Theater

This year's Gala will feature Itzhak Perlman. Photo from Staller Center

By Erika Riley

After a month-long break this holiday season, Stony Brook University’s Staller Center returns for the second half of its 2016-17 season with compelling performances. There is something for everybody, and you won’t want to miss out on these exciting shows.

“The second half of the Staller Center season really shows the diversity of our programs to fill the broad and varied tastes of our students, faculty, staff and greater community,” said Alan Inkles, director of Staller Center for the Arts. “Shows range from the world’s greatest violinist, Itzhak Perlman, to a spectacular cirque show, “Cuisine & Confessions” featuring aerealists, jugglers and acrobats and boasts a full kitchen where the cast cooks for our audience.

Inkles continued, “We truly span the arts in every format this spring. Bollywood’s finest song and dance routines will abound in Taj Express; Off Book/Out of Bounds with Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata will add their pop/rock take on famous Broadway tunes; dance explodes as the Russian National Ballet Theatre brings a program with two story ballets, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ The impeccable Martha Graham Dance Company brings their modern dance fire to Staller. Jazz abounds with award-winning artists including pianist Vijay Iyer and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant. There’s of course much more and with continued private and corporate support, we continue to keep ticket prices reasonable for everyone to attend and to attend often!”

Musical performances

Vijay Iyer will be performing on Feb. 25. Photo from Staller Center.

On Feb. 19 at 7 p.m., Peter Kiesewalter, founder of the East Village Opera Company and Brooklyn Runkfunk Orkestrata, will be leading a high-energy rock show titled Off Book/Out of Bounds. The show, held in the Recital Hall, will feature a four-piece rock band performing rock versions of well-loved theater songs. Tickets are $42.

Grammy-nominated composer and pianist Vijay Iyer will be performing with his sextet in the Recital Hall on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.. Described by The New Yorker as “jubilant and dramatic,” he plays pure jazz that is currently at the center of attention in the jazz scene. Tickets are $42.

The Staller Center’s 2017 Gala will take place on March 4 at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage and will feature violinist Itzhak Perlman. Perlman is the recipient of over 12 Grammys and several Emmys and worked on film scores such as “Schindler’s List” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Tickets are $75 and Gala Supporters can also make additional donations to enhance Staller Center’s programs and educational outreach activities.

Starry Nights returns to the Recital Hall on March 8 at 8 p.m. this year under the direction of Colin Carr, who will also be performing cello during the program. Artists-in-Residence at Stony Brook will be playing beautiful classics such as Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto and Schubert’s Piano Trio #3 in E flat major. Tickets are $38.

Peter Cincotti will perform on March 9. Photo from Staller Center

Newly added to the roster is singer, songwriter and pianist Peter Cincotti who will perform an intimate concert in the Recital Hall on March 9 at 8 p.m. Named “one of the most promising singer-pianists of the next generation” by the New York Times, Cincotti will be featuring his newest album, Long Way From Home. With a piano, a bench, a microphone and his band, Cincotti will take his audience on a breathtaking musical ride. Tickets are $30.

The Five Irish Tenors will be performing a lineup of beloved Irish songs and opera on March 18 at 8 p.m., the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Songs include “Down by the Sally Gardens,” “Will You Go Lassie Go” and “Danny Boy.” Tickets to the concert, taking place in the Recital Hall, are $42.

The award-winning Emerson String Quartet, with Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer, Lawrence Dutton and Paul Watkins, will return on April 4 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall. The program will feature works by Dvorak, Debussy and Tchaikovsky. Tickets are $48.

Cecile McLorin Salvant will close out the musical performances of the season on April 29 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall with unique interpretations of blues and jazz compositions with the accompaniment of Sullivan Fortner on piano. Salvant is a Grammy award winner and has returned to the Staller Center after popular demand from her 2013 performance. The performance is sure to be theatrical and emotional. Tickets are $42.

Dance performances

Taj Express will perform on Feb. 11. Photo from Staller Center

Staller Center’s first dance performance of 2017 is sure to be a hit. Taj Express will be performing on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m., delivering a high-energy performance of Bollywood dances, celebrating the colorful dance and music of India. Through a fusion of video, dance and music, the ensemble will take you on a magical journey through modern Indian culture and society; this full-scale production will fuse east and west with classical dance steps, sexy moves and traditional silks and turbans. The extravagant performance will take place on the Main Stage, and tickets are $48.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre will be performing on the Main Stage on March 11 at 8 p.m. Created in Moscow, the Ballet Theatre blends the timeless tradition of classical Russian ballet with new developments in dance from around the world. The Ballet Theatre will be performing both “Carmen” and “Romeo & Juliet.” Tickets are $48.

Canada’s award-winning circus/acrobat troupe, Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers of the Hand), will be performing their show Cuisine & Confessions on the Main Stage on April 1 (8 p.m.) and April 2 (2 p.m.) The show is set in a kitchen and plays to all five of the senses, mixing acrobatic cirque choreography and pulsating music with other effects, such as the scents of cookies baking in the oven, the taste of oregano and the touch of hands in batter. A crowd pleaser for all ages, tickets are $42.

The last dance performance of the season will be on April 8 at 8 p.m. by the Martha Graham Dance Company. The program will showcase masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists inspired by Graham. The dance performance will take place on the Main Stage and tickets are $48.

Not just for kids

The Cashore Marionettes will present a show titled Simple Gifts. Photo from Staller Center

The ever unique Cashore Marionettes will be presenting a show called Simple Gifts in the Recital Hall on March 26 at 4 p.m. The Cashore Marionettes will showcase the art of puppetry through humorous and poignant scenes set to music by classics like Vivaldi, Beethoven and Copland. Tickets to see the engineering marvels at work are $20.

The Met: Live in HD

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live will be returning once again to the Staller Center screen. The screenings of the operas feature extras such as introductions and backstage interviews. There will be seven screenings throughout the second half of the season: “L’amour de Loin” on Jan. 14, “Romeo et Juliette” on Jan. 21, “Rusalka,” on Feb. 26, “La Traviata” on March 12, “Idomeneo” on April 9, “Eugene Onegin” on May 7 and “Der Rosenkavalier” on May 13. The screenings are all at 1:00 p.m., except for “Der Rosenkavalier,” which is at 12:30 p.m. For a full schedule and to buy tickets, visit www.stallercenter.com or call at 631-632-ARTS.

Films

‘Hidden Figures’ will be screened on April 28.

As always, the Staller Center will be screening excellent films throughout the upcoming months. Through April 28, two movies will be screened on Friday evenings: one at 7 p.m. and one at 9 p.m. On Feb. 3, “Newtown,” a documentary about the Sandy Hook shooting, and “Loving,” a story of the first interracial marriage in America will both screen. “American Pastoral,” starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning will screen on Feb. 17; and “Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman, will screen on March 24. The season will finish off on April 28 with “Hidden Figures,” a true story of the African American female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the space race, and “La La Land,” a modern-day romantic musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

Tickets to the movie screenings are $9 for adults, $7 for students, seniors and children and $5 SBU students. Tickets for the shows and films may be ordered by calling 631-632-2787. Order tickets online by visiting www.stallercenter.com.

About the author: Stony Brook resident Erika Riley is a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She recently interned at TBR during her winter break and hopes to advance in the world of journalism and publishing after graduation.

The cast of ‘The Snow Queen,’ from left, Danny Meglio, Jacqueline Hughes, Stephanie Krasner, TracyLynn Connor and Matthew Rafanelli. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

In perfect harmony with the frosty weather outside, “The Snow Queen” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend to a warm reception. Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story that inspired Disney’s “Frozen,” the musical, co-written by Rick Lombardo and Kirsten Brandt, is told in seven short stories and revolves around a young girl name Gerda, her best friend, Kai, and the power of love and friendship.

The Snow Queen has kidnapped Kai and taken him to her icy palace. There she orders him to solve the Riddle of Eternity by counting all the snowflakes in the world. When Gerda realizes what has happened, she sets off on a dangerous journey to save her friend.

Reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland experience, Gerda encounters many obstacles along the way including a sneaky Garden Witch, a band of robbers and the blistering cold. Fortunately, she also meets a talking crow, a lovable reindeer and a wise Woman of the North who help her reach the palace.

Alyson Leonard expertly directs a talented adult cast of five, all of whom, with the exception of the lead, play multiple roles throughout the show. Stephanie Krasner, last seen in the role of Rapunzel, returns to Engeman’s stage as Gerda, who proves to be a faithful friend willing to go to the ends of the Earth to save Kai. Her courage and determination has the audience rooting for her from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli is terrific as Kai, trapped within the clutches of the Snow Queen but absolutely shines as the Crow who helps Gerda.

TracyLynn Connor gives the Snow Queen an icy regalness but also plays the role of a rose, princess and robber girl with ease. From her first appearance on stage as an old woman to her last as the Wise Woman of the North, Jacqueline Hughes’s performance is always top notch. Her solo “Breathe” takes your breath away and her various accents are impressive.

Last seen in “The Wizard of Oz,” Danny Meglio tackles the role of the troll, prince and sweet reindeer this time around. Helping Gerda reach the castle in the darkness and the cold as the reindeer is one of the most memorable scenes in the show.

Although at times Gerda’s journey may seem a bit long, the wonderful songs including “Flying,” “The Real Reality,” “Here I Am,” “Never Give Up” and “The End,” written by Haddon Kime, more than make up for its shortcomings, and you will find yourself humming these songs for days to come. Those familar with Andersen’s fairy tale won’t be disappointed with the ending and will go back out into the air with a warm heart after realizing that love conquers all.

The show is recommended for ages 8 and up because of its complex storyline, although younger children will enjoy it for the beautiful costumes, special effects and songs. Meet the entire cast in the lobby for autographs and photos after the show. An autograph page is conveniently located at the end of the program.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Snow Queen” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through March 5. Up next is “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 25 to April 30. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Above, from left, Ryan G. Dunkin, Peter Simon Hilton, Noah Bridgestock, Spencer Glass and Milton Craig Nealy

By Rita J. Egan

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport exposed a night of adult fun this past Saturday when it held the press opening of “The Full Monty,” its current mainstage production. Judging by the applause, laughter and howling coming from the audience, the musical, directed by Keith Andrews, will be another huge hit for the theater.

Based on the 1997 movie of the same name, the story takes six men on an adventure where they hold nothing back, emotionally or physically. Featuring a book by Terrance McNally with score and lyrics by David Yazbek, “The Full Monty” introduces theatergoers to two unemployed steelworkers from Buffalo, Jerry and Dave, who decide to organize and perform in a strip act after seeing local women go crazy for a Chippendales-inspired show. Even though they look nothing like strippers, they soon join forces with their former co-workers Malcolm and Harold and hold auditions for two more dancers where they meet Horse and Ethan and form Hot Metal.

From left, Brent Michael DiRoma and Ryan G. Dunkin in a scene from ‘The Full Monty’

While a few characters’ names differ from the film, and the location has been changed from the movie’s Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, the musical is still filled with something everyone can identify with whether unemployment, divorce, relationship problems, body issues or even the caring of an ailing parent.

And like the movie, even though the men working together to overcome their anxieties and self-consciousness creates a few serious and tender moments, overall it is told with a great deal of humor both in dialogue and lyrics. It’s a tale that leaves audience members not only cheering for the characters but also exiting the theater feeling uplifted.

“The Full Monty” opens with a high-energy scene where the woman are enjoying a girls’ night out. The story soon switches to the men at the union hall, and the number “Scrap” let’s the audience know there are serious matters to be dealt with and money needed.

Throughout the musical, Brent Michael DiRoma (Jerry) and Ryan G. Dunkin (Dave) are a terrific duo easily handling delicate matters with well-timed humor. The two are at their best during Act One’s hysterical number “Big Ass Rock” where they try to discourage Malcolm from committing suicide by showing him the ridiculousness of different scenarios. Spencer Glass as Malcolm soon joins in on the number, ecstatic that he may actually have friends, leaving the audience laughing uncontrollably.

From left, Spencer Glass and Brent Michael DiRoma in a scene from ‘The Full Monty’. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Peter Simon Hilton, who plays Harold a former supervisor hiding his unemployed status from his wife, captures the character’s nervousness perfectly and easily plays straight man to the others. He and Dunkin also reveal impressive vocals on the sweet number “You Rule My World,” where Harold wonders how he will tell his wife about his situation, and Dave ponders if he’ll ever lose the weight, particularly his stomach, that rules his life.

Noah Bridgestock is adorable as the young stud Ethan and exhibits great physical comedic ability, but it’s Milton Craig Nealy as Horse, during the number “Big Black Man,” who shows all the young men how it’s done with strong vocals and slick dance moves that delighted the Saturday night audience.

During the number “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” the men perform seamlessly together providing a catchy, standout number at the end of Act One. Another stellar performance by one of the male performers is “You Walk With Me” during the second act. While Glass nails the awkwardness of his character Malcolm, the tenor shines during this moving number, and toward the end of the song, Bridgestock joins him and complements his fellow actor nicely. “Breeze Off the River” sung beautifully by Diroma is another touching number during the second half of the musical.

While “The Full Monty” focuses on the six men, the female cast members cannot be ignored. Diane Findlay as Jeanette Burmeister, the men’s pianist, is a delightful surprise. She delivers her lines with the comedic ability of greats such as Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, and during “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number,” performs with the skill of a Broadway professional.

Diane Findlay and Ryan G. Dunkin in a scene from ‘The Full Monty.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

During Act 2, Nicole Hale as Dave’s wife, Georgie, and Gaelen Gilliland as Harold’s wife, Vicki, beautifully execute the reprise of “You Rule My World.” Kate Marshall, playing Jerry’s ex-wife Pam, skillfully balances strength and gentleness of a woman who is trying her best to move on while co-parenting with her ex.

Suzanne Mason, Jennifer Collester Tully and Lexi Lyric add to the humor as they hilariously bring to life the joys of working women just wanting to have some fun. Vincent Ortega also adds to the high jinks as club owner Tony Giordano, the Cha Cha teacher and a random jogger.

It should also be noted that Kyle Wolf is sweet and endearing as Jerry’s son Nathan. James D. Schultz garnered tons of laughs when he performed an awkward semi strip tease act during the dancer auditions, and Alexander Molina as Buddy “Keno” Walsh, the professional stripper, handled his egotistical character with a tongue-in-cheek performance as well as some dance moves that delighted the ladies in the audience.

“The Full Monty” leaves the best for last with the men’s anticipated performance and the catchy “Let It Go.” The cast and crew tastefully orchestrated the last scene, which left those in attendance howling with laughter but not too red from blushing. The show is perfect for a pleasurable night out with the girls or even date night, but leave the children home due to some adult language and partial nudity.

The John Engeman Theater, 250 Main Street, Northport, will present “The Full Monty” through March 5. Tickets range from $71 to $76. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The cast of 'The Three Little Pigs.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

The well-known story of “The Three Little Pigs” is a timeless children’s fable that has been around for hundreds of years. With his stomach growling, a big, bad wolf comes upon three pigs who have each built homes from different materials — straw, wood and brick. After the wolf easily blows down the first two houses, the pigs run to the third pig’s brick house. When the wolf fails to blow down the brick house, he decides to go down the chimney and ultimately meets a bitter end.

With book and lyrics by Jeffrey Sanzel and music by the late Brent Erlanson, Theatre Three’s version, which opened last weekend, gives us a kinder, gentler version of the fable, throws in two homeless mice and gives the wolf the talent to rap. Spoken entirely in song and verse, which is a quite delightful experience, this show is fresh, funny and downright adorable, making it the perfect choice for younger audiences, especially first-time theatergoers.

From left, Jessica Contino, Andrew Gasparini and Emily Gates in a scene from ‘The Three Little Pigs’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sanzel skillfully directs an energetic adult cast of six, all who seem to be having the time of their lives. The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are the heart of the show with special mention to “You’ve Got Me, I’ve Got You,” and “You Build a House, You Find a Dream.”

The story centers on three little pigs who have decided to become independent of each other and, with suitcases in hand, go off to build their own homes. Little Pig, played wonderfully by Jessica Contino, decides to build her house with straw. “There’s no law I can’t build with straw,” she quips.

“Sticks are the way I say,” says the grouchy Middle Pig (Andrew Gasparini) who thinks he’s better than everyone else. “Pay attention and you will see, there’s no one in existence who compares with me,” seems to be his favorite saying. Gasparini takes this juicy role and runs with it.

Emily Gates is perfectly cast as the Older Pig who builds a brick house. Mature and wise and kind, her character’s ability to open her heart to friend, stranger or foe is a welcome sight in today’s world.

Melanie Acampora and Steven Uihlein make a great team as Sister and Brother Mouse (Sigh!) who are down on their luck and seek help from the pigs. Being turned away because they are different is difficult to watch.

From left, Jessica Contino, Andrew Gasparini, Emily Gates and Dylan Robert Poulos. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

But it is Dylan Robert Poulos as Mr. Wolf who huffs, yeah, and puffs, yeah, and steals the show. “I’m a wolf with a cause, but with dangerous claws,” he growls as he chases the pigs throughout the theater. Poulos’ performance in “Mr. Wolf [W]raps It Up” is an instant favorite with the audience as he raps with the other cast members and performs amazing backflips across the stage.

As seen in every children’s production at Theatre Three, the show uses this opportunity to teach moral lessons — in this case, embracing diversity and going beyond tolerance. “We’re all the same, the only difference is race and name,” says the wiser Older Pig. The act of sharing is also emphasized.

The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are perfect, from pink pig ears to little pig tails. Even the pig’s suitcases match their specific houses! Did I mention this show is adorable? The set, designed by Randall Parsons, alternates between the three pig houses but still allows for plenty of imagination, which is a very good thing.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo ops.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Three Little Pigs” through Feb. 25. The season will continue with “Raggedy Ann & Andy” from March 4 to 25, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” from April 12 to May 6 and “The Princess and the Pea” from May 27 to June 10. Sensory-friendly performances are available during each production. All seats are $10. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Alan Inkles, Lee Wilkof, Director, ‘No Pay, No Nudity’; Ryan Lacen and Anthony Baldino, co-directors of ‘The Dust Storm’; and actor Ralph Macchio at last year’s Stony Brook Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Staller Center for the Arts

By Rita J. Egan

When Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center for the Arts, moved from Brooklyn to Port Jefferson Station at the age of 11, the stage was being set for him to one day play an integral part in creating an impressive cultural and arts community right here on Long Island.

After graduating from Comsewogue High School, he headed out to Los Angeles to play soccer and study acting. After discovering he wasn’t cut out for college sports, he seized the opportunity to concentrate on the craft of acting and honed his talents working on commercials and pilots. Fortunately, for Long Islanders, he soon returned to New York and enrolled at Stony Brook University, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater arts.

The founder of the Stony Brook Film Festival, his loyalty to the university has paid off for local residents who can attend high-quality shows just minutes away from their own homes. His success is a combination of meeting the needs of performers, being open to the opinions of audience members and appreciating his hard-working team, generous sponsors and the university’s supportive administration.

Recently, while nursing the flu and screening movies for the upcoming annual film festival, the director, who has brought the likes of Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Patti LuPone and more to the center, took time to answer a few questions about his stellar career.

Alan Inkles with Broadway star Kelli O’Hara who performed at the Staller Center on Dec. 10 of last year. Photo courtesy of the Staller Center

How long have you been the director of the Staller Center, and how did you get the job there?

I injured my knee while performing in 1983, and I had just graduated from Stony Brook and had worked as a student for the Fine Arts Center [the original name of Staller Center] during my years. And, as I couldn’t perform with my injury for a while, I asked the director of the center, Terry Netter, if he could use a theater manager — which I had done as a student. He hired me and at least seven titles later and an International Theatre Festival that I created — what really kept me interested in the early years — and  beginning to do all the programming in 1992, I took over as director upon Terry’s retirement in 1995. So, I guess officially I’ve been the director for 21 years.

You have a long history with Stony Brook University. What do you love about it?

What don’t I love about Stony Brook University? I did my undergraduate and graduate studies here. Two of my three kids and my son-in-law graduated from here, and I’ve been here as an employee and student for almost 37 years. I’ve enjoyed working for three presidents and almost a dozen provosts — permanent and acting ones, have made numerous friends with faculty, staff over the years, and have the greatest staff anyone could dream of having — some of which have been with me for my entire time as director. I love the energy of the students, the challenges that a public university continues to throw my way and the amazing ambiance of a continually growing and improving university. Stony Brook is about its amazing people, and I’ve been fortunate to be a member of this great collegial community for so long.

You’ve been credited with making the center what it is today. How did you go about that?

I guess longevity allows that to work. My predecessor Terry Netter opened the Staller Center back in 1976, 1977. It was a different time. You know back in those days the center was really more for the university, supporting the music department, the theater department, which we still do, and they did a couple of ballets and orchestras.

Early on when I started getting the itch, Terry asked to me to start programming. It was growing pains because I wanted to do more jazz and pop and children’s programs, because that’s what I saw we needed to do, because it was a different era. The arts centers of the 1960s and ’70s doing orchestras and ballets were great, and we continued to do them, but we needed to diversify. We needed to get broader. So, he really gave me a lot of leeway to go out and try to find these programs, and I liked the challenge.

What does it take to coordinate all the events the Staller Center presents during a year?

A great team. I can go to a conference, and I come back, and yesterday while being home laying in a bed (recovering from the flu), call my team up and say we’re booking Peter Cincotti. And, within 24 hours, we got a press release, the website, an email, the machine ready on social media, my production team going through the rider knowing exactly what we need so that I was able to approve it because there’s certain needs we have to get for the show. All this happens in 24 hours. I’m not so sure Live Nation could even pull it off in 24 hours!

So it starts with a great team, the confidence that I have the support of my provost (we have a new one this year, Michael Bernstein, who is really great) and a president who basically said to me, the third one I have worked for, “You raise the money, you bring in the audience, you got carte blanche.”

In addition to the performances at the center, you also coordinate the Stony Brook Film Festival. What does preparing for that entail?

Fortunately, over the years my contract administrator, my associate, Kent Marks, has taken on a good chunk of that. He’s great, and my staff have also helped pre-screen a lot of the movies. In the early days, I admit I watched everything. In the first 15, 16 years of the festival I was watching all 400 to 600 films coming in and picking 40. In the last five years we have had over 3,000 films coming in each year.

What have been your favorite personal accomplishments since being director of the center?

That’s an interesting question as I don’t think I’ve really given much thought to personal accomplishments. I’ve really always tried to focus on bringing quality programs in the arts to our faculty, staff, students and community over the years and always have tried to secure excellence and try to both entertain and enlighten our audiences and occasionally challenge them. Personally, I felt a great accomplishment in pulling off a 10-year run of a major International Theatre Festival early on in my career, and when I think back to my first trip to Sundance in 1999, and thinking about how little I knew about film festivals, I certainly am very proud of the fact that we have created a significant and lasting annual festival that grows every year in importance, quality and attendance. I’ve watched dozens of branded festivals in recent years dissolve as we gain strength.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t beam about the Outreach & Education program my staff and I have built. With just an idea over a decade ago to significantly reach out to communities and young people on Long Island, we now provide hundreds of programs at Staller and in our communities and serve several thousands of individuals who may not have had the opportunity to partake in the arts with workshops, school/library performances and complimentary Staller tickets. This is, of course, important for the future of the arts, and I am very proud of this growing and important part of our operation.

What are your plans for the Staller Center’s future?

I spent a great deal of time last weekend at the annual arts center/producer/ talent booking conference discussing with agents and artists and colleagues that we need to be creative, daring and also listen to our audience going forward. This digital era provides so much entertainment for people where they never need to leave their homes or their phones. We have to find ways through unique, different and exciting programs in the arts — theater, music, art and film — to take people away from their own arts centers —their 70-inch screen TVs.

It means continuing to be relevant so that corporate and private individuals will support us so we can bring these exciting programs to our campus and community, continue to keep the prices reasonable and make them available to all. I can promise you, I will continue to search far and wide for these live programs and films and continue to ask before I book something, “Is this something my audience needs to see?” That line has replaced the line that used to be, “What do they want to see?” And, when I stop asking that question and feel I can’t lift that proverbial rock any higher to find that program, I’ll know it’s time to pass on the baton. Fortunately, I don’t see that time coming too soon, and I’m also so grateful that my staff seems to want to keep me around a bit longer as well!

From left, Matt Paredi, Louis Brady, Emma Geer and David Gow in a scene from 'Peter and the Starcatcher'. Photo by Justin Albinder

By Heidi Sutton

We’re all familiar with J.M. Barrie’s beloved story of “Peter Pan” about the wonderful adventures of a young boy who can fly and never grows up. The bedtime story filled our dreams with fairies, pirates, Indians, mermaids and who can forget Nana, the Darling’s St. Bernard. Many of us remember Disney’s 1953 animated version with great fondness.

The cast of ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’. Photo by Justin Albinder

But have you ever wondered how Peter Pan came to fly, why he lives on Neverland, how Captain Hook really lost his hand, how the crocodile came to swallow a clock and why he’s so big? Have you puzzled over where Wendy’s brother John got that top hat, why Peter and Captain Hook are bitter enemies and why Peter Pan came to visit the Darling family in London in the first place?

“Peter and the Starcatcher,” which opened last Saturday at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, answers all these burning questions and more. Billed as a prequel to “Peter Pan,” the Tony award-winning musical written by Rick Elice and based on the children’s novel “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, catches up with Peter right before he becomes Pan.

Best suited for ages 10 and above, the hilarious, yet sometimes confusing, production invites the audience into an imaginary world where ropes represent walls, people stand in for squeaky doors and pirates fight with plungers and broom handles instead of swords.

Ken Washington brilliantly directs a multitalented 12-member cast, each playing multiple roles (over 100) throughout the show with boundless energy and harmony, effectively moving from one character and stage position to another to tell the story.

On orders of the Queen, two ships, The Neverland and The Wasp and their crews are bound for the Kingdom of Rundoon, each carrying identical trunks — one containing precious “star stuff” and the other filled with sand to distract pirates. Joining the crews on their mission is 13-year-old Molly Aster (the future Mrs. Darling) who is studying to be a “starcatcher” under the direction of her father, Lord Leonard Aster, and three young orphan boys — Peter, Ted and Prentiss — who are to be sold into slavery. When The Wasp turns out to be a pirate ship led by a pre-Hook Black Stache, Molly’s father is captured, leaving Molly and Peter to make sure the pirates never get their hands on the treasure, which has magical powers.

David Gow is terrific as Peter the orphan who, with a little nurturing from Molly (played by the wonderful Emma Geer) comes out of his shell and saves the day. Peter’s friends, Ted and Prentiss (Louis Brady and Matt Paredi,) compliment each other perfectly; one obsessed with being the leader and the other with food, especially pork.

Ryan Nolin as Black Stache and Rick Grossman as Smee in a scene from ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’. Photo by Justin Albinder

While the entire cast delivers top-notch performances, it is Ryan Nolin, as Black Stache, who steals the show with his flamboyant and over-the-top performance in every scene, made possible only by his sidekick Smee, played by Rick Grossman. When he loses his hand, Black Stache asks Smee, “What do I do now?” “I’m stumped sir,” is the reply. Special mention should be made of Jordan Hue’s spirited performance in the role of Fighting Prawn, leader of the Mollusk tribe.

Washington perhaps describes the show best in his director’s notes: ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ … begins with a mob of actors center stage, a community waiting to happen, and we end with those same people, back with a purpose … we know it’s the beginning of something. It is that collective strength and community purpose that I hope you’ll remember. It’s what this play is all about, but it’s also what all theatre is, why we love it and need it so.”

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Peter and the Starcatcher” through Feb. 25. Tickets are $35 adults, $32 seniors, $20 students. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Above, from left, Brittany Lacey as Syliva and Steve Ayle as Greg. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Michael Tessler

There are few bonds greater than between a man and his dog, and sometimes there are few bonds stranger! Theatre Three begins the new year with the wonderfully clever off-Broadway comedy, “Sylvia,” written by A.R. Gurney.

This light-hearted romp introduces us to Greg, a man midway into his midlife crisis. He’s had it all: a happy family, a stable corporate job, even a great apartment in the heart of Manhattan … but now with an empty nest, retirement just around the bend and a fading flame of a marriage, he does what any sane person would do — he adopts a stray puppy from the park!

Brittany Lacey and Steve Ayle in a scene from ‘Sylvia’. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Directed by Bradlee E. Bing, this performance offers more than laughs; it is a philosophical journey through the complexities of aging and relationships. One can’t help but become emotionally invested in Bing’s incredibly talented cast of actors. His production never wastes a beat. Even as dialogue happens on one side of the stage, Bing cleverly places subtle action on the other, giving way to a truly immersive performance.

Peter Casdia, the stage manager, runs a tight and efficient shift backstage. The show’s set, designed by Randall Parsons, is simple but very effective. Alternating between an apartment, local park and office, you’ll easily keep track of where you are from location to location. Robert W. Henderson Jr.’s lighting design is subtle but quite efficacious.

This show’s quick-wit script and sublime cast doesn’t require the usual pomp and circumstance when it comes to the show’s lighting or set. Its simplicity is its strength, letting the audience dive head first into this character-centric performance.

Steve Ayle, who portrays Greg, is perfectly cast. His ability to transcend both comedy and drama give him a unique ability as a performer. Many actors on stage tend to become victims of overacting, a desperate need to evoke a reaction from the audience. Ayle, as testament to his ability as actor, does just the opposite. His authentic humor is a delight and is so genuinely played that you will in earnest believe him in all of his actions. When watching his performance you’ll find yourself asking:“Why the heck isn’t this guy on TV? He’s great!”

From left, Kate (Linda May) and Sylvia face off in a jealous rage in a scene from ‘Sylvia.’ Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Theatre Three veteran Linda May plays Greg’s wife Kate, a witty English teacher who has dedicated her life to educating underprivileged youth in the works of William Shakespeare. With her children off at college, Kate delves into her work, turning a new leaf in her professional career. Things are turned upside down when her husband of several decades finds himself with a rather unhealthy attachment to his new dog, the eponymous Sylvia.

In one of my favorite exchanges, Kate finds herself on the floor facing off with Sylvia in jealous rage. The act of one woman and one dog, going nose to nose over the affection and love of their shared man is strikingly comical and brilliantly performed.

Brittany Lacey, the star of Theatre Three’s wonderful performance of “Legally Blonde,” is back and is nothing short of a real (dog) treat! Her versatility as an actress shines as she takes on the show’s titular four-legged character, Sylvia, a bouncy, frisky poodle mix. Lacey wastes no time in establishing believability, capturing and personifying perfectly the internal dialogue of a dog. Her physicality during the show is tremendously funny and her dialogue is delivered with refreshing gusto. Lacey’s profanity-laced rant about cats is perhaps the show’s greatest sequence, saying what we’ve all felt about cats at one time or another!

Sylvia’s sensuous romp with neighborhood dog Bowser gives way to some incredible comedic material. You’ll find yourself desperate for air during her barrel of fun performance. When paired with her owner, Greg, you get the opportunity to see two incredibly talented actors really delve into their craft. Their scenes together are some of the best in the show and really capture the unique love between a man and his dog.

Matt Senese in a scene from ‘Sylvia’. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Last but certainly not least is the show’s everyman (and woman) Matt Senese. Though I don’t want to spoil all the fun, this multifaceted actor delivers huge laughs playing three separate supporting roles as both a man and a woman. For his explosively funny performance alone, go see this show!

Theatre Three’s Athena Hall is looking more beautiful as ever. The cozy, elegant and historical theater is the perfect venue in which to escape reality. Now offering accessibility with an elevator lift and a refurbished wheelchair-friendly bathroom, the theater remains a sanctuary for all those with a love of the arts. Oh, and the ushers are the best around! All in all, “Sylvia” is a perfect way to start the new year. Light, funny and endearing, this show’s short run doesn’t stop it from being big fun!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Sylvia” on the Mainstage through Feb. 4. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 not permitted. Wednesday matinee is $20. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

David Gow

By Rebecca Anzel

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is currently gearing up for the second show of its 15th anniversary season, the award-winning musical play “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which will open on Jan. 14. Based on the 2006 children’s novel of “Peter and the Starcatchers,” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and adapted for the stage by Rick Elice, the play, according to the SCPA’s press release, is a swashbuckling grown-up prequel to “Peter Pan.”

The show appeared on Broadway from 2012 to 2013 and won five Tony Awards including Best Play and Best Original Score (Wayne Barker). At the time, The New York Times wrote that it was “the most exhilarating Broadway storytelling in decades.”

The role of Peter Pan will be played by 25-year-old actor David Gow, a Houston, Texas, native who graduated last May from the North Carolina School of Arts with a bachelor’s of fine arts in drama. Gow, who now resides in Harlem, was most recently in “The Beast’s Beauty” at Lincoln Center, in the role of the Beast, and in an off-broadway play titled “Chokehold.” I recently spoke with the actor about his latest role as “the boy who wouldn’t grow up.”

Why did you decide to try out for this role?

Playing Peter was at the top of my list of dream roles, so I was constantly searching for auditions for it as soon as I moved to New York. Once I saw Smithtown was doing it I was all in, and I roped my friend Emma Geer, who plays the role of Molly, into doing it too!

What is the play about?

The story slowly fills in the questions people have about Peter Pan but in a very subtle way, while simultaneously adding plot lines that are so brilliantly spontaneous the audience couldn’t possibly predict them. It’s definitely an action/adventure and has really a bit of everything in it. It switches effortlessly from action, farce and drama.

What is your favorite scene?

I love the scene where Black Stache/Captain Hook and Peter meet for the first time. There’s something so iconic about how the two of them are drawn to each other despite being mortal enemies. I also love the last scene of the play, but you’ll have to come see the show to see what happens!

What is your favorite musical number?

I like “Swim On” the best — it is the closing song of Act 1.

I understand that 12 actors will be taking on the roles of over 100 characters?

The 12 actors playing 100 roles has been the biggest challenge, but also I think the most rewarding. We really have nothing but a couple of ropes, trunks and ladders. We get to create everything else ourselves, which lets the audience jump from scene to scene instantaneously. I play a few other roles quickly, like a pirate and sailor here and there.

What is it like working with the rest of the cast?

The cast could not have been more welcoming to the actors who were new (myself included). A lot of them have done shows here for years, but I felt like we all clicked pretty immediately. There’s not a weak link in the group.

What is it like working with the director, Ken Washington?

Ken is definitely a veteran director and comes very prepared to every rehearsal. Very positive and enthusiastic about the show. It’s been such a wonderful room to come into every night.

Is this a show for all ages?

I’d say more than almost any other show, this show is ABSOLUTELY for all ages. It has the excitement and humor for adults to enjoy, while also having elements perfectly geared toward children as well. Totally appropriate.

Why should people come out to see this show?

“Peter and the Starcatcher” is to “Peter Pan” as “Wicked” is to the “Wizard of Oz.” All of your previous questions about Peter Pan are answered in this show. Come find out why Peter Pan can fly, why Captain Hook only has one hand and why none of the boys are growing up. The show has everything: nonstop action and adventure; it will make you roll on the floor laughing and also provides incredibly touching moments. I actually don’t know anyone who I would not recommend this show to. It really is for everyone!

The Smithtown Center for Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, will present “Peter and the Starcatcher” from Jan. 14 to Feb. 25. Tickets are $35 adults, $32 seniors and $20 for students with a valid ID. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.com.

Join Tom Manuel and the Syncopated Seven as they ring in the New Year at the Jazz Loft

By Erika Riley

New Year’s Eve is the holiday to close out the season, and there is no better way to celebrate Dec. 31 than to do something fun for the night. Whether you’re in the mood for music, comedy or to simply see a movie before you head out for the night, the North Shore offers several great ways to spend the evening.

Huntington

Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre will screen ‘Lion’ starring Dev Patel on New Year’s Eve

The Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington will be hosting a celebration of film on New Year’s Eve. There will be food, drinks, films and friends! First, attendees will have their pick of three films to view before the ball drops including “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman (8:15 p.m.), “Lion” starring Dev Patel (8:30 p.m.) and a third movie that is yet to be announced. After the movie screenings, guests can join the party in the Sky Room Cafe for some delicious food, cake and champagne toasts while viewing the ball dropping in Times Square on a television in the Cafe. Tickets are $40 per person, $35 members, and may be purchased online at www.cinemaartscentre.org or via phone at 631-423-FILM.

Port Jefferson

Paul Anthony will bring his comedy act to Theatre Three on New Year’s Eve

This year, Theatre Three, located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson will be offering a comedy show titled “New Year’s Laughin’ Eve” at two different times, featuring some of the biggest names in comedy. The “early bird” show will begin at 6 p.m. and run until 7:30 p.m., and the later show will start at 8 p.m. and end by 9:30 p.m., giving attendees plenty of time to take in a New Year’s party and watch the ball drop after the show. Douglas Quattrock, director of development and group sales and special events coordinator, says that the event is a great alternative for those who don’t want to go out to a bar but still want to go do something. “It’s a great way to kick off the new year and end the holiday season,” Quattrock said. “There’s no better medicine than laughter.”

There will be three comedians at the show, the first being Paul Anthony from Massapequa. Anthony is the host of the Long Island Comedy Festival and the host of the new 50+ Comedy Tour, a group of comedians who are targeting their comedy to a slightly older generation. The second guest is Rich Walker, who has been named the Best Comedian on Long Island two years in a row, has headlined in Las Vegas, and has been featured by the New York Times and the third comedian is Keith Anthony, who has been featured on Showtime, A&E and Comedy Central, and has also headlined his own shows. Quattrock said that while the comedy isn’t for kids, it’s also not brute or offensive. Tickets for the shows are $49 per person at the door, $45 in advance at www.theatrethree.com or by calling 631-928-9100.

Smithtown

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present a New Year’s Eve comedy show titled “Loads of Laughs,” featuring six headlining comics. Of the six comics, Ken Washington of the center said, “The comedians are always top of the line ‘headlining’ comics who have been seen on a variety of different media outlets as well as comedy clubs throughout the area.” Eddie Clark, former cop and current full-time comic, will be in attendance, as well as seasoned comedians Marvin Bell and Matt Burke. Guests can also expect to see Peyton Clarkson, winner of the New York City Laugh-Off, Joe Currie, a member of several bands as well as a comic, and Warren Holstein, club headliner and occasional contributor to SNL’s “Weekend Update.” Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $180 per couple or $90 per person (there is a $10 discount for members) and include a buffet of Italian hors d’oeuvres and light fare as well as an open bar of wine and beer. Dessert will be served during intermission and a champagne toast will be made to ring in the New Year. To order, call 631-724-3700. Note: Show contains adult language.

Stony Brook

The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook, will be hosting a New Year’s Eve Celebration featuring jazz musician Tom Manuel and the Syncopated Seven from 7:30 to 12:30 p.m. The performance will also showcase guest artist Melanie Marod, who is a modern jazz vocalist who performs regularly around popular clubs in New York City. “What I’m most excited about is just having a wonderful group of people together in such a classy exciting place with such great music, I feel like when you put together great food and great people and great music it’s a guaranteed home-run evening,” said Manuel , who is also the curator and director of the Jazz Loft. Tickets are $150 per person, which includes a buffet dinner catered by the Three Village Inn, cocktail hour and a champagne toast at midnight. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

A scene from ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Theatre Three. File photo

Port Jefferson: Theatre Three, currently in its 33rd annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” is the first Long Island theater to participate in the Mannequin Challenge, a viral internet video trend where people remain frozen in time while a camera films them.

“We had over fifty people involved, including cast, crew, designers, staff, family and friends of the theater. It was a great way to bring everybody together to do something that celebrates the community that is Theatre Three’s Christmas Carol,” said Artistic Director and resident Scrooge Jeffrey Sanzel.

In the two-minute and 20-second video, viewers are transported through the historic theater beginning at the box office, into the lobby and past the audience sitting in their seats. The camera then captures a scene of “A Christmas Carol” frozen in time and proceeds to take the viewer backstage and behind the scenes, all to the tune of “Carol of the Bells.”

To view the video, please visit www.theatrethree.com.

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