Authors Posts by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Barbara Anne Kirshner


Park poses for his portrait on Christmas, 2021. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

I begin with a heartfelt thank you to all who have joined Park and me on our life’s journey through the pages of TBR News Media. Readers with whom I had the privilege to meet have shared how they enjoyed our stories, how they sympathized and even empathized with our bond.

It pains me to tell you that this is our final chapter.

Park crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Oct.  26, at 16 years and almost 4 months. He valiantly fought for the past year and a half to stay with me even as his aged body was breaking. He fought against the paralysis that took over his hind legs last year keeping him down for four months. 

But the resilient little man miraculously bounced back. At the point when I broached the subject of having a wheelchair made to fit Park, he started to push his hind legs up, to arch, then to straighten those legs and to my amazement, the day came when he walked on all fours again! 

Life was beautiful with my Prince Charming Park by my side — until Aug.  28. Park put his head down and when he raised it up again, he was blind. This blindness was proceeded by two weeks of noticeable head tremors which I reported to the vet who felt that at his advanced age, anything could happen.

We went to an ophthalmic dog specialist at VMCLI who, after giving Park a thorough examination, diagnosed that his blindness was not due to cataracts, but probably to a tumor pushing against his eyes. An MRI would corroborate this diagnosis, but I was cautioned of the danger of putting a dog of his advanced age under anesthetic. They could not guarantee he would survive the procedure. There was a very real chance that he might die on the operating table or have a negative reaction shortly after. The doctors at VMCLI were caring and understanding. Their advice was to hold Park close for whatever time we have left, but to put him through procedures that might reveal a tumor and then to follow that up with radiation was really too much for my little senior man. 

I followed their advice. We went home and I held Park tight, praying for more time.

BUT that was not to be. He started stroking out, falling into a coma. The first time it happened, I revived him with an eyedropper of water, prying it into his mouth through clenched teeth. As he revived, I tried giving him a spoonful of canned dog food, but he turned away from it which was alarming given the never satiated appetite of a dachshund. That’s when I thought of his favorite treat, McNulty’s vanilla ice cream. It worked like a charm!! He sniffed the plate, then licked it clean. That restored enough energy so he could sit up on his own.

I laughed thinking McNulty’s needs to advertise “Our ice cream is not only scrumptious but it saves lives too!!”

This wasn’t the last of the strokes though. A few weeks later, another took him down and he fell into a coma again. Once again, through his clenched teeth I pushed water into his mouth with the eyedropper. When he started to come around, once again, he needed several scoops of vanilla ice cream to revive, but this time he remained extremely weak, unable to hold himself up with his front legs, the legs that had remained strong even when his hind legs were paralyzed. This episode proved so debilitating that his frail body couldn’t go on.

Park crossed the Rainbow Bridge as I kissed his sweet forehead and held him, talking him from this world into the next.

I am empty without my sweet boy, my loyal companion, my protector, my travel buddy, my everything.

I try to take solace in Brandon McMillan’s quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I smile when I think of my boy which is every minute of every day — about our shared trips to Park’s Bench in Stony Brook Village, about all of our journeys, our fun, his antics done deliberately to make me smile and make me give him extra attention like his penchant to stand in the rain until sopping wet knowing full well that when he sauntered into the house I would be there to towel all that long, luxurious fur.

I smile to recall how Park, the Christmas Puppy, pranced into my life ignoring my concerns that three dogs were maybe three too many and I will feel blessed for the rest of my days that Park, the Angel Puppy, chose to share his life with me.

A resident of Miller Place, Barbara Anne Kirshner writes theater reviews for TBR News Media and is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee — The Different Dachshund.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

High adventure, edge of your seat excitement, mesmerizing with mythology sprinkled in, that’s The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, currently receiving its Long Island premiere at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center.

Anyone in their teens knows Rick Riordan’s popular 2005 YA novel with similarities to a Harry Potteresque quest, but instead of wizards and wands, Percy must face mythological creatures and Zeus’ lightning bolt. 

The theatrical version, with music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki and book by Joe Tracz, was adapted from Riordan’s first novel in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series about a boy who discovers he is a demigod possessing magical powers. 

The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2014 as a one-hour show receiving positive reviews before heading into a national tour, then returned to the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2017 this time with an augmented script. It debuted on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre on October 16, 2019 and ran through January 5, 2020. A 2010 film preceded the musical and presently, a television series is in the works for Disney+.

When the president of the board at SCPA, Michael Mucciolo, was asked why such an innovative yet unfamiliar show to many adults was chosen for their season opener, his response was the hope for the future of theatre lies in attracting both youngsters and adults. From the size of the audience at the time of this review, it seems Mucciolo was right. The house was crowded with eager youngsters accompanied by parents who became fans if the enthusiastic standing ovation at curtain was any indication.

The technical aspects of this magical adventure are impressive. From lighting designer Chris Creevy’s strategically placed strobes to flashes of white lights to mood reds combined with sound designer Jacques St. Louis’ thunderous effects and echoes, each detail builds suspense. The set, constructed by Keith Blum, Jacques St. Louis and Michael Mucciolo, with an upstage screen that projected at once stars then fire, then swirls of smoke, then a silhouette of a tree against an orange sky adds intensity to scenes. 

A particularly thrilling projection was of a Minotaur (half bull, half man) attacking Percy, his friend, Grover, and killing Percy’s mom, Sally. To avenge her death, Percy kills the Minotaur and the projection has this monster keel over and disappear. Additionally, a scaffolding with levels gives flexibility with set changes.

Director Robbie Torres keeps the pace electric assisted by a talented cast with strong voices and playing multiple characters. In the lead role of Percy Jackson, Jason Steven Kopp captivates as the troubled teen with ADHD and dyslexia who is always getting into trouble. Percy was raised by a loving mom, a mean stepdad and wonders about the natural father he never met. 

In a sudden revelation, Percy discovers he is the son of Poseidon, and thus begins his quest with two of his pals to find the lightning bolt that will prevent war between the gods. With innocent eyes that reach out and spirited vocals, Kopp sends chills especially when he challenges “bring on the monsters, bring on the real world.” Though this is a fantasy, the message that your differences may be blessings in disguise that help you rise up and be strong is very real.

When Percy kills the Minotaur, he is knocked unconscious only to wake in a land called Camp Half-Blood, a place for children who are half mortals just like him. It is revealed that his friend, Grover (Cyd Rosenberg), is a satyr, a Greek goat-like protector. Grover remains at Percy’s side through his quest. Also joining them is Annabeth (Lorelai Mucciolo), a daughter of Athena, a strong leader offering Percy direction. Rosenberg and Mucciolo sparkle with robust voices and heartfelt performances. 

A campy moment happens when Clarisse, one of the demigods at Camp Blood, (Mairead Camas) tries to harm Percy, but he is saved when the toilet he is hiding in sprays her with water. Camas with a glint in her eye makes for a menacing villain. 

Peter J. Osterman is dynamic, taking on several roles including Percy’s Latin teacher Mr. Brunner who assists him at several pivotal points and is frightfully delightful as Auntie Em. In the role of Percy’s mother Sally, Ayana Franck gives a tour de force performance. Her vocals reminiscent of Aretha Franklin are powerful and her portrayal as the mother who will do anything even sacrifice herself for her son is gripping.

Rounding out the cast is David Reyes as Luke the son of Hermes who entices Percy to go on the quest that will take him to the Underworld where he will find his mom. Reyes turns in a polished performance with his smooth stage presence and compelling vocals. But is his character friend or foe? Only time will tell.

Assisting in visual effects are the fantastic costumes by Carmela Newman including Grover’s fur appendages for legs, a specter draped in white gauze wings outlined with electric lights and Auntie Em’s green satin robe trimmed in black fur. Julie Stewart’s choreography keeps the energy high and the action is enhanced by thrilling sword play sequences compliments of Heather Legnosky. In addition to directing the show, Robbie Torres takes on musical direction orchestrating an exuberant audio track accompaniment.

SPAC’s action-packed The Lightning Thief grasps you right from the start and doesn’t let go until the final note is sung. This is truly a feast for the entire family. 

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main St., Smithtown presents The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical through Oct. 29. Tickets are $40, $35 seniors, $25 students. To order, visit

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

It’s curtains up on another scintillating season of shows at the Engeman! How can they top last year’s caliber productions that offered one magnificent show after the other? Well, they have done it again with an effervescent Mystic Pizza.

The musical was adapted from the 1988 film classic starring Julia Roberts about three young coming of age waitresses working at a small-town pizzeria in Mystic, Connecticut, a town that is quiet all winter but bustling with tourists in the summer. The real pizza parlor was a popular place in Mystic since 1973 and became the inspiration for the film after being visited by screenwriter, Amy Jones.

The world premiere was at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine in 2021. Interesting to note that the concept for a Mystic Pizza musical was first visited in 2007 as part of the plot in season 2 of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock.

This juke box musical rocks with some of the best tunes from the 80’s and 90’s including those of Melissa Ethridge, John Mellencamp, Van Morrison, Phil Collins, Pat Benatar and Debbie Gibson. The songs compliment a substantial script that centers around the lives of three teenage Portuguese waitresses at this pizzeria who are on the threshold of making major decisions concerning lives, careers and romance. The plot highlights the contrast between the working class living in Mystic year-round and the affluent tourists who summer there. 

Igor Goldin in his Director’s Notes commented on how intriguing it was to work on a musical that had only one prior production. That allowed him to open the door for creating without any preconceived ideas. The result is a true feast of sight and sound starting with an ingenious set designed by Kyle Dixon that gives the feeling of a New England fishing village with a rustic backdrop and featuring a large A-frame structure, center stage on a turntable that revolves into various settings. Jose Santiago’s lighting design enhances each set change and establishes mood.

The show is energetic right from the start with John Mellencamp’s spirited Small Town that instantly immerses us in the lives of these townies. The songs are well chosen and placed in just the right spots to help drive the story line. Under the direction of Sarah Wussow, the band wraps itself around each of these pop tunes and is a driving force in delivering emotions. Ashley Marinelli’s choreography compliments the energy of the show with joyous, bouncy movement that embraces the rock tone. Costumes by Dustin Cross appropriately contrast the classes with tight fitting miniskirts for townies as opposed to collegiate styles for upper class.

The three waitresses are engaging as they navigate into adulthood. There is Jojo (Michelle Beth Herman), who faints at her wedding to Bill (Stephen Cerf) but is conflicted since she doesn’t want their relationship to end. She aspires to make something of herself and dreams of owning her own restaurant. Cerf, a consummate vocalist and dancer, punches out Addicted to Love with revved up passion telling us just how committed he is to Jojo. Their duet Take My Breath Away highlights their exquisite vocals and undeniable chemistry.

Sisters Kat (Brooke Sterling) and Daisy (Emily Rose Lyons) are complete opposites. Daisy longs to get out of this Connecticut town and thinks her only option is to attract a well-healed summer tourist. She meets Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. (Jake Bentley Young), who comes from a wealthy family but is equally disenchanted with his life. His secret desire to be an artist is overshadowed by his father’s insistence that he become a lawyer. Charlie encourages Daisy to have faith in herself and go for what she really wants which is to become a lawyer. Lyons and Young turn in a sensual performance with I Think We’re Alone Now. But conflict erupts when Daisy realizes he invited her to a family dinner as a show of rebellion against his parents’ plans for his future. Young and Lyons’ Hit Me With Your Best Shot is electrifying.

Kat is the smart one, accepted into Yale and is an aspiring astronomer, but naïve in matters of the heart having fallen for Tim (Corbin Payne), an architect who is new in town working on restoration of an old historic residence. As Kat, Sterling embraces the emotion of first love with a poignant Lost in Your Eyes. Sterling and Payne share a sweet moment in When I See You Smile, but their characters’ relationship crumbles when Tim confesses to being in a loveless marriage. 

Leona (Kathryn Markey) is charming as the owner of the pizza shop who exudes concern for her teenage waitresses and mischievous in not revealing the secret ingredient to her specialty sauce until just the right moment.

Kent M. Lewis (The Fireside Gourmet) keeps us in suspense as the aloof critic who will either make or break the pizza shop with his review.

The company adds so much fun and animation to this polished production. and an enthusiastic standing ovation punctuated the sterling performance during last Saturday’s show. The Engeman has done it again with this delightful romp into its 15th season. Catch Mystic Pizza through Oct. 30.

The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport. For tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

“Luck Be a Lady”

“If I Were a Bell”

“I’ve Never Been in Love Before”

“Take Back Your Mink”

These familiar songs are part of the rich tapestry that makes up American musical theatre history and all are in the classic, Guys and Dolls, the perfect choice to launch Theatre Three into its 52nd season of bringing fine entertainment to Long Island  audiences.

Frank Loesser’s stunning music combined with his compelling lyrics accompanied by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ whimsical book resulted in a one-of-a-kind show that truly represents Broadway’s Golden Age.

Inspiration for this 1950’s musical came from early 20th Century short stories penned by Damon Runyan most notably “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,” “Blood Pressure” and “Pick the Winner.” Runyan’s penchant toward gambling, especially craps and horse racing, played out in his short stories and in this musical. Likewise, Runyan’s connection to the underworld and best friend, mobster accountant, Otto Berman, is reflected in his works with Berman given the alias “Regret the horse player.” Runyan and his humorous works about gamblers, hustlers, and gangsters from Brooklyn or Midtown Manhattan with unusual names such as “Nathan Detroit,” “Big Julie” and “Harry the Horse” proved a perfect springboard for creating this delightfully entertaining musical. 

Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway in 1950 winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was adapted for the movies in 1955 with a star-studded cast including Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. Since then, this fan favorite has enjoyed numerous Broadway and London revivals before venturing into Port Jefferson.

This captivating Theatre Three production takes hold of the audience right from the start with a spirited overture under the musical direction of Jeffrey Hoffman that instantly immerses the audience in the light-hearted tone of the show. Then lights go up on the company of actors in mid-twentieth century period piece colorful dresses and dashing suits thanks to costume designers Jason Allyn and Ronald Green III.

Randall Parsons’ scenic design is abstract yet functional with a backdrop of towering city skyscrapers inside a frame outlined with tiny white lights then transforms into the Hot Box Club, this time with a backdrop of shimmering silver streamers before morphing into industrial pipes and smog representing the gambling garage. Stacey Boggs’ lighting design accentuates each scene from brilliant whites to smoldering greens and reds.

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled a dynamic cast that dazzles and owns the flavor of 1950’s New York City. 

There are essentially four leads in this show. Rachel Greenblatt is engaging as puritanical missionary Sarah Brown, dedicated to saving sinners and surprised by her own vulnerability at falling for smooth talking gambler, Sky Masterson (Kevin Shaw). Greenblatt hits the stratosphere with her trilling soprano in such songs as “I’ll Know, If I Were a Bell” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Shaw’s Sky Masterson is suave, charismatic and oh so cool as a big-time gambler, but becomes equally surprised to realize he has fallen for this prudish do-gooder. There are two showstoppers in this musical and Shaw owns one of them with his rousing “Luck Be a Lady.”

The other two leads in the show are Nathan Detroit (Steven Uihlein), who is obsessed with gambling and not his fiancée, Adelaide (Sari Feldman), with whom he has been engaged for the past 14 years. Uihlein and Feldman are adorable together and their duet in “Sue Me” is humorous as Nathan tries to deflect Adelaide’s insistence that they marry. Feldman equally shines when belting out “Adelaide’s Lament” bemoaning that her one continuous cold is due to waiting so long for that band of gold. Feldman luxuriates in Adelaide’s affectations including her high-pitched New York City accent, rhythmic gait and innocence mixed with determination to finally marry that man.

Nathan is not only dealing with Adelaide’s pressures, but he is being pressured to rent the Biltmore garage for the big crap game. The only problem is he doesn’t have the money for the rent, hence he makes a bet on what he perceives is a sure thing. Nathan bets Sky $1,000 that he will not be able to get Sarah to go to dinner with him in Havana the following evening. 

But the smooth-talking Masterson convinces the sweet missionary to fly off to Havana for dinner. That leaves Nathan in a double mess. He doesn’t have the money for the garage and now he owes Sky $1,000 for losing their bet.

The adroit Company in this show takes on Ryan Nolin’s impressive choreography with gusto. In the Latin flavored Havana interlude the dancers — Rob Ferzola, Melissa Norman, Cassidy Rose O’Brien and Alex Yagud-Wolek — exude sensuality as they ease into Nolin’s gorgeous tableaus. Nolin keeps the party going with Adelaide’s animated Hot Box chorus girls and their effervescent dance routines. 

The second showstopper belongs to Finn MacDevitt’s animated Nicely-Nicely Johnson whose bouncy aerobic routines in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin the Boat,” received rousing applause on opening night.

Theatre Three’s Guys and Dolls is a jubilant celebration of Broadway’s Golden Age. Don’t miss this one. 

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents ‘Guys and Dolls’ through Oct. 22. Tickets are $35, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit

Photos by Brian Hoerger/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Park sitting at his favorite bench in Stony Brook Village. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

SWEET 16! A milestone in the life of a teenager-a threshold into exciting adventures on the horizon whether it be college, military service, work, Sweet 16 ushers in all of life’s expectations with parents right there to rejoice and take pride in accomplishments awaiting their child.

BUT what if the Sweet 16 is your precious dog? In that case, 16 becomes a dreaded number foreshadowing the impending end. You look at your little charge and instead of being filled with joys for the future, you are reduced to the dread of that haunting overriding question “WHEN?” When will your companion suffer the ravages of old age? When will our time together run out? When will you experience your last day together and be forced to whisper “goodbye”?

All these thoughts fill me with dread. Park has been the BEST boy, my special little man. I’ve written about how we met; how I was hesitant to take on another dog with two at home already; how he became Park The Christmas Puppy having joined our family on Christmas 2006; how he became my traveling buddy; how strangers marveled at how good he was in his stroller as we toured local stores; and how, on numerous occasions, cars stopped, and people called out, “That is the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen!”

Park sitting at his favorite bench in Stony Brook Village.
Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Then the day came when my editor asked me to write an article on the 2014 motorcycle exhibit at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village. The curator asked me to come down on July 3, Park’s birthday. I couldn’t bear to leave my boy on his special day, so I asked if he could join and thankfully, Park was welcomed. They were impressed with how good he was as we toured the exhibit and how he let me work just as long as I was in his eyesight.

The curator suggested that Park and I stop off at the Village Green, a lush park-like section fronting quaint shops at the Stony Brook Village Center. Park and I were delighted with this picturesque spot and we rested for the first time on what was to become “Park’s Bench.” That was the first of our annual visits to this special bench overlooking Stony Brook Harbor. Every year since then, no matter what we have planned for his birthday celebration, we pause at his bench — two friends sitting and enjoying a few quiet moments together before the rest of his birthday festivities begin.

Last year Park was paralyzed, having gone down May 15, 2021, through the summer including his birthday. Then miraculously, through constant visits to the vet for treatments, he regained the use of his hind legs in late September 2021.

Now, at 16, his face shows signs of age though amazingly, he hasn’t grayed, but his eyes now lack that playful sparkle once so prevalent and that constant energy is gone. He has a decided tremor that seems to be more apparent with each passing day and lately he’s faltering again when he walks.

Yet I am blessed to have my little man at Sweet 16, to still be able to pet him and look into those loving eyes. But TIME and the BIG question “WHEN” loom large.

When Park decides he has had enough of this world, it will be one of the greatest hits in my life as there is no consolation for the loss of a loved one. The only solace for me comes from an adage from Brandon McMillan of the original Lucky Dog series:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

A resident of Miller Place, Barbara Anne Kirshner writes theater reviews for TBR News Media and is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee — The Different Dachshund.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

It’s hilarious, fast-paced and so much fun with toe-tapping music — those are the ingredients that make I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change the right choice to breathe life into the latest era of the Smithtown Performing Arts Center.

The historic 365-seat theatre with its grand marque still stands proudly on Main Street in Smithtown even after going through several incarnations since first opening its doors in 1933 as a movie house. It was acquired by United Artists in 1968 and ran movies until 2001 when it was purchased privately and segued into presenting live theatre in 2002. 

The Smithtown Performing Arts Council, a non-profit organization, was formed in 2008 to oversee operations of the theatre. Then when the theatre was put up for sale once again in 2021, the Council, with the support from the Town of Smithtown, grants, and community donors, purchased it in April 2022. On August 4 the curtains went up, ushering in a new era of live main stage productions with this gleeful musical comedy.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a series of vignettes joined by an overriding arc that dissects the stages of love and relationships. The musical comedy, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, is the second-longest running Off-Broadway musical having premiered at the Westside Theatre August 1, 1996, until it closed July 27, 2008.

The show calls upon its four-person cast to be outstanding actors and singers with high energy sustained throughout the two hours of lively entertainment. An additional challenge is to be one character in one scene, then do a quick transformation including costume to hair and reappear as an entirely different character with a distinctly different way of walking, talking and feeling. 

The cast, simply referred to in the program as Woman 1 (Laura Meade), Man 1 (James M. Lotito Jr.), Woman 2 (Christina Muens) and Man 2 (Steve Corbellini) have taken on this impressive task to perfection with the audience leaving the theatre exclaiming “That was fabulous!” “Weren’t they amazing?!” YES, all four actors were AMAZING! Each carried his or her parts with gusto and without a weak link in the cast — no small accomplishment since all four actors span the ages from young daters to young marrieds to parents to middle aged into the elderly years and must be believable every step of the way.

Act I opens with “Cantata for a First Date” chanted by four images swathed in white sheets representing monks and giving the impression that we are about to embark on a magical journey. The Cantata is reprised three times throughout the show. Act I is so much fun as it exploits all the quirks in dating and early relationships. The first scene is hilarious when Muens and Corbellini confess “We’ve got baggage” and we are off to the dating disaster stage. 

In “A Stud and a Babe,” Lotito sits opposite Meade in a restaurant as both feel obviously awkward and Lotito mutters to himself, “I’d be better at flirting if I had looks that kill.” Another scene has the two women lamenting “There’s a serious single man drought!” The men follow that up with “I’m a guy! I never stop to ask directions.” 

Act II starts off on high test with Meade fluttering around in a hideous bridesmaid dress as she drones, “All those husbands are gone but those dresses live on.” Act II is poignant as it focuses on marriage, parenthood, divorce then old age. The message that the Epilogue sends is “Go forth with joy. Find someone to love, then spend the rest of your life trying to change them.” Hence, I love you, you’re perfect, now change!

To assist in the smooth transitions is a set that morphs easily from scene to scene constructed by Keith Blum, Jacques St. Louis and Michael Mucciolo. The giant screen upstage center is a nice touch that highlights each scene projecting images including a swirling constellation, a tennis court, a stained-glass cathedral, a cascade of twinkling stars and so on. A few well-placed chairs, round tables and sofa move into place according to their function in each scene.

With so many scene changes, Chris Creevy’s lighting design seems to take the audience by the hand leading them from one vignette into the next with a fluidity that never interrupts the flow of action.

Carmela Newman’s costumes define characters and at times add humor like with the loud print Hawaiian shirt in “Why? Cause I’m a Guy?” and the cringe-worthy pink flouncy gown replete with puffs of red, white and coral flowers in “Always a Bridesmaid.”

Musical Director Bobby Peterson appears upstage center at the piano throughout the entire show with extraordinary accompaniment that makes this production seamless. Sound design by Jacques St. Louis enhances the gorgeous sopranos of Meade and Muens while it adds crispness to the vocal calisthenics of Corbellini and Lotito. Sound operator Harrison Giordano smoothly navigates through all the sound cues in this show.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is such fun especially on a warm summer night, so come see it at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center. You’ll be glad you did.

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main St., Smithtown presents I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change on Aug. 11, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $45, $40 seniors. To order, visit

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Excitement abounds in Stony Brook Village!

On June 21, the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) held a press conference in which they announced that they are joining forces by signing a long-term lease to house the LIMEHOF’s first physical facility at the WMHO’s Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village Center.

This perfect melding brings together two organizations built on highlighting cultural as well as educational elements. The WMHO is rooted in the contributions of Ward Melville to the educational landscape of the Three Village Area. Its Educational and Cultural Center, an impressive white colonial-style building, opened its doors in 2002, offering interactive programs and events, exhibits, and theatrical productions.

The Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization founded in 2004, recognizes, honors and preserves Long Island’s musical heritage. The organization’s educational initiatives include annual scholarships, a concert series, speaker series, and its Hall of Fame with such inductees as Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Eddie Money, Connie Stevens, Clive Davis and Neil Sedaka. The organization recently expanded its mission to recognize all forms of the arts including, but not limited to, comedy, film, television and theater. 

Now that LIMEHOF has joined forces with WMHO, their ambitious collaboration intends to create a physical facility in the Educational and Cultural Center space that will showcase Long Island’s rich and diverse musical and entertainment history. Plans are for exhibits, a permanent “Hall of Fame,” a library, classrooms for educational programs and master classes, and a theater.

Dr. Richard Rugen, chair of board to WMHO said, “We are looking forward to a long partnership with LIMEHOF. Our trustees feel this is a perfect fit with the other not-for-profits located in Stony Brook Village, namely, The Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and The Reboli Center.”

“With all the other attributes in Stony Brook Village, such as restaurants, shops, parks, Discovery Boat, kayaks, historic buildings and hotel, this is a perfect addition. The multi-purpose building was constructed to hold exhibits, performances, classes and is wired for distance learning. When I heard that LIMEHOF was looking for a permanent home, I called Ernie Canadeo and the rest is history.” said Gloria D. Rocchio, President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

The festivities were kicked off by the LIHOF 2022 inductees, the band Barnaby Bye, featuring the Alessi brothers, Billy and Bobby, and Mike Ricciardella, treating the audience to a rendition of their song Sea Birds.

Hosting duties went to the LIMEHOF Chairman, Ernie Canadeo, who proudly stated, “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there is no place in the country and even in the world that has produced as many extraordinary musical composers or entertainers than Long Island. We have inducted over 100 from every musical genre. Today we are thrilled to announce that we have expanded our mission and our name to include major figures in comedy, film, television and the arts in addition to music. This beautiful building will become the home to honor, respect and preserve LI’s diverse musical and entertainment history and its future.” 

He continued, “In addition to a permanent Hall of Fame that will honor all our inductees, we will have 2 changing exhibitions a year. The first will be called LI’s Legendary Club Scene 1960s, 70s and 80s. It will be a tribute to clubs and bands who played on Long Island and created the unbelievable club scene that no one who lives here will ever forget. We expect to draw people from all over with nostalgia for those wonderful days. We are planning a grand opening in November 2022.”

Canadeo then introduced the world-renowned visual designer, Kevin O’Callaghan, who will oversee all things creative.

“I love this community. I am thankful for this opportunity; it is really amazing,” said O’Callaghan. “For this first exhibition, we want to focus on the people, because the people of Long Island are what made so much of this happen. The club scene, the music scene — it all started here. We want to get the stories, the stories behind the musicians and the shows and what people saw and experienced and what it felt like to be in Speaks and what it felt like to be in Hammerheads and what it felt like to see Twisted Sister. It’s amazing; Billy Joel, in his early days, just playing a piano, no band behind him. We want to hear those stories, so we’re reaching out to the public looking for stories, memorabilia. I don’t think there is anything too small that wouldn’t be important in here. We’re going to have a theater upstairs; we’re going to have a library upstairs. It’s going to be educational. I just can’t wait. I’m unbelievably excited!”

It is of special interest to note that the space where the Educational and Cultural Center is located was once the site of the famed Dogwood Hollow built by businessman and philanthropist Ward Melville. It was a 2,000+ seat outdoor amphitheater that hosted greats such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Liberace and more between 1955 and 1970. 

In deference to this space, Canadeo said, “It was one of the most significant theatres on Long Island and it was right here where this building was built. So, you talk about karma and us being meant to be here; it’s really unbelievable. And if you look at the history, it was one of the first places that had no regard for racial issues. You look back and a lot of the artists here spanned everyone and it’s really a significant space. We are proud that our building is in this space.”

The crowd was treated to a tour of the upstairs space that will house the Hall of Fame, exhibits and a small theater. The official ribbon-cutting and public opening of the completed space is scheduled to take place this coming November. For more information and to see artist renderings of the exhibits, visit

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

SHOES! Cobbled into laced high-top boots, stilettos or platforms, they transport the wearer to another place, another time, even another attitude. As Cyndi Lauper’s lyrics put it, “The most beautiful thing in the world — SHOES!”

Kinky Boots isn’t just about shoes; there’s a much deeper message of acceptance that resonates in this musical with book by Broadway icon, Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles), and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper who already was the beacon for diversity with such anthems as True Colors. Together they crafted this poignant, funny musical that radiates so much heart.

The show is based on the 2005 British film, Kinky Boots, which was inspired by a true story, the topic of a 1999 episode of the BBC2 documentary television series Trouble at the Top. 

This musical centers around a young man, Charlie Price, who is struggling to save his family’s five-generations-long shoe factory in the small town of Northampton, England that he inherited from his father. He forms an unlikely alliance with a drag queen, Lola, and they produce a line of high-heeled alternative footwear for men and take their kinky boots to the runways of the international shoe show in Milan. Along the way, Charlie and Lola realize they are not that different.

Kinky Boots premiered at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013. It received 13 nominations and 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actor for Billy Porter and Best Score for Cyndi Lauper giving her the distinction of being the first woman to win alone in that category. It closed on April 7, 2019. 

Now the musical heads to the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport  which enjoys a tradition of breathtaking professionalism and Kinky Boots only adds to its repertoire of fabulous theatre.

Musical direction by Jeff Cox keeps festivities energized with the band conducted by Ben Kiley, on the night of this review, brilliantly taking on Lauper’s high-spirited score and driving it home.

The dynamic cast is intense and multi-talented, injecting passion and energy into the show. In the lead role of Charlie Price, Zach Hess is compelling, making us feel his dilemma, torn between trying to keep his father’s legacy alive or giving in to his fiancée Nicola’s insistence that they start a new life in London. Hess’ vocals are rich and powerful in such numbers as Step One, Take What You Got and blows the roof off the house with the impassioned Soul of a Man. Sofie Flores’ Nicola is a steam-roller, prickly and conniving; she selfishly conjures up a plan to get Charlie out of the factory.

Omari Collins dazzles in the role of flamboyant drag queen Lola whom Charlie met after a chance encounter. Collins glamorously struts his stuff in such numbers as Land of Lola, Sex Is In The Heels and sends chills with his showstopper Hold Me In Your Heart. He is riveting when he confides how he didn’t live up to his father’s desire that he become a proper boxer.

We are thoroughly immersed in the duo of Charlie and Lola who come together to create all those kinky boots and along the way realize that above all else they must accept themselves, a revelation that resounds in I’m Not My Father’s Son.

In the role of factory worker Lauren, who comes up with the idea of footwear for a diversified market, Lily Kaufmann is so much fun especially when she regrets her poor choices in men with The History of Wrong Guys and is deliciously animated lusting after Charlie. As factory worker Don, Demetrio Alomar exudes the right flavor of gruff and macho especially when he rebuffs Lola leading to a pivotal confrontation.

The ensemble is incredibly limitless, bouncing through the kinetic choreography of Natalie Malotke. The factory workers are appropriately gritty in contrast to the sizzling Angels. How the Angels are able to perform all those gymnastic dance routines in sky high heels is incomprehensible!

Under the direction of Igor Goldin, this production soars with vitality and feeling. The ingenious set designed by Kyle Dixon emulates the industrial feel of this small town factory with its steel scaffolding that glides into various positions as each scene requires and features a slide conveyor belt for spitting out shoes. Jose Santiago’s lighting design with well-placed spots that add pathos causes shivers and excitement just at the right moments. Sound design by Joanna Lynne Staub is crisp with all levels expertly set.

The shining stars are the thigh-high kinky boots in a rainbow of colors and bedazzled in jewels compliments of prop designer Kristie Moschetta. Kurt Alger must have had such fun designing costumes and wigs for this show. Every time Lola and her Angels appear we are awed by form-fitting confections in red, leather and animal prints with coiffeurs piled high or exploding in curls.

The finale, Raise You Up/Just Be, splashes joy over the audience and ejects them from their seats into an enthusiastic standing ovation. One can’t help but leave the theatre exhilarated. The Engeman has hit a home run with this mesmerizing production of Kinky Boots. Don’t miss it.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Kinky Boots through July 3. The 2021-2022 season closes out with the musical On Your Feet The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan from July 14 to Aug. 28. Tickets range from $75 to 80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

You are cordially invited 

To the destination wedding

Of Sophie and Sky

At a Greek Island inn.

BUT before Sophie can walk down the aisle, there is a mystery that must be solved.

Theatre Three has done it again and in grand style with the lighthearted musical comedy, Mamma Mia! The Musical featuring the songs of Swedish pop sensation, ABBA.

The band, under the direction of accomplished Jeffrey Hoffman, starts the joyful festivities with an overture of ABBA catchy hits. Even if you weren’t alive when this 70’s rock group was big, the songs are infectious and sure to delight all age groups.

Producer Judy Craymer is credited with introducing the idea for this show to ABBA Swedish songwriters and members of the original band, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, in 1983. British playwright Catherine Johnson was brought onboard to weave a story around these much-loved hit tunes and Mamma Mia! was born. 

The show was an international sensation including productions at London’s West End and Broadway. It holds the distinction of being the eighth longest-running musical in West End history and 18th longest running musical on Broadway where it opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 18, 2001, and ran through September 12, 2015.

The story revolves around Sophie who discovers her mother Donna’s old diary only to find entries describing that twenty-one years ago she was intimate with three men, — Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin and Harry Bright — at this island paradise that she now owns. One of these three men is Sophie’s father, but which? 

Sophie, who is about to get married, has visions of her father walking her down the aisle, so she sends invitations addressing them from her mother, but not letting Donna know what she has done. She feels certain that the moment she sets eyes on the men, she will know her father. The men accept and the plot is filled with comedic and emotional twists and turns when they show up at Donna’s Greek Island inn.

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has done a masterful job casting this show and the results are sheer perfection.

Cassidy Rose O’Brien’s Sophie is adorable with a rich vibrato that wraps around songs like I Have a Dream. O’Brien and Eric J. Hughes, as her fiancé Sky, have great chemistry. One cute bit has Sky and his pals maneuvering scuba flippers as they team up with O’Brien on Lay All Your Love on Me showing how silly, playful and sexy these two are together.

Steve Corbellini as Donna’s special love Sam delivers a heartfelt performance that crescendos in his duet with Christina Muens (Donna) on S.O.S. Dennis Setteducati is hysterical as the never married adventurer and writer, Bill. His duet with Rosie on Take a Chance on Me is a madcap whirlwind as choreographed by Sari Feldman who can always be counted on to tell stories through dance. Andrew Boza’s Harry is reminiscent of a Monty Python character with his humorous British affects.

To add a fine dose of humor to the plot, Donna has invited her best friends with whom she was once in a girl group called Donna and the Dynamos. When these women arrive, the three have a grand reunion as they reminisce over former exploits. 

There is the rich Tanya (Stephanie Moreau), who has been married three times, and the breezy Rosie (Lori Beth Belkin) who has never married. These three women are the centerpiece of the show adding much hilarity through their impeccable comedic timing and exuberant renditions of songs like Dancing Queen, Chiquita, and Super Trouper. Muens is fabulous as Donna with her powerhouse voice that sends chills especially in the standout The Winner Takes It All.

The cast is accompanied by a lively ensemble that infuses the stage with song and dance.

Costumes by Ronald Green III help illustrate the personalities of the characters from Bill’s Indiana Jones style hunting hat to Tanya’s elegantly flowing outfits to the flashy silver disco dresses of Donna and the Dynamos to all that glitter.

Randall Parsons’ scenic design cleverly glides from the main inn to a bedroom and back again while lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. accentuates the moods with well-placed neon columns illuminating assorted colors.

The finale is exhilarating with Donna, Tanya and Rosie joined by Sam, Bill and Harry appearing in colorful ABBA inspired costumes and accompanied by the entire company draped in sequins. They invite the audience to a dance party featuring the songs Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.

For an effervescent evening of theatre, get swept into the world of ABBA music at Donna’s fun Greek island resort in Mamma Mia!, playing now through June 25 at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and up. Please note this show contains adult themes and situations. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit


I first saw Mamma Mia! in 2003 at Mandalay Bay Hotel when I was visiting my uncle who lived in Las Vegas. It was such a magical production brimming with energy and spirit that I couldn’t wait to take my niece and nephew to see the Broadway production, but to my surprise, I left the Winter Garden Theatre disappointed. I am happy to say that Theatre Three’s production has the spirit and energy that so enchanted me in Vegas. If you love musical theatre, you must catch this show. You will leave the theatre smiling, dancing to the beat and singing.

Comedian Debbie D'Amore at the April 15 show. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

I usually share my theatre reviews with you, but this time I want to tell you about something a little different.

My husband and I love comedy, especially stand up, but haven’t gone to anything like that in a long time. We decided to try McGuires Comedy Club in Bohemia. McGuires and The Brokerage in Bellmore are sister clubs to Governors’ Comedy Club in Levittown, an institution in comedy that has been around for over 35 years and has featured home grown Long Island comedians in addition to national headliners such as Kevin James, Andrew Dice-Clay and Gilbert Gottfried. McGuires opened in 2017 and quickly established a reputation for bringing some of the finest comedy to Suffolk County for a reasonable price.

Host John Trueson at the April 15 show. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

McGuires offers a variety of comedy nights. Sometimes it hosts headliners like Joey Kola (May 7) or Don Irrera (June 2). Sometimes it’s a 2-man show like Kevin Brennan and Bob Levy (April 29). Showcases are a popular staple like the All Star Comedy Show and the one we caught Friday night, April 15, Stars of Tomorrow. This showcase attracted us because we thought, who knows, maybe we’ll see the next Amy Schumer, Jerry Seinfeld or Eddie Murphy.

John Trueson hosted the evening’s festivities. Trueson, an obvious professional, energized the audience with his personable banter as he kept the pace throughout the evening, quick and flawless, introducing one comedian after the next. 

I consider stand up a challenging art form and I admire anyone with the guts to get up in front of an audience and try to make them laugh. Most of these comedians joked about themselves and the foibles of their families which made it good fun.

The playlist for the evening was well thought out. First up, Tim Gage, who jumped onstage full of energy and never let up. His jokes were about highly relatable family matters. His observation of, “Have you ever looked at your own parents and wondered what it was that brought those two together?” brought down the house. He poked fun of the school system with his son’s teacher telling him, “Your son’s got ADD, he might be good in sports.” So, he started coaching his son’s little league. “My son made it to first base once; he didn’t know where he was.” The jokes were quick and furious.

Next up was Nick Damadeo who started off, “My wife listed a few topics I’m not allowed to discuss.” He went through the list then concluded, “ Most people don’t give a damn about anything on that list.” He poked fun at his profession, “The doctor said to me you’re a lawyer, aren’t you? Yeah, how’d you know? I can’t find a heart.” Yes, there were lots of lawyer jokes.

Comedians Debbie D’Amore and Chris Road at the April 15 event. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Chris Roach introduced himself with put on snobbery, “I’m from upper Ronkonkoma.” He had the audience in the palm of his hand with jokes on the pandemic. “I want to pass a new law that anytime anyone says ‘variant’ I want to punch them in the mouth.” And “I’m not going back in the house. I’m going to kill somebody if I have to do one more puzzle.”

Not all the comedians were funny. There was one who was brave enough to let us know this was his first stand up gig and it showed. Another went into political “humor” that received groans. This crowd, like most of us, is done with political humor.

There were only two female comedians and they brought up the end of the billing. Debbie D’Amore, with her engaging smile, makes you feel like she’s inviting you into her living room for an evening of fun. She started by shaking her head saying, “Why do I do this? My friends are retiring and I go to comedy college.” Then she laments, “Gone are the days of the masks. Now I got to shave!” 

Her timing was smooth as she segued from one joke into the next often making fun of her well-endowed self. She quipped about the time she and her husband went to Gurney’s Inn. She shared that he had red trunks, so she went to the resort shop and bought a cute red bathing suit. Only problem was it didn’t support her in the waves; the visual was hysterical. 

The last up was 20-something blonde, Kelsey McKeon who said, “I recently became a blonde and if you wonder if blondes have more fun; with me, I’m a train wreck at any color.”

On the way out, I stopped to congratulate D’Amore. As we spoke, a young woman approached and said, “Thank you for making me laugh uncontrollably tonight.” That about summed it up for me too.

Don’t we all need an escape, a place we can rely on for some laughs? Come to McGuires or The Brokerage or the mother club, Governors. You’ll be glad you did.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee — The Different Dachshund.”