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Ryan Cavanagh

Back row, from left, Anthony M. Panarello, Angelina Mercurio (understudy for Veronica Fox) and Brody Hampson; front row, from left, Luke Hampson and Ryan Cavanagh. Photo by Tommy Ranieri

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh off the massive children’s theater production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts scales things down with a musical retelling of Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The show opened last weekend and runs through Aug. 18.

Written and composed by the award-winning duo of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Seussical”), the “fractured fairytale” takes the 19th-century Danish author’s best known story and adds song and dance to create a delightfully charming treat.

At only 14 years old, Emperor Marcus the Third is nervous to take the throne. After all, he’s only finished Chapter 1 of “How to Be an Effective Emperor”! To make matters worse, the kingdom’s river is starting to overflow and a hole in the road is getting wider. The villagers come to Marcus for help, but the newbie has difficulty making decisions. When the palace’s mop boy Arno suggests he dress the part, Marcus becomes obsessed with his royal attire.

Outfit after outfit produced by Deena the Royal Clothesmaker is rejected. Seizing an opportunity, a swindler named Maurice weasels his way inside the palace and offers to make magic clothes that are “invisible to fools and liars.” Ignoring the counsel of his Royal Advisor William, the emperor gives Maurice the green light and begins plans to hold a parade to show off his new wardrobe. Will someone get Marcus out of this royal mess, or will he reveal more than he bargains for?

Tommy Ranieri directs and choreographs a talented quintet of actors that grab this comedic masterpiece by its royal coattails and run with it, effectively producing something very special.

Luke Hampson is exceptional as the clueless new ruler; Veronica Fox and Anthony M. Panarello do an excellent job portraying worrywarts Deena and William who fear they will lose their jobs because they can’t see the magic clothing; and Brody Hampson plays the role of con artist perfectly.

But it is Ryan Cavanagh in the role of Arno who steals every scene he is in and quickly becomes an audience favorite. In the end, it is he who teaches Marcus the important lesson of “it’s not what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside that counts.”

The wonderful songs tie the show together, with special mention to “The Ancestor Song,” “Only a Guy Like You,” “How Am I Ever Gonna Get To Sleep?” and “Invisible.”

The show offers no special effects or fancy sets, just good old-fashioned live theater the way it was meant to be. The actors are funny and entertaining and are as devoted to making the audience reflect as to making them laugh. Hans Christian Andersen would be proud.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “The Emperor’s New Clothes” through Aug. 18. Children’s theater continues with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure Jr.” from Sept. 14 to Oct. 27 and “Shrek the Musical Jr.” from Feb. 1 to March 1. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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