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Jon Rivera

By Rita J. Egan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Lisa Schindlar

Lauren Tirado and David DiMarzo in a scene from 'South Pacific'

By Heidi Sutton

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts continues its 17th season with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacific.” Based on James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Tales of the South Pacific,” which highlighted his Navy experience fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific during World War II, the show debuted on Broadway in 1949 and is still captivating audiences today, in part because of its familiar score and cautionary theme of bigotry.

Samm Carroll, center, and cast sing ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair’

Directed by Ronald Green III, the story centers on two romances — that of Nellie Forbush (Samm Carroll), an American nurse from Arkansas and self-described “hick from the sticks” who falls head over heels in love with French plantation owner Emile De Becque (Jon Rivera)  — and Marine lieutenant Joe Cable (David DiMarzo) from Philadelphia and his young Tonkinese girlfriend, Liat (Lauren Tirado). Both relationships eventually suffer as racial and cultural prejudices rear their ugly heads.

Forbush struggles to accept her new man’s mixed-race children with his first wife, while Cable weighs the social consequences should he marry his Asian sweetheart. In Cable’s solo, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” he tries to explain where these prejudices come from. “…You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late, before you are six, or seven, or eight, to hate all the people, your relatives hate…”

Supporting characters, including petty officer Luther Billis (Anthony Panarello) and Liat’s mother, Bloody Mary (Ava Anise Adams) help to tie the stories together nicely.

The songs are the heart of the show, and you’ll still be humming them at work days after, especially “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” and “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Jon Rivera performs ‘This Nearly Was Mine’ in ‘South Pacific’

Rivera is perfectly cast as the handsome Frenchman, Emile, and his beautiful singing voice can be most compared to Andrea Bocelli. At last Saturday’s opening performance, Rivera captured many hearts with his rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine.”

Carroll is equally outstanding, full of energy and every bit the “cockeyed optimist.” Her smile is infectious and she quickly becomes an audience favorite.

The period costumes by Green, an eight-piece band led by conductor Melissa Coyle, and the wonderful choreography by Milan McGouldrick add to the production’s polish to produce one enchanted evening.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” through April 28. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Kristen Digilio and Jon Rivera in a scene from ‘South Pacific.’ Photo by Lisa Schindlar

By Charles J. Morgan

The antics and other distracting, diversionary activities stationed on a backwater island during World War II form the structure of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great hit “South Pacific” which opened on Oakdale’s CM Performing Arts Center’s Noel S. Ruiz Theatre’s massive stage last Saturday.

Wonderfully directed by Ed Brennan, the story takes place during World War II, following the love story between a U.S. Navy nurse from Arkansas, Nellie, and French planter, Emile, a widower raising his two children. A second love story develops between Liat, a local girl living on the island of Bali Ha’i, and Lt. Joseph Cable, who is conflicted with the duty he owes to his country and the love he feels for Liat.

With book by Hammerstein and Josh Logan, it guaranteed a smash hit at CMPAC … and so it was with Kristen Digilio as Nurse Nellie Forbush and Jon Rivera as Emile de Becque.

Digilio showed extraordinary range in both acting, singing and even dancing. Rivera was a baritone with some depth into basso and a lyricism especially in “Some Enchanted Evening,” the lyrical note on the last word alone culminating the depth of lower register of the baritone for a truly enhanced, musically aesthetic experience.

Digilio’s “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” was a rollicking ensemble with a bevy of swimsuit-clad Navy nurses. She revealed a range of talent reaching from this signature number as well as the slapstick “Honey Bun,” to a totally plaintive solo in “Some Enchanted Evening.”

In the sassy, wise-guy role of Seaman Luther Billis, Marc Slomowitz leads the Seabees in “There is Nothing Like a Dame” which unlocks the rather libidinous leitmotif of the show. Brodie Centauro plays Lt. Cable. He is in love with Liat, a Polynesian girl played by Kate Apostolico. He sings “Younger Than Springtime” in a melodious tenor with Apostolico in his arms, coupled with a handsome stage presence and a powerful tenor.

Then there is the inevitable “Bloody Mary,” handled expertly by Angela Garofalo. A derivative of Little Buttercup in “H.M.S. Pinafore” she is earthy, but when she sings “Bali Ha’i” and “Happy Talk” one simply wants to give her a hug. The island’s commanding officer, Capt. Brackett, is played by Michael Sherwood; Comdr. Harbison is played by John J. Steele Jr. These two non-singing roles lend a fairly good sense of realism to the show.

Choreography is by the indomitable M.E. Junge. “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” and “Honey Bun” exhibited her best work. Music was under the baton of the indispensable Matthew W. Surico leading faultlessly a live 17-piece pit band with cleverly comic uses of dissonances in a well-rehearsed series of numbers.

Costume design fell to Ronald Green III, a veteran designer at CMPAC. His expertise in the native inhabitants’ costuming and the nurses’ swimsuits was faultless. The uniforms not so: Lt. Cable would have been written up if he actually appeared in a four-button open jacket, sunglasses hung out of pocket, hat on back of head, iniquitous boots and a leather flight jacket suitable for B-17 crews over Berlin. Only one sailor wore a regulation hat while the others wore what looked like the pope’s zucchetto; missing also were the U.S. Navy hat devices for Brackett and Harbison.

Anyway, the excellence of this production calls for maximum attendance by all who want top musical entertainment.

The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present “South Pacific” through Aug. 23. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

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