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Heidi Sutton

The cast of 'Pumpkin Patch Magic.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for Halloween, Theatre Three brings us “Pumpkin Patch Magic” or “If at First You Don’t Succeed,” a spooktacular musical for young children that is as sweet as a Kit Kat bar. Written over 20 years ago, the play has emerged from the shadows with a complete makeover and returned to the stage last Saturday. With fresh new lyrics and music by Jules Cohen, wonderful direction by Jeffrey Sanzel, a brilliant script chock full of rhyme, and a cast that is top notch, this show is sure to become an annual tradition.

It’s October in the Land of Halloween and everyone has certain chores in order for pumpkins to end up in pumpkin patches all over the world. The gnomes, known for their homegrown gnome poems, have to grow the pumpkins, the witches have to fly the pumpkins to the patch, the ghosts have to place the pumpkins in the patch without being seen and the rulers of the land have to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Fairy Loquacious Chattelot, played by Jessica Contino, serves as narrator and introduces the audience to four citizens of the Land of Halloween who are trying to help but can’t. Norman Gnome (Steven Uihlein) has trouble growing a pumpkin — during one attempt he ends up growing a head of lettuce! “I’m all thumbs and none of them are green,” he laments. His fellow gnomes, Nemo (Kyle Breitenbach) and Nathan (Dylan Poulos) feel Norman is useless and in the way. Ermengarde Broomwellsweepalot (Emily Gates), the witch, doesn’t know how to fly so is tasked by her fellow witch Ethel Broomwellsweepalot (Zoe Dunmire) with taking care of all the other chores including painting broom handles.

The gnomes of 'Pumpkin Patch Magic.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
The gnomes of ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Graham Ghost (Jason Furnari) can’t seem to turn himself invisible — his conversations with Harvey the invisible ghost are hilarious! — and Princess Pumpkin (Melanie Acampora) is a nervous mess who has trouble making decisions and therefore can’t rule the Queendom, much to the dismay of her mother Queen Honoria (Ginger Dalton). Tensions run high. Will the Fairy Loquacious Chattelot help them with some good advice? Or will her advice backfire? Will the children find pumpkins in the pumpkin patch to decorate or will Halloween be ruined?

The musical numbers, with their jazzy undertones, are the heart of the show. From the opening number, “It’s Halloween!” by the whole company, to the clever “I’m All Thumbs,” sung by the gnomes, to Graham Ghost’s solo, “I’m Gettin’ Out [Moving to a Ghost Town],” each song, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, is better than the next. Costumes by Teresa Matteson are another highlight of the production with noticeable effort and attention to detail. Choreography by Sari Feldman is fun and hip, especially during “Not Easy Being Me.”

Children are encouraged to come to the show in their Halloween costumes. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo-ops. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Theatre Three, 412 Man St., Port Jefferson will present “Pumpkin Patch Magic” through Oct. 29. A special sensory-sensitive performance is scheduled for Oct. 9 where the house lights will remain on throughout the performance and children may move around the theater. Next up is the 13th anniversary of “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 25 to Dec. 30 (sensory-sensitive performance on Nov. 27.) All tickets are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The cover of Cindy Sommer's new children's book. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for fall, Stony Brook resident Cindy Sommer has released her first children’s book, “Saving Kate’s Flowers” (Arbordale Publishing). Recommended for ages 3 to 8, the 32-page picture book, with gorgeous illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein, follows little Kate the rabbit in her quest to save the flowers in her family’s garden from dying at the end of the summer. After her mother teaches her about perennials, annuals and how to save seeds, Kate asks to bring the annuals inside. Unfortunately, Kate’s father is allergic to flowers! Will Kate find homes for all the flowers before the cold weather sets in?

As an added bonus, the book also includes educational resources in the back to learn more about the parts of a plant, the life cycle of plants and how to pot and identify flowers. Sommer recently took time out from preparing for a book signing and reading at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank on Oct. 1 to answer a few questions about her adorable new book.

Above, the author with her dog Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer
Above, the author with her dog Pepper, a mini Australian shepherd. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sommer

Can you give a little background about yourself?

I have lived in Stony Brook all my life. I attended Three Village schools and graduated from Ward Melville High School. I then graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a BA in English. I’ve always been interested in reading and writing, particularly horse books. Once I had my two daughters, I found some time to finally write.

What was your favorite book as a child?

All the Black Stallion and Marguerite Henry books. I think I had them all. Why did you decide to write this children’s book? When my daughter, Samantha, was young, she asked me “Why do flowers die in winter?” and I thought that was a very good question. I wanted to give her a simple answer, but there was no easy way. So I wrote this story. Kate is actually Samantha.

Do you have a garden at home?

Yes, I have a big backyard but a small vegetable garden. I grow some cucumbers, tomatoes and basil. I have lots of flowers … I love flowers. I love anything that blooms for most of the summer; Stella d’oro lilies, hydrangeas and dianthus.

Do you have any rabbits in your yard?

Every year we have rabbits in our yard. This year there seemed to be a lot! I think they knew my book was coming out.

Will there be more adventures with Kate in the future?

There are plans for a sequel. I don’t want to give it away, but it might involve snow. Hopefully, there will be many more adventures.

You are a member of the Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators. Can you tell us a little about the group?

A local librarian told me about LICWI when I first started writing. I was so nervous the first time I went to a meeting, I didn’t go in! I found that they are a wonderful encouraging group, willing to help out any writer, beginner or experienced. I learn new things every time I go to a meeting. But they will tell you the truth in a constructive way. If you can’t take criticism, you should not join a writer’s group. It has made my writing stronger, and I appreciate all of their opinions and great advice.

We meet every second Saturday a month during the school year at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. We usually have a break over the summer with a garden party. For more information, you can see visit their website: www.licwi.com.

What advice would you give to someone who is writing their first book?

Read the genre for the type of book you want to write. I have read hundreds of picture books. Get to know the structure, the language and the pacing. Join a local writer’s group and the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Try to go to writing conferences. I used to go to Hofstra when they had their conferences. Sadly they no longer have them. I looked forward to meeting editors and going to workshops. SCBWI has started offering some writing events at the Huntington Public Library, and they hold many in NYC. Wait for your story to be the absolute best it can be before you send it out anywhere. And write because you love to write. Most authors do not make much money in real life.

Why do you think reading to a young child is so important?

Reading is something they will be doing for the rest of their lives, so it’s something that should be encouraged from the very start. If they are given good basics and a love of books at an early age, they will have the tools they need to accomplish whatever they want to in life.

Tell me about the book signing event on Oct. 3.

I will be in the Children’s Garden at the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank on Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. during the farm’s PumpkinFest, with a rain date of Oct. 4. I will probably read my book at 1:30 p.m. with signings followed by a flower-themed craft available until around 3:30 p.m.

Any more book signings in the works?

Since this is my first book, I am eager to get started. I am doing a presentation for a girls’ book club soon. My schedule is open for presentations in elementary schools. My program is registered through Eastern Suffolk and Nassau BOCES. I would love to do a reading and craft storytime for libraries and bookstores.

savingflowers_pic3“Saving Kate’s Flowers” is available at www.Amazon.com, the publisher’s website at www.arbordalepublishing.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. For more information about the author, visit www.cindysommer.com.

Please note that this article has been updated:

The PumpkinFest in Yaphank has been rescheduled to Oct. 3 and 4. 

Winners honored at art reception last Sunday

By Heidi Sutton

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook kicked off its annual juried art competition, I’ve Got the Music in Me, with an artist reception on Sept. 18. Amateur and professional artists across Long Island were invited to submit up to three works with a music theme for the exhibition, which is now on display in the Visitors Center.

Executive director of The LIM, Neil Watson, congratulated the artists and thanked them for rising to the occasion and addressing the theme of the exhibit. The idea for a music-themed art exhibit came out of the previous exhibition in the Visitors Center — Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience — and also from the fact that the museum is now home to the singer/songwriter series Sunday Street as well as the North Shore Pro Musica group (chamber music), among others. “For us, it is very important to have music and as a theme it is a challenge, visually, so I appreciate all of the artists who did this and the show is a really handsome exhibition,” said Watson.

Museum staff members combed through 144 pieces submitted by 68 artists to come up with the final 59 entries that make up the exhibition, and juror John Cino chose a first-, second- and third-place winner along with two honorable mentions. (See juror’s comments under each photo.) Barbara Jo Kingsley of Huntington Station captured first place with her serigraph, “Mississippi River Blues”; Neil Leinwohl of Rockville Centre took second place with “Love the One You’re With”; and Renee Caine of Holtsville garnered third with her oil painting, “Hello.” Honorable mentions were handed to Hicksville’s Lynda Wright for her acrylic painting,“ Bridge of Dreams” and Andrea Baum from Lynbrook for her photograph titled “Trumpet Player.”

Lisa Unander, director of education at the museum, said that, when choosing the five selections, Cino noted that “Music means a lot of different things to different people. Many artists in this exhibition chose to depict musicians making music or listeners responding to music. At least since the time of [Wassily] Kandinsky there have been artists who have attempted to create a visual analogy of music which is essentially the organization of sound over time.” The exhibit runs through Oct. 23. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

'Betting on Zero.' Photo courtesy of PJDC

By Heidi Sutton

Jon Stewart’s  ‘After Spring’ will be screened on Oct. 17 at Theatre Three. Photo courtesy of PJDC
Jon Stewart’s ‘After Spring’ will be screened on Oct. 17 at Theatre Three. Photo courtesy of PJDC

Autism, pyramid schemes, the mental health system, the game of chess, gay rights, the Syrian refugee crisis — these topics and more will be explored in depth as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series kicks off its fall 2016 season on Monday, Sept. 12. Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS will present seven award-winning documentaries this season at two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q-and-A session with a guest speaker.

The documentaries are chosen by a six-member film board, affectionately known as “the film ladies,” who each choose one film to present and then a seventh is chosen unanimously by the group. The ladies, who include co-directors Lyn Boland and Barbara Sverd, Wendy Feinberg, Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross and Lorie Rothstein, are celebrating the festival’s 11th year this month.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Lyn Boland about this local cultural gem and about this season’s exciting lineup.

Can you believe it’s been 11 years?

Yes, it’s amazing. We are very grateful to our audience and also to the directors and distributors we have gotten to know who are willing to share their films with us. This fall will be our 23rd season and longevity has its rewards. For example, for the upcoming fall season, I was emailing a producer and I could honestly write that I was one of his biggest fans because I realized, when I checked his bio, that we had previously run at least three of his films. He was impressed enough by our record to give us his newest film.

How many choices does each film lady bring to the table initially?

I would say each film lady brings five to 10 films to the first meeting, but they have probably gone through a winnowing process even before the first programming meeting.

What film festivals did the film ladies attend this year?

We went to our usuals — Tribeca, Hamptons, Stony Brook. We follow a lot of other festivals from a distance. Toronto will be coming up in a few weeks, and we will watch what happens with the films there or the films at Sundance in January. The festivals announce the films they have chosen to show about a month before they start screenings. Once the films are announced, we are busy reading about them and trying to contact the directors. Fortunately, although we can’t get to some festivals, Tribeca has become an important focus for documentaries. Several of our fall films are films we saw at Tribeca last spring — “Betting on Zero,” “Strike a Pose,” “Life Animated,” “After Spring,” and “Magnus.” It was love at first viewing with those films and then the chase was on.

I understand that you have some extra help these days?

Our initial group is still intact but we have had some great new additions. We have four new volunteers: Lynn Rein, who has contributed tremendously to creating our posters and fliers; Emily Sobel, our agent on the ground at Stony Brook, making sure our public service announcements get on the air; Irene Berman, who brings a fresh perspective after a long career of teaching; and Kathryn Hunter, a charming jack-of-all trades.

In the spring of this year the PJDS formed a new partnership with the Long Island Museum. How is that working out?

Working with LIM has been delightful. They have a great staff there, very competent and open to new ideas. Lisa Unander, the administrator we work with, is calm, understanding and knows how to make things happen. So far the size of the venue has not been an issue although we came close this summer with our special event screening of ”The Witness.” We filled up all 128 seats! The film, which we screened at the same time as it opened in NYC, was a huge success and a great tie-in with the museum’s Long Island in the Sixties exhibit. Our guest speaker, director James Solomon, loved the museum’s exhibit and the perfect tie-in with his film.

Which documentary are you most excited about?

I think one of the most riveting documentaries is ”Tower.” Using animation, the film brings the audience right into the crisis at the University of Austin where a shooter occupied the tower and held the campus prisoner. There are heroes and villains in the film and the point of view is mesmerizing. It is also the 50th anniversary of the shooting which gives all of us pause when we contemplate how frequent these tragedies have become since that horrifying beginning. I am also in love with “Betting on Zero,” the film I am presenting.

Why did you choose to present ‘Betting on Zero’?

I am fascinated by the financial world and I think most of us have become more cognizant of how much we are impacted by stocks, banks and investors since the Great Recession. The story in “Betting on Zero” is particularly dramatic because it involves two financial titans, Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman. Icahn, whose name is familiar to many, is a big shareholder in Herbalife, a well-known company. Ackman, less well-known outside of financial circles, believes Herbalife is a Ponzi scheme and has bet a fortune on bringing the company down. The billionaire battle is set against the backdrop of the many Herbalife small business owners who are caught up on the conflict. So you have humanity, money, and the hint of a Madoff-like shell game.

Which guest speaker are you most excited about meeting?

I am very excited about bringing the director of “Betting on Zero” Ted Braun in from LA. It is also a great privilege to welcome the producer of “Life Animated,” Carolyn Hepburn, since she is a Long Island native and because “Life Animated” is a film that has had a great impact all over the country. I look forward to meeting Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez, the directors of “After Spring,” and I know they will be audience favorites as will Salim Gauwloos, the dancer in “Strike a Pose,” who I met briefly at the screening at Tribeca. However, I think I am most excited about bringing back Todd and Jedd Wider, the directors of “God Knows Where I Am,” because they grew up in Setauket and have been wonderfully generous to the series. We have shown five of their previous films, including the Academy Award-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” and we look forward to seeing them again (and again!)

What do you feel is so special about documentaries?

Documentaries are real. Granted, they often represent the director’s point of view, but what you see on the screen actually happened and it is amazing how dramatic and moving real life is. Also, most documentaries are works of passion and dedication. Many of these directors spend years following their subjects, devoting endless hours to stories that need to be told. Documentaries can bring change to our way of life while bringing tears to our eyes. There is a special insight that you get from seeing the real thing.

Why should people come out on a Monday night to see these films?

In addition to seeing films that they might not get to see otherwise and hearing the inside story from a director or cast member that they might never meet, the doc series is a great community event. Our Q-and-As are lively and provide an opportunity to hear from one’s neighbors, near and far. The PJDS audience is a fascinating and ever-changing cross section with whom a film enthusiast can enjoy a unique and often bonding experience. Plus, it’s the best bargain around: film and live speaker for $7!! Finally, the films provide a fantastic learning experience. For example, I had no idea who Magnus Carlsen was before I saw “Magnus” but I soon learned that every chess player from dilettante to devotee knows and follows him.

Are you looking for volunteers?

Yes, very much so. We need people to do imaginative PR, anything to get the word out for a series that operates on less than a shoestring budget. We need grant writers, film enthusiasts, and tech people to create our posters, math people to work on the budget, anything and anyone you can imagine. See you at the movies!

The first and last documentary will be screened on Mondays at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. All others will be screened on Mondays at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. All films begin at 7 p.m. and doors open one half hour before show time. Tickets for all films are $7 and will be sold at the door. For more information, call 631-473-5220 or visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

▶ The fall season will kick off with a screening of “Life, Animated” at the Long Island Museum on Sept. 12. Winner of the Sundance Film Festival Director Award for a U.S. Documentary and the Audience Award at the Full Frame Festival and San Francisco International Film Festival, the film follows the life of Owen Suskind, who stopped speaking at the age of 3 and withdrew from his family and the world. Diagnosed with autism, he developed his own language skills after repeated viewings of Disney classics like “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid.” Guest speaker will be co-producer Carolyn Hepburn.

“Betting on Zero,” (Arts & Lifestyles cover photo) the second film in the series, will be screened at Theatre Three on Sept. 19. The financial docu-thriller, which made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows hedge-fund titan Bill Ackman as he seeks to expose global nutritional giant Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history in this deeply emotional dive into the world of money, fraud and the American Dream. In English and Spanish. Guest speaker will be director Tim Braun.

Director Benjamin Ree will be the guest speaker on Sept. 26. Photo courtesy of PJDC
Director Benjamin Ree will be the guest speaker on Sept. 26. Photo courtesy of PJDC

▶ Through archival footage and home movies, “Magnus,” to be screened at Theatre Three on Sept. 26, tells the story of 26-year-old Norwegian chess champion Magnus Carlsen’s rise to the top. A hit at several international festivals and winner of the Ray of Sunshine prize at the Norwegian International Film Festival, the documentary also gives the audience a peek inside the isolated world of the chess community. In English and Norwegian. Sponsored by the Long Island Chess Club. Guest speaker, via Skype, will be the director, Benjamin Ree.

▶ The fourth film, titled “Strike a Pose,” screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 10, features Madonna’s seven backup dancers from her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990, whose journey was captured in the rockumentary, “Truth or Dare,” The documentary follows the lives of Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn, Luis Xtravaganza Camacho, Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza, Salim Gauwloos and Oliver S. Crumes III since the tour. The seventh, Gabriel Trupin, died from complications due to AIDS in 1995 and is represented in the film by his mother, Sue Trupin. In English and Spanish. Guest speaker will be Salim Gawloos.

▶ The series continues on Oct. 17 at Theatre Three with a screening of Jon Stewart’s heartbreaking “After Spring,” a feature documentary about the Syrian refugee crisis that has affected millions since the conflict began six years ago. Filmed in Jordan, the audience will experience living in Zaatari, the second largest refugee camp in the world. In Arabic, English and Korean. Guest speakers will be directors Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez.

‘God Knows Where I Am’ will be screened on Oct. 24 at Theatre Three. Photo courtesy of PJDC
‘God Knows Where I Am’ will be screened on Oct. 24 at Theatre Three. Photo courtesy of PJDC

“God Knows Where I Am” will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 24. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs, the documentary, using 16mm and 35mm cinematography, tells the story of Linda Bishop, a homeless woman who was determined to stay free of the mental health system, documenting her experience in a diary before her tragic death. It has been called by critics “a film for the ages, great cinema and certainly a contender for one of the best documentaries of the millennium that features some of the most beautiful cinematography ever to be seen in a documentary.” Setauket natives and directors Jedd and Todd Wider will join the audience for a Q-and-A after the screening.

▶ The final film for fall 2016, “Tower,” will be screened at the Long Island Museum on Nov. 7. Combining archival footage with live-action animation, “Tower” tells the story of America’s first mass school shooting at the University of Texas in 1966. “Tower” was the Grand Prize Winner and Audience Award Winner at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Guest speaker will be co-producer and animation director Craig Staggs.

The delightful musical “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” opened at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts on June 27. Written by Vera Morris with music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur, the tale follows the original classic closely with a few twists along the way. There are additional characters in the musical version like an apprentice to the fairy godmother, a talking pumpkin and a queen instead of a king. No bibbidi-bobbidi-boo here, just a beautiful fairy godmother in an glitzy evening gown and instead of Lucifer, the mean cat, there is a sweet cat named Attilla. Somehow it all works and makes for a wonderful afternoon of live theater.

Alexa Brin is Cinderella in the SCPA’s production of ‘Cinderella’s Glass Slipper.’ Photo by Dean Cestari
Alexa Brin is Cinderella in the SCPA’s production of ‘Cinderella’s Glass Slipper.’ Photo by Dean Cestari

Bobby Montaniz, making his directorial debut at the SCPA, has assembled a talented cast of adult actors who put on a great show. Montaniz, a fine actor in his own right, also serves as the choreographer.

Alexa Brin is Cinderella, the poor girl who is forced to do chores all day long for her wicked stepmother and rotten stepsisters and is not allowed to go to the Royal Ball. Her sad predicament is noticed by her fairy godmother’s apprentice, played by Sierra Romano. The apprentice summons the Fairy Godmother, played by Caitlin Nofi, who steps in to make things right.

Tommy Castelli is perfect in the role of the horrid stepmother and he can sure rock those high heels! Stepsisters, Brunhilda and Cleopatra, are played by Julia Bevilacqua and Samantha Foti, respectively.

Eric Schell is the handsome prince. His duet, “Behind the Mask,” with Brin is terrific and his scenes trying to escape the clutches of the stepsisters, who refer to themselves as “Prince Bait,” is fun to watch.

Ryan Cavanaugh plays Attilla the cat, and does a fine job.  His waltz with Cinderella in anticipation of the ball is very sweet.

Special mention must be made of Tommy Ranieri, who doubles as Troubadour and Captain. His rendition of “Once Upon a Time,” as the prologue and reprise is simply wonderful. Also, Hans Hendrickson exhibits boundless energy as Majordomo and delivers a wonderful rendition of “Did You Hear the News?”

Hayley Phaneuf as the queen, Andrew Wehnke as Pumpkinhead and the butler, and Bella Lardaro as Mistress Haughty round out the supporting cast.

The colorful costumes by Ronald Green III from Cinderella’s rags to the beautiful ball gowns and  are spot on.

Stay after the show to meet with the actors, and take a photo. The back page of the program serves nicely for autographs.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 23  There are no performances on July 4 and 5. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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By Heidi Sutton & Ernestine Franco

After a winter punctuated with one snow or ice storm after another, it’s hard to believe that spring has finally arrived. Avid gardeners hibernating in their homes for what seemed like months have been keeping their spirits high by perusing the gardening catalogs for the latest plants and products, all the while patiently waiting for the ground to thaw.

In perfect timing, All-America Selections recently announced its list of new varieties of flowers and vegetables for 2015.  Names like Emerald Fire, Butterscotch, Jolt Pink, Dolce Fresca and Tidal Wave Red Velour are enough to get any gardener excited about trying something new.

Since 1932, this nonprofit organization has annually tested new varieties of flowers and vegetables in various locations throughout the United States and Canada. Judges look for improved qualities such as disease tolerance, early bloom or harvest dates, taste, unique colors and flavors, higher yield, length of flowering or harvest, and overall performance.

Here’s what the judges had to say about some of the award winners:

The Northeast can now plant entire gardens using these AAS winning varieties, all of which have been proven to have superior performance.

For a complete list of the new plants chosen by the AAS, as well as other information about the organization, visit their website at www.all-americaselections.org.

By Heidi Sutton

I always know that spring is right around the corner when Theatre Three presents its adorable annual musical production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this show is a personal favorite of mine and seems to get better every year. Directed by Tazukie Fearon for the second year in a row and accompanied flawlessly on piano by Steve McCoy, it follows the adventures of Peter Rabbit (played by James D. Schultz) and his cousin Benjamin Bunny (played by Fearon) as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to steal his vegetables.

Like two peas in a pod, Schultz and Fearon work very well together. They know their target audience well and draw the most laughs. Amanda Geraci plays Mrs. Rabbit and charms the audience with her beautiful rendition of “Morning.” Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, played by Marquéz Catherine Stewart, Jenna Kavaler and Caitlin Nofi (who has a fondness for Trix cereal), respectively, are a terrific supporting cast. Dan Brenner and Sue Anne Dennehy return as Mr. and Mrs. McGregor and shine in their duet, “A Friend.”

Of special note is the constant interaction with the audience — asking them what to do next or answering a child when she asks a question. While being chased by Mr. McGregor, the cast runs up and down the aisles, sitting in chairs to hide, much to the delight of the young theatergoers. A nice touch.

The set is minimal, with just a few props including a scarecrow and a basket of vegetables, allowing your imagination to run wild. Listening to the dialogue, one can envision a garden full of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, string beans and parsley and understand how two little rabbits could find this forbidden bounty irresistible. Utilizing a trap door on the stage as a rabbit hole is very effective.

Masterfully choreographed by Stewart, the musical numbers, arranged by Kevin F. Story, are all showstoppers, especially “One More Time Around” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

James D. Schultz as Peter Rabbit and Tazukie Fearon as Benjamin Bunny in a scene from ‘The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sophie Jeong, 4, of Coram, came prepared for the show by wearing a pretty pink shirt with a bunny sewn on it and by bringing her favorite stuffed rabbit along. She sang along to all the songs, and, when asked who her favorite character was, she replied without hesitation — “Peter Rabbit.” Her favorite scene? “When the bunnies were eating their lunch [of blackberries, milk and toast].”

Don’t forget to take a picture with the cast in the lobby after the show. Bunny stuffed animals will be sold before the show and during intermission, and booster seats are available. Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 11, perfect for spring break. Up next is “The Littlest Pirate” followed by “Puss-in-Boots” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.