Tags Posts tagged with "Jordan Hue"

Jordan Hue

By Melissa Arnold

Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do children die? Is there a God, and does He really answer prayers? Plenty of us grapple with those questions from time to time, and the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts has tracked down the Big Man Himself to get some answers in the one-act comedy, “An Act of God.” The show opened last Saturday.

The 90-minute play is a stage adaptation of “The Last Testament: A Memoir,” a satirical book written by “God,” aka David Javerbaum. Javerbaum has won more than a dozen Emmy Awards over the course of his comedy career, most of them earned as the head writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” He’s also the voice behind the snarky Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod, which has amassed 5.6 million followers  – no pun intended. 

“An Act of God” isn’t your typical Broadway show with a neatly packaged storyline. Instead, it’s meant to treat audiences to a live and in-person encounter with God (Evan Donnellan), who’s not exactly the embodiment of divine goodness. In fact, God is fed up with the way He has been misrepresented by organized religions and has come to Broadway to set the record straight. He’s even got a new and improved set of commandments to share, among them “Thou shalt not tell others whom to fornicate.”

Donnellan oozes charisma and command as God, who is at once charming and narcissistic. His jokes are shocking and laugh-out-loud funny, but Donnellan creates striking dissonance during his character’s pessimistic rants and self-absorbed navel gazing. He also deserves serious kudos for the amount of preparation involved for this show – the majority is a monologue.

Supporting God’s appearance are his faithful archangels, Gabriel (Scott Hofer) and Michael (Jordan Hue). Hofer’s Gabriel is obedient but goofy, adding his own comedic touches as the show’s Bible reader and peanut gallery. In contrast, Michael is often sullen as he wanders through the crowd, asking God those tough questions and seeming unsatisfied with His answers. The trio has great chemistry, and watching God try to keep the two of them in line is a lot of fun.

It’s obvious that director Christine Boehm and the cast have taken some liberties with the original script, but that’s a good thing. Early in the show, they make fun of their own decor – it seems they’ve decided to leave much of the set for the children’s theater production of “Aladdin Jr.” in place, since the shows run concurrently until Feb. 24. They also reference the ticket prices, Smithtown and Evan Donnellan’s looks and personality, as well as the original Broadway production’s lead, well-loved “Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons. 

Be prepared, God is always watching – He’ll make a point of drawing attention to and potentially embarrassing random audience members during the show. Don’t take it personally.

The bottom line is that while the cast is very talented and the special effects are cool, this show is simply not for everyone. The script aims for satire but often either misses the mark or drifts into territory that’s just offensive. 

Those with deeply rooted religious beliefs might want to give this one a pass, unless you can handle 90 minutes of unapologetic cynicism and crude blasphemy. But if you keep an open mind and a sense of (twisted) humor, you might feel inspired by the show’s overarching message that you should believe in yourself. Or you might feel nothing at all. Your mileage may vary.

See “An Act of God” through March 3 at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. Contains strong language, references to drugs and strong sexual content throughout. For tickets and info, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org. 

All photos by Courtney Braun

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

By Heidi Sutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of SPAC

A scene from last year’s performance of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

By Sabrina Petroski

Come join the fun as the most beautiful words in the English language are given new life! In celebration of its 30th anniversary, The Carriage House Players will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet” for its annual Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport. The festival opens on June 29.

With a modern twist on two of the Bard’s most famous plays, performances will be held under the stars in the central courtyard of William K. Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest mansion, one of the last remaining Gold Coast estates on the North Shore.

The festival was the brainchild of Frederic De Feis, who ran the productions through the Arena Players until his retirement. Upon his leave, De Feis passed the reins to longtime company member and protégé, Evan Donnellan.

“[The festival] started because Fred was looking for a space to perform Shakespeare outdoors,” said Donnellan. “He found the Vanderbilt courtyard and decided to use the space because of its atmosphere and architecture, which lends itself particularly well to Shakespeare.” As executive director, Donnellan, who was part of the company for 22 years, decided to rename the troupe The Carriage House Players to “better reflect our space” as they perform in the Vanderbilt Carriage House on the museum’s grounds.

“The Carriage House Players add a delightful dimension to the Vanderbilt Museum’s creative programming throughout the year,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, in a recent email. “Every July and August, their annual Shakespeare productions are a very popular summer attraction. Their shows, presented on our outdoor stage, are enhanced by the graceful backdrop of the estate’s century-old Spanish Revival architecture.”

Jacob Wright and Michael Limone in rehearsal for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

“The Shakespeare Festival has been a main event for Long Island for three decades now and we are proud to continue the tradition,” added Donnellan who said the group chose “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” because the timeless story of love gone awry, complete with mischievous fairies and bumbling actors, will create a hilarious evening of theater filled with charm, magic and grand romantic gestures. The play will be directed by company member Christine Boehm, who has previously graced the stage as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and has directed recent productions of “The Woman in Black” and “Precious Little.” 

“With an aesthetic largely inspired by the Celtic Punk movement popularized in the 1980s with through lines discussing politics, pride in the working class and, most importantly, drinking, our ‘Midsummer’ will focus on the text’s most largely identified theme as the title suggests — a dream,” said Boehm. 

After “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” The Players will present Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, “Hamlet.” Donnellan says “the classic tale of revenge, loss, and the thirst for power, complete with glorious sword fights and ghostly visitors, will transport audiences back in time and put them right in the head of the Danish prince as he struggles to determine what is wrong and what is right.” Directed by company member, Jordan Hue, who directed “Macbeth” and “Much Ado About Nothing” at previous festivals, the show will be performed in the more classical tradition but with an emphasis on neo-futurism.   

For Donnellan, his hope is that this festival will appeal to wide audiences and introduce new theatergoers to the Bard’s genius. “Our goal is for audiences to embrace the old with the new while focusing on Shakespeare’s gorgeous prose and powerful storytelling.” 

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, will host “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from June 29 through July 29 followed by “Hamlet” from Aug. 5 through Sept. 2. Shows are held at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and 7 p.m. on Sundays, weather permitting. Running time is approximately 2 hours. Guests are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy a picnic on the grounds before the performances. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the door. For more information, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

Andrew Timmons and Austin Levine in a scene from 'Oliver!'

By Heidi Sutton

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts closes out its 15th season with a production of the award-winning musical “Oliver!” With book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, the show, based on Charles Dickens’ second novel, “Oliver Twist,” features some of the most unforgettable songs and vivid characters to ever hit the stage.

The story centers around a 9-year-old English orphan, Oliver, who has been raised in a workhouse. After disobeying the rules, the boy is sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. Oliver escapes shortly after and travels to London, where he meets the Artful Dodger and becomes a member of a gang of pickpockets led by the criminal Fagin and aided by Nancy and the abusive villain Bill Sikes. Is Oliver destined for a life of crime or will his fortune change?

You can’t go wrong with a show like “Oliver!” during the holidays and the 40-plus cast at the SPAC, skillfully directed by Jordan Hue with musical direction by Melissa Coyle, presents a production that is fresh and exciting, serving up a fine afternoon at the theater.

While the entire cast does a tremendous job, especially the children, special mention must be made of Austin Levine who stars as Oliver, the young orphan with a pure heart. For the moment he speaks, “Please sir, I want some more,” Levine has the audience rooting for him to find a home and happiness.

Andrew Timmins nails it as the spirited Artful Dodger, top hat and all, and Brian Gill is quite terrifying as Bill Sikes. Ashley Nicastro is perfect in the role of his girlfriend Nancy, a victim of domestic abuse who ultimately meets a bitter end. Doug Vandewinckel reprises his role as Mr. Bumble, a role that fits him like a glove. Although her role is small, Taylor Duff as Bet stands out in the crowd, especially during “It’s a Fine Life.” Last, but certainly not least, Nick Masson plays Fagin with oily charm, performing “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” like an old pro from the days of vaudeville.

Of course, it is the wonderful melodies that are the heart of the show. From the hilarious numbers “I Shall Scream” and “That’s Your Funeral” to the poignant “As Long as He Needs Me,” “Where Is Love” and “Reviewing the Situation” to the big song and dance numbers we all know and love — “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” “I’d Do Anything” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” — all are performed with boundless energy and beautifully choreographed by Jessica Gill.

Costumes by Ronald R. Green III are brilliant, from the drab brown outfits for the orphans, to the refined suits and dresses for the aristocrats to the seedy outfits of Fagin and his crew; and the set, designed by Timothy Golebiewski, beautifully showcases a cross section of Victorian society.

Exiting the SPAC last Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to have so many wonderful community theaters on Long Island and how special live theater truly is. Consider yourself invited.

The Smithtown Center for the Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Oliver!” through Jan. 21. Running time is 2½ hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $25 adults, $15 ages 12 and under. Please note: Show contains some violence and implied adult themes.

Season 16 opens with “Shakespeare in Love” from Feb. 3 to March 4, “Mamma Mia” from March 24 to April 29 and “Dreamgirls” from May 12 to June 17. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Danielle Nigro

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

By Heidi Sutton

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

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

Gaston (Zak Ketcham) and his admirers

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

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

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

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

Lumiere (Luke Ferrari) and Babette (Brooke Miranda)

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

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

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

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

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

All photos by Courtney Braun

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.