Theater

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Photo by James Gorman

HEARTWARMING FUN

Get out of the cold and catch a performance of the timeless musical classic ‘Annie’ at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. The theater presents its last three performances on Jan. 18 at 2 p.m., Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. through Jan. 20. Based on the popular comic strip by Harold Gray, the story follows little orphan Annie on her quest to find the parents who abandoned her on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage. Tickets are $40 adults, $36 seniors, $25 students. Call 724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org. 

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Photo courtesy of Theatre Three

The classic Grimm fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” heads to Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson from Jan. 18 to Feb. 22 with a sensory sensitive performance on Jan. 19 at 11 a.m.

Amanda Sally Desdemona Estella Barbara Temple, better known as Little Red Riding Hood, takes a thrilling journey through the woods to her grandmother’s house. See what happens when William de Wolf stops at Granny Becket’s for “a bite” and Little Red Riding Hood shows up. Joined by her twin sisters, Blanche and Nora, Little Red Riding Hood learns a big lesson about safety in this modern musical telling.

All seats are $10. To order, call 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Above, Phyllis March and Antoine Jones in a scene from Theatre Three’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy.' Photo courtesy of Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Melissa Arnold

For many people, it can be challenging to get to know someone of a different culture or background. This was especially true in the decades leading up to the civil rights movement, when expected social roles, biases and assumptions were commonplace. Playwright Alfred Uhry presented this struggle in his classic drama, “Driving Miss Daisy.” The show begins in 1948 in Georgia and chronicles more than 20 years in the life of Hoke Coleburn, a genteel and optimistic black chauffeur, and his client, a standoffish Southern Jewish woman named Daisy Werthan.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set to open at Theatre Three on Jan. 11. Directed by Linda May, it co-stars Phyllis March as Daisy, Steve Ayle as Daisy’s son Boolie and Antoine Jones as Hoke, a role his father Al Jones played on the same stage 25 years ago.

The 41-year-old actor has enjoyed a successful career in professional theater, following in the footsteps of his siblings and his late father. Since returning to Long Island a few years ago, the Setauket resident has become a familiar presence onstage at the Port Jefferson theater.

When did you first get involved with Theatre Three?

I did my first show for Theatre Three when I was a child -− it was a production of “The Pied Piper” and then when I was a teenager I was in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” 

Did you ever aspire to play Hoke?

Evelyne Lune and Al Jones a scene from ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ in 1995. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three Productions Inc.

I never saw that for myself, no. I am about 20 years too young for the role, and that was a concern. Beyond that, I saw my father perform in this role for two separate productions, and during rehearsals there were moments where I had to stop and consider if I was acting or simply recreating what my father had presented. He was effortless. The character and this part of history were both very special to him as a man that was born in the late 1920s. He knew personally and deeply what “Driving Miss Daisy” was trying to accomplish. To stand on the stage he stood on 25 years later is a singular experience. 

Was it intimidating to step into the role knowing your father also played Hoke?

It would be one thing if this was just a role that my father played, and I waxed and waned between missing him and being sad that I don’t get to see him perform again. But I also have a broad background in African American studies, both from college and just in life, and the continuing relevance of “Driving Miss Daisy” is something I don’t take lightly. And I’m working with two other people that also understand their role. Legendary actors that most people are familiar with have played the role of Hoke, and there is an expectation that you better be able to do it.

How do you like working with the rest of the cast? 

Phyllis March and Steve Ayle both have a long history at Theatre Three. They’ve been there for many years and are really part of the theater’s legacy. We are not the type of people who do theater just to make these sporadic connections that come and go. These are very earnest people with busy lives and jobs − Steve runs his own business. They came to do these roles because it means something to them to commit, do hard work, and give people something they can walk away with that’s more than just entertainment. It’s a gift to work with such hardworking people.

What do you enjoy most about the play?

We’ve spent a lot of time in rehearsals talking about who the characters are and where they’ve come from and how they got here. One of the greatest aspects of the play is that you don’t get the low-hanging fruit. 

Alfred Uhry has written a play that presents complicated people. It reveals a racism that isn’t mean-spirited or easy to identify. These are essentially good people who, whether through nurture, nature or a lack of exposure, are forced to realize that maybe they aren’t quite where they need to be. I think that’s where most of us are, and I think that’s the brilliance of the play. 

Daisy Werthan isn’t a racist, but as far as Hoke is concerned, she’s got a long way to go. Even Hoke himself is a product of structural racism, and he talks about it. He doesn’t like the Creole people because he feels like they don’t strive for education or to move off their land, but he doesn’t understand that they’re just as much victims of racism and the lasting effects of slavery as he is. We talk a lot about that, and the gift is that we get to expose that nuance.

Do you have a favorite scene?

My favorite scene for Hoke is when Daisy learns that her synagogue is bombed. To sympathize with her, Hoke reveals something deeply personal that affected him in a profound way. It’s meaningful because it gives a clue about how Hoke got to where he is now, He’s had a lot of profound experiences that he needs to keep close to the vest, but that isn’t something Daisy has experienced.

Do you identify at all with Hoke’s personality or experiences?

I don’t know that I can identify. One of my problems is that Hoke can’t simply turn around and say, “This is a problem that I’m having, and I want to address what’s going on so I can feel like I’m in a more productive, positive place in the future.” He doesn’t have the words or the power. He isn’t even allowed to be frustrated. The humanity of the play constantly keeps us in check.

What of yourself have you brought to the role?

I don’t know how to answer that, but the director, Linda May, has a very unique perspective because she’s also an actor. She’s able to move us along in a way that is actor logic. She’s put some difficult observations in front of us. One of mine was that my voice would tend to rise in pitch, and she would tell me to bring it down because it didn’t sound grounded. It was like I was a slave-type character with no spine. I have to work very hard in my own mind to not think, “This feels too simple.” Not everything is Shakespeare or has that kind of depth. If you want to see bits of my personality, maybe you’ll find them if you see the show, I don’t know.  

Why do you think ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ has been so successful over the years?

I think part of why Daisy Werthan and Hoke Coleburn are so lovable as characters is because when the show begins, they couldn’t do anything about the circumstances they were in and had been born into. But by the end of the show, both of them have made a tremendous arc that many people in their situations wouldn’t have accomplished. Many Jewish women had black hired help and there was no evolution to their relationships. And someone like Hoke would have never had an opportunity to develop friendships with the people they worked for. 

Daisy and Hoke have a spirit within them − Daisy being hard and inflexible, Hoke being this bundle of positivity that wants to get along − and they managed to change when so much in their world was terrible. They were able to see great things in each other, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. We label each other and put them in categories and we don’t have to think about them again … but through sheer force of will, they overcome.

Why should people come see this show?

Alfred Uhry has written a timeless, celebrated and well-performed 90-minute slice of history. It’s a great writing that shows people don’t have to be perfect as long as they keep trying, and it’s when we stop listening to one another that things get messy. It shows that people are at their best when they listen. 

“Driving Miss Daisy” will run from Jan. 11 through Feb. 1 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Tickets range from $20 to $35. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

‘Boeing, Boeing’ starring Mark Santaromita, seated, and back row, from left, Karen Santaromita, Ashley Moyett and June Damadeo, heads to Star Playhouse in Commack on Jan. 11.  Photo by Gene Indenbaum

ON THE RUNWAY

What better time to jet away to a getaway in Paris than January? And if you can’t do it literally, than hop on board Boeing Boeing, the comedy farce set in gay Paree and opening at Star Playhouse at the Suffolk Y-JCC on Saturday, January 11. This madcap, laugh-out-loud production, listed in The Guinness Book of Records as the most-performed French play throughout the world, had an original run and revival on Broadway where it won two Tonys.

The setting is the Parisian pad of architect Bernard (Mark Santaromita of Huntington). Bernard is a charmer – in fact he has three fiancées, all airline hostesses; his Italian amore Gabriella (Karen Santaromita, Huntington), his American beauty Gloria (Ashley Moyett, Jericho), and his gregarious German Gretchen (June Damadeo, Northport). And Bernard is a master at juggling their estimated times of arrival without a hitch. But turbulence develops in the form of his old college pal, Robert, a rube from Wisconsin (Steve Brustein, Manhasset), coupled with some weather delays and the enhanced speed of the Boeing fleet. Bernard is befriended and belittled by Berthe, his French maid (Suzie Lustig, Greenlawn). Soon, Bernard has to wing it as he is frantically propelled toward disaster by the simultaneous arrival of his three seductive stewardesses. Boeing Boeing is directed by Jim Redding of Northport and produced by Sandy Lory-Snyder of Hauppauge.

Star Playhouse at the Suffolk Y-JCC is located at 74 Hauppauge Road, Commack 11725. Performance dates are Saturdays January 11 and 25 at 8:00 pm, and Sundays January 12, 19 and 26 at 2:00 pm. Ticket prices are $25.00 for the general public and $20 for seniors, students and Suffolk Y members. The theater is handicapped accessible, has a hearing assistance system and ample free parking. Tickets are available online at www.starplayhouse.com or syjcc-performingartscenter.eventbrite.com, or may be ordered by calling the Box Office at 631-462-9800 ext. 136.  Group rates are available.

 

By Heidi Sutton

The holidays have arrived at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts in a most delightful way. While a spunky orphan commands the spotlight in the theater’s current main stage production of Annie, a spirited young girl named Emily stars in the second annual children’s theater production of Ken Ludwig’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. 

Directed by Christine Boehm, the 45-minute fast-paced show with the underlying message “to make life an adventure” is the perfect choice to introduce young children to live theater.

It’s Christmas Eve and Uncle Brierly (Evan Donnellan) greets the audience with a recitation of “the greatest poem of all time,” Clement C. Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. He gets as far as, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” only to be interrupted by Amos the Mouse (Jae Hughes) who is in fact stirring, cookie dough that is, to make cookies for Santa in hopes that he’ll show up this year. You see, Amos and his best human friend Emily (Lorelai Mucciolo) were left off the Naughty or Nice list last year and never received any presents.

It is then that Calliope the Elf (Lisa Naso) shows up to investigate and, after telling Emily and Amos that many other children around the world had the same thing happen to them, convinces them to accompany her back to the North Pole to tell Santa the troubling news and to save Christmas.

When they arrive at Santa’s workshop, they overhear a former elf, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Donnellan), and his sidekick Mulch (Anthony Panarello), plotting to sell the Naughty and Nice list to retailers just like last year.

What follows is a whirlwind attempt to retrieve the list complete with a surprise appearance from Amos’ brother (the amazing Hughes in a dual role), a hilarious case of mistaken identity, a sword fight, an elf cheer, a visit from Santa Claus (Panarello) and a chase scene through the theater to the Benny Hill theme song. There is no shortage of excitement in this show and the cast does a wonderful job portraying this sweet holiday story.

Booster seats are available and snacks are sold during intermission. Stay after the show for a meet and greet and photos with the cast in the lobby.  

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown presents Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Dec. 15, 22, 28 and 29 at 11 a.m. Children’s theater continues with Shrek The Musical Jr. from Feb. 1 to March 1 and Flat Stanley Jr. from May 16 to June 21. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org

All photos by Cassiel Fawcett

 

Frosty, Jenny and the Narrator sing ‘One Friend Is Better Than No Friends’ in a scene from the show.
Interactive show is a big hit with young audiences

By Heidi Sutton

In perfect timing with the frigid weather, the John W. Engeman Theater presents its annual production of “Frosty” through Dec. 29. Directed by Jennifer Collester, the wintry show has become a holiday favorite for many families over the years.

“I’m here to take you on a little adventure,” teases the Narrator (Jessica Gray) as the audience is introduced to the town of Chillsville, “A beautiful town way up north that is always covered with a blanket of fresh snow.” 

The cast of ‘Frosty’

There we meet Jenny (Katie Dolce), a little girl who’s favorite thing to do is to play outside. With help from her mother (Nicole Weitzman), Jenny builds a snowman she names Frosty (played by Dylan Poulos). Once she puts the finishing touches on the snowman, including a hat and scarf, he magically comes to life. Just like the song, Frosty is a jolly, happy soul and wait until you see him sing and dance!

Unfortunately, mean Ethel Pierpot (Sari Feldman), who makes snow shovels, snow blowers and ice scrapers in her factory on the other side of town, has just invented a weather machine that will eventually make all the snow melt in Chillsville so that she can build a bigger factory. Frosty has only a few hours before “He’ll be nothing more than a puddle and a carrot.”

The songs, including “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends” and “Thanks to You,” are playful and fun with the exception of “Pierpot’s Solution,” which is quite sinister! In the grand finale, the audience joins the cast in a rousing rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”

From the opening number, “Snow!,” the audience is encouraged to clap and sing, help Jenny write a letter and find a way to help save the melting snowman. “How can we save Frosty?” the Narrator asks.
“Put him in a blast chiller!” is one response. “Get the key and turn off the machine!” is another. Of course! 

Frosty and Jenny in a scene from the show.

What will happen to Frosty? Well, you’ll have to see the show to find out. There is a great snowball fight and it will snow in the theater but I’ve already given away too much so I’ll stop. I do recommend taking the kids and heading to Northport to catch a performance of “Frosty” — it will be one of the best presents they’ll receive this holiday season.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents “Frosty” through Dec. 29. The theater’s 2019-20 Youth Season continues with Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” from Jan. 25 to March 1. All seats are $15. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Jennifer Collester

By Heidi Sutton

While Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes a transformation on Theatre Three’s Mainstage in “A Christmas Carol,” Santa’s littlest elf Barnaby experiences a metamorphosis of his own in the theater’s adorable children’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas.” The show runs through Dec. 28.

With a clever script by Douglas J. Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel with music and lyrics by Quattrock, the holiday production teaches us that Christmas lies within our hearts.

It’s Christmas Eve and the North Pole is a flurry of activity. Barnaby (Eric J. Hughes), the littlest elf in Elf School, is busy making a toy that Santa (Andrew Lenahan) requested — a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest — while desperately trying to fit in. His constant attempts to be helpful fail, as he knocks down presents, bumps into fellow elves Blizzard (Krystal Lawless), Crystal (Nicole Bianco) and Sam (Jason Furnari) and makes a big mess.

When it’s time to deliver the presents to all the good little girls and boys, Barnaby and Blizzard’s fawn, Franklynne (Michelle LaBozzetta), are left behind with Mrs. Claus (Lorrie Maida). “You’ll have to wait to grow a little bit,” explains Sam. Barnaby soon realizes that Santa has left the stuffed bear behind and convinces Franklynne to embark on a journey to find Santa and “save Christmas.”   

On their adventure they crash land on the roof of the house of Sarah (Lorrie Maida) and her nephew Andrew (Andrew Lenahan) and learn all about Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights. They also come across S.B. (spoiled brat) Dombulbury (Steven Uihlein), a Scrooge in his own right who has stuffed up all the chimneys with coal with his partner in crime Irma (Dana Bush), in order to ruin Christmas. Yes, Barnaby will save the day — as evident in the title — but just wait until you see how!

Directed by Sanzel, the cast perfectly executes this beautiful story. The wonderful songs, accompanied on piano by Quattrock, are the heart of the show, with special mention to “Still With a Ribbon on Top” and “Within Our Hearts.”

Costumes by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John are colorful and festive and the choreography by Nicole Bianco is fresh and fun. Special effects abound, elevated by the futuristic lighting and, spoiler alert, it even snows in the theater!

With the ultimate message to be the very best that you can be, “Barnaby Saves Christmas” is a must see this holiday season.

Souvenir elf and reindeer dolls will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo keepsake with Santa Claus on stage if you wish — the $5 donation supports the theater’s scholarship fund — and join the rest of the cast in the lobby for a meet and greet.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents “Barnaby Saves Christmas” through Dec. 28. Children’s Theater continues with “Little Red Riding Hood” from Jan. 18 to Feb. 22 and “Hansel & Gretel” from Feb. 29 to March 21. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

As the holiday season rolls around, the Village of Port Jefferson is one of the first towns on Long Island to fully embrace its joyful spirit. Z-Pita Café on Main Street is already decked in holiday lights from top to bottom, elves are busy getting Santa’s workshop ready on the corner of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway and preparations are underway to transport the seaport village back to the Victorian era for its 24th annual Charles Dickens Festival on Dec 7 and 8.

The latter was inspired by Theatre Three’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” Now in its 36th year, the show continues to delight and touch audiences of all ages, a testament to the brilliance of the theater’s Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel and the caliber of its cast. Last Saturday’s opening night performance received a much deserved standing ovation.

Based on the 1843 novella by Charles Dickens, it tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (played by Sanzel), a successful business man who loves money more than anything else and has become bitter, lonely and stingy over the years, especially around the holidays. “I’ve devoted my life to the cultivation of business,” he explains.

We first meet the miserly old curmudgeon on Christmas Eve and witness him turn away the needy and a charity group and lose his temper with his clerk Bob Cratchit (Douglas J. Quattrock) and his always optimistic nephew Fred Halliwell (Steven Uihlein). “Keep Christmas in your own way and I will keep it in mine,” he warns Halliwell before kicking him out.

That evening Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner Jacob Marley (Andrew Lenahan) who offers him one last chance at redemption. Draped in the chains he has forged in life, Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future – in an attempt to save his immortal soul.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Michelle LaBozzetta) takes Scrooge to Wellington House, the boarding school he attended as a young boy and where he spent many Christmases alone; we meet his adored sister Fan and his apprenticeship at Fezziwig’s, where the audience is introduced to Scrooge’s one and only love, Belle (Nicole Bianco). This is also where he meets Marley for the first time and where his life takes a terrible turn.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Stephen T. Wangner) takes Scrooge to meet Bob Cratchit’s family and learn about the failing health of Tiny Tim and to a dinner party hosted by his nephew in one of the funniest moments in the show.

Lastly, the most intimidating specter, a 14-foot Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (operated by Steven Uihlein), shows Scrooge the shadows of what is yet to come, including his own death and how those around him are affected. In the end, Scrooge learns that “life is not about facts and figures. It’s about joy and family and Christmas.”

While the entire cast is excellent, it is Sanzel who commands the stage. One of his finest moments occurs when the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to Fezziwig’s holiday party. While at all other times he remains in the shadows as an observer, Sanzel suddenly jumps into the role of a younger Scrooge with boundless energy and dances the night away. The transformation is breathtaking.

As director, Sanzel succeeds in keeping the annual production fresh and exciting while maintaining its familiarity, allowing families to share in a story that touches on empathy, selflessness and charity, while providing lots of laughs, visual amazement and more than a few surprises. This year the lighting and sound effects by Robert W. Henderson Jr. take center stage and elevate the flawless production to the next level, a feast for the eyes and ears.

Arrive early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors in the beautifully decorated lobby and stay afterward for a photo keepsake with Scrooge. The $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund.

The Cast: Nicole Bianco, Ginger Dalton, Holly D’Accordo, Kailey D’Accordo, Ellie Dunn, Suzie Dunn, Alexa Eichinger, Julie Friedman, Eric J. Hughes, Kyle Imperatore, Audrey Kelly, Sophia Knapp, David Lafler, Edward Langston, Michelle LaBozzetta, Cassandra LaRocco, Andrew Lenahan, Douglas J. Quattrock, Michaela Reis, Leah Romero, Jeffrey Sanzel, Aiden Sharkey, Finn Thomas, Cameron Turner, Amber Walkowiak, Stephen T. Wangner, Steven Uihlein, Addyson Urso and Kiernan Urso.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 28. Please note all evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Running time is 2 hours. Tickets are $20 per person through November; $35 adults, $28 seniors and students in December. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger/ Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Rita J. Egan

“Matilda the Musical” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport Nov. 14 with all the spunk of a Broadway production.

Inspired by the 1988 book by Roald Dahl, the musical introduces audience members to the real and imaginary worlds of 5-year-old Matilda Wormwood, who is misunderstood by her dim-witted family. While the Wormwoods make life difficult at home by making fun of her passion for reading and her smarts, the days become even more troublesome when she begins school with the dastardly Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall. However, with her love of reading, a magical imagination and caring teacher Miss Honey on her side, Matilda finds her happy ending.

The musical, with book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and orchestrations and additional music by Chris Nightingale, debuted in England in 2010 and opened on Broadway in 2013. While the show closed on the Great White Way in January of 2017, “Matilda the Musical” is still running at the Cambridge Theater in London. It was also released as a movie in 1996 starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman as the Wormwoods and Mara Wilson as Matilda.

Igor Goldin has directed a superb cast in the Engeman version, which includes many talented children actors. AnnaBelle Deaner and Elsa Dees alternate in the role of Matilda. On the night of Nov. 15 when I reviewed the musical, AnnaBelle played the part. The actress is darling in the role and portrays Matilda perfectly as the brave and precocious girl she is. She hits every note during her solos and her version of “Quiet” is beautiful and touching.

AnnaBelle along with her fellow youth actors stole many scenes. During one depicting the first day of school, they along with the ensemble performed a sensational “School Song” where everyone involved was strong in both vocals and dance moves. The company also delivers a fantastic “When I Grow Up,” the signature song from the musical.

Sara Gallo as Mrs. Wormwood and Michael Perrie Jr. as Mr. Wormwood are hilarious. While the two characters aren’t the best at parenting, Gallo and Perrie are pros at garnering laughs from the audience. Gallo plays her character to the hilt during the song “Loud” as she and Al Lockhart as Rudolpho, her dancing partner, show off some fantastic dance moves. And Perrie’s vocals are strong on “All I Know,” known as “Telly” in the Broadway and London versions. He also does a wonderful job interacting with the audience toward the end of intermission. Richard Westfahl as Michael Wormwood is also funny as Matilda’s dim-witted brother.

Dane Agostinis as Miss Trunchbull, the Olympic Hammer-Throwing Champion headmistress who believes children are maggots, plays the antagonist role perfectly. Agostinis can deliver her songs smoothly without breaking character despite the funny lines and laughs from the audience. Kate Fahrner as Miss Honey is simply endearing and sings a beautiful “My House” in the second act.

Emily Kelly as The Acrobat and Alex Herrera as The Escapologist are delightful, especially when Herrara joins Matilda on the song “I’m Here.” Nicole Powell was a charming Ms. Phelps, the librarian who looks forward to Matilda’s stories. Jamie Colburn as the Doctor and Sergei rounds out the cast perfectly.

On the night that I attended the show, I was fortunate to have with me 15-year-old Jonathan Guttenberg, who has seen countless productions, including “Matilda the Musical” on Broadway and London. Jonathan said “School Song” and “Revolting” were his favorite numbers in the Engeman production because they were both powerful and thought the theater did a phenomenal job.

Scenic designer Nate Bertone has put together a fun and colorful set with clever oversized books that fold out one way to serve as the Wormwood’s living room and another to provide the backdrop for the library. Mara Newbery Greer also has choreographed several energetic dance numbers, which the actors have mastered, including the youngest members of the youth ensemble, with special mention to Lily Tamburo. 

With the chilly weather settling in along the North Shore, “Matilda the Musical” has arrived just in time with its funny, heart-warming story and will be a hit with local theatergoers of all ages. 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “Matilda the Musical” until Dec. 29. Performances are Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $75 and $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Photo from Karen Van Houten

Simple Gifts Productions presents “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” featuring all your favorite Peanuts characters, at Finley Middle School, 20 Greenlawn Road, Huntington on Nov. 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. For ages 4 and up. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 children ages 10 or younger. To reserve tickets online, visit www.simplegiftsproductions.com. For more information, call 561-9522.