Theater

JAZZ HANDS The cast of 'A Kooky Spooky Halloween'

By Heidi Sutton

With Halloween just around the corner, Theatre Three has all the bases covered. While mature audiences enjoy a creepy and spooky “The Addams Family,” young theatergoers can have fun as well with an adorable show titled “A Kooky Spooky Halloween.” The original musical written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Steve McCoy returns to the theater for the second year in a row through Oct. 27.

A scene from the show

The story centers around a friendly ghost named Abner (Steven Uihlein) who has just graduated from Haunting High School and is given a medallion of invisibility. Abner is immediately assigned to haunt Aberdeen’s Boarding House, famously known for being the most haunted house in Harrison County U.S.A and for serving the best toast. There are only two rules he has to follow — he can only haunt at night and he can’t lose the medallion or he’ll be seen by the living.

But Abner has a secret — he is afraid of the dark, which is “like a vampire who’s afraid of necks!” according to his best friend Lavinda the Witch (Michelle LaBozzetta). She promptly gives him a night-light to wear and promises to help him with his haunting duties.

When Abner and Lavinda arrive at the boarding house, they find Ma Aberdeen (Ginger Dalton), the finest toast maker in the land, and her boarders, Kit Garret (Nicole Bianco) and the Petersons — Paul the periodontist (Andrew Lenahan), his wife Penelope (Chrysovalantou Tsoumpelis) and their son Pip (Eric J. Hughes), whose alliterations using words that start with the letter P are positively perplexing, in the kitchen getting ready for Halloween.

When Pip puts on a pumpkin pullover and starts to tell pumpkin jokes (okay I’ll stop), Abner puts a speed spell on the group, making them stuff Halloween goodie bags, do jumping jacks, quack like a duck, sing and dance in fast motion. He then casts a spell to make them get stuck to each other.

Abner casts a speed spell

In a sudden twist of events, fellow graduate and ghost with a grudge Dora Pike (Beth Ladd) shows up and steals Abner’s night-light and medallion of invisibility and hides them in Black Ridge Gulch, the deepest, darkest gorge in the entire world (where it’s really, really dark). Now visible, Abner must try to convince the boarders, who are still stuck to each other, to help him and Lavinda get his property back. Will they help him? And will Abner be able to overcome his fear of the dark?

Directed by Sanzel, the eight-member adult cast delivers an energetic performance that touches on the power of friendship and the importance of helping others.

Accompanied on piano by Douglas Quattrock and choreographed by Bianco, the song and dance numbers are terrific, especially “Into the World I Go” by Abner, the downright creepy “It Will All Fade to Black” by Dora, the sweet “A Witch Is a Person” by Lavinda and the fun group number, “It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast.”

The end result is a hauntingly fun afternoon that children and parents will love.

Snacks and beverages are available for purchase during intermission and booster seats are available. Costumes are encouraged and souvenir cat, pumpkin, vampire and ghost dolls will be available for purchase before the show and during intermission for $5. 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” through Oct. 27. Children’s theater continues with “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From left, Shane McGlone, Makayla Connolly, Lizzie Dolce, Meaghan Maher, Danny Feldman and Olivia Freiberger

By Heidi Sutton

The John W. Engeman Theater’s latest children’s production, “The Little Mermaid Jr.” opened last weekend with a big splash.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, Disney’s animated film “The Little Mermaid” was adapted for the stage in 2007 and made it to Broadway in 2008. Now a condensed children’s version of the Broadway musical swims over to Northport and does not disappoint. Kevin F. Story expertly directs a cast of 20 talented young actors in a shimmering production that runs weekends on the Engeman stage through October.

Meaghan Maher as Ariel. Photo by John Gadbery

The story centers around Princess Ariel (the incredible Meaghan Maher), the youngest of King Triton’s daughters who longs to leave her ocean home to live with humans. She often visits the surface to observe these strange creatures with legs and even has a secret collection of man-made thingamabobs and dinglehoppers.

One day she sees Prince Eric (played by the handsome Shane McGlone) on a ship and immediately falls in love. When his ship is caught in a storm caused by Ariel’s evil aunt, Ursula the sea witch (Olivia Freiberger), Eric falls overboard and is quickly rescued by the mermaid princess.

When King Triton (Theron Viljoen) finds out Ariel has been visiting the world above, they argue and she runs away, only to be ambushed by Ursula’s slippery minions Flotsam and Jetsam (Meaghan McInnes and Amelia Freiberger, respectively) who convince her that the sea witch can make her wish to be human come true. The catch is that Ariel will have to give up her voice and Eric must fall in love with her in three days or she would lose her soul forever. With a new pair of legs and help from her friends Flounder (Makayla Connolly), Sebastian (Danny Feldman) and Scuttle (Lizzie Dolce), Ariel sets off to follow her heart. Will she get her wish or will Auntie Ursula get in the way?

Ursula and her minions Jetsam and Flotsam. Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glen Slater, the show features all the wonderful songs we have come to love including the fun-filled “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” the hilarious “Les Poissons” by Chef Louis (Scott Cousins) and the chilling “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” which has the profound underlying message that “a woman doesn’t know how precious her voice is until she has been silenced.” The highlight of the afternoon, however, is hearing Maher perform a breathtaking rendition of “Part of Your World.” What a voice! No wonder Ursula wants it!

In the name of Poseidon, bring your children to see this show. They’ll love you for it. Running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. 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.

The John W, Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present ‘The Little Mermaid Jr.” through Oct. 28. Children’s theater continues with “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30 and “Seussical the Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

*This article was updated on Oct. 5.

From left, Eliana Gruvman, Alia Romanelli, Victoria Barics, Cole Napolitano, Shane DeCamp and Haley Justine

By Heidi Sutton

While many families wait anxiously for the sequel to Disney’s 1964 “Mary Poppins” to hit local theaters in December, a lovely theater version of the original film and Broadway musical has flown over to the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. Directed by Jordan Hue and performed by a talented cast of 28 local children ranging in age from 10 to 18, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins Jr.” will entertain theatergoers through Oct. 28.

Logan O’Leary, Alia Romanelli and Shane DeCamp in a scene from ‘Mary Poppins Jr.’

Jack-of-all-trades Bert (Mike Shapiro) transports us back to London’s Cherry Tree Lane where we meet the Banks family — father George (Logan O’Leary) who only wants precision and order and is consumed by his work at the bank; mother Winifred (Haley Justine) who is busy trying to live up to her husband’s social aspirations; and children Jane (Alia Romanelli) and Michael (Shane DeCamp), who in the last four months have had six nannies come and go. When Mary Poppins (a superbly cast Victoria Barics) arrives at their doorstep, she has her work cut out for her.

With Bert’s help, a bit of magic (how did she get that 3-foot plant in her bag?) and lots of patience (“spit spot”), Mary Poppins helps bring the family closer with the overall inspiring message of “anything can happen if you let it” and promises to stay until the wind changes, which is the end of the first act. George’s old nanny, Miss Andrew  (Erika Hinson as “the holy terror”) arrives in the second act to make the children’s lives so miserable that they decide to run away. Will Mary Poppins return to save the day?

Victoria Barics and Mike Shapiro in a scene from ‘Mary Poppins Jr.’

Many of the endearing songs from the original film are here, including “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “The Perfect Nanny,” “A Spoonful of Sugar” and the beautiful “Feed the Birds.” The dance numbers, “Jolly Holiday,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time,” choreographed by Michelle Rubino, are big, bold and wonderful. The costumes, designed by Ronald Green III, are “practically perfect” especially Mary Poppins’ outfit variations.

Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Booster seats are available. Stay for a meet and greet with Mary Poppins and Bert after the show.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Mary Poppins Jr.” through Oct. 28. Children’s theater continues with Ken Ludwig’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas” from Nov. 17 to Dec. 30 and Disney’s “Aladdin Jr.” from Jan. 12 to Feb. 24. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Photos courtesy of SPAC

The cast of ‘Man of La Mancha’

By Rita J. Egan

The cast and crew of John W. Engeman Theater’s “Man of La Mancha” have set off on a quest resulting in a production worthy of Broadway. The musical opened at the theater Sept. 13, and on the night of the press opening, Sept. 15, theatergoers filled the venue looking forward to the reincarnation of the perennial favorite.

“Man of La Mancha” debuted off-Broadway in 1965 and went on to win five Tony Awards. Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the Northport version is masterfully directed by Peter Flynn.

Taking its cue from literature, the musical takes the story of “Don Quixote” written by Miguel de Cervantes and sets it to music. In the play, which takes place during the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 16th century, Cervantes is in prison waiting for his trial. Upon his arrival, his fellow prisoners try to take his belongings, including the manuscript of the story he is writing. 

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza) in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’

Following the tradition of prisoners putting newcomers on trial, Cervantes is charged with being an idealist, and a mock trial begins. The writer, in an attempt to defend himself, has his fellow prisoners play the characters in “Don Quixote.” Through their re-creations, audience members meet Alonso Quijano, the aging man who believes he’s a knight-errant and calls himself Don Quixote. Quijano and his squire Sancho Panza embark on a journey where they meet an array of characters including Aldonza the bitter serving woman and prostitute at an inn who Quixote envisions as a virtuous lady.

Michael Bottari and Ronald Case have gone above and beyond with the detailed set design of a dungeon on the Engeman stage, and Kurt Alger has done an excellent job with costumes, especially with the Knight of Mirrors’ gear in the second act. Choreographed by Devanand Janki, the musical contains high-energy dance numbers that complement the stellar production. The actors and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Julianne Merrill, are in top form during every number.

Richard Todd Adams as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote is charismatic as the main character who takes his fellow prisoners on a fictional journey. His deep, rich vocals are perfect on every song. When he sings “Dulcinea,” upon meeting Aldonza and sees her as a pure, good woman, his voice has the potential to make many swoon. He also stops the show with his delivery of “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal plays Aldonza with the right amount of sullenness but yet perfectly portrays the character’s softening later in the musical. Her singing, especially her solos, “What Does He Want of Me?” and “Aldonza” are filled with power and emotion.

Carlos Lopez is a delightful and charming Sancho Panza and lends a good amount of comedic relief including during his solos “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip.”

Janet Dacal (Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza)

All of the ensemble members do a fantastic job, and each has time to shine in the spotlight. Morgan Anita Wood, Garfield Hammonds and Phyllis March are wonderful during “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” Deven Kolluri does a great job as the cynical Duke and Dr. Carrasco. In the prison scenes where he plays Duke, he portrays the character’s disdain for Cervantes perfectly. His vocals are strong when he joins Wood, Hammonds and March on “We’re Only Thinking of Him.”

Joshua Wayne Oxyer, Cody Mowrey, Juan Luis Espinal, Enrique Cruz DeJesus and Diego Gonzalez as the Muleteers sound fantastic together on the number “Little Bird, Little Bird.” Bruce Winant easily goes back and forth from the tough governor to the kind innkeeper, and Mowrey garners some laughs as the barber who tries to understand Quixote’s delusions. 

The story of “Don Quixote” and “Man of La Mancha” is more than a tale of a man gone mad battling a windmill he thinks is a giant. It’s about seeing the good in people and the world even when strife seems to prevail. Cervantes and Don Quixote look to escape the realities of life by searching for the good in all things and people, and their attitudes are contagious. It’s obvious the cast gets this message as they seamlessly go from conveying doubtfulness over their new dungeon mate to showing hope in the impossible dream by the end. For theater lovers on a quest for a musical that has it all, the Engeman’s “Man of La Mancha” is a dream.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, located at 250 Main St, Northport presents “Man of La Mancha” through Oct. 28. Running time is approximately 2.5 hours with a 15-minute intermission and tickets are $73; $78 for Saturday evening performances. Free valet parking is available. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

The cast of 'The Addams Family'. Photo by Brian Hoerger

By Heidi Sutton

Halloween is still a few weeks away, but there’s something creepy and kooky and altogether spooky going on at Theatre Three that’s not to be missed.

The theater opens its 49th season with the musical comedy “The Addams Family,” a nostalgic trip down memory lane for fans of this atypical clan, and judging by the packed house on opening night, that amounts to quite a few.

Created by Charles Addams, the lovable, albeit macabre, family first appeared in a New Yorker comic strip in 1938 but truly came to life in the 1960s ABC television series starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez and Morticia. The two film versions in the 1990s paved the way for the Broadway musical in 2010 starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth.

The cast of ‘The Addams Family’. Photo by Brian Hoerger

Last Saturday’s opening performance began as it should, with the audience snapping their fingers or clapping their hands to the iconic theme song, and suddenly they appeared — all the familiar, eccentric characters we have all come to love — Gomez (Matt Senese), Morticia (TracyLynn Conner), Uncle Fester (Rick Grossman), Grandma (Ginger Dalton), Wednesday (Jessica Murphy), Pugsley (Max Venezia), Lurch (James Taffurelli) and Thing and Cousin Itt (both played by Cameron Turner). What followed was a fun, wonderful evening of live theater.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the show opens, most fittingly, in the family cemetery (“Oh the intoxicating smell of the graveyard!”) as the family lets their ancestors out of a mausoleum to celebrate what it is to be an Addams. It is here that we see the first of many “Thriller”-inspired musical numbers, expertly choreographed by Nicole Bianco, that dominate the show.

The storyline revolves around Wednesday who is all grown up and has fallen in love with a “normal boy,” Lucas Beineke (Matt Paredi) from Ohio (“the swing state!”), and wants to bring him and his parents, straight arrow Mal (Steve Ayle) and the perfectly rhyming Alice (Linda May), over for one “normal night.” She confides in her father that she wants to marry Lucas and makes him promise not to tell her mother yet, putting Gomez in several hilarious sticky situations and leading up to his solo, “Trapped (like a corpse in the ground).”

Matt Senese as Gomez and Jessica Murphy as Wednesday. Photo by Brian Hoerger

Uncle Fester, on the other hand, recruits the ancestors to find out if this is really true love, and if so, to help it along. Dressed in ghostly white costumes, they float in and out of every scene as they spy on the family’s affairs.

As the Beineke family arrive, they are invited to take part in the family game, Full Disclosure, during which everyone takes a sip from a sacred chalice and reveals something they’ve never told anyone. When Pugsley steals a magical potion from Grandma (“One swig of that and Mary Poppins turns into Madea!”) and pours it in the chalice, the evening takes a dark and eventful turn.

Accompanied by an outstanding eight-member band led by Jeffrey Hoffman, the 20 musical numbers perfectly tie the storyline together.   The costumes by Chakira Doherty are wonderful, especially for the ghoulish ancestors, and the Gothic set, cleverly designed by Randall Parsons includes panels that swivel and rotate to reveal different scenery. As the actors sing their solo or duet, they move toward the edge of the stage as the curtain closes, allowing the set to be quickly changed for the next scene.

With exceptional vocals, the entire cast become fully immersed in their individual character. The chemistry between Gomez and Morticia is as alive as ever. Morticia: “I feel darkness and grief and unspeakable sorrow.” Gomez: “I love it when you speak sexy, Cara Mia.” 

Matt Senese as Gomez and TracyLynn Conner as Morticia. Photo by Peter Lanscombe

Although she’s in love, Wednesday’s inner darkness makes several appearances, and Uncle Fester is as lovable as ever (yes, he is still in love with the moon.) Pugsley secretly loves to be tortured (electrocuted to be precise) by his big sister, Grandma is still wacky and Lurch is still grunting; but in the end they are just one big family that has to deal with every day issues just like everyone else.

In his director’s notes, Sanzel sums it up perfectly. “The ultimate message of ‘The Addams Family’ musical is to find out who you are so you can be true to yourself. Whether vacationing in the sewers of Paris, starting out in a new marriage or finding the spark in an old one, or flying to your true love (‘To the moon, Alice!’), the Addams Family and ‘The Addams Family’ remind us to ‘live before we die.’”

Go see this wonderful show. You’ll find much to cherish.

Stay after the performance for a photo with the cast on stage if you wish — the $5 donation goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Addams Family” through Oct. 27. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students and $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Jacqueline Hughes, Dennis Creighton and Lorelai Mucciolo in the opening scene of ‘Fun Home’

By Heidi Sutton

When “Fun Home” opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in September 2013, it was so popular its run was extended several times. When the production closed on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 2016 after an 18-month run, it had already made an indelible impression on the world, winning five Tonys, including Best Musical.

Now, making its Long Island premiere, the award-winning musical has taken up residence at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 20.

‘I Want to Play Airplane’
Loreilai Mucciolo and Dennis Creighton in scene from ‘Fun Home’

Based on the 2006 best-selling graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the show, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, features Alison at three stages of life: as a 10-year-old child (a shared role played by Lorelai Mucciolo on opening night/Gabby Blum); a college student at Oberlin (Lisa Naso); and as a 43-year-old (Jacqueline Hughes). The latter Alison narrates the show as she attempts to add captions to her cartoon panels.

Told through flashbacks, Alison shares memories of growing up in a dysfunctional home in a small town in Pennsylvania with her two brothers, Christian (Dylan O’Leary/Jonathan Setzer) and John (Kieran Brown/Brayden E. Bratti). Both of her parents, Helen (Stephanie Moreau) and Bruce (Dennis Creighton) are teachers and her father is also a mortician, running the Bechdel Funeral Home (the children called it the “Fun Home” for short). As the years pass, Alison discovers her own sexuality and the secret life of her closeted gay father. As an adult, she struggles to unlock the mysteries surrounding his tragic death three months after she comes out (“I had no way of knowing that my beginning was your end.”) It is as intimate as storytelling gets with a poignancy and vulnerability that is raw and emotional.

The three Alison’s, from left, Lisa Naso, Loreilai Mucciolo and Jacqueline Hughes in the finale ‘Flying Away’

Accompanied by a seven-member band led by Melissa Coyle, the songs are the heart of the show. All of the numbers, including Mucciolo’s beautiful rendition of “Ring of Keys,” the three children’s Jackson 5 inspired “Come to the Fun Home,” the hilarious “Changing My Major (to sex with Joan)” by Naso, the soulful “Days and Days” by Moreau, the moving “Telephone Wire” by Hughes and the heartbreaking “Edges of the World” by Creighton, are perfectly executed.

Director Kenneth J. Washington has assembled a talented team of the utmost caliber to produce a show that is exemplary. From the actors to the musicians to the choreographer to the set and costume designers, their hard work and dedication has resulted in an incredible evening of live theater and a well-deserved standing ovation on opening night.

Enter “Fun Home” with an open mind and experience the magic of this musical production. You’ll want to see it again and again.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown closes out its 2017-18 season with “Fun Home” through Oct. 20. Running time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For mature audiences. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Photos by Courtney Braun/Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts

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Jessica Murphy will play the role of Wednesday in Theatre Three’s ‘The Addams Family.’

By Melissa Arnold

Jessica Murphy in the role of Wednesday. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From their first appearance in comic strips in the 1930s, the iconic Addams family has won the hearts of many for their “creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky” antics. Their story has been told and retold through television, movies, books and even video games. This fall, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will present “The Addams Family” musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2010.

The show finds the Addams children approaching adulthood, and for daughter Wednesday, there are certainly some growing pains. She’s fallen head over heels for a boy, her first real love, and to her family’s horror, he’s … well, normal. And the Addamses are anything but normal. Things are bound to get weird when Wednesday brings her beau and his parents home to meet her family. Underneath all of the zany comedy you’d expect from “The Addams Family” is a story about love, family, growing up and acceptance. It’s a lighthearted, silly show that’s perfect for the Halloween season.

Jessica Murphy of Northport plays everyone’s favorite goth girl, Wednesday Addams. The 23-year-old shared her thoughts on the show and making her Theatre Three debut.

Matt Senese (Gomez) and Jessica Murphy

How did you get your start in acting?

I started doing small plays and dance recitals when I was around four years old. It was just a hobby, but I found that I really loved being on the stage, being a presence and making people laugh. I did shows all through high school, and in my senior year I was cast as the lead. I wanted to pursue acting professionally, but I didn’t think I could make a career of it. Originally I was going to study elementary education at Loyola University in Maryland. I had always wanted to be a teacher — my mother and grandmother were both teachers, and I love working with kids. But in the car on the way home from orientation I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but theater.

How did your family respond?

They were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to take a gap year. Afterward, I went to SUNY Geneseo and eventually graduated from there with a bachelor’s degree in musical theater. Now I’m just focusing on getting involved with as many theaters and productions as I can.

What made you want to audition for this show?

I love the music from “The Addams Family,” and my mom saw [this show] on Broadway and loved it. I had never been to Theatre Three before, so I was excited to get involved in a group that was new to me.

Were you nervous about being a newcomer?

It was a little intimidating going to a theater for the first time that has such a devoted base of actors. Many of them have done multiple shows at Theatre Three and so they know each other well. But it’s been a fantastic experience. Everyone has been so kind and I’ve loved working with them — they are all incredibly talented.

Jessica Murphy and Max Venezia will play the roles of Wednesday and Pugsley in Theatre Three’s “The Addams Family”

Were you hoping to be cast as Wednesday?

Honestly, I just wanted to be a part of it! I was hoping for the role of Wednesday, but wasn’t necessarily expecting it … they asked if I wanted time to think it over, but I was so excited that I said yes immediately.

What do you like about your character?

This show gives a completely different take on Wednesday because she’s much older than she’s usually portrayed. She’s grown into her own independent person who knows who she is and what she wants. We also spend a lot of time on the family aspect of the show — Wednesday will always be her mother’s daughter, but she’s really a daddy’s girl at heart. 

Do you have a favorite scene in the show? 

There’s a scene in the second act when [Addams family patriarch] Gomez sings a song called “Happy Sad.” — It’s a more serious father/daughter moment that’s very touching. Most of the show is so zany, but it’s one of those moments where we see that underneath all the craziness in the family, they have deep love and affection for each other.

What is the best reason to come see this show?

At the end of the day, this show is all about love. It’s fun during this time of year to have a show with these kooky and crazy characters, but they really have a lot of heart to them as well. And of course, there’s a lot of laughs!

“The Addams Family,” opens this Saturday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. The show runs through Oct. 27. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. No children under 5 are permitted. To purchase tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Zachary Podair with the cast of 'Newsies'

By Melissa Arnold

Zachary Podair

Zachary Podair of Smithtown will have some great “What I Did This Summer” stories to share when he heads to middle school next month. The 11-year-old is spending almost every day onstage at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where he is the youngest member in the cast of “Newsies.” 

The show is loosely based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899, where New York City paperboys organized a union and went on strike to be treated fairly on the job. Zachary plays the part of Les, who wants to help his older brother support their struggling family. His character is lovable and funny, providing some bright comic relief for the show. I recently spoke with Zachary about his professional theater debut, what it’s like being the youngest on the set and more.

What got you interested in acting?

When I was 6 years old, my sister was taking dance lessons and we would always go to pick her up. I really liked watching and decided I wanted to dance, too, so my mom put me in hip-hop classes. I love anything that involves dancing, so I started looking for shows that had a lot of dance numbers.

Have you been in any other shows?

My first show was four years ago, at the Encore Theater. I got to play [the title role in] “Aladdin.” And ever since then I try to do as many shows as I can. I was Rooster in “Annie,” Donkey in “Shrek,” and Charlie in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” 

What made you want to audition for ‘Newsies?’ Were you nervous?

My favorite kind of shows are dance-heavy, and I knew that “Newsies” was one. I had seen the movie before and thought that I would try out. It also has a really great musical score.

I wasn’t really nervous about it. I didn’t necessarily think I would get the part, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. I was really surprised when I heard I was cast. They originally said they were going to double cast the part of Les, [meaning two actors would take turns playing the role], but they ended up just casting me by myself. That was really exciting.

What is it like being the youngest person in the cast?

Sometimes it’s different being the only person around my age, but everyone in the cast and the crew has been so sweet to me. I’ve learned so much from being in professional theater. Every person I’ve worked with has taught me something, from the casting agency to the other actors, the director and other crew. I’ve also improved my dancing so much from working with our amazing choreographer [Sandalio Alvarez].

Zachary Podair, right, in a scene from ‘Newsies’

What do you like about your character?

Les and I are so much alike. He’s just a funny guy. I love playing him because he’s got a lot of great dance scenes and he’s also the comic relief in a lot of ways. I love the one-liners. 

What has acting taught you about life?

So, so much. I’ve learned how important it is to be flexible — emotionally and physically. You have to be spontaneous, to be willing to go with anything. And, of course, you have to learn how to deal with rejection. You’re not going to get every part and not everyone is going to love you.

What would you say to other kids (or adults!) who want to try acting but are nervous?

Definitely don’t be afraid to try it! If you don’t get a part, then you have the experience of auditioning and you can learn from that. If you want, you can try again. And if you do get the part, then you get to have an amazing experience. Either way it’s a positive thing and so much fun to be a part of.

Why should people go see “Newsies?”

It’s one of those shows that has something for everyone, no matter who you are or how old you are. There are things the kids like and things the adults will laugh at. And I think it’s interesting because it’s based on true events — we worked really hard to make our version of the show as realistic as possible. It’s a positive show that will make you feel good.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at the Engeman so far? 

So far, the best moment was the first day that we got to see the set all finished. It was so amazing. I think that was the moment it all really hit me. I thought, “This is real. It’s really happening.” It’s the best feeling.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Newsies” through Sept. 2. Tickets range from $73 to $78. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

From left, The March Hare, The Dormouse and The Mad Hatter invite Alice to a Mad Tea Party in a scene from the show.

By Heidi Sutton

Alice and the Cheshire Cat

Oh my ears and whiskers! For too short a time, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre will present the musical “Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland,” a modern twist on the Lewis Carroll classic novel of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole and has a most peculiar experience. Although the story is over 150 years old, it has remarkable staying power and is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin F. Story, the show opens on a rainy day at Camp Lackaday Woods. The campers are bored and the lodge counselor tries to keep them entertained indoors with a sing-along. One of the campers named Alice (Meg Bush) sees a white rabbit (Heather Kuhn) appear and follows it, only to fall down a rabbit hole and meet The Cheshire Cat (Mark Jackett). “Which way should I go?“ she asks him. “It matters not where you go. When you get there you’ll find yourself here,” is the grinning reply, setting the tone for what’s to follow — a mind-bending production that’s simply delightful.

Alice meets The Caterpillar in a scene from the show.

During her “unusual adventures” Alice takes part in a “What’s Your Name” contest with The Caterpillar (Nicole Bianco); has a tea party with The Mad Hatter (Steven Uihlein), The March Hare (Kayla Jones) and The Dormouse (Julianna Bellas); hitches a ride with The White Knight (Matt Hoffman); meets Tweedledee (Jones) and Tweedledum (Hoffman); and is invited to a game of croquet by The Queen of Hearts (Ginger Dalton). When the kingdom’s tarts go missing, Alice is accused of stealing and must stand trial. Will she be found guilty by the queen and lose her head?

Of course, a show like this would not be possible without the supporting cast — members of the theater’s Preteen and Advanced Preteen summer acting workshop who play numerous roles including a deck of cards, flowers and contestants in a game show. The entire cast does a fantastic job.

Alice meets the Queen of Hearts.

Directed by Sanzel, the script is filled with riddles and jokes and the musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Douglas Quattrock, are terrific, especially “Tea!” by Uihlein (“We’re all mad here!”) and “Off With Their Heads” by Dalton (“Nothing cheers me up like a good clean chop!”).

Yes, the play is lots of nonsense, as Alice would say, but it sure is fun to watch. Don’t even try to figure it all out. It’s time to throw logic out the window and just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Buy a snack or beverage during intermission. Booster seats are available. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present three more performances of “Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland” on Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. 

Children’s Theatre continues with “Kooky Spooky Halloween” from Oct. 6 to 27 and “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

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.

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