Authors Posts by Barbara Anne Kirshner

Barbara Anne Kirshner


By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Mention Steel Magnolias to anyone and the overwhelming response is, “Oh, I love that show!” It’s easy to see how this dramedy continues to be a fan favorite and Theatre Three’s production serves up an inviting dose of southern charm.

Playwright Robert Harling wrote this play as a tribute to his diabetic sister who died way too soon from kidney failure. She had been warned by doctors that childbirth could be dangerous to her health, but she ignored all warnings and gave birth, then died before her son reached school age. Harling first recounted this event in a short story as a catharsis, then adapted it into the play and eventually into the highly successful film.

To make this play shine, just the right actresses must be cast in these demanding roles so director Mary Powers dipped into the treasure trove of Theatre Three regulars to fill some of these roles. This resulted in a gifted ensemble that brings just the right mix of pathos and comedic timing.

Steel Magnolias brims with witty one-liners as it navigates through two years in the lives of six tightly-knit small-town women who share life’s ups and downs together. Set in the fictional Parish of Chinquapin, Louisiana, at flamboyant Truvy’s in-home beauty parlor, this shop doubles as the meeting place for the women of this town.

Truvy (Stephanie Moreau) has just hired shy Annelle, a beauty school graduate, as her assistant. Truvy’s first lesson is, “There is no such thing as natural beauty. Remember that or we’re out of a job.” Moreau’s Truvy exudes sunshine even when offering direction and support to Annelle played by Christine N. Boehm who delivers a dynamic performance as the insecure new kid in town who transforms into a spiritual and secure presence.

It is Shelby’s wedding day and she wants her hair styled in the fashion of Grace Kelly. Michelle LaBozzetta’s Shelby is as optimistic and bubbly as her favorite color pink, or as she likes to call it “blush and bashful,” but with a mind as determined and strong as steel. Nothing will stand in her way of accomplishing her deepest desire of becoming a mother, despite the warnings of her doctor that childbirth could be fatal.

Clairee, the widow of the former mayor, is played with gusto by Marci Bing. Clairee thrives on town gossip at the salon and she has some of the wittiest lines in the show like, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” That line can only be topped by her declaration, “If you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me.” Bing is a joy as the outspoken Clairee who flings quips into the air letting them land where they may.

Truvy has given Annelle the task of styling the hair of M’Lynn, the mother of the bride. Linda May’s M’Lynn has her comedic moments like when describing Shelby’s choices for church décor declaring, “That sanctuary looks like it’s been hosed down with Pepto Bismol.” M’Lynn is the voice of reason but gets frustrated by her daughter’s reckless choices. May ultimately tears us apart with her motherly heartbreaking monologue.

Making a booming entrance is Ginger Dalton as Ouiser, the town curmudgeon. From the start, she is ranting, at first over Shelby’s father who has been shooting at birds and has stripped the blossoms from their shared magnolia tree. Dalton is hilarious with one liners like, “I’m not crazy! I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.”

These six indomitable magnolias show they have the steel that will get them through anything.

Jason Allyn’s costumes give definition to the characters from Truvy’s glitzy smocks to Shelby’s signature pinks to Ouiser’s practical denim. He illuminates the Christmas scene with outfits of reds, greens, whites and sparkles. Lindsay DeFranco’s wig design is reminiscent of 80’s big hair piled high and teased or waste length.

Randall Parsons conveys a nostalgic 1980’s feel to Truvy’s beauty salon with its mint green backdrop and thick white moldings. The three entrances make it easy for the actresses to maneuver effortlessly around the set and creates smooth transitions from one scene into the next. James Taffurelli’s properties compliment Parsons’ set with sheer curtains, beauty salon chairs strategically placed center stage and Truvy’s signature sparkles.

Powers confided that Steel Magnolias was originally set for the spring of 2020 but never opened when the world shut down due to COVID. Luckily, the original cast was able to reunite for this production. Maybe that’s why we believe the poignant friendships of these memorable women.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Steel Magnolias through May 7. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit

Sonny and my father always said 

that when I get older I would understand.

Well, I finally did.

I learned something from these two men.

I learned to give love and get love unconditionally.

And I learned the saddest thing in life is wasted talent

And the choices that you make will shape your life forever.

But you can ask anybody from my neighborhood

And they will tell you,

This is just another 

Bronx Tale.

(Calogero’s quote)

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport captivates once again and this time it’s with the gritty, heartfelt, edge of your seat excitement of A Bronx Tale: The Musical. The show opened on March 24.

From the moment you enter the theatre, you are immersed in the Italian flavor of the show from the red/white checkered cloths decorating tables, to the delectable cannoli, to the Sinatra style crooner in the lounge.

A Bronx Tale is a coming-of-age musical told from the perspective of an Italian American young man, Calogero, growing up on the mean streets of 1960s Bronx. The gangsters in the neighborhood fascinate him. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnesses Sonny, the mob boss, brutally shoot a man for assaulting his friend, but when the police question the child, he doesn’t snitch. Impressed, Sonny takes young Calogero under his wing, gives him the nickname “C,” introduces him to his gang and offers him odd jobs around his bar. 

Fast forward eight years; all this time C has been working for Sonny and hiding it from his father. He has developed the reputation as Sonny’s sidekick thus gaining respect from all the other mobsters. At school, C meets a Black girl, Jane, and they are instantly attracted though they know it is forbidden by both their neighborhoods. They plan a date anyway amidst mounting racial tensions which culminate in a climactic clash.

Centered around respect, loyalty, love and family, A Bronx Tale took on many forms before it was adapted into the musical version. Chazz Palminteri wrote the one man play version in 1989 as an acting vehicle for himself. It is semi-autobiographical, based on his 1960’s childhood in the Bronx. The play premiered in Los Angeles (1989) before moving to Off-Broadway. Robert DeNiro saw the play in Los Angeles (1990) and resolved to turn it into a movie. DeNiro and Palminteri teamed up to make the 1993 film. This was DeNiro’s directorial debut and the two wrote the screenplay. DeNiro played Lorenzo, the father, with Palminteri taking on the role of Sonny, the mob boss.

From October 25, 2007, through February 24, 2008, Palminteri performed his one man show on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre under the direction of Jerry Zaks. Next came the musical with book by Palminteri, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater and co-directed by DeNiro and Zaks. It opened on Broadway December 1, 2016, and closed on August 5, 2018. Of special note, the role of Jane was played by this year’s supporting actress Oscar winner, Ariana DeBose.

The Engeman production is breathtaking in every way. Kyle Dixon’s set impresses starting as Belmont Avenue with abstract tenements, fire escapes, a prominent stoop and streetlight where a chorus of doowop opens the show and then seamlessly transforms into various locations. Lighting by John Burkland washes the set in pale red tones, a metaphor for the crime-ridden streets, then brightens for lighter moments.

Calogero is played to perfection by Mike Cefalo whose soulful eyes, ready smile and rich vocals invites the audience into his world. His counterpart, the nine-year- old Calogero played by Michael Deaner, is adorable, but with a street wise edge, not an easy task for a kid to play. Deaner infuses so much joy into his songs it is infectious.

The voice of reason, Lorenzo (Charlie Marcus), exudes fervor fighting for his son’s soul with lines like, “If you get lost, look to me, I’m here for you.” Shaina Vencel (Rosina) makes us feel the motherly love and devotion she has for her son. Mike Keller’s mobster Sonny is charming and generous but dangerous if you cross him. He genuinely cares about Calogero and teaches him lessons he learned from the streets. “Make them fear you, not love you,” is his mantra. Mackenzie Meadows as Jane is radiant with a stunning voice. It is easy to see how C could fall for her. Sonny tells C that you only get Three Great Ones in your life and Meadows makes us believe she is one of them.

Director/choreographer Paul Stancato has assembled a stellar cast that hits all the emotional tones this show requires. His choreography is energetic with spectacular high kicks and passionate. Dustin Cross’ costumes are 60s nostalgia with tight fitting pedal pushers, midriff tops, black leather jackets and all those gangster suits. Music director Benjamin Stayner and his band glide through this tuneful score with its doowop, Motown and Broadway style ballads.

The Engeman delivers high powered professionalism on all cylinders with A Bronx Tale: The Musical. The show runs through May 8.

The John E. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. To order tickets, call 631-261-2900 or visit

From left, Park and Melissa Tulip. Photo by Barbara Anne Kirshner

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

What makes for bonded pairs? Do they have to be siblings or a mother and her offspring or maybe it’s two that started off as acquaintances only to realize life was much better together than apart?

Park was seven years old when ten week old dachshund puppy, Melissa Tulip, joined our family. We had gone through a traumatic loss the year before with the untimely death of our beautiful Madison whom after two highly invasive back surgeries passed at only seven years three months old. We were despondent. I saw our Lexington, who was six years old at the time, staring out the back sliding glass doors looking for Madison and wondering if she would emerge from behind the thick arborvitae.

Park and Madison were best buddies. From the moment Park came into our house, Madison took him under her care and he looked up to her. Both Lexington and Park were sad without Madison. The house became painfully quiet as all of us were mourning the loss of our beloved girl. Lexington had always been somewhat of a loner, and even after Madison passed, she remained the loner. Park, who was used to having Madison at his side, was lost without her.

Then on Memorial Day 2013, light and life returned when Melissa Tulip joined our family. It was as if she stepped inside the house, put down her bags, looked around and declared, “Let the games begin!” And boy how they did!

Lexington showed Melissa Tulip the ropes, teaching her to bark at the Labs next door and how to climb the ramps placed in strategic positions around the house offering easy access to our king size bed, the living room sofa and the love seat in my study.

But Park ignored Melissa Tulip for the first month she was with us. Then the day came when something triggered a recognition in Park. Madison sometimes sported a strand of pearls, especially on holidays. When she passed, I wanted to preserve the pearls as a keepsake so instead of letting Lexington or Melissa Tulip wear them, I wrapped and placed them in my jewelry box.

One day while shopping, I saw a crystal necklace and thought, instead of pearls, Melissa Tulip would wear crystals. I came home with my find and placed the necklace around Melissa Tulip’s neck. That’s when I witnessed something that was so extraordinary I couldn’t deny it. Park looked at Melissa Tulip wearing the necklace and did a double take as if he recognized the soul within. From that day to this, Park and Melissa Tulip have been inseparable. From the moment their eyes greet each new day until a blanket of night tucks them in, these two are together.

They communicate easily with each other, they know each other’s moods and understand when one isn’t feeling well, they go on adventures together, they sleep with noses touching and Park has become Melissa Tulip’s groomer. He will even step aside and let her lick the remnants of his food bowl. I have seen her take a bone out of his mouth and in response he will never growl, but instead simply search out another. He is always extremely giving to her.

Park is fifteen and a half years old now and Melissa Tulip will be nine on March 13. Park went through a terrible health scare last year when he suddenly lost the use of his hind legs. But with the help of a wonderful vet who practices alternative medicine, Park progressed and miraculously the paralysis disappeared.

All during the five months of his convalescence, Melissa Tulip was right there by his side watching over him. The little sister became the protector.

We dread the thought of our sweet boy, Park, not being here anymore and we worry about how Melissa Tulip will go on after Park. When Lexington crossed the rainbow bridge in 2020, Park and Melissa Tulip helped each other through the loss. What will Melissa Tulip do without her soul mate?

But soul mates last forever, don’t they? When the day comes for Melissa Tulip to cross over that rainbow bridge, I’m sure Park will be waiting to welcome her. Then the bonded pair will once more play together, search out Heavenly adventures together and curl up together when the day is done.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Do you have close-knit forever friends applauding your successes as well as offering encouragement during challenging times? If your answer is yes, then you are truly lucky to have such treasures in your life. The Marvelous Wonderettes, a feel good musical romp back to the 50’s and 60’s now playing at Theatre Three, follows four such friends as they navigate life’s often unpredictable twists and turns together.

Playwright Roger Bean was approached by the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre to write a small-scale musical for their black box space. With constrictions such as little room backstage, Bean wrote the one-act version of The Marvelous Wonderettes produced in 1999. He got the inspiration for the musical from a conversation with his mother about when she was a high school song leader and part of a singing trio. Bean also credits his mother for instilling in him a love of 50’s and 60’s music. 

That Milwaukee production was so successful that the theatre revived it in 2001, this time as a full-scale two-act musical. Then came the Los Angeles production in 2006 followed by a smash Off-Broadway run in 2008 with an Off-Broadway revival in 2016.

It’s prom night, 1958, at Springfield High School and song leaders, Betty Jean (Cassidy Rose O’Brien), Cindy-Lou (Noelle McLeer), Missy (Kate Keating) and Suzy (Ashley Brooke) in frilly crinoline dresses, wrist corsages and teased up hair burst onstage delivering a bouncy rendition of “Mr. Sandman” followed by “Lollipop” and segue into “Sugartime.” When Cindy-Lou steals the microphone and belts out Betty Jean’s signature song “Alleghany Moon,” slapstick antics of trying to upstage each other ensue thus highlighting their competitive natures and the hilarious tone of the show.

The girls explain to the crowd that they are last minute stand-ins for the evening’s entertainment. It seems the boys’ glee club lost the gig after lead singer Billy Ray Patton was suspended for smoking behind the girls locker room. They go on to announce the theme for this year’s prom, “Marvelous Dreams,” and break into a rapturous “All I Have to Do Is Dream” followed by “Dream Lover.”

Each girl in this ensemble is as unique as the individual colors they wear with Betty Jean and her all-American looks in lime green, the bespectacled and comedic Missy in orange, ditzy gum chewer Suzy in blue and self-centered Cindy-Lou in pink.

A nice choice of playwright Bean was to set Act II ten years later reuniting the girls at their 1968 class reunion. This act is brimming with pop 60’s tunes. The crinoline has now been replaced by flowing robes trimmed with feathers, knee high white go-go boots and hoop earrings. A lot has changed for each girl, but they come together once more in harmony realizing they have a bond that stands the test of time.

All four of these actresses deliver powerhouse performances with dynamic acting, rich voices and lithe dancing. Keating’s Missy is passionate as she reveals her crush in “Secret Love” and then gives a standout version of “Mr. Lee” replete with impressive, sustained notes that receive spirited applause from the audience. 

Brooke’s Suzy punctuates Act I with an exuberant “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” and then delivers an intense “Maybe I Know” in Act Two. O’Brien’s Betty Jean explodes in a heart-wrenching “You Don’t Own Me” followed by “That’s When the Tears Start” and McLeer’s Cindy-Lou sends chills in “Son of a Preacher Man” into “Leader of the Pack.”

It must be noted there is some humorous audience participation that puts the crowd right in the center of all the action.

Linda May’s direction keeps the festivities lively. She has created an ensemble that holds on to the audience from their first effervescent entrance until their final bow. Sari Feldman’s stylized choreography is reminiscent of the best girl groups of that era. Costumes by Ronald Green III are a cornucopia of colors and fabrics. Green’s attention to detail accentuates the 50’s and 60’s flavor of the show.

The band under the musical direction of Cesar Flores is built into the backdrop so they are onstage for the entire show keeping the energy high. Tim Haggerty’s sound design infuses exhilaration to each number.

Scenic design by Randall Parsons offers a buoyancy even before the show begins with a pink backdrop and sparkling fringe bordering the band shell. Lighting design by Robert W. Henderson, Jr. generates vibrancy to songs like “Lollipop” and “Wedding Bell Blues” as well as mood lighting with “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” and “That’s When the Tears Start.” The disco ball swirling blue spots around the theater is a nice touch to close Act I. Heather Rose Kuhn’s properties joins in the fun with giant lollipops, a hanging crescent moon and bubbles.

Theatre Three’s The Marvelous Wonderettes is such a fast-paced delight that at the end you can’t believe it’s over already. See it with your best friends — you’ll be glad you did!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Marvelous Wonderettes through March 26. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and up. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit 


By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Pulsating percussion, blazing guitar riffs, vocal gymnastics all set against a gold mine of 80’s hit anthems; that’s intoxicating Rock of Ages now playing at the Engeman Theater in Northport.

This five time Tony Award nominated musical with book by Chris D’Arienzo and arrangements/orchestration by Ethan Popp is an exuberant romp back to the 80’s brimming with defining hits including those of Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Poison, Styx and Steve Perry. The show premiered on Broadway April 7, 2009, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and later moved to the Helen Hayes Theatre where it closed on January 18, 2015. The 2012 film featured Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta.

The Engeman is professionalism at its very best making for a completely enjoyable evening at the theatre. Attention to detail is key here from its plush stadium style seating to its sophisticated lounge to productions of the highest quality, and with Rock of Ages, the audience is taken on an exhilarating ride.

Director Igor Goldin has assembled an outstanding cast that blasts off right from the start and never quits until the final curtain. Goldin keeps the energy high with clever electric moments including a smoke screen that parts introducing Lonny Barnett (Matt DaSilva), who takes on the role of narrator. He’s a dead ringer for Queen’s Freddie Mercury with handlebar mustache and puffed out chest. DaSilva struts around the stage like he owns it, smashing the fourth wall, connecting to the audience.

Lonny is flamboyant and so much fun as he chronicles the tale of starry-eyed dreamers who hit the Sunset Strip in search of stardom only to find fame is illusive at best. Drew, a wannabe rock star working as a busboy at Dennis Dupree’s club, The Bourbon Room, craves the lead singer spot in rock group, Arsenal, when their front man, Stacee Jaxx, announces he is leaving the band.

A love triangle happens between Drew, Jaxx and Sherrie Christian, who just arrived from the Midwest with aspirations of being an actress. She is innocence personified with her squeaky clean Olivia Newton John looks and blonde flippy hair. Drew, who has fallen instantly, gets her a waitress job at the club. But when he says they are “friends,” she rushes into the arms of Jaxx who later insists Dupree fire her. Dupree reluctantly agrees since he is counting on Jaxx’s final performance with Arsenal to bring in the money he desperately needs to keep his club from demolition.

Dan Hoy delivers so much heart as Drew with eyes that embrace the audience and an incredible voice punctuated by sustained notes. Bailee Endebrock’s performance is compelling and her lilting soprano sails through songs like “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” Nick Bernardi’s Jaxx, dripping with sexuality, grinds his way in “Wanted Dead or Alive” causing the girls to swoon at his feet. Erik Schark as Dupree is a gruff, bigger than life presence, but allows glimmers of feeling to appear like in his comical duet with Lonny on “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”

Further conflict ensues when Hertz Flyingmann (Ryan M. Hunt) and his son Franz (Sean Widener), German real estate developers, convince the city’s mayor (Kenneth D. Washington) to rid the Strip of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” for wholesome developments. He commands, “Bring in the wrecking ball!” and erupts in outstanding vocals on “The Final Count Down” making Hertz a villain you love to hate.

Hertz and his son face direct opposition from Regina (Daria Pilar Redus), the City Planner, but when she wins Franz over, the two burst into a show stopping rendition of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

The ensemble sparkles through each scene with brilliant voices and they seem to defy gravity through Natalie Malotke’s titillatingly effervescent choreography. Of special note is Renee Titus as Justice Charlier, the owner of the Venus Club, a “gentleman’s club,” who hires Sherrie after she’s fired by Dupree. Her belting mezzo soprano in “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” sends shivers.

The five piece band conducted by Jeff Cox is onstage for the entire show igniting each scene with intensity that drives on the plot. Dueling guitars at the close of Act II are spectacular. Laura Shubert’s sound design is well-balanced and dynamic.

Kurt Alger’s costume and wig design is a party of colors and revels in the retro 80’s sequins animal prints, net stockings, thigh high suede boots, tight jeans, plunging necklines and long, lustrous hair, oh, and that’s on the boys.

Kyle Dixon’s scenic design impresses even before the show begins with its giant guitar stage right and a well-placed spiral staircase left used later to create emotional tableaus. Dixon’s choice of industrial elements adds grit with scaffolding outlined in pipes and black palm trees stenciled onto a white brick backdrop. Jose Santiago’s lighting design is kinetic ranging from brilliant to subtle. Of note is a flash of red illuminating actors that adds sensuality in one pivotal scene.

Engeman’s Rock of Ages is a high powered trip into 80’s counterculture that grasps the audience and when it lets go, all you want is a repeat performance.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Rock of Ages through March 13. Tickets range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit

Root vegetables. METRO photo

By Barbara Beltrami

With the holiday season behind us and the Omicron variant still with us and looming large, most of us have begun the new year in much the same way that we began  last year.  Hibernating and quarantining, testing and re-testing, we’ve had to hunker down once again and rely on simple creature comforts to assuage our disappointments over canceled plans and celebrations. 

Unwilling to go to the supermarket unless absolutely necessary, I’ve been logging a lot of time in the kitchen cooking whatever I have on hand, and one of those things is root vegetables stored in the coolness of my cellar to accompany roasts and be featured in salads, soups and stews. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of potatoes and learned  many new ways to cook beets, carrots and parsnips. Even radishes hidden in the back of my refrigerator’s vegetable drawer, celery root, turnips or rutabagas and leeks have found their way into some interesting new dishes.  

Root Vegetable Soup

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


1/3 cup olive oil

2 leeks, washed and sliced

3 celery ribs, cleaned and sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Leaves from one large thyme sprig

1 bay leaf

3 1/2 pounds assorted root vegetables (rutabaga, turnip, potato, parsnip, carrot, celery root, golden beets) peeled and cut into one-inch chunks

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon


In large pot or saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Stir in leeks and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and bay leaf, cook another minute, then add root vegetables, 2 quarts water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, remove and discard bay leaf, then puree mixture in small batches with immersion or stationary blender. Stir in lemon juice and serve with crusty bread with extra virgin olive oil.

Root Vegetable Salad with Feta

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges

1 sweet potato cut into bite-size pieces

1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 3/4” pieces

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces

1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces

1 beet, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese


Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium roasting pan toss vegetables with half the olive oil, salt and pepper; stirring occasionally, roast until they are tender and starting to brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the remaining oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and parsley. Add cooked vegetables, toss and top with feta. Serve warm or at room temperature with poultry or meat.

Root Vegetable and Bacon Casserole

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/2 pound thick sliced bacon, cut into one-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound chopped peeled carrots

1 pound chopped peeled parsnip

1 pound chopped green cabbage

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

Leaves from 3 thyme sprigs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

11/2  to  2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 large potato or sweet potato, peeled and sliced very thin


In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon, remove and drain on paper towels; remove all but one tablespoon melted fat and discard. Add olive oil to one tablespoon remaining fat, then add vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and toss to thoroughly combine and coat. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes, until vegetables are browned. 

Add broth, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in bacon, arrange potato slices on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush with remaining tablespoon oil. Place under broiler and cook until potatoes are golden brown and crispy. Serve with a green salad.

President Barack Obama talks with Betty White in the Oval Office, June 11, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

We thought Betty White would live forever. Long after the other Golden Girls left planet Earth, White, with that mischievous glint in her eyes accompanied by clever quips, was ever present and breaking new ground.

Betty White was a staunch advocate for animals.  Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

Like the Energizer Bunny, Betty White kept going and we expected her to always be there. White passed away in her sleep on Dec. 31. She was 99. 

This month People Magazine had planned a celebration of White’s 100th birthday which was to happen on January 17. We were certain she would make it to centenarian status, but White probably felt it was time to join her husband, Allen Ludden, and all of her animals who had passed before her. She had even said in an interview that when she arrives in Heaven, Ludden would have to stand in line while she reunited with her much loved pets.

Born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, Betty Marion White was the only child of Horace Logan White and Christine Tess. The family moved to Alhambra, California in 1923 and later to Los Angeles during the Great Depression. White graduated from Beverly Hill High School in 1939. As a child, she wanted to be an opera singer and took voice lessons. After graduating from high school, due to her love of animals, she aspired to be a forest ranger, but that path was not open to women in the early 1940s. Instead, she discovered acting and the rest is history.

In the 1940s, she went on to land roles in the first two plays she auditioned for, Spring Dance and Dear Ruth, before performing on radio in The Great Gildersleeve, Blondie, This Is Your FBI and became the sidekick to popular local DJ, Al Jarvis, on his daily radio show Make Believe Ballroom. White’s television career took off when that radio show moved to television under the title Hollywood on Television. Next came Life with Elizabeth for two seasons from 1953 to 1955 followed by The Betty White Show on NBC in 1954.

Allen Ludden and Betty White. Photo from Wikipedia

White went on to become the first lady of game shows in the 60s, appearing on Password, What’s My Line?, Match Game and Pyramid. She met her third husband, Allen Ludden, on Password and has been quoted as saying he was “the love of my life.” They were married from 1963 until 1981 when  Ludden died following a battle with stomach cancer. It is poignant to note White’s assistant told longtime friend and fellow colleague, Vicki Lawrence, that the last word White uttered was “Allen.”

She was a staple of late night talk shows with decades long appearances on The Tonight Show.

In 1973, White appeared as the “man-hungry” Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the role became a favorite winning White the Emmy for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1975 and again in 1976. 

The Golden Girls launched in 1985 through 1992 and White won the Emmy in 1986 for her role as the ditzy but good-hearted Rose Nylund. It is interesting to note that White was first offered the role of Blanche but director Jay Sandrich felt that character was too close to the role of Nivens, so he decided that White should play Rose instead.

White was celebrated with more awards in 1995 when she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and in 1996 she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for The John Larroquette Show.

2010 was big for Betty White. It started on Jan. 23 with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, White appeared in a Snickers commercial that skyrocketed in popularity. After a successful fan campaign on Facebook, White hosted Saturday Night Live‘s Mother’s Day episode at 88 ½ years of age, becoming the oldest person to host SNL. 

At the start of her monologue White marveled, “I can’t believe I’m hosting Saturday Night Live! I’m 88 ½ years old, so it’s great to be here for a number of reasons.” She went on to thank Facebook for the campaign that brought her to the show then wisecracked, “I didn’t know what Facebook was and now that I know, it sounds like a huge waste of time.” 

Musical guest Jay-Z dedicated his performance of “Forever Young” to “the most incredible Betty White.” After her death, Seth Myers tweeted “The only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed ’til the bitter end.” That hosting gig was awarded on August 21, 2010, with a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her guest host spot. 

Betty White at the 1988 Emmy Awards. Photo from Wikipedia

On January 1, 2022, as a special tribute, SNL re-aired her hosting episode. White went on to the role of Elka Ostrovsky in Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015). She was in her 90s by the time that series ended.

In 2012, White won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t). She was recognized by the Guinness World Records for longest TV career for a female entertainer. (74 years)

In 2015 White won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 42nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards and in 2018 she was honored at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards for her more than 80 years in show business.

White enjoyed a highly accomplished and celebrated career, but her passion was animals. She has said that they have made a huge difference in her life. She was devoted to animal welfare and supported numerous animal-related nonprofits throughout her career, from donations and volunteering to fundraising and recording public service announcements.

A documentary paying tribute to Betty White’s life and career will be screened at select theaters nationwide on Jan. 17 which would have marked her centennial birthday. 

Titled Betty White: A Celebration, the film will feature White’s final interview and a behind-the-scenes look at some of her most iconic sitcom roles. It also includes interviews with dozens of celebrity friends.

Rest In Peace dear Betty White. Thank you for all the laughs and for being there for us. You are a national treasure. This crazy world shone brighter with you in it and you are truly missed.

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

By Barbara Anne Kirshner




Wait a minute — It’s a comedy!!

It’s hilarious Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery now playing at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” That exclamation conjures up ominous chords and the audience is immediately immersed in the murder mystery at bleak Baskerville Hall perched on the edge of the desolate fog-laden moors.

In Ken Ludwig’s (Lend Me A Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, Crazy for You) adaptation of the 1901 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, he brilliantly takes this gothic classic and infuses it with comedy making for spine-tinglingly funny results.

The searching questions, who killed Sir Charles Baskerville and is there a legendary hound haunting Baskerville Hall, must be answered before another heir is murdered. Enter Sherlock Holmes (Evan Donnellan) and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, I presume, (Kevin Callahan). The brave duo ferret through contradicting clues and a host of suspicious characters in efforts to protect Henry Baskerville, the next heir who has just arrived from Texas. 

Donnellan takes the stage in grandiose style. His Holmes is sly, elegant and capable. When he says he knows the print of every paper in the country, we believe him. Kevin Callahan’s Doctor Watson is so much fun. He tries to keep up with Holmes though often bungles, adding to the laughs, but his genuine investigative spirit makes him the perfect sidekick to Holmes. Together they are an invincible pair despite the labyrinth of deceit and intrigue they must face in attempting to solve this crime.

The original Conan Doyle mystery is chock full of characters all necessary in creating red herrings that keep the reader guessing until the final page. Ludwig realized he would need numerous characters to tell the story, so he inventively reduced his adaptation down to five actors — Holmes, Watson and the other three playing more than forty roles. 

This challenge calls for extraordinary performers who must instantly change costumes while also changing accents, physicality and intentions, all the while making the audience believe each of their characters. 

Director Christine Boehm has accomplished just that by assembling an outstanding supporting cast — Jonathan Sawyer Coffin, Elena Faverio and Ana McCasland — who change costumes as easily as they transform into different personas. This high energy threesome bounce snappy lines into the air wrapped in an array of accents. 

Faverio’s German accent as Mrs. Barrymore is hysterically reminiscent of Cloris Leachman’s Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein. Coffin’s booming southern drawl is a comical contradiction for the next in line of the Baskerville fortune. McCasland takes on the proper English of Dr. Mortimer as easily as she emotes the Castilian of the hotel proprietor. These outrageously high camp performances are met with rapturous laughter and applause from the audience that builds to an enthusiastic crescendo at curtain call.

Randall Parsons’ scenic design gives the necessary gothic feel with a gray backdrop detailed in swirls of black suggesting impending fog blanketing the moor. A giant screen, center, ingeniously projects settings and events. Lighting design by Robert Henderson, Jr. sets the eerie mood, then stirs things up with flashes of bright lights.

Chakira Doherty’s costume and wig designs are masterfully crafted. Actors, portraying numerous characters, must change in an instant and Doherty’s well-thought-out garments and coiffures make this task possible.

Tim Haggerty’s sound design is essential in instilling chills. Whether it be the cacophonous howling hound to the staccato of the chugging train to a deafening explosion, these sound effects build in both suspense and humor.

Since simplicity is key to this production, properties play a major part and Heather Rose Kuhn creatively plants scenes with the use of sparse props. A train is depicted with only a well-placed bench that morphs easily into a bed at Baskerville Hall for the next scene. A counter glides in and out representing Northumberland Hotel and giant wheels appear when Holmes refers to a cab.

All the twists and turns are captivating and hysterical as we follow Holmes and Watson to a startling conclusion that even gives way to an unexpected epilogue. So, take out your spyglass and join the intrepid pair on this thrilling and uproarious caper!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery through Feb. 5. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 and up. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit

See a sneak peek of the show here!


By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Phenomenal music, dance, comedy with romance sprinkled on top all wrapped up in a giant red velvet bow, that’s White Christmas, Engeman Theater’s gift to ring in this joyous season.

Last year, the holidays were dismal with theatres shut across our great nation due to COVID, but not even a sweeping pandemic could extinguish its spirit for long. Theater fought back, reigniting marques with brilliant neon lights announcing that the show would most certainly go on.

The Engeman proudly swung open its grand glass doors welcoming all who enter to enjoy the magic of live theatre once more and to celebrate the holidays it is treating audiences to an irresistible White Christmas. With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and book by David Ives and Paul Blake, this musical is based on the much loved 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. The first stage adaptation did not happen until 2004 when it premiered in San Francisco before playing a limited engagement on Broadway from Nov. 14, 2008, until Jan. 4, 2009.

The story revolves around two former WWII army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis who, after the war, become successful entertainers, then big time producers. They get a letter presumably from an army buddy asking them to check out his sisters’ act at a local club. Sparks fly when they meet these sisters who are leaving that night for a Vermont Inn to fulfill a booking engagement. In pursuit of romance, Bob and Phil follow the ladies and discover that their former general who now owns this inn has fallen on hard times. The plot proceeds with mad cap comedy and extraordinary musical numbers.

With producing artistic director, Richard Dolce and managing director Kevin J. O’Neill at the helm, the Engeman is dedicated to creating Broadway caliber experiences for their audiences and White Christmas is professionalism at its very best. 

This multi-talented ensemble is captivating. From the rollicking open numbers of Happy Holidays and White Christmas, Aaron Young as Bob Wallace and Daniel Plimpton as Phil Davis grasp us and never let go. Young’s voice richly floats through his every song while his stage presence is beguiling. Davis is a true song and dance man. The I Love a Piano duet featuring Darien Crago as Judy Hayes, is a tour de force tap number. Crago’s skill and energy mesmerizes in all her dance routines, making them appear effortless. Meadow Nguy as Betty Haynes soaring soprano sends chills especially in Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me. 

Rounding out this ensemble is an impressive supporting cast. Keith Lee Grant is riveting as the stern General Henry Waverly shouting out commands until he reaches a moment of reflection that allows the caring man within to materialize. Suzanne Mason as Martha Watson sporting red curls reminiscent of Lucille Ball and impeccable comedic timing takes center stage belting out Let Me Sing and I’m Happy and nearly stops the show. The general’s granddaughter, Susan Waverly, played by AnnaBelle Deaner, mimics Martha with a rousing reprise of the same song.

Director Matt Kunkel has created sheer perfection taking us on a memorable musical journey of sight and sound. Music Director Camille Johnson maintains energetic fluidity from start to finish with a band that is beautifully synchronized to the performers in every number.

Choreography is central to this show and Drew Humphrey’s lively routines from the tap numbers to a chorus line done with the precision of the Rockettes is outstanding. Sound design is essential in a musical and Laura Shubert has the levels just right.

This is a period piece musical therefore costumes must allow for ease of movement while reflecting the 1950’s era and Dustin Cross has created breathtaking silhouettes most notably the dreamy coats decorated with clouds in Blue Skies, the dazzling black and white ensembles in I Love a Piano with Judy’s belt that unwinds into piano keys and all those stunning red confections in the White Christmas and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm finale. Hair design is another essential element in a period piece and Conor Donnelly’s 1950’s hairstyles look authentic.

Kyle Dixon’s scenic design sets the tone and is functional as it morphs easily from one scene into the next giving the continuous feel of the magical holiday season by emphasizing reds, greens and whites. Dixon’s giant frames of white bark against green matting outlines the set and emphasizes a rural feel for the Vermont Inn. Aaron Bowersox’s lighting design adds brilliance to the big numbers and subtle touches for gentler moments.

White Christmas is a must-see festive treat for the entire family so ring in the holidays with this spectacular musical now through January 2, 2022. And be sure to return for the rest of their 2021-2022 season of exciting shows.

The John W. Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main Street in Northport. Tickets to the show range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

One year ago, TBR News Media published my first of what would become many articles on a variety of topics. This first article, Park’s Bench, was a personal account of my now 15- year-old dachshund, Park, my travel buddy, and our special visits to a bench in Stony Brook Village where we have gone for years to celebrate our July birthdays or simply to retreat from our busy lives. Little did I know then that Park and I were on the threshold of a traumatic event that would change our lives.

On Saturday, May 15, 2021, Park appeared a little uncomfortable. I immediately called our vet and got an appointment for the following morning. By nightfall, Park sat down and couldn’t move; his back legs had become paralyzed.

Even as a senior dog, he had been happy and active, running with his sister, Melissa Tulip, half his age. I marveled at the energy of our little man. This drastic change combined with his age had me fearing our time together was about to abruptly end.

Dr. Gucciardo examined Park, but instead of suggesting the worst, he gave us hope. He said through acupuncture and laser therapy combined with medications and herbs, there was a chance Park could regain the use of his hind legs.

I held on to that glimmer of hope and we began the long road back. Once a week, Park and I were at the vet for his treatments. Weeks turned into months —  still we were at the vet every Thursday for his therapies. Though our boy couldn’t walk, it seemed half of him was perfectly normal. He had energy. It amazed me how he managed to move so quickly on his two front legs. He was still interested in everything, especially meal and snack times. 

We started our road trips again to our favorite places including Stony Brook Village and Park’s bench. While we sat there on one recent visit, I watched as a breeze delicately ruffled his fury ears and we enjoyed our moment in time.

By late August, it seemed Park might not be able to walk again, but he was certainly not ready to leave us. That’s when discussions started with Dr. Gucciardo about a doggie wheelchair so Park wouldn’t have to exert himself as he dragged across the floor.

But Park had something else in mind. While we continued discussions about the wheelchair, Park suddenly pushed up his hind legs. He especially did this around mealtimes. By the beginning of September, he applied pressure to his hind legs and took a few wobbly steps. He was much weaker on the right side, but he progressed. Soon he was up on all four legs, very frail, but he was walking. Each day he improved. With movement returning to his hind legs, his hips strengthened. He had gone to scary protruding bones in his hips, but he even developed muscle tone again.

Park continues improving daily now and we keep up with his weekly therapies. Though his right leg turns in a little, he has started to gallop down the hall, a spring in his step. It is as if he has turned back the hands of time on his 15 year 4 month-old body. Dr Gucciardo, with his alternative therapies, saved our boy and gave us back the active Park ready for a stroll around town.

When I wrote Park’s Bench, I never could have imagined the traumatic events we would face together. Now, I watch our little man run through the yard or down the hall or on the rolling greens near Park’s bench in Stony Brook Village and I am thankful for the precious time I have with our happy, active boy.

I share our story in the hopes that we might help others going through similar life altering circumstances with their beloved fur babies. There is hope. Paralysis is not a death sentence. It may not happen quickly, but if it is possible for my senior boy to regain the use of his hind legs, it can happen for your dog too.

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