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Jillian Sharpe

By Julianne Mosher

Theatre Three kicks off its 53rd season with the award-winning musical The Prom. Set in current day New York City and Indiana, The Prom brings humor and color to an important issue facing the nation — LGBTQIA rights.

Let me explain. This high energy show starts off with four narcissistic Broadway stars who receive a terrible review about their latest play and their personalities. In order to gain positive feedback to counteract the reviewer’s comment of them being self-obsessed, they learn a trending news story happening in Indiana: a lesbian high school student was not allowed to bring her girlfriend to their prom which incited a riot of the local townspeople. 

The actors, Dee Dee Allen (Linda May), Barry Glickman (Ryan Nolin), Angie Dickinson (Sari Feldman) and Trent Oliver (Brian Gill) – along with the public relations rep, Sheldon (Jason Allyn) hitch a ride west to “selflessly” help the high schooler, Emma (Jae Hughes) gain back her prom. 

Set in a small town with big religious and conservative values, Emma is ostracized, bullied and is blamed for the school board cancelling the prom…until the stars show up dripping in glitter and voicing their opinions with their big personalities and  sharing with the world how they are helping Emma. 

With standout performances by Hughes, they make you feel strong emotion for the drama they are going through in the show. While the play has many highs, a lot of laughs and catchy musical numbers, the show will bring you to tears – especially if you know someone who has gone through a struggle with acceptance.

Interestingly, several details from The Prom were actually based on real-life events. In 2010, Mississippi student Constance McMillen was not admitted into her prom with her girlfriend – and the parents there also tried to separate the straight kids from the LGBTQIA students.

McMillen went to court. Her case was taken by the ACLU and was awarded a payment of $35,000 from the school district that hurt her. They then implemented a non-discrimination policy. 

But while Hughes’ emotional journey, and the main purpose of this show, is heavy and starting of a movement, you can appreciate May, Nolin, Feldman, Gill and Allyn’s silly, charismatic personalities to lighten the mood. You’d actually believe they are Broadway stars with their stellar performances. In fact, everyone on the stage from the main characters to the ensemble deserves constant standing ovations for their professionalism and talent. Even the smallest roles were noticed.

Throughout the show, secrets are unveiled, twists are made and conflict ensues, keeping the audience engaged from start to finish. The set design, by Randall Parsons, is completely reminiscent of a high school auditorium – especially when it gets decorated for the big dance. Allyn and Joe Kassner’s costume design are also impressive. The big personalities of the Broadway stars required a lot of glitter and that’s exactly what they had. Plus, Rico’s Clothing, based in Center Moriches, donated the men’s formal wear for the show. 

All in all, the show is something you could watch over and over, laughing and crying (in a good way!) every time. Theatre Three’s The Prom is an important play that will make people think the following: We are all human, love is love, and “I wish I had a friend like Barry to help me dress up for my prom!”

Don’t miss this one.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Prom on the Mainstage through Oct. 21. Tickets are $40 adults, $32 seniors, $20 students, and $20 children ages 5 and up. To order, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Every five years or so, Theatre Three reaches deep into its vault of scripts and pulls out a gem. This time it’s Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland, an original musical based on the colorful characters sprung from Lewis Carroll’s imagination for his 1865 much-loved children’s novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass in 1871. The show opened on Aug. 4 to a packed house.

With the message to be true to yourself and to find your own voice, this year’s production, written by Jeffrey Sanzel, features a brand new score by Douglas J. Quattrock, exquisite costumes by Jason Allyn and a cast of over 35 actors who seamlessly play multiple roles.

Directed by Sanzel, the show opens on a rainy day at Camp Carroll Woods. The campers are bored and the camp counselor tries to keep them entertained indoors with a sing-along. A white rabbit suddenly appears but only one of the campers, Alice (Jillian Sharpe), can see him. In a curious pursuit, she tumbles down a rabbit hole and ends up in Wonderland where her “unusual adventure” begins.

With The Cheshire Cat (Kiernan Urso) always in the shadows, a strong-willed Alice must match wits with a list of bizarre characters as she takes part in a “What’s My Name?” contest with The Caterpillar (Heather Rose Kuhn); joins a tea party with The Mad Hatter (Steven Uihlein), The March Hare (Kaitlyn Jehle) and The Dormouse (Hazel Kamath); catches a ride with The White Knight (Liam Marsigliano); meets Tweedledee (Kaitlyn Jehle) and Tweedledum (Heather Rose Kuhn); and is invited to a game of croquet by The Queen of Hearts (Ginger Dalton), all while trying to catch up with The White Rabbit (Ava Garcia) and find her way home. When the kingdom’s tarts go missing, Alice is accused of stealing and must stand trial. Will she find her voice in time? 

Of course, a show like this would not be possible without the supporting cast — members of Theatre Three’s summer acting workshops play numerous roles including campers, contestants in a game show, flowers and a deck of playing cards.

The music and dance numbers, accompanied on piano by Douglas Quattrock, are terrific, especially “Here” with Alice and The Cheshire Cat; “Tea!” by the Mad Hatter, “Song of a Very Sad Knight” by The White Knight; “A Question of Belief” by Alice, and “Let the Good Times Roll” by The Queen of Hearts (“Nothing cheers me up like a good clean chop!”)

Full of whimsy and loaded with riddles, the play is a lot of nonsense, as Alice would say, but it sure is fun to watch as it gives a fresh feel to the story of the adventurous little girl following that dutifully late white rabbit through a maze of imaginative vignettes. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for a keepsake photo.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland on Aug. 11 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 12 at 11 a.m and again at 2 p.m. Children’s theater continues with A Kooky Spooky Halloween from Oct. 7 to 21 and the holiday classic Barnaby Saves Christmas from Nov. 18 to Dec. 30. All seats are $12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com. 

By Heidi Sutton

With the temperatures projected to reach into the 90s for the next few days, it’s time for parents to search for fun indoor activities for their children. May I suggest a visit to Theatre Three to see the adorable show Goldilocks and the Showbiz Bears.

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin Story,  the musical is loosely based on the classic bedtime story with several twists and turns along the way as well as the introduction of a noteworthy superhero and a lesson in safety. With a clever script, lovable characters, song and dance, it is the perfect way to spend a hot summer afternoon.

We first meet Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear, show biz bears who have retired from the circus and are now living in a cottage in the woods. It’s the first of the month and the banker, Billy de Goat Gruff, has come to collect the rent money, which they don’t have. The grouchy goat gives them until the end of the day or they will be kicked out. While their porridge is cooling down, the bears decide to go for a walk to think of ways to come up with the rent.

In the meantime, Goldilocks, a Campfire Bluebird Pioneer Scout Girl who lives with her grandmother Granny Locks, sets off to her cousin’s house to deliver cookies. She ends up at the cottage of the three bears by mistake and lets herself in. Just like the fairy tale, Goldilocks tastes the three bowls of porridge, sits in the three chairs and tries out the three beds, choosing Baby Bear’s bed in which to take a nap because it is “just right.”

When Granny Locks realizes that Goldilocks has not arrived at her destination, she seeks the help of local forest ranger Wolf Hunter to find the missing girl. They arrive at the cottage of the three bears just as Baby Bear realizes that “someone’s been sleeping in my bed, and she’s still there!” Luckily the bears are friendly — they even know Granny Locks from their circus days when she was Eloise the trapeze artist.

But the banker still wants his rent money, so the group puts on a show to help young people learn about safety to raise the funds. Soon all the children in the audience are learning about the importance of staying safe and that “strangers can mean danger — so don’t talk to strangers.”

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the seven member adult cast does a wonderful job conveying the story. Cassidy Rose O’Brien, complete with a blond curly wig that bounces when she walks, is the perfect Goldilocks, confident and brave. Jason Furnari embraces the role of villain Billy de Goat Gruff and runs with it, with a masterful performance  reminiscent of Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, as he makes his rounds to collect the rent from fairy tale characters including Henny Penny and the witch living in the Gingerbread House. The long cape and horns coming out of his hat is a nice touch.

Liam Marsigliano shines as superhero Wolf Hunter, Forest Ranger, who’s “ready to help when there is danger.” Steven Uihlein, Jillian Sharpe and Kiernan Urso in the roles of Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear are three of the nicest showbiz bears you’d ever hope to meet and Ginger Dalton as Granny Locks is warm and welcoming. Excellent performances all around.

Expert lighting by Steven Uihlein and costumes by Jason Allyn, from the furry ears and feet of the three bears to the impressive forest ranger uniform, tie it all together for a wonderful afternoon at the theater. This show only comes around every five years so don’t miss it! Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for keepsake photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Goldilocks and the Show Biz Bears on Fridays, July 14, 21 and 28 and Saturdays, July 15, 22 and 29. All shows start at 11 a.m. Children’s theater continues with Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland from Aug. 4 to 12 and Kooky Spooky Halloween from Oct. 7 to 21. Tickets are $12 per person. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

‘Oh the thinks you can think … when you think about Seuss!’

By Heidi Sutton

Families with young children packed into the Engeman Theater last Saturday morning to witness a most beautiful tribute to the imaginative world of Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss in Seussical the Musical. The children book author’s favorite characters come to life in this colorful and magical show, including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie La Bird and JoJo, a little boy with a big imagination.

Written in 2000 by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the musical is now one of the most performed shows in the United States and it’s easy to see why. A trip down memory lane for many generations, it is based primarily on the Dr. Seuss children books, “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches an Egg” and “Gertrude McFuzz,” but also incorporates references to other Dr. Seuss stories including “McElligot’s Pool” and “Oh the Thinks You Can Think!”

Directed by Andrew McCluskey with choreography by Jillian Sharpe, the colorful cast of characters transport the audience from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos. The Cat in the Hat (Jae Hughes) guides us through the magical journey with the help of Jojo the Mayor’s son (Finn Brown at last Saturday’s performance), who occasionally jumps into the scene when warranted.

The show opens as Horton the Elephant (Patrick McCowen) hears a cry for help and discovers a floating speck of dust containing the town of Whoville. After safely placing it on a clover flower, Horton is tricked into sitting on lazy Mayzie La Bird’s (Jillian Sharpe) egg for 51 weeks, is captured by hunters and eventually sold to the circus. When he is finally rescued by Gertrude McFuzz (Michaela Vivona), he is put on trial by Sour Kangaroo (Suzanne Mason) for “sitting on an egg and talking to a speck.” Will the faithful pachyderm be exonerated or will he be sentenced to a mental institution by Judge Yertle the Turtle?

The fast-paced show keeps the young audience wide-eyed and on the edge of their seats. One of the most exciting scenes is when the Wickersham Brothers (Justin Autz and Terrence Sheldon) steal the clover and are chased through the theater by Horton. The dance numbers are terrific with special props and audience participation is encouraged as Horton and Mayzie’s egg are auctioned off to the highest bidder. 

The incredible songs are the heart of the show, from the fun intro “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” to the sweet “Horton Hears a Who” (where a person’s a person no matter how small), the enduring “Notice Me Horton,” and a personal favorite, “It’s Possible.” Horton and Jojo’s duet, “Alone in the Universe,” will give you goosebumps and the group’s upbeat finale is a fitting rendition of “Green Eggs and Ham.” 

Costumes and wigs by Laura McGauley along with the cartoonish set mimic the original Seuss illustrations perfectly.

In the end, the show leaves us with the inspiring message that anything is possible when you let your imagination fly. Don’t miss this one.

Pick up a clover-shaped flashlight souvenir before the show and stay after for a meet and greet with the cast in the lobby for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Seussical the Musical on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through April 30 with a special sensory sensitive performance on April 15. Up next is The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley from May 27 to July 2. All seats are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Wowie wow wow! Look who has taken up residence at the Engeman Theater in Northport! It’s Junie B. Jones, the outspoken and lovable six-year-old from the pages of Barbara Park’s best-selling children’s books starring in  Junie B. Jones The Musical. The delightful show, which opened last Saturday, runs through Aug. 28. 

Created by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, the play is an adaptation of four of Park’s books where Junie B. Jones navigates the ups and downs of first grade at Clarence Elementary School. When her mother gives her a Top-Secret Personal Beeswax Journal on her first day of school, Junie B. decides to record the school year and before long is filling the pages with her many adventures. 

While Junie B. is under the impression that things will be no different than last year, they are very different. In her first week, she finds that her best friend from kindergarten Lucille has found two new best friends – Camille and Chenille – because their names rhyme; the girl who she used to sit with in on the bus in kindergarten prefers to sit with someone else; she makes friends with Herb, the new kid at school; and she finds that she has trouble reading the blackboard — and she may need glasses. Grrrr. 

Add in the friendly cafeteria lady Mrs. Gutzman, a new lunchbox, Show & Tell, and an intense kickball tournament and you have the makings of a lovely morning of live theater.

Directed by Danny Meglio with musical direction by Luca Iallondardi and choreography by Jillian Sharpe, the six-member adult cast embrace the adorable script and transport back in time to elementary school and all the anxieties and life lessons that go with it.

Katie Dolce is perfectly cast as Junie B. Jones. From the minute she appears on stage, all eyes are on her and she quickly becomes an audience favorite with her sassy personality.

The incredible and versatile supporting cast — Daniel Bishop, Miranda Jo DeMott, Olivia Giorgio, Thomas Higgins and Alyssa Infranco — play multiple roles throughout the show including Junie B’s parents, her teacher Mr. Scary, her friends and classmates and seem to be having the time of their lives.

The fun-filled songs are the heart of the show, from the opening number “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” to the group finale, “Writing Down the Songs of My Life,” and are perfectly executed with special mention to the kickline number, “Gladys Gutzman.” 

Funny, entertaining and entirely relatable, Junie B. Jones The Musical  is a summer treat for young children and parents alike. 

Sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Junie B. Jones The Musical on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Running time is 1 1/2 hours with one intermission. Tickets are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Heidi Sutton

What’s your favorite color? If the answer is pink, then you should run, not walk, to the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport to catch a truly wonderful production of Pinkalicious the Musical. 

Based on the popular children’s book by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann, the show tells the story of a little girl named Pinkalicious Pinkerton who loves the color pink (“It’s a color like no other!”) and is obsessed with pink cupcakes.

Despite her parent’s warnings, Pinkalicious overindulges on the sugary delights and wakes up the next day pink from head to toe. The doctor diagnoses her with pinkititis and in order to keep it from becoming worse she has to eat healthy green foods. But Pinkalicious just can’t stop eating those cupcakes, and when she wakes up the second morning, she’s turned red. She realizes the only way out of this predicament is to follow doctor’s orders. But is it too late? Will she be red forever?

Directed by Danny Meglio with choreography by Jillian Sharpe, the show is an instant hit thanks to a talented cast of five who tackle this fast-paced script with ease. 

Perfectly cast in the role of Pinkalicious, Emilie Goodrich embraces her inner child to bring this colorful, energetic character to life and sparkles on stage. The other members of the family, the organized Mrs. Pinkerton (the delightful Kassie Kueffne), the busy Mr. Pinkerton (an incredible Justin Autz), and overlooked brother Peter (the multi-talented Jae Hughes) along with best friend Alison (the amazing Kara Vito), play multiple roles throughout the show with unbounded enthusiasm.

What’s special about this show is that each actor has a chance to shine with a solo, from Goodrich’s lovely “When Dreams Come True,” to Kueffne’s lullaby “You Get Just What You Get,” Vito’s “Pinkititis,” Jae Hughes’ heartfelt “I Got the Pink Blues,” and Autz in the “Finale.”

There are also so many wonderful moments in the show. At one point the family goes to the doctor’s office on a pink four seat bicycle. On the way back home, they take a detour through the aisles of the theater to go to a park with a real slide. While at the park Pinkalicious is surrounded by a bee, a bird and two butterflies who are attracted to her pink color in the cute number “Buzz Off.”  Another time, Pinkalicious has a dream about pink cupcakes who all of a sudden walk out of the refrigerator and start singing and dancing. Great stuff.

Pinkalicious is more than a story about eating your vegetables. It is about the power of communication, the love of family and the affirmation that a little pink goes a long way. Don’t miss this one. 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Pinkalicious The Musical through July 3. All seats are $20. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The cast, from left, Lizzie Dolce, Matt Rafanelli, Justin Autz, Meaghan McInnes and Jae Hughes. Photo from Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

As the weather outside becomes frightful, the Engeman Theater in Northport invites families inside for a heartwarming production of Frosty. The terrific cast, directed by Jennifer Collester with stage manager Jillian Sharpe, brings the holiday musical to life with catchy sing-alongs and plenty of audience participation. 

The narrator (Lizzie Dolce) introduces us to Jenny (Meaghan McInnes), a young girl who lives in Chillsville, “a little town way up north that is always covered with a fresh blanket of snow.” The daughter of the Mayor (Matt Rafanelli), Jenny’s favorite thing to do is to play outside. With help from her father, she builds a snowman and names him Frosty. When Jenny puts a scarf around him, Frosty (Justin Autz) magically comes to life and the two become fast friends.

On the other side of town, Ebenezer Pierpot (Jae Hughes), the president of Pierpot Enterprises (a manufacturer of snow shovels, snowblowers, and ice scrapers), wants to build a bigger factory in the park but can’t do that with all the snow. During a meeting at town hall, Pierpot tricks the Mayor into signing a contract to build a machine that will melt all the snow in the town, putting Frosty’s life in jeopardy. 

With Chillsville getting warmer by the minute, will Jenny come up with a plan to save Frosty or will he turn into a large puddle of water with a carrot?

I always look forward to reviewing this show because I love to see the children’s faces light up when they realize that they have been invited to become part of the production. They move to the edge of their seats with eager anticipation as they wait for the next question from the narrator or the cast and the next sing-a-long to join in.

During the performance the audience is asked what Jenny should do today (Build a snowman!), to come up with a plan to save Frosty (Move to another town!), help Jenny write a letter to her dad, and wish for snow (and it works!) They also join the narrator in the fun opening number, “Snow!” and the entire cast in a lively rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.”

With the ultimate message that love “is pretty powerful stuff,” this is the perfect show to introduce a child to live theater and is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Frosty through Jan. 2. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Children’s theater continues with Disney’s Frozen Jr. from Jan. 29 to Feb. 27 and Madagascar – A Musical Adventure from March 26 to May 1. All seats are $20. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Looking for a fun fall activity with the kids? May I recommend Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale, a musical adventure complete with “wicked witches, heroic princes, kings, magic and the longest hair in the world.” Written by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, creators of the hit TV show Friends, with music by Michael Skloff, the children’s show opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this past weekend and runs through Oct. 31.

The cast of ‘Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale’. Photo from Engeman Theater

While the story has lots of modern twists and turns, it still retains much of the beloved fairy tale we all know and love. A cobbler and his wife live next door to a witch who has a beautiful garden. One day the cobbler sneaks into the garden to steal some vegetables and is caught by the witch who cons him into giving her the couple’s firstborn. She names the child Rapunzel and raises her as her own in a tower. Fast forward 16 years and Rapunzel’s only wish on her birthday is to leave the tower and see the world below. Her “mother” at first promises to grant her wish but then changes her mind and instead tries to bribe her with fudge, flowers, a bird and birthday cake.

Meanwhile, Prince Brian has run away from the castle. He feels that he is a failure, having reached the age of seventeen without doing one heroic deed, and vows only to return once he has slain a dragon, captured an ogre or rescued a maiden. “As a hero, I’m a zero,” he groans. When the prince comes upon Rapunzel in the tower, he hatches a plan to have his valet Simon distract the witch while he rescues the girl. What follows is a magical morning of live theater the whole family will enjoy.

Danny Meglio directs a seasoned cast of four who play multiple characters in the retelling of this hairy tale. A wonderful Joanna Sanges returns to the Engeman to reprise her role as the naive Rapunzel who has never seen a cow or a carriage but quickly learns to stand up to anyone standing in her way. Her strong-willed determination and confidence is a perfect role model for the children in the audience. 

Tasked with rescuing fair maidens, Justin Autz is terrific as the handsome Prince Brian. While he spends the first part of the show riding horses and climbing towers, Autz spends the second act trying to find his way back to the castle wearing dark glasses that are stuck to his face (the witch has cast a spell to make him blind) and tripping over Rapunzel’s long hair. 

Joanna Sanges as Rapunzel and Justin Autz as Prince Brian star in ‘Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale’. Photo from Engeman Theater

Brilliantly played by Jillian Sharpe, Gretta the witch, “with a twist of her wrist and a turn of her ring,” can be best described as a sour patch kid (first she’s sour but then she’s sweet) who sounds just like the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. While she does some pretty crummy things, she is not scary and the children in the audience are not frightened. 

The multi-talented Jae Hughes plays multiple roles throughout the show including the storyteller, Simon, the king (who is always mispronouncing Rapunzel’s name), the innkeeper, and the cow and knocks each one out of the kingdom. The ability to switch roles so quickly, with different voices and demeanors, is no easy feat, but Hughes makes it seem effortless.

The script is clever and funny, with much of the dialogue in rhyme, and the songs are energetic and catchy with special mention to “Wooing a Witch,” The First Step is the Hardest” and the quartet’s “Tonight’s the Night.” The costumes, excellent sound effects and lighting tie it all together for a happily ever after.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through Oct. 31. Running time is one hour with a 15 minute intermission. Boosters seats are available and costumes are encouraged. And if it’s your birthday, the cast will serenade you. (Happy Birthday Emma!)

Children’s theater continues with the theater’s annual production of Frosty from Nov. 20 to  Jan. 2 and Disney’s Frozen Jr. from Jan. 29 to Feb. 27, 2022. All seats are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.