Theater

The cast of 'Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project'

By Heidi Sutton

Front row, from left, Dylan Robert Poulos, Meg Bush and Jessica Contino; back row, Nicole Bianco in a scene from ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Students have enough on their minds in school without having to worry about being bullied. But according to the latest statistics, an estimated 75 percent of children are bullied at least once during their school career, and 10 to 20 percent of children are bullied repeatedly over a much longer period of time. The effects of this unwanted aggressive distraction can be extremely damaging and may cause changes in behavior, mood and school performance as well as family or social relationships.

That is why Theatre Three’s current production of “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” is such an important and valuable tool in combatting bullying. Used as an educational touring program in schools across Long Island since 2014, the original musical, geared for children in kindergarten through fourth grade, makes a rare appearance on the Mainstage through May 5.

Through the use of live actors, puppets and toe-tapping musical numbers, the audience learns that bullying comes in all shapes and sizes and how to effectively stand up to bullies and not allow others to be victimized.

Meg Bush, Nicole Bianco, Jessica Contino and Eric Hughes in a scene from ‘Cinderella’

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, the story takes place in elementary school where Nellie (Nicole Bianco) is being bullied by Olivia (Jessica Contino), Jayden (Eric Hughes) and Tyler (Dylan Robert Poulos). They call her names, steal her doll, don’t let her sit with them and make her feel left out and unimportant. Peg (Meg Bush) witnesses it all, but peer pressure and the fear of losing her friends prevent her from speaking up.

When Peg gets home, she finds the doll in her backpack, which reminds her of how Nellie is being treated. While doing her homework, she falls asleep and, joined by Nellie’s doll (Steven Uihlein), dreams of being the main character in “Cinderella,” ”Alice in Wonderland,” “The Three Little Pigs” and “The Wizard of Oz.” In each story she becomes the victim of bullying and, in the end, understands what Nellie is going through and takes certain important steps to help her “turn darkness into light.”

Peg ultimately reaches out to the adults in her life because “telling is to get someone out of trouble.”

In introducing last Saturday morning’s performance, Sanzel, who also directs the show, addressed the young children in the audience, saying, “I hope when you go to school, you’ll take the lessons you learned today with you.” I hope the parents will also.

Meet the talented cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Lena & The Happy Clam Band 

The first half of Theatre Three’s children’s show will feature a sing-along with Lena & The Happy Clam Band. From left, Michael Leuci (guitar), Brian Smith (keyboard), Lena Smith (vocals) and Mike Palumbo (bass guitar) will delight children and parents alike with an interactive concert featuring original songs like “Winter” complete with a snowball fight, a “One Drop in a Bucket” drum quartet and a shadow puppet show. 

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present ‘Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” preceded by a sing-along with Lena & The Happy Clam Band on April 28, April 29 (sensory-sensitive performance) and May 5 at 11 a.m.

Children’s theater continues with “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9, “The Princess Who Saved a Dragon” from July 6 to Aug. 9 and “Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland” from Aug. 3 to 11. All seats are $10, with discounts for groups of 10 or more. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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

LEAVE US IN PEACE — WE JUST WANT TO DO PLAYS! TracyLynn Conner, Dondi Rollins and Morgan Howell Rumble in a scene from ‘Dark’

By Heidi Sutton

When a One-Act Play Festival receives 415 submissions, it cannot be easy to choose just a handful. But that’s exactly what Theatre Three’s Festival of One-Act Plays founder and Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel was tasked with doing this year and the result is extraordinary. Showcasing seven original works, the annual festival opened last weekend for a 10-performance run.

“For the first time on any stage, these works come to life,” explained Sanzel, who also serves as director. “These are premieres; they are ‘firsts.’ A comedy [is] followed by a drama, a farce by an experimental work …” in a two-hour marathon in the cozy setting of The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre on the Second Stage, a space so intimate that it “allows the audience to breathe the same air as these … characters. There is no wall. There is no division.”

Steve McCoy and Dylan Robert Poulos in a scene from ‘At the Circus’

The show kicks off with Chip Bolcik’s “At the Circus,” starring veteran actor Steve McCoy and festival newcomer Dylan Robert Poulos. In an ironic twist, a trapeze artist (McCoy) and a clown (Poulos) have grown tired of life in the circus and dream of a life of normalcy, of running away with the audience. They long to have a house with a window to look out of, a driveway, the opportunity to drive to the grocery store. “They have no idea how lucky they are, do they?” wonders Poulos as he looks longingly into the crowd, giving nod to the old adage “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Next up is “Interview with the First Family” by Tom Slot, a behind-the-scenes reality TV look at what really happened in the Garden of Eden and where they are now. Adam (Antoine Jones) is a surfer, Eve (Susan Emory) works at a bakery — “People can’t get enough of my apple pie,” Cain (Morgan Howell Rumble) is a convict doing time for killing his brother Abel and God (Linda May) is just sitting back seeing how the world spins and working on her stand up act. Her biggest regret? Creating the mosquito. 

“Plumb Desire,” written by Patrick Gabridge, is a hilarious take on how hard it is to find a good handyman these days and the relationships that develop. Darius (played by Steve Wangner) has found such a man in Jackson (Dondi Rollins), a plumber who has been renovating his bathroom. Jackson hasn’t shown up lately so Darius tracks him down and tries to woo him back with flowers and a six pack of beer. “I’ve been searching for a plumber for so long and you are the one,” he whines, adding, “Do you remember when we   replaced all the vents on the radiators?” Jackson finally breaks down and admits that “sometimes plumbers can be flaky — it comes with the territory.” Will he be back on Monday to finish the job?

TracyLynn Conner and Meg Bush in a scene from ‘Class”

Comedy switches to drama with Andrea Fleck Clardy’s “After Class.” Madison (Meg Bush in a powerful performance) is a mentally disturbed student who speaks of bringing a gun she’s nicknamed “Kim” to class as her teacher Amy Clausen (TracyLynn Connor) struggles with handling the scary situation.  

After intermission, “Bird Feed” by Melanie Acampora takes center stage. Three pigeons sit on a ledge in Manhattan chatting. It’s Georgie’s (Susan Emory) birthday — she’s two years old today. Her friends Bertha (Meg Bush) and Rayna (Nicole Bianco) want to take her out to celebrate when Bertha overhears someone saying that the average life span of a pigeon is just two and half years, leading to a contemplation on birthdays and mortality.  

There’s a mole loose in the world of acting in Jack McCleland’s “Dark.” It’s open hunting season and actors are being picked off one by one. Every time they find a hiding spot, they are mysteriously found and shot to death. Three actors — Steve (Morgan Howell Rumble), Meg (TracyLynn Conner) and understudy Carl (Dondi Rollins) are holed up in a warehouse and are being ordered to come out. “Leave us in peace! We’re actors — we just want to do plays!” they plead. One last warm up and they venture outside and the snitch is finally revealed as Ethel Merman’s rendition of “No Business Like Show Business” plays jubilantly in the background.

Meg Bush, Nicole Bianco and Susan Emory in a scene from ‘Bird Feed’

Sanzel saves the best for last with Charles West’s courtroom spoof, “Home Versus the Holidays.” A man is on trial for waving a sword at a church group singing Christmas carols in front of his home. The audience is sworn in as the jury and the judge (Linda May) calls the first witness to the stand, the chaperone to the group (Steve Wangner).

After the district attorney (Nicole Bianco) asks him some questions, the defense lawyer (Antoine Jones) is allowed to cross-examine and hilarity ensues. Using visuals, song lyrics and the alleged weapon, Jones turns the Christmas spirit on its head in a stunning performance that must be seen to be believed. You’ll be in stitches long after the show ends.

With an excellent lineup and incredible cast, this festival is not to be missed. Get your ticket before they’re sold out.

The cast: Nicole Bianco, Meg Bush, TracyLynn Conner, Susan Emory, Antoine Jones, Linda May, Steve McCoy, Dylan Robert Poulos, Dondi Rollins, Morgan Howell Rumble, Steve Wangner

Sponsored by Lippencott Financial Group, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present The 21st Annual Festival of One-Act Plays through May 6. Contains adult language and subject matter. Parental discretion is advised. Running time is two hours with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $20. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The cast of ‘12 Angry Men’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

For a play that takes place in a single room, “12 Angry Men” has had quite a ride. Written by Reginald Rose after he served as a juror on a manslaughter case, it was turned into a made-for-television movie and broadcast live on the CBS program Studio One in 1954. 

The success of the television production resulted in a film adaptation in 1957. Starring Henry Fonda and Jack Klugman, the movie is consistently ranked as one of the greatest courtroom dramas of all time and was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry in 2007 for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

From left, Michael Mingoia, John McNamara, Steven Uihlein, Jack Green, Gene Durney, Steve Ayle and Michael Newman.

And significant it is. Over 60 years later, the behind-closed-doors look at the American legal system continues to make an impact in community theaters all around the world. This month, it makes its way to the Mainstage of Theatre Three, a stark contrast to its last production, “Nunsense,” and is more relevant than ever.

Twelve men from different backgrounds sit on a jury where the accused has been charged with murder in the first degree … premeditated homicide. They are tasked with deliberating the guilty or innocent verdict beyond a reasonable doubt of a teenage boy who is accused of stabbing his father with a switchblade. If found guilty, he could face the electric chair. The judge orders the jury to “separate the facts from the fancy” and the deliberations begin.

Jim Pearsall, Michael Newman, Michael Mingoia and Gene Durney.

Directed by Bradlee Bing, the seasoned cast does a terrific job conveying the sense of grave responsibility. As the jurors are led into the deliberating room, the security guard (Alan Schelp) locks them in, giving the sense of being held hostage until a decision is made. 

The actors also effectively convey the temperature in the room by taking turns to fix the “broken” air conditioner, taking off their jackets, taking a sip of water and wiping their foreheads and back of necks. The audience feels the heat, which adds to the volatile environment that envelops the room.

The odds are stacked against the teenager. There are three witnesses, there’s a motive (his father beat him regularly), his alibi is shaky and the murder weapon belongs to him, “But sometimes the facts staring you in the face are wrong.”

A preliminary vote results in 11 guilty, one not guilty — Juror #8, played by Steve Ayle. “Boy, oh boy, there’s always one!” The majority of the jury just want to get out of there and get on with their lives. One has tickets to a baseball game, another wants to get back to running his business and so on. 

Foreground, from left, Mihcael Mingoia, Jack Green, Jules Jacobs, Steven Uihlein; background, from left, David Altman, Joseph Cavagnet and Leonard DeLorenzo

But Juror #8 has doubts and he’s not ready to give in to peer pressure. “A man’s life is on the line …” He asks to see the murder weapon again, to see the layout of one of the witness’ apartment, always questioning and pointing out inconsistencies as the other jurors change their vote one by one.

The characters and plot and suspense develop slowly and that’s the beauty of it. From “You couldn’t change my mind if you talked for a hundred years” and “We don’t owe this kid a thing” to “Maybe we should talk about it” and “We have a job to do, let’s do it” to the final “Let him live,” the emotional progression is an incredible thing to watch.

The end result is a powerful and thought-provoking evening at the theater. The endless clapping at the end of the first act and the standing ovation at the end of Saturday’s opening night performance was most well deserved.

The cast: Joseph Cavagnet, Leonard DeLorenzo, Jack Green, John McNamara, Steven Uihlein, Jim Pearsall, Michael Newman, Steve Ayle, Jules Jacobs, Gene Durney, David Altman, Michael Mingoia and Alan Schelp

Sponsored by Bridgehampton National Bank for the third year in a row, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “12 Angry Men” through May 5. Running time is two hours and 10 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. The Mainstage season closes with the musical comedy whodunit “Curtains” from May 19 to June 23. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The cast of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater
Dorothy and friends delight audiences at the Engeman

By Rita J. Egan

The John W. Engeman Theater closes out its 2017-2018 Children’s Theater with a charming version of the cherished children’s tale, “The Wizard of Oz.” The Northport venue debuted the musical on March 24, and Suzie Dunn has done an excellent job directing the eight adult actors down the yellow brick road.

Based on the children’s books by L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz” tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto. When a tornado sweeps Dorothy away from her home in Kansas and over the rainbow to a magical land, she meets witches, Munchkins and three charming travel companions. While the Engeman’s “Wizard” is an abridged version of the story — no poppies and less of the witch’s monkeys and guards — all the favorite characters and songs from the 1939 MGM Studios motion picture are present.

Danielle Aliotta’s portrayal of Dorothy is as endearing as Judy Garland’s was in the movie, and the actress sings a sweet “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with strong, clear vocals.

 

Jacqueline Hughes and Danielle Aliotta in a scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Her companions down the yellow brick road are just as delightful. Jacqueline Hughes (Scarecrow), Danny Meglio (Tin Man) and Andrew McCluskey (Cowardly Lion) do fantastic jobs during their respective numbers, “If I Only Had a Brain,” “If I Only Had a Heart” and “If I Only Had the Nerve.” McCluskey’s vocals are also wonderful during his solo “If I Were King of the Forest.”

Maeve Barth-Dwyer has perfected the evil shrill voice of the Wicked Witch, and Antoine Jones plays the Wizard of Oz and the Emerald City doorman with just the right amount of quirkiness. Marielle Greguski is lovely as both Glinda and Auntie Em and sings beautifully with Aliotta on the reprise of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

With no poppies to put Dorothy and friends to sleep, the witch tries to undermine their mission with the help of a tap dancing jitterbug played by Marquez Catherine Stewart, an upbeat number that was cut from the original motion picture to shorten it. While the song and dance routine may not have been fitting for the perilous journey in the movie, it is perfect for a live production for children. Stewart, Aliotta, Hughes, Meglio and McCluskey do a fantastic job with this refreshing number.

Danielle Aliotta, Danny Meglio and Jacqueline Hughes in a scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Young audience members at the Sunday show were thrilled to see the actors walk through the aisles while they were on their way to the Emerald City to see the Wizard. Costume designer Jess Costagliola has done a wonderful job replicating the character’s costumes, especially Glinda’s pretty pink gown, and a few of the actors dressed in giant hats with big googly eyes are adorable as the Munchkins.

Sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the Engeman’s “The Wizard of Oz” is a special treat for audience members of all ages, and a wonderful tribute to a nearly 80-year-old classic that proves there’s no place like home. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission, booster seats are available and children can meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. (An autograph page is included at the back of the program.)

The John W. Engeman Theater, located at 250 Main St., Northport, presents “The Wizard of Oz” through April 29. Children’s Theater returns for the 2018-2019 season with “Shrek The Musical” from July 28 to Sept. 2 followed by “The Little Mermaid Jr.” from Sept. 22 to Oct. 28, “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30, “Seussical The Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3, 2018, and ends with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 23 to April 28. All seats are $15. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Heidi Sutton

“Mamma Mia!” has had quite a run so far and shows no sign of slowing down. The jukebox musical, based around the music of Swedish pop group ABBA, was a 14-year-long hit on Broadway. When it closed in 2015, it earned the title as the eighth longest-running show in Broadway history. The show was adapted for the big screen in 2008 with a sequel titled “Mamma Mia! Here I Go Again” set to be released this July. Now the smash hit arrives at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts and does not disappoint.

Written by Catherine Johnson, with music and lyrics by former ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, as well as some songs with Stig Anderson, “Mamma Mia!” tells the story of 20-year-old Sophie (Michelle Rubino) who has grown up on a small Greek island with her single mother, Donna, who runs a taverna.

Sophie is getting married to her fiancé Sky (Niko Touros) and wants to have her father walk her down the aisle. The problem is that she doesn’t know who that is! Her mother (Christina D’Orta), the former lead singer of the 1970s pop group Donna and the Dynamos, refuses to talk about the past, so Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. “I want to get married knowing who I am.”

After reading her mother’s diary, she narrows the possibilities down to three men, the Australian adventurer Bill (Michael Bertolini), the debonair architect Sam (Steve Corbellini) and London banker Harry (Mark Cahill) and secretly invites them to the wedding. When all three show up, Sophie turns detective to try to find her real father. When the “dads” start to figure things out (“This is beginning to look like a set up …”) all three offer to give Sophie away, and confusion and mayhem ensues.

Donna, on the other hand, is forced to reconnect with her past and face her demons, especially with Sam who she thinks cheated on her. Fortunately, she has invited her two lifelong girlfriends and former band members, Tanya (Stephanie Moreau) and Rosie (Andrea Galeno) to the wedding who help her get through it with tears and laughter.

I remember seeing the show on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater years ago and, except for the encore, did not enjoy it. Seeing it again last Sunday in the balcony of this quaint community theater on Smithtown’s Main Street has renewed my faith. Why? Let me count the ways.

The level of professionalism: Tommy Ranieri directs an incredibly talented cast of 20 who clearly love what they are doing. All the actors fit perfectly in their roles, especially evident in the chemistry between D’Orta and Corbellini and Rubino and Touros.

The feel-good music: The show features such classic hits as “Dancing Queen,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Super Trouper,” “Mamma Mia,” “The Name of the Game” “Voulez-Vouz,” “The Winner Takes it All,” “Honey, Honey,” “Chiquitita,” “Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie” and “S.O.S” to name a few.

The singing: Where to begin? This ABBA songfest takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster with one musical number after another. Donna’s solo, “Slipping Through My Fingers,” is lovely and heartfelt and Tanya’s sexy number, “Does Your Mother Know,” is an audience favorite. Rosie and Bill’s duet, “Take A Chance on Me,” is hilarious and Donna and Sam’s duet, “S.O.S,” is heartwrenching.

The choreography: The musical numbers, choreographed by Danielle Nigro, are superb, especially during “Voulez-Vous” where the dancers flop around in wet suits and flippers in perfect rhythm — not an easy feat.

The impeccable costumes: Costume design by Ronald Green III is on point, ranging from fun beach garb to wedding attire to the flashy 1970s dance costumes in the finale where even the men wear heels.

The clever set: Designed by Timothy Golebiewski, the set features classic white walls that swivel back and forth, revealing a beachfront restaurant with a fully stocked bar and bar stools on one side and a bedroom on the other. The background features images of palm trees and clouds with soft hues of blues and pinks.

The encore: Cast members come down into the aisles and, with very little nudging, invite the audience to join them in dancing, clapping and singing to a remix of “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo.”

If you love the songs of ABBA, go see this show. If you’ve seen “Mamma Mia!” on Broadway and loved it, go see this show. If you didn’t enjoy “Mamma Mia!” the first time around, go see this show and see it done right.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, located at 2 East Main Street, Smithtown will present “Mamma Mia!” through April 29. Running time is 2.5 hours with one 15 minute intermission. For mature audiences due to mild language and sexual content.

The season continues with “Dreamgirls” from May 12 to June 17; the northeastern regional premiere of “We Will Rock You,” a musical based on the songs of Queen, from July 7 to Aug. 19; and “Fun Home” from Sept. 8 to Oct. 21. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors and $25 students. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by James Gorman

By Rita J. Egan

It may be chilly outside, but things are heating up inside the John W. Engeman Theater. The Northport venue debuted its production of “In the Heights” on March 15, and with a talented cast and the energetic sounds of salsa, reggaeton, merengue and hip hop, audience members are guaranteed a fun, hot night on the town.

Before he shared the story of Alexander Hamilton through rap and song in “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda created this spirited musical, which ran from 2008 to 2011 on Broadway and won four Tony Awards.

A love letter to Latinos who live in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, the story takes place during July Fourth weekend on one city block and centers around bodega owner Usnavi and his neighbors. While the play includes a good deal of reality like money issues, the death of loved ones and the sacrifices one must make for a better life, its main themes are about love and hope, and most important of all, having patience and faith.

With book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Miranda, through dialogue and song “In the Heights” reveals the economic struggles of Usnavi and his fellow business owners, car service proprietors Kevin and Camila Rosario and beauty salon owner Daniela.

Directed by Paul Stancato, the musical throws in romance as Usnavi pines away for the beautiful Vanessa, who works at the beauty salon, and the Rosarios’ daughter Nina and their employee Benny engage in a forbidden romance. As the audience gets a peek into the heartache of Usnavi losing his parents at an early age, Vanessa yearning to move downtown, the bright Nina losing her college scholarship and the love felt for the neighborhood’s adopted grandmother, Claudia, one can’t help but feel a part of this close-knit community.

Spiro Marcos as Usnavi does a fine job filling big shoes (the role was originally played by Miranda on Broadway). The actor skillfully uses rap during most of his numbers to tell the story. Marcos is in touch with Usnavi’s softer side, making it impossible not to root for him as he longs for Vanessa and dreams of going back to the Dominican Republic, his birthplace, while trying to keep the bodega afloat.

Cherry Torres and Josh Marin in a scene from ‘In the Heights’

Josh Marin is charming as Benny, and Cherry Torres is sweet and lovely as Nina. The two have a good amount of on-stage chemistry during their romantic scenes, which is front and center during the song “Sunrise” where they sing beautifully together. Chiara Trentalange balances a bit of sass and attitude with a touch of softness to deliver a Vanessa who may be determined to put her neighborhood behind her, but audience members can’t help but like her, too.

Tami Dahbura is endearing as Abuela Claudia, while Paul Aquirre and Shadia Fairuz are perfect together as Kevin and Camila. Scheherazade Quiroga is perfect as the spunky Daniela and delivers comedic lines perfectly. Iliana Garcia is refreshing as naïve hairdresser Carla, and Vincent Ortega is delightful as the Piragua Guy, especially during his number “Piragua” and its reprise. Nick Martinez, as Usnavi’s young cousin Sonny, and Danny Lopez, as Graffiti Pete, do a nice job adding some comic relief throughout the production.

The dancers are also among the stars in the show. Skillfully choreographed by Sandalio Alvarez, they energetically and masterfully transfer from salsa, merengue, reggaeton and hip hop dance steps.

The music in the production is top notch and is a mix of dance tunes that will have audience members wanting to dance in the aisles and emotional ballads for which some may need tissues. The band, led by conductor Alec Bart, does a superb job flawlessly moving from one musical genre to another, and the singers also do an excellent job.

During the first act, Torres expertly uses her vocal talents to perform an emotion-evoking version of “Breathe.” It is during this number audience members discover her time at Stanford University didn’t work out for her, and she now feels lost not knowing what to do with her life.

Aguirre’s number “Inútil” is just as heartbreaking as his character feels useless after discovering his daughter didn’t come to him to help her pay for school. Fairuz also displays strong vocals during the song “Siempre.”

Trentalange sings lead on the upbeat song “It Won’t Be Long Now” with Marcos and Martinez. The actress has fun with the song and her vocals are great.

Spiro Marcos (Usnavi) and Tami Dahbura (Abuela Claudia)

Dahbura moves around convincingly like a frail grandmother, and then surprises audience members with her incredible and emotional vocals during “Paciencia y Fe.” Abuela Claudia remembers her youth in Cuba and arriving in the United States, during the song. Her mother would always remind her to have patience and faith, advice Claudia continues to share with those she loves.

During the first act, the ensemble performs “96,000” as they sing about what it would be like to win Lotto. With the singers emanating so much energy, one can’t help but feel optimistic for them.

Quiroga gets the party started with “Carnaval del Barrio” and her vocals are outstanding. The high-energy song with exceptional dancing is sensational. It is soon followed by “Alabanza” where Torres sweetly sings the first lines and then the song builds up to a powerful number featuring the whole cast. Both performed during the second act are show stoppers.

Spanish is sprinkled throughout the dialogue and lyrics of “In the Heights” to add authenticity, but are always followed by English translations, or the lines are delivered with gestures that make things clear for those who don’t understand the language.

Many may want to see this musical because they are curious about Miranda’s earlier work, but “In the Heights” is an entertaining look into the life of Latinos in New York City and a beautiful tribute to the music that was brought to the United States from the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

The John W. Engeman Theater, located at 250 Main Street, Northport presents “In the Heights” through April 29. Running time is approximately 2.5 hours and tickets are $73; $78 for Saturday evening performances. Free valet parking is available. For more information, please call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

By Heidi Sutton

With quirky worlds and peculiar creatures, some familiar and some not, Dr. Seuss’ enchanting stories have entertained children and adults for generations. Now the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts brings some of those most memorable tales to the theater’s stage with a Kids Performing for Kids production of “Seussical Jr.” The show opened on St. Patrick’s Day and runs through the end of April.

Kieran Brown as Jojo and Luke Ferrari as the Cat in the Hat in a scene from ‘Seussical Jr.’

With book, music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Michael Flaherty, the show combines “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz” with all their wonderful characters into a two-hour fantasmical musical adventure; in essence, creating the perfect respite on a chilly March afternoon.

Andrew Murano (“Shakespeare in Love”) directs an incredibly talented young cast of 23 actors, ranging from the age of 8 to 18, in bringing the magical world of Dr. Seuss to life in perfect rhyme, and oh, how magical it is!

From the moment the Cat in the Hat (Luke Ferrari) pops out of a trap door on the stage and belts out “Oh the Thinks You Can Think (When You Think About Seuss),” the show takes off and never loses momentum. Ferrari’s feline character serves as narrator and transports the audience from the Jungle of Nool with Horton the elephant and Gertrude the girl-bird, to the microscopic city of Who-ville with Jojo to, in the second act, the Circus McGurkus, with singing, dancing and uplifting messages.

While the entire cast does a great job, the main characters are simply outstanding. Michael Loccisano shines as Horton and his recurring solo, “Horton Hears a Who,” where a person’s a person no matter how small, is heartfelt. Kieran Brown is a natural as Jojo and his incredible talent is unveiled in “It’s Possible.” Other standouts include Brooke Miranda (Gertrude,) Lorelai Mucciolo (Sour Kangaroo) and Leah Kelly as Mayzie. Their futures as actors look promising indeed.

A nice touch is how the cast utilizes the aisles and even the balcony to convey the story. Designed by Ronald Green III, the costumes are lively and colorful and the set, constructed by Tim Golebiewski, look as if they’ve jumped right off the pages of one of Seuss’ books. The “Green Eggs and Ham” finale is just the cherry on top.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Seussical Jr.” through April 29 with special Spring Break Days from April 2 to 6 at 1 p.m. Booster seats are available and there is a 15-minute intermission. Meet the Cat in the Hat, Horton, Gertrude and Jojo in the lobby for photos after the show. Children’s theater continues with “Willy Wonka Jr.” from May 19 to June 17 and “Mary Poppins Jr.” from Sept. 15 to Oct. 28. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Danielle Nigro

From left, Jessica Contino, Meg Bush, K.D. Guadagno and Nicole Bianco in a scene from 'The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

In tandem with the release of the new animated film, “Peter Rabbit,” Theatre Three presents its annual live children’s theater production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” now through April 14. The action-packed show is the perfect way for families to enjoy spring break.

From left, Dylan Robert Poulos and Steve Uihlein. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The original musical, written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, is loosely based on one of the best-selling books of all time, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter and features all of the beloved characters in the story.

Peter Rabbit and his cousin, Benjamin Bunny, are as naughty as ever this year as they sneak into their neighbor Mr. McGregor’s garden time and time again to steal his vegetables. When his patience grows thin, the farmer, who’s “a meanie with a temper like a bear,” sets out to stop the marauders once and for all. When Peter is caught in a trap, his mother must step in to help him. Will the two neighbors be able to come up with a compromise?

Directed by Sanzel, the eight adult cast members embrace the adorable script and run with it. Dylan Robert Poulos reprises his role as Peter with boundless energy and his astounding acrobats steal the show. Steven Uihlein, as Peter’s partner in crime, Benjamin, provides plenty of comic relief, and Jessica Contino is lovely as the calm and even-tempered Mrs. Rabbit.

Mrs. Rabbit with good little bunnies, Cotton-Tail, Flopsy and Mopsy.

When they’re not eating bread and milk and blackberries, Peter’s sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail (the talented trio of Nicole Bianco, K.D. Guadagno and Meg Bush) spend much of the show looking for their brother in the theater, engaging audience members along the way. Andrew Lenahan and Elizabeth Ladd round out the cast as the harmonious duo Mr. and Mrs. McGregor who love their garden.

The familiar musical numbers, written by Kevin F. Story and accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are the heart of the show. Choreography by Nicole Bianco is top notch, especially with “Run, Peter, Run” and the fun hip-hop number, “Peter’s Socks.” Costumes by Teresa Matteson are charming, from the bunnies’ colorful dresses of pink, yellow and blue to their white bunny tails.

About 5 minutes into Sunday morning’s show a little boy in the audience turned to his grandmother and loudly stated “This is so wonderful!!” This reviewer would have to concur. Grab your children or grandchildren and hop over to Theatre Three for an incredibly sweet treat. They’ll love you for it.

Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny have some fun with the McGregors.

Running time is approximately one hour and 10 minutes with one 10-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and souvenir bunnies in various spring colors will be sold before the show and during intermission for $5. Proceeds will help maintain the historic building. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 17 and 24 and April 4, 5, 6, 7 and 14 at 11 a.m.

Children’s theater will continue on the Mainstage with “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” from April 21 to May 5; “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9 and a brand new original play, “The Princess Who Saved a Dragon,” from July 6 to Aug. 9. All seats are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Cast of Theatre Three's 'Nunsense'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Theatre Three continues its 48th season with the heavenly musical comedy “Nunsense.” The show, which opened on the Mainstage last Saturday evening, catered to a packed house ready to sit back, relax and have some fun. And judging by the rip-roaring laughter all night, it did not disappoint.

With book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggin, the original Off-Broadway production opened in 1985 and ran for 3,672 performances, becoming the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show in history. By the time it closed 10 years later, “Nunsense” had become an international phenomenon, having been translated into over 20 languages with more than 8,000 productions worldwide.

TracyLynn Conner, Sari Feldman and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Nunsense’

Now the congregation has taken up residence at Theatre Three and although Catholics will most identify with this hilarious show, audiences of all faiths are sure to have their spirits lifted as well.

The Little Sisters of Hoboken are in a bit of a pickle. While 19 of the nuns are off playing Bingo, the convent’s cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidently poisons the remaining 52 nuns by serving them a batch of botulism-laced vichyssoise. As one nun quips, “For 52, bon appetite was also bon voyage.”

After a successful greeting-card fundraiser, 48 of the sisters are laid to rest. Thinking there is plenty of money left over, Mother Superior spends the rest of the money on a plasma TV, leaving no money to pay for the last four burials. While the remaining deceased are temporarily stored in cold storage, five of the nuns decide to stage a variety show in the Mt. Saint Helen’s School auditorium to raise the rest of the money. “We’ve just got to get those girls out of the freezer,” they lament.

Sister Mary Regina (Phyliss March) and Sister Robert Anne (Sari Feldman) share a moment.

Under the skillful direction of Jeffrey Sanzel, the show’s über-talented cast is given the freedom to bring out the strong personalities of their characters and have a blast doing it. At the beginning of the production, the group sings, “Though we’re on our way to heaven, we’re here to raise some hell.” Blessed with wonderful harmonic voices, great comedic timing and a seemingly inexhaustable amount of energy, they put on quite a show.

The incomparable Phyllis March plays uptight Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina who loosens up quite a bit at the end of the first act in one of the funniest scenes in the play, and Linda May is wonderful as the second-in-command Sister Mary Hubert who has higher aspirations.

TracyLynn Conner is hilarious as the wide-eyed Sister Mary Amnesia who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. “She just a big mess,” mutters Mother Superior under her breath. Conner steals the show with her duet with a puppet in “So You Want to Be a Nun.”

Sari Feldman is Sister Robert Anne, the streetwise understudy from Brooklyn who “Just wants to be a star” and finally gets the chance to shine brightly in Act Two. Jessica Contino rounds out the cast as the sweet Sister Mary Leo who dreams of being the first nun ballerina.

The brilliant script is full of hilarious puns — “How do you make holy water?” “I don’t know, how DO you make holy water?” “You boil the hell out of it!” — along with double entendres and every nun joke out there. The wonderful songs, 20 in all, are accompanied by the terrific Mt. Saint Helen’s School Band under the direction of Steve McCoy.

Vichyssoise anyone?Linda May, Phyliss March and TracyLynn Conner in a scene from ‘Nunsense’

A nice touch is the constant audience participation, which is strictly voluntary. Before the show and intermission the nuns greet the patrons and pose for photos, and during the show the audience takes part in a quiz with a chance to win prizes. A short film by Ray Mason and Sanzel starring the five sisters of Hoboken in the second act is just the icing on the cake. From the initial Mt. Saint Helen’s cheer to the final amen, “Nunsense” is simply divine and should not be missed.

Enjoy a drink at Griswold’s Café on the lower level of the theater and take a chance at 50/50 during intermission. The theater, more specifically, the nuns will be collecting donations for Hurricane Maria on behalf of Direct Relief at the end of the night.

Sponsored by Bridgehampton National Bank, the production is dedicated to the memory of Carolyn Droscoski who passed away suddenly on Feb. 5 at the age of 61. “Our hearts and our stage will be a little emptier.” Droscoski was a constant presence at Theatre Three, appearing on the  Mainstage, cabaret and children’s theater for over 40 years. According to the theater’s website, the actress appeared Off-Broadway and traveled the country in the various incarnations of “Nunsense” and is one of the few actresses to have played all five roles.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson, will present “Nunsense” through March 24. The season will continue with “12 Angry Men” from April 7 to May 5 and the musical comedy “Curtains” from May 19 to June 23. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Carolyn Droscoski. Photo from Theatre Three

A cherished member of Theatre Three, and by extension the Port Jefferson community, was lost this month.

Carolyn Droscoski, 61, of Port Jefferson Station died suddenly of an aneurysm, according to her close friend Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three. She was a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson Station and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

“Anyone that you spoke to would say the same thing — it was just her voice, her vocals,” Koutrakos said of what she would remember most about her close friend, along with her beautiful smile. Koutrakos said she’d heard Droscoski described as having “leather lungs,” a tribute to her booming, powerful singing voice. “She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

“She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news.”

— Debbie Schwartz McGinley

Droscoski had 40-years-worth of history at Theatre Three. She performed in dozens of productions, including memorable performances as Rose in “Gypsy,” Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music,” Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream,” and many incarnations of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” according to Theatre Three’s website.

Times Beacon Record News Media reviewed her 2013 performance in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” as Mrs. Claus: “Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Stephen Doone and Carolyn Droscoski, are in numerous scenes and steal the show. Every appearance on stage had the children sitting up straight and pointing. During a recent Saturday show, many children cried when the lights came up for intermission, thinking the show was over and wanting to see Santa just one more time. Doone and Droscoski also double as Andrew and Sarah, the nice Jewish couple who teach Barnaby and Franklynne all about Hanukkah, and switch roles effortlessly. The musical numbers are terrific and are accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics. ‘Still with the Ribbon on Top,’ sung by Hughes, reveals Barnaby’s struggle to fit in; ‘Miracles,’ sung beautifully by Droscoski as Sarah, will touch your heart and ‘S.B. Dombulbury’ will have you tapping your feet.”

Droscoski traveled the country in an off-Broadway production of “Nunsense,” a show in which she played five different roles. She also performed and toured with her band, Everyday People, which performed countless shows in Port Jefferson. She even appeared in promotional materials for the snack Cracker Jack.

“The only thing I could say is I loved her, and she made me happy,” her longtime partner Charlie Cacioppo said. He added she often affectionately referred to him as “Bubba” or Charles Francis.

“She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

— Vivian Koutrakos

She had two sisters and four brothers, as well as many nieces and nephews, according to her sister Barbara Cassidy.

“The most important thing in her life was her family,” Cassidy said. “She was the biggest cheerleader for her many beloved nieces and nephews.”

Upon Theatre Three sharing the news of her passing on its Facebook page — a post that was shared and commented on more than 50 times — admirers of her talents and friends posted condolences and memories of the beloved performer.

“She was kind, fun, caring and always treated me like a regular person — not just a kid,” a poster named Debbie Schwartz McGinley wrote, adding Droscoski had played her mother in a 1980 production of “A Christmas Carol.” “She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news. All my love to her family, friends, and especially my old school T3 family!”

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