinees and evening performances.

A secondary issue raised by Tobin and residents was a concern that the 200-seat restaurant could be used for catering large events, causing a large influx of vehicular traffic at a time. However, O’Neill said he and Dolce have no interest in providing catering service for weddings, bat mitzvahs or other special occasions.

O’Neill said he hopes to have blueprints and a site plan drawn up for the proposed Northport Inn by Nov. 1 to present to the village, with the hopes of beginning construction in early spring 2018.

“We are taking a building that’s a blight upon the community and turning it into a landmark,” O’Neill said.

Both O’Neill and Dolce said they welcome any village residents with questions or concerns about their proposal to contact them directly for further discussion.

Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

Lifting Spirits

On Aug. 15, actors and staff from the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport presented a fully staged production of the Broadway musical “Seussical the Musical” for over 100 patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

The production, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Northwell Health, took place in the hospital’s lobby, which had been transformed into an intimate theater space, complete with a stage, lighting, professional sound and full costumes. An enthusiast audience of young patients, parents and hospital staff attended the production, which was also broadcast to televisions in all of the center’s in-patient bedrooms.

“On behalf of all of our young patients at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the people who love them, we are once again delighted to welcome the very talented cast who brought us ‘Seussical the Musical,’” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “Being in the hospital can be a very lonely experience for children, especially in the summer because of all the activities they’re missing. Thanks to the dedicated and generous troupe at the John W. Engeman Theater, we’re able to brighten their spirits.”

Before the performance began, each patient in the audience was given a “Seussical” T-shirt and a colorful program with Dr. Seuss-themed activities. When the show ended, audience members were able to meet the cast, take photos and have their playbills autographed by the actors.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring ‘Seussical the Musical’ once again to CCMC. It is an opportunity for us to lighten the load that the patients and families are carrying with a night of joy,” said John W. Engeman Theater owner Kevin O’Neill. “We are very appreciative of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Northwell Health sponsorships that help make this wonderful evening possible.”

‘Rich Boy, Rich Girl’ starring C. Thomas Howell will be screened at the festival.

By Rita J. Egan

The Global Revolution Film Festival is coming to the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts on Aug. 25 to 27, and North Shore film lovers are in for a revolution of the creative type. The event will consist of 10 two-hour blocks of film showings — each block consisting of a combination of original shorts, documentaries and full-length films.

A scene from ‘I’m Still Here’

Ken Washington, theater director, said the Smithtown Performing Arts Council was approached by the organizers of the film festival, and the theater was fortunate to have the weekend open. “We have been trying to integrate films into our program, and this seemed like a good way to make that happen,” he said.

Filmmaker Andrew Henriques, one of the organizers of the festival along with founder Jamal Blair and Greg Pursino, said the first two years the event was held in Farmingdale, and this year they searched for a new venue.

“We’ve been looking for a while for a festival location that is close to a train station, and the Smithtown theater is just two blocks away,” Henriques said. “And it has access to places that the filmmakers can go right after their screening because a lot of times you want to keep the party going. You’re there with a bunch of friends; you saw an awesome film; you’re high on the applause and getting to see your movie on a big screen, so you want to go someplace … There are so many locations for them to go [in Smithtown] and continue the celebration.”

He continued, “For us it’s important that they have a place to go and talk, network and talk to other directors and just socialize and talk shop. That’s a big part of it.”

Henriques, who grew up in Bellport, said Pursino discovered the theater, and he was impressed when his colleague showed him the location and loved that it had a balcony — something not many theaters have anymore.

“It reminded me of a theater from New York City,” he said. “It’s beautiful inside, and it has so much character. I know other filmmakers and other creative artistic people are going to be blown away by the theater.”

A scene from ‘The Last Warriors’

Henriques said he met Pursino, a fellow filmmaker, at a film festival, and Blair, another filmmaker, through Facebook. The organizers’ motto is “Story Above Stars” a slogan they thought of after attending some film festivals and noticing the poor quality of a few movies even though they featured recognizable actors. Their theory is that many events include movies with famous stars, knowing they will show up for the movie’s screening and draw in audiences.

“We’re not star chasing,” Henriques said.

The Global Revolution organizers choose films from all over the globe with stories that they believe will make audiences think while being entertained.

“We don’t care who is in your film,” Henriques said. “If you have a great film and a great story, you’re in.” He said the organizers chose to include web series in the event, something most film festivals don’t do; and there were no restrictions when it came to submissions. They looked for “a great plethora of fantastic films with unique stories.”

“That’s what we look for mostly,” Henriques said. “Something different; something outside of the typical things you might see in Hollywood that are telling the same old stories and remakes over and over again.”

When judging submissions for the festival six judges look for aspects such as a good storyline, cinematography, production, sound quality and pacing. The filmmaker said they looked for films that made you feel as if you are not watching a movie.

“The more that you are drawn away from the story the less points you get,” Henriques said. “A lot of things can draw you away from a story — bad camera angles, bad acting, bad sound. So, anything that takes away from the story, we start deducting points.”

Henriques said there is no quota for how many films of a certain genre they include. What is presented is based on the quality of the movie. “If we get in all comedies that are better than anything else we get, we’re going to show all comedies,” he said.

However, this year’s festival includes a variety of genres from a film that explores the current worldwide issue of sex trafficking and is inspired by real events, “I Am Still Here,” to Henriques’ romantic comedy “Rich Boy, Rich Girl” that he co-directed with Judy San Roman. The filmmaker said the comedy is the only one in the festival that features a known actor in the states, C. Thomas Howell, who rose to fame with the 1983 movie “The Outsiders.”

‘Cat Planet’ will be screened on Aug. 26.

Ten two-hour blocks of movies will be shown over the three days. Friday’s films will run from 1 to 9:30 p.m. with a networking session for directors, actors and fans at noon. Saturday’s films will be screened from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., while Sunday’s screenings will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. followed by a closing awards ceremony from 7 to 8 p.m. Each block is $10 or $25 for a day pass (good for all films shown on one day) or $60 for a full festival pass (good for all days and all blocks).

Washington hopes that local film lovers will enjoy the new venture at the theater. “We’re honored to be hosting the event and hope it can be enormously successful and become an annual occurrence here in Smithtown,” he said.

Henriques said the mission of Global Revolution Film Festival is to show films that will have audience members thinking after they leave the theater. “My main hope is that they walk away and they have films they can talk about where it just doesn’t disappear five minutes afterwards,” he said. “The experience just continues on.”

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2 East Main Street in Smithtown. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Film Festival Schedule

Aug. 25

Noon to 1 p.m. : Networking for directors, actors and fans

1 to 3 p.m. {Block 1}

“Vida Muertos”

“End Unsung”

“Two Texas”

“JFK Killer and Motives Revealed”

“I Am Still Here”

4 to 6 p.m. {Block 2}

“Strange Harvest”

“Back Stabber”

“Impervia”

“Play-Time”

“Uncle Chuck”

“Pearl Rain”

“Forgive Me”

7:30 to 9:30 p.m. {Block 3}

“Rich Boy, Rich Girl”

Aug. 26

10 a.m. to noon {Block 1}

“Fuerza”

“The Last Warriors”

“Full Service”

“The Man with the Western Hat”

“Micro Bites”

“Cat Planet”

1 to 3 p.m. {Block 2}

“Fairfield Follies”

“The F-word”

“A Matter of Seconds”

4 to 6 p.m. {Block 3}

“The Torments of Love”

“The Bake Job”

“Breaking the Silence”

“Slapface”

“Numbness”

“Madam Trigger”

7 to 9 p.m. {Block 4}

“Power of Prayer”

“Pet”

“The Son, The Father”

“Disco”

Aug. 27

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. {Block 1}

“The Accompanying Dancer”

“Pechorin”

2 to 4 p.m. {Block 2}

“Jihad”

5 to 7 p.m. {Block 3}

“Dual City”

“Cup of Tea”

“Christina Wood Memorial”

“Mirror Image”

7 to 8 p.m. : Closing/Awards Ceremony

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