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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I have never been as happy to hear a Madonna song as I was this weekend.

Let me back up. My family and I attended our second familial wedding of the last three months. This one was a destination wedding in Ithaca, New York.

Stepping out of the rental car at the hotel on campus, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, as shorts, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt weren’t sufficient for the cooler upstate air.

In the hours before the ceremony on Saturday, my son, brother-in-law, his grown sons and I threw a tiny gift shop Nerf ball around on the baseball field, while surrounded by a visual collage of multi-colored foliage. That tiny football was probably the best $7.50 I’ve ever spent at a wedding.

With the wedding in the hotel, we only had to push an elevator button to get to the correct floor.

The bride and groom exchanged vows that they hadn’t previously shared with each other. Not too surprisingly after dating for close to a decade, the vows included many of the same references to things they each enjoyed about their time together, including dancing in the kitchen while making dinners, watching TV shows together during college, and running to the clock tower and back.

During the cocktail hour, I excused myself from my social circle to go to the bathroom, where I overheard the first of two unusual restroom conversations. The groom and his young cousin were chatting.

“You know the secret to a successful marriage?” the young man asked, eager to share the accelerated wisdom he’d accrued during his short life.

“What’s that?” the groom asked gamely.

“Separate vacations,” the sage young man suggested.

“Hmm, well,” the groom continued, “thanks so much for coming. I appreciate it.”

“My mom said my grandparents would have wanted us to come, so we came,” the unfiltered young man added.

Fortunately, neither of them could hear me inhale sharply.

Listening to the toasts and comments from the parents of the bride and groom, each side seemed to think the new member of the family would help soothe their partner. Perhaps, that says something about the way the bride and groom interact with their parents?

After dinner and before the music started, I returned to the restroom. This time, a man was standing at the sink, washing his hands.

“Out of respect for the gentleman who just walked in, I’m going to end our conversation about poop,” he said to a friend in the stall.

“Oh, uh, I’ll be leaving soon,” I offered, not wanting to interrupt.

“It’s okay,” he added. “We were done.”

Returning to the ballroom, I raced to the dance floor once the music started. My wife, children and I love to dance, with each of us smiling and shimmying as we jump, sway and sing the lyrics of the music. Somehow, our daughter knows the words to just about every song at most of these events, singing and shouting them to her cousin’s girlfriend, who has the same encyclopedic knowledge of modern music. I chime in with the chorus, while our son glides around, often with his arms in the air.

And here’s where Madonna came in. After bending my knees and swaying to numerous rap songs I had never heard before, I was thrilled to hear the familiar intro to a Madonna hit.

Buoyed by throwback sounds from an earlier decade, I threw myself around the floor, crooning for all I was worth.

When the rap songs returned, I scanned the floor and saw the bride, groom and their friends sharing their euphoria for the moment and for their familiar music. While Frank Sinatra never made an appearance, the happy couple were clearly doing it their way.

By Rita J. Egan

Vocalist Amber Ferrari has been busy preparing a brand new show that she will debut at Port Jefferson’s Theatre Three on Aug. 1. Well known on Long Island for her brilliant “Joplin’s Pearl” production, dedicated to 60s icon Janis Joplin, this time around Ferrari has decided to take on a living legend — Madonna.

The show, titled “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari,” will open with the singer performing songs from Adele, Heart, Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin and more, including a couple of her own songs. Ferrari said the second half will consist entirely of Madonna’s hits from the 80s, as well as “Vogue,” which hit the charts in 1990.

Amber Ferrari as Madonna. Photo by Rich Balter Photography
Amber Ferrari as Madonna. Photo by Rich Balter Photography

Unlike “Joplin’s Pearl,” where Ferrari wears a wig and is dressed head-to-toe like Joplin, in this show the singer will wear costumes inspired by Madonna’s famous wardrobe, but she won’t pretend to be her.

“It’s going to be more about enjoying Madonna’s fun music,” Ferrari said.

The singer said she and her husband Chris started discussing the idea of a Madonna show a few years ago and kept it in mind until they had some free time. The couple is excited about the fact that potentially they will have two productions to perform for their audiences. Ferrari is also thrilled to sing more pop songs, as opposed to the rock songs she is known for performing.

“I wanted to pick another icon in a different genre other than rock, because my first set is usually the majority rock ‘n roll,” the singer said.

Douglas Quattrock, director of development, and group sales and marketing coordinator at Theatre Three, has known Ferrari since they performed together in “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert” at the theater a decade ago. He said the audience is in for a fun night, and he knows the singer’s unique and versatile voice can handle any artist’s songs.

“It’s going to be something new, but with the same energy. She throws 120 percent into everything she does. She’s just amazing,” Quattrock said.

Ferrari said she grew up listening to Madonna and lists “Material Girl,” “Into the Groove,” “Holiday,” “Dress You Up,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Like a Virgin,” and “Express Yourself” among her favorites. She said she always thought they were dynamite songs, and she’s including all of them in the Aug. 1 production.

The singer has been busy rehearsing the last few weeks with her fellow band members, which include her husband Chris on guitar, Eddie “Yaz” Yeznach on bass and Jim Carroll on drums. At the Aug. 1 show, Ferrari and band will also be joined by Frank Centrone on keyboard, Billy Aberle on background vocals, and the singer’s father, Bob Hansen, on percussions.

In addition to rehearsals, Ferrari has been working on the costumes for the show, including an 80s-style wedding dress and outfits inspired by Madonna’s “Material Girl” gown and “Lucky Star” outfit. She invites the audience members to join in on the ‘80s fun by asking them to wear their favorite outfit from the decade.

“I think it’s going to be a blast, and I think everyone is going to be surprised. It will take them back to the ‘80s,” Ferrari said.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari” on Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased by calling 631-928-9100 or by visiting www.theatrethree.com.