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Ronald Green III

By Rita J. Egan

Stand back, theatergoers, “Evita” is in town. On Saturday, May 11, the award-winning musical opened at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts.

“Evita” revolves around the controversial life of María Eva Duarte de Perón, who went from poverty to a success as an Argentine film and radio star. Her marriage to Juan Perón, a military leader who became the country’s president in 1946, thrust her further in the spotlight until her death at 33 in 1952.

When the audience first meets Evita, she is an ambitious teenager in 1934 who wants to leave the small city of Junin to travel to Buenos Aires with Agustin Magaldi, a tango singer. Soon after her arrival in the big city, she leaves Magaldi and sleeps her way to the top before meeting Col. Perón at a charity concert. While not accepted by the upper class after her marriage to Perón, Evita sees herself as the champion of the “descamisados,” the working class.

The musical, which features lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, first premiered on Broadway in 1979 with Patti LuPone as Evita and Mandy Patinkin as Che. It went on to win seven Tony Awards, including best musical in 1980. The production inspired the 1996 movie starring Madonna (Evita), Antonio Banderas (Che) and Jonathan Pryce (Perón) and was revived on Broadway in 2012 with Argentine actress Elena Roger and singer Ricky Martin as Che.

In the Smithtown production, Laura Laureano plays Evita, and the young actress possesses the poise and maturity needed to handle the role of the strong woman. Her vocals are powerful on all of the musical’s memorable favorites including “Buenos Aires,” “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Rainbow High.” Her performance of “Lament” at the end of Act II is an emotional one that will have audience members reaching for their tissues.

Dylan Bivings plays a suave Che. The character serves as the musical’s narrator, and Bivings proves to be a strong lead on various numbers. He shines during “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)” and his duet with Laureano, “High Flying Adored.” Dennis Creighton was perfect as Perón, delivering the role with the right amount of tenderness that helps audience members understand just how much this man loved Eva. Creighton’s tenor singing voice is ideal for his solos.

Anthony Arpino as Magaldi also shined vocally during “On This Night of a Thousand Stars.” During the number “Santa Evita” on opening night, Zoe Avery played the child who approaches Evita, and Avery’s singing was delightful as she hit every note sweetly and perfectly. The actress alternates the role with Dori Ahlgrim.

Lauren Tirado, as the mistress, delivered a standout performance of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” The scene is a heartbreaking moment in the life of a character that the audience only meets once, and it’s essential that a vocalist digs deep when performing this song, so it can be understood that Evita will stop at nothing and will even throw another woman out on the streets. Tirado’s superb vocals proved she has the talent to deliver such an emotional number.

All of the ensemble members also deserve a round of applause for their outstanding vocals and impressive dancing. Ronald Green III has masterfully directed a cast that proves a musical lover doesn’t need to head into the city to take in a Broadway-quality show. Green has also outdone himself with the period costumes, especially with Laureano’s gown during the balcony scene when she sings “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

Adding to the Broadway-like magic were the talented musicians led by conductor Melissa Coyle and scenic and video designer Tim Golebiewski. The set designed by Golebiewski and constructed by TJ Construction, Russ Bakunus and Clark Services is simple yet elegant and incorporates five small screens that display pictures of Eva and Perón through the years that complement the musical perfectly without being distracting.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Evita” through June 23. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range from $25 to $38. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

All photos by Courtney Braun/ Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts

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.

From left, Emily Edwards, Michael Mingoia, Adriana Scheer and Ryan Cavanagh in a scene from ‘White Christmas’

By Heidi Sutton

Fans of Irving Berlin are in for a treat this holiday season as the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presents its latest offering, the stage version of “White Christmas.”

With book by David Ives and Paul Blake, the musical features 17 songs written by Berlin including what he considered his greatest song ever, “White Christmas.” Sung by Bing Crosby, the song would receive an Academy Award in 1943 for Best Original Song and sell more than 50 million copies, making it the best-selling Christmas song of all time.

A scene from ‘White Christmas’

Based on the classic 1954 film that starred Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, the musical centers around Bob Wallace (Michael Mingoia) and Phil Davis (Ryan Cavanagh), World War II veterans who team up to become a successful song and dance act, even making appearances on the Ed Sullivan show.

Always on the lookout for new talent, they head to a nightclub to see the Haynes sisters, Betty (Emily Edwards) and Judy (Adriana Scheer) perform. While Phil and Judy hit it off right away, Bob and Betty need a little more time.

When Bob and Phil follow Betty and Judy to their next gig at the Columbia Inn in Pinetree, Vermont, they discover that the ski lodge is owned by their former general, Henry Waverly (Eugene Dailey). When the housekeeper, Martha Watson (Anne Marie Finnie) informs them that the inn is in financial straits, they decide to stage a benefit show in the barn on the property on Christmas Eve. Will everything go on as planned?

Directed by Ronald Green III, the 27-member cast transports the audience to the 1950s and does an excellent job portraying the story through song and dance.

Emily Edwards and Adriana Scheer perform ‘Sisters’

With choreography by M.E. Junge, Edwards and Scheer shine in “Sisters,” Finnie, Edwards and Scheer’s “Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun” is delightful while Mingoia delivers a beautiful version of “White Christmas” at the very beginning of the show. As a special treat, 10-year-old Cordelia Comando, in the role of  the general’s 9-year-old niece, belts out a rendition of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” that will take your breath away. There are big tap dance numbers also like “Happy Holidays/ Let Yourself Go,” “I Love a Piano” and the rousing “Blue Skies” that are a joy to watch.

The various sets are impressive as well, from a night club to the lobby of the inn to a barn, and the costumes designed by Green, from the army uniforms to the glittery gowns are top notch. The show closes with a “White Christmas” sing-along sure to get one in the holiday spirit. Running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St. Smithtown kicks off its 17th season with Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas The Musical” through Dec. 30. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Photos by Courtney Braun

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

By Heidi Sutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of SPAC

The cast of ‘Pinkalicious The Musical’. Photo by Courtney Braun

By Heidi Sutton

Main Street in Smithtown was overrun by a sea of children dressed in their best pink attire last Saturday afternoon as they lined up to see the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts’ latest offering, the ever popular “Pinkalicious The Musical.”

The play, based on the first in a series of children’s books by sisters Elizabeth and Victoria Kann, tells the story of Pinkalicious Pinkerton, a little girl who loves to eat pink cupcakes and adores everything pink. “It’s a color like no other!” she exclaims.

One day, despite her parent’s warnings, Pinkalicious eats one too many of the sweet treat and wakes up the next morning with Pinkatitis — a condition that turns her pink from head to toe, giving a whole new meaning to “you are what you eat.” A visit to the doctor confirms the rare affliction that can only be cured with a healthy diet of green food. Will Pinkalicious follow the doctor’s orders or will she remain “a perfectly positive hue” of pink forever? Can one live on cupcakes alone?

Directed by Tommy Ranieri, the five-member teenage cast delivers a well-paced and entertaining performance with lots of audience participation. Allison Lane is terrific as Pinkalicious, playing the part with just the right amount of perkiness, and is quickly adored by the young audience members. Anthony Panarello, who clearly loves being on stage and in the spotlight, plays a delightful Mr. Pinkerton; and Brittany Hughes, as the cellphone-addicted Mrs. Pinkerton, shines. David Reyes plays the role of Peter, Pinkalicious’ annoying brother, with confidence; and Colleen Curry tackles the dual role of  Pinkalicious’ best friend Alison and Dr. Wink with ease.

As with any musical, the songs, composed by John Gregor, are the heart of the show. With wonderful costumes by Ronald Green III, standouts include “Cupcake Dream,” where Pinkalicious dreams her family and best friend are pink cupcakes, and “Buzz Off,” where Pinkalicious is mistaken for a pink flower by a bunch of bees.

The wonderful set by Tim Golebiewski, from a bedroom and kitchen to the doctor’s office, is just the frosting on the cupcake.

In the end, the moral of the story is that too much of a sweet thing is never good. You may not turn pink, but you’ll get sick, and, although green vegetables may not be your favorite food, they are good for you and you should eat them. Oh, and you can’t get sick from loving the color pink.

So grab the kiddies and take them to a performance of “Pinkalicious The Musical” — they’ll be tickled pink!

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Pinkalicious The Musical” on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 19. Running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes with intermission and booster seats are available. Meet the entire cast in the lobby for photos and autographs after the show. Children’s theater continues with “Mary Poppins Jr.” from Sept. 15 to Oct. 28 and “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from Nov. 17 to Dec. 30. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

By Heidi Sutton

If your children have a sweet tooth and love live theater, why not head over to Smithtown and treat them to a scrumptious production of “Willy Wonka Jr.”? The Kids Performing for Kids show is currently in production at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts through June 24, and offers the perfect opportunity for young actors to hone their craft.

Directed by Christine Boehm, the play follows the original story closely, with all the wonderful music and unique characters (minus Slugworth) from the 1971 classic that we have come to love along with a few nods to the 2005 film (think nutty squirrels).

Charlie finds the last golden ticket.

Based on the 1964 novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, the show stars Willy Wonka (Alex Mahr), the famous candy man who has not been seen or heard from since he closed his factory to the public years ago, even though Wonka sweets are still being produced. Now he reappears to stage a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his chocolate bars. Whoever finds a golden ticket will receive a free tour of the Wonka factory along with a lifetime supply of chocolate. But Wonka has an ulterior motive. He would like to retire and is looking for a child to take over his candy empire.

As each golden ticket is found, the audience is introduced to the winner — Augustus Gloop (Dylan O’Leary), Veruca Salt (Cassidy Torns), Violet Beauregarde (Erika Hinson) and Mike Teavee (Michael Puglisi) in one of the funniest scenes in the show, revealing all their little quirks, nasty habits and bad manners as their overindulging parents cringe.

When Charlie Bucket (Olivia Cox), a poor young boy from a loving family, finds the last ticket, he picks his Grandpa Joe (Logan O’Leary) to accompany him on the tour. As the afternoon progresses, each child misbehaves in the factory and is led away by the Oompa Loompas until only Charlie is left. Will he receive the keys to the factory or be punished for sampling the Fizzy Lifting Drinks?

The cast, ranging in age from 6 to 18, does an incredible job portraying the story and its overlying message to think positive, and the many numbers, especially “The Candy Man,” “Pure Imagination,” “Oompa Loompa” and “I Want It Now,” are executed beautifully. Costumes by Ronald Green III are top notch, from the green wigs on the Oompa Loompas to Willy Wonka’s top hat and coat. Designed by Mike Mucciolo, the dazzling set, complete with lollipops and candy mushrooms with “whipped cream,” are right out of Wonka’s pure imagination. Get your golden ticket today!

Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Candy and water will be sold during intermission and booster seats are available. Meet Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located on the back of the program.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, located at 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Willy Wonka Jr.” through June 24. Children’s theater continues with “Pinkalicious The Musical” from July 14 to Aug. 19 and “Mary Poppins” 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

 

By Rita J. Egan

It was a dream come true at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. “Dreamgirls” opened on the Main Stage last Saturday, and with a talented cast, showstopping numbers and sparkling costumes, it had everything one would expect from a musical.

A scene from ‘Dreamgirls’

Set in the 1960s and ’70s, the story follows three female singers from Chicago, Effie, Deena and Lorell, as they evolve from the Dreamettes — singing backup for a popular rhythm and blues singer named Jimmy Early — to the Dreams headlining shows on their own. Through song and a bit of dialogue, the audience gets a glimpse into the girls’ relationship, and watches as the three young women fall in love with the men in their lives: Jimmy, songwriter C.C. and Curtis, the group’s manager. 

The show also touches on the struggles of black singers to find a place on the pop charts in the ‘60s, while facing segregation in the South and watching as white pop music stars rerecorded their music.

“Dreamgirls” premiered on Broadway in December 1981 and ran for nearly four years, winning six Tony Awards. In 2006, a movie based on the musical was released starring Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx. 

With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, Ronald Green III masterfully directs a talented cast of 22 actors in SPAC’s latest production. The local presentation originated at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale in September last year under the direction of Patrick Grossman, and many of the original cast members, sets and costumes remain the same.

A scene from ‘Dreamgirls’

Crystal Fauntleroy (Effie), Aisha Phillip (Deena) and Amanda Camille (Lorell) blend beautifully together as the Dreamettes/Dreams, and when Effie is fired from the group, Steffy Jolin (Michelle) effortlessly replaces her. The actors are excellent in the musical numbers “Move (You’re Steppin’ on My Heart),” “Dreamgirls” and “One Night Only.”

Fauntleroy is dynamic as Effie, portraying her with just the right amount of attitude and strength, and shines in every number. During the emotional “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” she delivers the song with all the passion audience members expect from this number. For anyone who has ever suffered a broken heart, be warned, tissues will be needed.

As the musical progresses, Phillip transitions from timid backup singer, to confident front woman with ease. After Curtis decides he wants a singer with a softer voice leading the group, believing the sound will be more acceptable to pop audiences, he moves Deena to the lead spot and Effie to the back. Phillip has a melodic singing voice that is fit for this role. This is especially apparent during the tender duo with Curtis, “When I First Saw You.”

A scene from ‘Dreamgirls’

Camille is sassy as Lorell, and she has the opportunity to show off her powerful voice during “Ain’t No Party.” Jolin as Michelle embodies the spirit of a girl group singer. Her stunning smile and the way she carries herself seems to say, “I don’t care if I’m not the lead singer, I’m a star.”

The ladies are not the only ones who are front and center in this show as the male actors have exceptional stage presence. Dondi Rollins is on fire as he plays a James Brown-inspired Jimmy. Rollins sings and dances his way into the hearts of the audience, especially with the high energy “Fake Your Way to the Top.”

David William Hughes is convincing as the slick Curtis, and his smooth vocals help to deliver a swoon-worthy performance. It’s no surprise that both Effie and Deena fall for their manager. 

Londell Collier is a sweet and endearing C.C., and his vocals are just as sweet, especially when he starts off the ensemble number “Family.”

Hughes, Rollins, Collier and Kevin Knight as Marty, Jimmy’s manager, sound fantastic together during “Cadillac Car.” Seneca Bell plays the masters of ceremony with flair, Justin Steele as Tiny Joe Dixon adds to the sensational vocals, and the whole ensemble rounds out the cast perfectly.

The musical has its comedic moments, too. After Jimmy and friends think they have a hit with “Cadillac Car,” Hans Paul Hendrickson appears on stage as a Pat Boone-inspired character singing the song and looking as wholesome as a ‘50s sitcom character. During the number “I Want You Baby,” Rollins is hysterical as he portrays a restrained Jimmy during a show in a whites-only club in Miami.

Once again, SPAC has produced a musical worthy of Broadway, and those behind the scenes also deserve to be applauded. The fast-paced musical is filled with fun dance moves choreographed by Milan McGouldrick, and conductor Melissa Coyle and the theater musicians magnificently accompany the singers on each number. Green, doubling as costume designer, also ensures all the bright colors and sparkling attire of the era are represented beautifully.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, located at 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Dreamgirls” through June 17. Running time is 2 1/2 hours with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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 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

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

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