Theater

Behold! The plotting penguins of Madagascar! Photo by Jennifer Tully

By Heidi Sutton

The cast of ‘Madagascar: A Musical Adventure’. Photo by Jennifer Tully

With much pomp and circumstance, the John W. Engeman Theater closes out its 2016-2017 Children’s Theater season with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure.”

Excitement filled the theater air on opening day last weekend as the children waited anxiously to catch a glimpse of their favorite animal characters and to enjoy a live retelling of the animated classic. And let me assure you, they were not disappointed.

From the opening number, “It’s Showtime,” to the finale, an audience participation party version of “I Like to Move It,” the entire performance is a wild and wacky and wonderful musical celebration of friendship. The nine-member adult cast, skillfully directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, with several playing multiple roles, capture each original film character’s personality perfectly, especially the hypochondriac giraffe. Aside from performing on stage, the cast often wanders through the audience, keeping the young theatergoers at the edge of their seats with big smiles.

The show’s script follows the original movie closely, making it easy to follow. In the first of two acts we are introduced to best friends Alex the Lion (Andrew McCluskey) Marty the Zebra (Marquez Stewart), Gloria the Hippo (Rita Sarli) and Melman the Giraffe (Suzanne Mason) who are residents of New York’s Central Park Zoo.

Gloria, Marty, Alex and Melman in a scene from ‘Madagascar’. Photo by Jennifer Tully

It’s Marty’s birthday and he makes a wish that he could go back to the wild (which he thinks is Connecticut). Moments later he escapes with “cute and cuddly” penguins, Rico (Alyson Leonard), Kowalski (TracyLynn Connor), Private (Samantha Masone) and Skipper (Danny Meglio) who want to go back to Antarctica.

When Marty’s friends go looking for him, the entire group gets caught in the halls of Grand Central Station by the zookeepers and are tranquilized. When they wake up, the zoo animals are in crates on a ship headed to Africa. Caught in rough seas, the crates fall overboard and the four friends wash up on the shores of Madagascar. There they are promptly welcomed by King Julien (played to perfection by the incomparable Jacqueline Hughes), sidekick Maurice (Connor) and his tribe of ring-tailed lemurs who hope that Alex can protect them from the terrible foosa. Things only get wilder in the second act, but you’ll have to go see it to find out.

The wonderful songs, the adorable costumes by Jess Costagliola and the terrific choreography by Marquez Stewart are simply the icing on the cake. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” through April 30. After a short break, the 2017-2018 season will begin with “Pinkalicious The Musical” from July 22 to Aug. 27, “Cinderella” from Sept. 23 to Oct. 29 and “Frosty” from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Liana Hunt as Emma Carew and Nathaniel Hackmann as Henry Jekyll in a scene from 'Jekyll & Hyde' at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Victoria Espinoza

For theatergoers with one personality or more, the newest production at the John W. Engeman Theater has something for all. The Northport playhouse kicked off its seven-week run of “Jekyll and Hyde The Musical” this past weekend to a full house, and the multiple Tony-nominated production felt alive as ever on the Engeman stage.

Led by director Paul Stancato, who also serves as choreographer and has been at the helm of several other shows at the Engeman theater, the classic tale of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his doomed science experiment draws you in from the moment you meet the leading man.

The show starts with a stiff rejection, coming from the hospital board that refuses to support Jekyll’s experiments to understand why man is both good and evil and to separate the good from the evil. However, the doctor does not take defeat lying down and eventually decides to make himself the patient in the experiment. As the name of the show suggests, soon we have two leading men fighting for the spotlight, as Jekyll’s potions give birth to Edward Hyde, the purest projection of evil who lives inside Jekyll.

Above, Nathaniel Hackmann as Henry Jekyll In his laboratory in a scene from ‘Jekyll & Hyde.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Jekyll and Hyde are played to perfection by Nathaniel Hackmann. As soon as you hear him sing a soft and sad goodbye to his dying father in the first scene, you can’t help but be excited to hear him sing an evil tune, as his voice seems to have no limits. Hackmann makes you feel safe and happy as he sings “Take Me As I Am,” with his betrothed, Emma Carew, played by Liana Hunt, and then just a few songs later sinister seems much more fun as Hackmann belts his way through “Alive” and becomes Hyde.

Not only does Hackmann transport you through love, torment, sin and more with his voice, but he also convinces with his body language. He lurks and awkwardly shuffles across the stage as the murdering Hyde, while embodying the perfect gentleman when playing Jekyll. It becomes hard not to root for the antagonist when it’s so fun to watch his every move on stage.

Of course, Hackmann is not the only star of the show. Caitlyn Caughell plays a seductive yet vulnerable Lucy Harris, a lady of the night who entices both Jekyll and Hyde. Harris’ formidable voice is the perfect partner to Hackmann’s, and the moments featuring the couple are among the most enchanting, including the tragic love song “Dangerous Game.” It’s also not hard to understand why both the successful doctor and the mysterious Hyde enchant the young wench when Hackmann plays both — can you blame her?

Caitlyn Caughell as Lucy Harris and Nathaniel Hackmann as Edward Hyde in a scene from ‘Jekyll & Hyde.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Tom Lucca, who plays John Utterson, Jekyll’s loyal friend and lawyer, is also worth mentioning. Scenes where the two share the stage are very entertaining. The ensemble cast also has some stand-out moments, and it starts at the beginning with the hospital board all denying Jekyll. Each board member is worth focusing on for a minute, especially Joey Calveri as Lord Savage, whose facial expressions in every scene bring added fun to the stage. Ensemble songs like “Façade” and “Girls of the Night” highlight the singing strength of the cast.

The set, designed by Stephen Dobay, helps make Hyde even more menacing, with several long screens that cast Hyde as a prowling red shadow on the hunt. Each screen also has two empty frames hanging from the top, subtly reminding the audience of Jekyll’s original inspiration of each person having two sides in them: good and evil. And, of course, the orchestra, under the direction of Kristen Lee Rosenfeld, brings the pop rock hits of the original score to life and makes the evil tunes of the show all the more fun.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Jekyll and Hyde The Musical” through April 30 with Thursday, Friday and Saturday night shows, as well as afternoon shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Valet parking is available. Tickets range from $71 to $76. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

From left, Brian Smith, Steven Uihlein, Phyllis March and Joan St. Onge in a scene from ‘Lower Education’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Michael Tessler

Raw, imaginative, thought-provoking and brave. Unafraid to push the envelope and tackle some of society’s most dynamic and difficult issues. At times, irresistibly funny, wildly inappropriate and enormously fun. There are so many ways to describe Theatre Three’s Festival of One-Act Plays but ultimately it comes down to this: theater at its absolute finest.

Tucked below the main stage of Theatre Three’s Athena Hall is a black box theater named after the late Ronald F. Peierls. This second stage creates a wonderfully intimate atmosphere for the audience and provides a perfect venue for all seven shows.

Since the 1998 to 1999 season, Theatre Three has received an incredible 8,000 one-act play submissions. Of those entries, it has presented 113 world premieres by 79 different playwrights. What you’re seeing really is the best of the best.

Clockwise from left, Antoine Jones, Kate Keating, Joan St. Onge and Jacqueline M. Hughes in a scene from ‘Counting Sheep’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

One-acts, for those who are not familiar, are just that — a single-act show. Often varying in length and subject matter, they are given the flexibility to tackle things playwrights would usually be unable to address with a mainstage production. In my mind, a great one-act is a lot like the center of an Oreo. They skip all the fanfare and get right to the creamy good stuff in the middle. They rely not on orchestra pits, colorful costumes or dynamic sets but rather on vigorous acting, quality writing and superb direction.

“Counting Sheep” by Jae Kramisen, “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” by Patrick Gabridgen, “The Kitchen Fairy” by Scott Gibson, “Lower Education” by Lewis Shilane, “A New Lease” by Tony Foster, “Upset over Nothing” by Robin Doupé and “When Driven” by Melanie Acampora all made their debut last Saturday afternoon. These writers vary in age, gender and at least one was from out-of-state.

Just prior to the premiere I had the opportunity to talk to Theatre Three actress and playwright Melanie Acampora. “I started writing three years ago” delving into the process of creating a one-act. It’s less pressure than acting,” she said. One of the hardest parts of writing a script is seeing how it’ll be adapted. When asked if she was pleased with Theatre Three’s adaption, Acampora replied,“It’s even better than in my head, thanks to Jeff [Sanzel].”

From left, Skyler Quinn Johnson and Brian Smith in a scene from ‘How Does It Feel to Be a Problem.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sanzel, the festival’s founder and director of all seven shows, proves once again what enormous talent we have right here on Long Island. His skills transcend genre and are wonderfully on display — up close and personal for the whole audience to enjoy. How a person could direct so many shows while finding time to sleep is beyond me!

This emotional roller coaster will have you leaving the theater with a newfound appreciation for playwrights. Unlike the bravado of Broadway, they cannot hide behind the pomp and circumstance of massive musical numbers or high-priced sets (although I do love a good ole’ kickline).

Each show’s success depends almost solely on its craftsmanship and its cast. That being said, there was not a single actor I didn’t love during these seven performances. Many of the actors took on not just one role but several in multiple shows, displaying their incredible capabilities and range as performers.

Whether you are a theater aficionado or a first-time theatergoer, get yourself a ticket before they sell out. This wonderful experience is only on stage for a limited time. To the playwrights, my hat is off to you, brava and bravo. Hoping to see more of your work soon!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present The 20th Annual Festival of One-Act Plays through April 1 at The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre on the Second Stage. Tickets are $18 per person. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Please note: Adult content and language. Parental discretion is advised.

A scene from 'Raggedy Ann & Andy' at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Every year Theatre Three’s children’s theater presents audience favorites like “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” and “Barnaby Saves Christmas.” However, every five years or so, the theater retrieves an old gem from its vault and brings it out for some air. Sometimes it’s “The Golden Goose,” sometimes it’s “The Three Little Pigs.” This week it was “Raggedy Ann & Andy’s” turn.

Andrew Lenahane and Emily Gates star in ‘Raggedy Ann & Andy’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin Story and suggested by the characters created by Johnny Gruelle, Theatre Three’s version of “Raggedy Ann & Andy” brings America’s most endearing rag dolls to life in a heart-warming musical about friendship and loyalty.

A talented cast of 10 adult actors, skillfully directed by Sanzel, whisks the audience away on a magical adventure to Tiwilliger’s Toy Workshop on an enchanted mountain and introduces them to the toys living there — a clown, a tin soldier, a queen wind-up doll, a lion and a rag doll named Raggedy Ann — all of whom, with the exception of the tin soldier, have been some child’s toy at one time or another.

 

When it’s Raggedy Ann’s turn to bring joy to a sick little girl named Marcella, toymakers Martha and Abby Tiwilliger decide to make her a brother to take along using magic from the mountain. Their evil brother Mortimer finds out and, along with his reluctant assistant Rose Carpet, tries to stop them in an attempt to keep the magic for himself. When his sisters decide to go ahead with their plan and create Raggedy Andy, Mortimer steals Andy’s heart, leaving the rag doll in a stupor.

The Cast

Melanie Acampora

Kyle Breitenbach

Jessica Contino

Ginger Dalton

Suzie Dunn

Emily Gates

Antoine Jones

Andrew Lenahan

Dylan RobertPoulos

Steven Uihlein

The toys decide to go on a mission to find Mortimer and get Andy’s heart back. Will they save the day or will they be trapped in the Circle of Darkness?

The cast of ‘Raggedy Ann & Andy’ at Theatre Three.Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are on point, with special detail to the authenticness of Raggedy Ann and Andy’s outfits, and choreography is handled neatly by the one and only Bobby Montaniz.

There’s something very sweet and innocent about this musical. Perhaps it’s the types of toys, reminiscent of the mid-20th century, or the wonderful songs, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy. Either way, the play is the perfect choice for younger audiences. Meet the entire cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Raggedy Ann & Andy” through March 25. Up next is the spring break favorite, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit,” from April 12 to May 6 with a sensory-friendly performance on April 23 followed by “The Princess & the Pea” from May 27 to June 10 with a sensory-friendly performance on June 4. All shows begin at 11 a.m. Tickets are $10 per person. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The cast of ‘Respect,’ from left, Jessica Contino, Amanda-Camille, Lori Beth Belkin and Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc

By Michael Tessler

Let me start by saying that I don’t think I was the show’s intended audience. That being said, this became one of my favorite shows in recent memory. Theatre Three’s “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women,” a jukebox musical by Dorothy Marcic that opened this weekend, had me laughing, tapping my feet and, on two occasions, holding back tears (alas, to no avail).

Skillfully directed by Mary Powers, this truly powerful production tells not just the story of one woman or one era — but rather represents in so many ways the diversity and difficult journey toward equality experienced by all women.

Clockwise from left, Amanda-Camile, Jessica Contino, Lori Beth Belkin, Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc

Music, as I was often reminded growing up, is a reflection of our souls and in many ways a caricature of how we view ourselves. This piece takes the most popular music of the last century and uses it to form an evocative narrative that demonstrates just how powerful music can be.

Music in its most righteous form can be used as a tool for liberation and in its worst used to reinforce oppression. Its impact, especially in American culture, has very much defined the national consciousness.

This show delves into that concept as we meet the protagonist, presumably the show’s playwright. She is a widow and entering a stage in her life where she desperately wishes to better understand herself and the women in her family. She takes it upon herself to research the most popular music of the previous century, beginning a powerful journey of self-discovery and liberation.

With musical direction by Steve McCoy, this show’s small but dynamic cast is genuinely empowering. Their harmonies are beautiful and ever-changing as the show travels through the decades. They belt out the classics and remind you of a few forgotten treasures. No matter what your taste, this show has something for you, from the mesmerizing harmonies of “Mr. Sandman” to the fierce “I Will Survive.” Lori Beth Belkin, Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni, Jessica Contino and Amanda-Camille shine in their performances from heartfelt soul to rock and roll.

Sari Feldman’s choreography evolves with the production, masterfully adapting with each new era. You’ll get a taste of nearly every decade, from the Charleston to the more contemporary dance moves of Britney Spears and everything in-between.

The show’s set and lighting design by Randall Parsons and Robert W. Henderson Jr. doesn’t overly complicate itself but rather compliments the cast perfectly, featuring impressive light installations that provide ample mood lighting and a screen that provides historical visuals and points of reference throughout the show — great embellishments to an already great performance.

“Respect” is an incredible spectacle that transports the viewer through time using the power of music. Theatre Three’s matinee audience was the most lively I’ve ever seen. Viewers young and old found themselves clapping and resisting the urge to sing along.

All of Athena Hall was captivated by nostalgia and the beautiful sounds produced by this enormously talented cast and on-stage pit. Personalities of the past returned to life with brief flashes of Rosa Parks, Robert Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop, Scarlett O’Hara and so many others.

This musical shouldn’t just be watched by those who find comfort in the nostalgic sounds of their youth, but by the men and women of today who will leave the theater with a new found appreciation for all the progress we’ve made and the work still left to do. This show is empowering, humbling, emotional, hysterical and wonderfully refreshing. For me, it was the surprise treat of the season!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” on the Mainstage through March 25. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 not permitted. Wednesday matinee $20. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

A scene from 'The Three Little Pigs'
The cast of ‘The Three Little Pigs’

Looking for something to do with your kids during winter break? Give them the gift of live theater by taking them to see the adorable musical “The Three Little Pigs” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Additional shows have been added on Wednesday, Feb. 22, Thursday, Feb. 23, Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at 11 a.m.  Tickets are $10 each.

See the review here: tbrnewsmedia.com/theatre-threes-adorable-the-three-little-pigs-will-blow-you-away/

Theatre Three is located 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. For more                 information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

This year's Gala will feature Itzhak Perlman. Photo from Staller Center

By Erika Riley

After a month-long break this holiday season, Stony Brook University’s Staller Center returns for the second half of its 2016-17 season with compelling performances. There is something for everybody, and you won’t want to miss out on these exciting shows.

“The second half of the Staller Center season really shows the diversity of our programs to fill the broad and varied tastes of our students, faculty, staff and greater community,” said Alan Inkles, director of Staller Center for the Arts. “Shows range from the world’s greatest violinist, Itzhak Perlman, to a spectacular cirque show, “Cuisine & Confessions” featuring aerealists, jugglers and acrobats and boasts a full kitchen where the cast cooks for our audience.

Inkles continued, “We truly span the arts in every format this spring. Bollywood’s finest song and dance routines will abound in Taj Express; Off Book/Out of Bounds with Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata will add their pop/rock take on famous Broadway tunes; dance explodes as the Russian National Ballet Theatre brings a program with two story ballets, ‘Carmen’ and ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ The impeccable Martha Graham Dance Company brings their modern dance fire to Staller. Jazz abounds with award-winning artists including pianist Vijay Iyer and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant. There’s of course much more and with continued private and corporate support, we continue to keep ticket prices reasonable for everyone to attend and to attend often!”

Musical performances

Vijay Iyer will be performing on Feb. 25. Photo from Staller Center.

On Feb. 19 at 7 p.m., Peter Kiesewalter, founder of the East Village Opera Company and Brooklyn Runkfunk Orkestrata, will be leading a high-energy rock show titled Off Book/Out of Bounds. The show, held in the Recital Hall, will feature a four-piece rock band performing rock versions of well-loved theater songs. Tickets are $42.

Grammy-nominated composer and pianist Vijay Iyer will be performing with his sextet in the Recital Hall on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.. Described by The New Yorker as “jubilant and dramatic,” he plays pure jazz that is currently at the center of attention in the jazz scene. Tickets are $42.

The Staller Center’s 2017 Gala will take place on March 4 at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage and will feature violinist Itzhak Perlman. Perlman is the recipient of over 12 Grammys and several Emmys and worked on film scores such as “Schindler’s List” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Tickets are $75 and Gala Supporters can also make additional donations to enhance Staller Center’s programs and educational outreach activities.

Starry Nights returns to the Recital Hall on March 8 at 8 p.m. this year under the direction of Colin Carr, who will also be performing cello during the program. Artists-in-Residence at Stony Brook will be playing beautiful classics such as Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto and Schubert’s Piano Trio #3 in E flat major. Tickets are $38.

Peter Cincotti will perform on March 9. Photo from Staller Center

Newly added to the roster is singer, songwriter and pianist Peter Cincotti who will perform an intimate concert in the Recital Hall on March 9 at 8 p.m. Named “one of the most promising singer-pianists of the next generation” by the New York Times, Cincotti will be featuring his newest album, Long Way From Home. With a piano, a bench, a microphone and his band, Cincotti will take his audience on a breathtaking musical ride. Tickets are $30.

The Five Irish Tenors will be performing a lineup of beloved Irish songs and opera on March 18 at 8 p.m., the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Songs include “Down by the Sally Gardens,” “Will You Go Lassie Go” and “Danny Boy.” Tickets to the concert, taking place in the Recital Hall, are $42.

The award-winning Emerson String Quartet, with Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer, Lawrence Dutton and Paul Watkins, will return on April 4 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall. The program will feature works by Dvorak, Debussy and Tchaikovsky. Tickets are $48.

Cecile McLorin Salvant will close out the musical performances of the season on April 29 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall with unique interpretations of blues and jazz compositions with the accompaniment of Sullivan Fortner on piano. Salvant is a Grammy award winner and has returned to the Staller Center after popular demand from her 2013 performance. The performance is sure to be theatrical and emotional. Tickets are $42.

Dance performances

Taj Express will perform on Feb. 11. Photo from Staller Center

Staller Center’s first dance performance of 2017 is sure to be a hit. Taj Express will be performing on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m., delivering a high-energy performance of Bollywood dances, celebrating the colorful dance and music of India. Through a fusion of video, dance and music, the ensemble will take you on a magical journey through modern Indian culture and society; this full-scale production will fuse east and west with classical dance steps, sexy moves and traditional silks and turbans. The extravagant performance will take place on the Main Stage, and tickets are $48.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre will be performing on the Main Stage on March 11 at 8 p.m. Created in Moscow, the Ballet Theatre blends the timeless tradition of classical Russian ballet with new developments in dance from around the world. The Ballet Theatre will be performing both “Carmen” and “Romeo & Juliet.” Tickets are $48.

Canada’s award-winning circus/acrobat troupe, Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers of the Hand), will be performing their show Cuisine & Confessions on the Main Stage on April 1 (8 p.m.) and April 2 (2 p.m.) The show is set in a kitchen and plays to all five of the senses, mixing acrobatic cirque choreography and pulsating music with other effects, such as the scents of cookies baking in the oven, the taste of oregano and the touch of hands in batter. A crowd pleaser for all ages, tickets are $42.

The last dance performance of the season will be on April 8 at 8 p.m. by the Martha Graham Dance Company. The program will showcase masterpieces by Graham alongside newly commissioned works by contemporary artists inspired by Graham. The dance performance will take place on the Main Stage and tickets are $48.

Not just for kids

The Cashore Marionettes will present a show titled Simple Gifts. Photo from Staller Center

The ever unique Cashore Marionettes will be presenting a show called Simple Gifts in the Recital Hall on March 26 at 4 p.m. The Cashore Marionettes will showcase the art of puppetry through humorous and poignant scenes set to music by classics like Vivaldi, Beethoven and Copland. Tickets to see the engineering marvels at work are $20.

The Met: Live in HD

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live will be returning once again to the Staller Center screen. The screenings of the operas feature extras such as introductions and backstage interviews. There will be seven screenings throughout the second half of the season: “L’amour de Loin” on Jan. 14, “Romeo et Juliette” on Jan. 21, “Rusalka,” on Feb. 26, “La Traviata” on March 12, “Idomeneo” on April 9, “Eugene Onegin” on May 7 and “Der Rosenkavalier” on May 13. The screenings are all at 1:00 p.m., except for “Der Rosenkavalier,” which is at 12:30 p.m. For a full schedule and to buy tickets, visit www.stallercenter.com or call at 631-632-ARTS.

Films

‘Hidden Figures’ will be screened on April 28.

As always, the Staller Center will be screening excellent films throughout the upcoming months. Through April 28, two movies will be screened on Friday evenings: one at 7 p.m. and one at 9 p.m. On Feb. 3, “Newtown,” a documentary about the Sandy Hook shooting, and “Loving,” a story of the first interracial marriage in America will both screen. “American Pastoral,” starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning will screen on Feb. 17; and “Jackie,” starring Natalie Portman, will screen on March 24. The season will finish off on April 28 with “Hidden Figures,” a true story of the African American female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the space race, and “La La Land,” a modern-day romantic musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

Tickets to the movie screenings are $9 for adults, $7 for students, seniors and children and $5 SBU students. Tickets for the shows and films may be ordered by calling 631-632-2787. Order tickets online by visiting www.stallercenter.com.

About the author: Stony Brook resident Erika Riley is a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She recently interned at TBR during her winter break and hopes to advance in the world of journalism and publishing after graduation.

The cast of ‘The Snow Queen,’ from left, Danny Meglio, Jacqueline Hughes, Stephanie Krasner, TracyLynn Connor and Matthew Rafanelli. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

In perfect harmony with the frosty weather outside, “The Snow Queen” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend to a warm reception. Based on the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story that inspired Disney’s “Frozen,” the musical, co-written by Rick Lombardo and Kirsten Brandt, is told in seven short stories and revolves around a young girl name Gerda, her best friend, Kai, and the power of love and friendship.

The Snow Queen has kidnapped Kai and taken him to her icy palace. There she orders him to solve the Riddle of Eternity by counting all the snowflakes in the world. When Gerda realizes what has happened, she sets off on a dangerous journey to save her friend.

Reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland experience, Gerda encounters many obstacles along the way including a sneaky Garden Witch, a band of robbers and the blistering cold. Fortunately, she also meets a talking crow, a lovable reindeer and a wise Woman of the North who help her reach the palace.

Alyson Leonard expertly directs a talented adult cast of five, all of whom, with the exception of the lead, play multiple roles throughout the show. Stephanie Krasner, last seen in the role of Rapunzel, returns to Engeman’s stage as Gerda, who proves to be a faithful friend willing to go to the ends of the Earth to save Kai. Her courage and determination has the audience rooting for her from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli is terrific as Kai, trapped within the clutches of the Snow Queen but absolutely shines as the Crow who helps Gerda.

TracyLynn Connor gives the Snow Queen an icy regalness but also plays the role of a rose, princess and robber girl with ease. From her first appearance on stage as an old woman to her last as the Wise Woman of the North, Jacqueline Hughes’s performance is always top notch. Her solo “Breathe” takes your breath away and her various accents are impressive.

Last seen in “The Wizard of Oz,” Danny Meglio tackles the role of the troll, prince and sweet reindeer this time around. Helping Gerda reach the castle in the darkness and the cold as the reindeer is one of the most memorable scenes in the show.

Although at times Gerda’s journey may seem a bit long, the wonderful songs including “Flying,” “The Real Reality,” “Here I Am,” “Never Give Up” and “The End,” written by Haddon Kime, more than make up for its shortcomings, and you will find yourself humming these songs for days to come. Those familar with Andersen’s fairy tale won’t be disappointed with the ending and will go back out into the air with a warm heart after realizing that love conquers all.

The show is recommended for ages 8 and up because of its complex storyline, although younger children will enjoy it for the beautiful costumes, special effects and songs. Meet the entire cast in the lobby for autographs and photos after the show. An autograph page is conveniently located at the end of the program.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Snow Queen” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through March 5. Up next is “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 25 to April 30. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Above, from left, Ryan G. Dunkin, Peter Simon Hilton, Noah Bridgestock, Spencer Glass and Milton Craig Nealy

By Rita J. Egan

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport exposed a night of adult fun this past Saturday when it held the press opening of “The Full Monty,” its current mainstage production. Judging by the applause, laughter and howling coming from the audience, the musical, directed by Keith Andrews, will be another huge hit for the theater.

Based on the 1997 movie of the same name, the story takes six men on an adventure where they hold nothing back, emotionally or physically. Featuring a book by Terrance McNally with score and lyrics by David Yazbek, “The Full Monty” introduces theatergoers to two unemployed steelworkers from Buffalo, Jerry and Dave, who decide to organize and perform in a strip act after seeing local women go crazy for a Chippendales-inspired show. Even though they look nothing like strippers, they soon join forces with their former co-workers Malcolm and Harold and hold auditions for two more dancers where they meet Horse and Ethan and form Hot Metal.

From left, Brent Michael DiRoma and Ryan G. Dunkin in a scene from ‘The Full Monty’

While a few characters’ names differ from the film, and the location has been changed from the movie’s Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, the musical is still filled with something everyone can identify with whether unemployment, divorce, relationship problems, body issues or even the caring of an ailing parent.

And like the movie, even though the men working together to overcome their anxieties and self-consciousness creates a few serious and tender moments, overall it is told with a great deal of humor both in dialogue and lyrics. It’s a tale that leaves audience members not only cheering for the characters but also exiting the theater feeling uplifted.

“The Full Monty” opens with a high-energy scene where the woman are enjoying a girls’ night out. The story soon switches to the men at the union hall, and the number “Scrap” let’s the audience know there are serious matters to be dealt with and money needed.

Throughout the musical, Brent Michael DiRoma (Jerry) and Ryan G. Dunkin (Dave) are a terrific duo easily handling delicate matters with well-timed humor. The two are at their best during Act One’s hysterical number “Big Ass Rock” where they try to discourage Malcolm from committing suicide by showing him the ridiculousness of different scenarios. Spencer Glass as Malcolm soon joins in on the number, ecstatic that he may actually have friends, leaving the audience laughing uncontrollably.

From left, Spencer Glass and Brent Michael DiRoma in a scene from ‘The Full Monty’. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

Peter Simon Hilton, who plays Harold a former supervisor hiding his unemployed status from his wife, captures the character’s nervousness perfectly and easily plays straight man to the others. He and Dunkin also reveal impressive vocals on the sweet number “You Rule My World,” where Harold wonders how he will tell his wife about his situation, and Dave ponders if he’ll ever lose the weight, particularly his stomach, that rules his life.

Noah Bridgestock is adorable as the young stud Ethan and exhibits great physical comedic ability, but it’s Milton Craig Nealy as Horse, during the number “Big Black Man,” who shows all the young men how it’s done with strong vocals and slick dance moves that delighted the Saturday night audience.

During the number “Michael Jordan’s Ball,” the men perform seamlessly together providing a catchy, standout number at the end of Act One. Another stellar performance by one of the male performers is “You Walk With Me” during the second act. While Glass nails the awkwardness of his character Malcolm, the tenor shines during this moving number, and toward the end of the song, Bridgestock joins him and complements his fellow actor nicely. “Breeze Off the River” sung beautifully by Diroma is another touching number during the second half of the musical.

While “The Full Monty” focuses on the six men, the female cast members cannot be ignored. Diane Findlay as Jeanette Burmeister, the men’s pianist, is a delightful surprise. She delivers her lines with the comedic ability of greats such as Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, and during “Jeanette’s Showbiz Number,” performs with the skill of a Broadway professional.

Diane Findlay and Ryan G. Dunkin in a scene from ‘The Full Monty.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

During Act 2, Nicole Hale as Dave’s wife, Georgie, and Gaelen Gilliland as Harold’s wife, Vicki, beautifully execute the reprise of “You Rule My World.” Kate Marshall, playing Jerry’s ex-wife Pam, skillfully balances strength and gentleness of a woman who is trying her best to move on while co-parenting with her ex.

Suzanne Mason, Jennifer Collester Tully and Lexi Lyric add to the humor as they hilariously bring to life the joys of working women just wanting to have some fun. Vincent Ortega also adds to the high jinks as club owner Tony Giordano, the Cha Cha teacher and a random jogger.

It should also be noted that Kyle Wolf is sweet and endearing as Jerry’s son Nathan. James D. Schultz garnered tons of laughs when he performed an awkward semi strip tease act during the dancer auditions, and Alexander Molina as Buddy “Keno” Walsh, the professional stripper, handled his egotistical character with a tongue-in-cheek performance as well as some dance moves that delighted the ladies in the audience.

“The Full Monty” leaves the best for last with the men’s anticipated performance and the catchy “Let It Go.” The cast and crew tastefully orchestrated the last scene, which left those in attendance howling with laughter but not too red from blushing. The show is perfect for a pleasurable night out with the girls or even date night, but leave the children home due to some adult language and partial nudity.

The John Engeman Theater, 250 Main Street, Northport, will present “The Full Monty” through March 5. Tickets range from $71 to $76. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The cast of 'The Three Little Pigs.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

The well-known story of “The Three Little Pigs” is a timeless children’s fable that has been around for hundreds of years. With his stomach growling, a big, bad wolf comes upon three pigs who have each built homes from different materials — straw, wood and brick. After the wolf easily blows down the first two houses, the pigs run to the third pig’s brick house. When the wolf fails to blow down the brick house, he decides to go down the chimney and ultimately meets a bitter end.

With book and lyrics by Jeffrey Sanzel and music by the late Brent Erlanson, Theatre Three’s version, which opened last weekend, gives us a kinder, gentler version of the fable, throws in two homeless mice and gives the wolf the talent to rap. Spoken entirely in song and verse, which is a quite delightful experience, this show is fresh, funny and downright adorable, making it the perfect choice for younger audiences, especially first-time theatergoers.

From left, Jessica Contino, Andrew Gasparini and Emily Gates in a scene from ‘The Three Little Pigs’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sanzel skillfully directs an energetic adult cast of six, all who seem to be having the time of their lives. The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are the heart of the show with special mention to “You’ve Got Me, I’ve Got You,” and “You Build a House, You Find a Dream.”

The story centers on three little pigs who have decided to become independent of each other and, with suitcases in hand, go off to build their own homes. Little Pig, played wonderfully by Jessica Contino, decides to build her house with straw. “There’s no law I can’t build with straw,” she quips.

“Sticks are the way I say,” says the grouchy Middle Pig (Andrew Gasparini) who thinks he’s better than everyone else. “Pay attention and you will see, there’s no one in existence who compares with me,” seems to be his favorite saying. Gasparini takes this juicy role and runs with it.

Emily Gates is perfectly cast as the Older Pig who builds a brick house. Mature and wise and kind, her character’s ability to open her heart to friend, stranger or foe is a welcome sight in today’s world.

Melanie Acampora and Steven Uihlein make a great team as Sister and Brother Mouse (Sigh!) who are down on their luck and seek help from the pigs. Being turned away because they are different is difficult to watch.

From left, Jessica Contino, Andrew Gasparini, Emily Gates and Dylan Robert Poulos. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

But it is Dylan Robert Poulos as Mr. Wolf who huffs, yeah, and puffs, yeah, and steals the show. “I’m a wolf with a cause, but with dangerous claws,” he growls as he chases the pigs throughout the theater. Poulos’ performance in “Mr. Wolf [W]raps It Up” is an instant favorite with the audience as he raps with the other cast members and performs amazing backflips across the stage.

As seen in every children’s production at Theatre Three, the show uses this opportunity to teach moral lessons — in this case, embracing diversity and going beyond tolerance. “We’re all the same, the only difference is race and name,” says the wiser Older Pig. The act of sharing is also emphasized.

The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are perfect, from pink pig ears to little pig tails. Even the pig’s suitcases match their specific houses! Did I mention this show is adorable? The set, designed by Randall Parsons, alternates between the three pig houses but still allows for plenty of imagination, which is a very good thing.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo ops.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Three Little Pigs” through Feb. 25. The season will continue with “Raggedy Ann & Andy” from March 4 to 25, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” from April 12 to May 6 and “The Princess and the Pea” from May 27 to June 10. Sensory-friendly performances are available during each production. All seats are $10. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.