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Ronald Green III

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, Marielle Greguski, Jessica Ader-Ferretti, Jacqueline Hughes and Katie Ferretti star in ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On’ Photo courtesy of SCPA

By Rita J. Egan

The Wonderettes are back in town and they are as marvelous as they were during their high school days in the ’50s. The musical comedy “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On” opened at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts last Saturday, just in time for some warm weather fun.

Ronald Green III has done a terrific job in directing the four actors in the production, which is one of the sequels to the long-running off-Broadway hit “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” Written and created by Roger Bean, the story begins in 1969, as Cindy Lou, Betty Jean, Missy and Suzy reunite to perform at the retirement party of their former teacher at Springfield High, Miss McPherson.

From left, Katie Ferretti, Jacqueline Hughes, Marielle Greguski and Jessica Ader-Ferretti in a scene from ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On.’ Photo from SCPA

The first act provides a handful of hits from the ’60s, and as the party ends, Cindy Lou announces she has dreams of making it big in the music business. In the second act, at their 20-year high school reunion in 1978, the Wonderettes are as sensational as ever when they perform iconic hits from the ’70s. Katie Ferretti (Cindy Lou), Jessica Ader-Ferretti (Betty Jane), Marielle Greguski (Missy) and Jacqueline Hughes (Suzy) all deliver dream-worthy performances in this four-women show. Their vocals and harmonization are excellent, and they nail the corny girl-band dance moves of the past.

Ferretti has the right amount of sass and confidence to play Cindy Lou and is convincing as the girl who always gets the guy, and yet at times plays the role with enough tenderness that one can’t help but feel sorry for her when things don’t go quite her way.

Ader-Ferretti is witty as Betty Jane who always has a quick comeback for any situation, and despite that wit, the audience can also sense the singer’s big heart, especially for her on-again, off-again love, Johnny. Greguski is a sweet, quirky Missy who keeps everything together. When things look like they may go south with her husband Mr. Lee, she’s so lovable, theatergoers can’t help but feel sorry for her. Hughes is a giddy and ditzy Suzy, and while an actor on stage may not portray her high-school-sweetheart-now-husband, Richie, whether she looks out into the audience with affection or longing, one would be convinced that he is actually sitting in one of the seats.

When it comes to the story line, some of the highlights of the show are when the Wonderettes interact with the audience members. The improvised scenes with ticket holders lead to some of the funniest moments in the musical.

The list of songs that complement the story line is a baby boomer’s dream, and like the Wonderettes, the four women know how to belt out a tune from the first song “Gimme Some Lovin’” to the closing number that blends “We Are Family” with the reprise of “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The actresses harmonize beautifully, and they each have their time to shine in the spotlight multiple times during the musical with well-executed solos.

Ferretti delivers beautiful renditions of songs such as “You’re No Good,” “Band of Gold” and “Groupie (Superlove)” while Ader-Ferretti is soulful and strong during her numbers, especially with “I Keep Forgettin’,” “When Will I Be Loved” and “I Will Survive.” Greguski also is strong and soulful on songs such as “For Once in My Life” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and Hughes delivers heartfelt versions of “More Than Yesterday” and “Lonely Night (Angelface).” The numbers are perfect examples of how theatergoers will believe Richie is sitting right in the audience with them.

The theater’s band, with conductor and keyboardist Melissa Coyle, Craig Coyle on keyboard, Ray Sabatello on guitar, Chad Goodstein on bass and Jim Waddell on drums, were just as wonderful as the stars of the show. SCPA’s “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On” is a delightful, high-energy production that will have you leaving the theater humming and feeling better than when you entered.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main Street, Smithtown, presents “The Marvelous Wonderettes: Dream On” through June 17. All seats are $35. For show schedule and more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.