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Ryan Nolin

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

Above, the cast performs a musical number in a scene from ‘Young Frankenstein’

By Kyle Barr

From left, Michael Newman as the blind hermit and Ryan Nolin as the monster in a scene from ‘Young Frankenstein’

Mel Brooks, the director and writer of some of cinema’s most beloved comedy movies, has always had something of a theatrical flair to his films. There have been musical scenes in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” “History of the World Part 1” and one glorious moment in “Young Frankenstein” when Frankenstein’s monster replaces his ragged clothing for a tuxedo and top hat and stiffly tap dances to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

It’s no wonder then that “Young Frankenstein” works so well as a musical stage production. The characters are there, the humor is there, and the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is more than up to the task of adapting the musical with a performance that emphatically captures the hilarious moments of the original 1974 film.

The story, written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan with music and lyrics by Brooks, follows the film very closely with only a few changes. The famous Victor Von Frankenstein, the mad scientist who created the original Frankenstein’s monster, is dead, and the villagers of Transylvania are much happier to see him gone.

Nick Masson as Frederick and Sarah Juliano as Inga in a scene from ‘Young Frankenstein’

While they think their troubles are over, Frankenstein’s grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Nick Masson), gets a letter that says he has inherited his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania. While he is originally staunch in refusing to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, with the help and coaxing of compatriots Igor (Andrew Murano), Inga (Sarah Jane Juliano) and Frau Blucher (Anne Marie Finnie), Frederick does indeed join the family business. It only takes a few mistakes before the monster (Ryan Nolin) is loose, and the villagers who for once thought they were free of monsters are yet again set upon by a big green menace.

Director and set designer Timothy Golebiewski skillfully leads a number of SCPA regulars along with several stage veterans making their premier at the theater. At last Sunday afternoon’s performance, all of the actors played their parts very well with several standouts.

SCPA veteran Michael Newman gives two excellent performances in the dual roles of Inspector Kemp and the blind hermit, while Juliano is hilarious as Inga, and her yodeling could give any clog-wearing German a run for their money.

‘Puttin On the Ritz’ at the SCPA.

With the passing of Gene Wilder last year still heavy on the heart, it’s hard to imagine another person portraying Frederick Frankenstein (“It’s pronounced Fronkensteen!”). However, Masson chooses to put a different spin on the iconic role to great effect. He sounds and acts much like everyone remembers their least favorite high school teacher to be, that one with the nasal voice and the rather high opinion of himself. He has a great sense for timing and his beginning song “The Brain,” about his love for the titular organ, is played up to its full bizarre and hilarious extent.

Murano as Igor (“It’s pronounced ‘Eye-gor!”) is a stand out soley for how much he seems to enjoy his role. Costume designer Ronald R. Green III does a superb job on his makeup from the character’s cloak to his deathly-white face and pointed nose.

While Igor is only the sidekick, he often steals the show with how much body language he puts into the jokes. It’s easy to see how Murano revels in the opportunity to touch the other characters in uncomfortable ways. One hilarious scene is when the character gets his hands on another’s fur cloak and chews into it and humps it like a dog.

Nick Masson and Andrew Murano in a scene from ‘Young Frankenstein’

While you originally wouldn’t expect much emoting from Frankenstein’s monster, who for most of the movie can only grunt and howl, Nolin does a great job of using his body language to effect the subtle and often confused emotions of the creature. It’s also great to see how well he transforms into an upstanding gentleman and how he affects an English accent as soon as he’s given intelligence.

The set design is particularly exceptional. Golebiewski and crew must have spent many good hours on setting up the two-tiered layout of the set, which has layers and a surprising amount of depth. It is remarkable to watch just from where different characters appear. Several of the bookcases can be spun around, which is not only used to transition from one parlor scene into a laboratory scene but is also used in one of the more famous jokes from the film where Inga and Frederick try to figure out how to use a secret door hidden in a bookcase.

The theater’s band, with conductor and keyboardist Melissa Coyle at the helm, Craig Coyle on keyboard, Michael Molloy on bass and Jim Waddell on drums, bring the whole show together nicely.

One thing to note is that this musical is raunchy, even more raunchy than the film on which it is based. While there are more than a few innuendos, there are many explicit references to sex and private parts, so adults may want to look up the script to the play before bringing young children along.

However, if you don’t mind a bit of sexual humor and you fondly remember the 1974 movie version, you won’t walk away disappointed. If you are looking to grab some of old monster movie nostalgia while watching something that wholly parodies those old horror conventions, you can’t get much better than SCPA’s “Young Frankenstein.”

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Young Frankenstein” through Aug. 20. Tickets are $35, adults, $32 seniors, $20 students with valid ID. 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.