Tags Posts tagged with "Michelle LaBozetta"

Michelle LaBozetta

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Mention Steel Magnolias to anyone and the overwhelming response is, “Oh, I love that show!” It’s easy to see how this dramedy continues to be a fan favorite and Theatre Three’s production serves up an inviting dose of southern charm.

Playwright Robert Harling wrote this play as a tribute to his diabetic sister who died way too soon from kidney failure. She had been warned by doctors that childbirth could be dangerous to her health, but she ignored all warnings and gave birth, then died before her son reached school age. Harling first recounted this event in a short story as a catharsis, then adapted it into the play and eventually into the highly successful film.

To make this play shine, just the right actresses must be cast in these demanding roles so director Mary Powers dipped into the treasure trove of Theatre Three regulars to fill some of these roles. This resulted in a gifted ensemble that brings just the right mix of pathos and comedic timing.

Steel Magnolias brims with witty one-liners as it navigates through two years in the lives of six tightly-knit small-town women who share life’s ups and downs together. Set in the fictional Parish of Chinquapin, Louisiana, at flamboyant Truvy’s in-home beauty parlor, this shop doubles as the meeting place for the women of this town.

Truvy (Stephanie Moreau) has just hired shy Annelle, a beauty school graduate, as her assistant. Truvy’s first lesson is, “There is no such thing as natural beauty. Remember that or we’re out of a job.” Moreau’s Truvy exudes sunshine even when offering direction and support to Annelle played by Christine N. Boehm who delivers a dynamic performance as the insecure new kid in town who transforms into a spiritual and secure presence.

It is Shelby’s wedding day and she wants her hair styled in the fashion of Grace Kelly. Michelle LaBozzetta’s Shelby is as optimistic and bubbly as her favorite color pink, or as she likes to call it “blush and bashful,” but with a mind as determined and strong as steel. Nothing will stand in her way of accomplishing her deepest desire of becoming a mother, despite the warnings of her doctor that childbirth could be fatal.

Clairee, the widow of the former mayor, is played with gusto by Marci Bing. Clairee thrives on town gossip at the salon and she has some of the wittiest lines in the show like, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” That line can only be topped by her declaration, “If you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me.” Bing is a joy as the outspoken Clairee who flings quips into the air letting them land where they may.

Truvy has given Annelle the task of styling the hair of M’Lynn, the mother of the bride. Linda May’s M’Lynn has her comedic moments like when describing Shelby’s choices for church décor declaring, “That sanctuary looks like it’s been hosed down with Pepto Bismol.” M’Lynn is the voice of reason but gets frustrated by her daughter’s reckless choices. May ultimately tears us apart with her motherly heartbreaking monologue.

Making a booming entrance is Ginger Dalton as Ouiser, the town curmudgeon. From the start, she is ranting, at first over Shelby’s father who has been shooting at birds and has stripped the blossoms from their shared magnolia tree. Dalton is hilarious with one liners like, “I’m not crazy! I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.”

These six indomitable magnolias show they have the steel that will get them through anything.

Jason Allyn’s costumes give definition to the characters from Truvy’s glitzy smocks to Shelby’s signature pinks to Ouiser’s practical denim. He illuminates the Christmas scene with outfits of reds, greens, whites and sparkles. Lindsay DeFranco’s wig design is reminiscent of 80’s big hair piled high and teased or waste length.

Randall Parsons conveys a nostalgic 1980’s feel to Truvy’s beauty salon with its mint green backdrop and thick white moldings. The three entrances make it easy for the actresses to maneuver effortlessly around the set and creates smooth transitions from one scene into the next. James Taffurelli’s properties compliment Parsons’ set with sheer curtains, beauty salon chairs strategically placed center stage and Truvy’s signature sparkles.

Powers confided that Steel Magnolias was originally set for the spring of 2020 but never opened when the world shut down due to COVID. Luckily, the original cast was able to reunite for this production. Maybe that’s why we believe the poignant friendships of these memorable women.

Theater Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Steel Magnolias through May 7. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

Do you ever think back to your teenage years, to the time you were hanging out at the beach, local candy store or park and you turned around to stare into the eyes of the most gorgeous person you’ve ever seen? That snapshot is lodged somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind, but when you allow it to surface, you get that sweet nostalgia of those “Summer Nights.”

Grease, now rockin’ the rafters at Theatre Three, is that journey down memory lane with 1950’s Pink Lady jackets, Greasers and Greased Lightnin’. It explores the innocence of youth, the pangs of first love and the teenage psyche when everything was a crisis and monumental. This effervescent romp brimming with electrifying familiar songs ignites the audience making it difficult not to jump up, dance and sing along with the spirited ensemble.

The team of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey wrote the book, music and lyrics with the original concept derived from Jacobs’ personal experiences at William Taft High School in Chicago. The name was changed to Rydell High in deference to the pop 50’s singer Bobby Rydell. Grease was first produced at the Kingston-Mines Theatre Company, Chicago in 1971, then went to Off-Broadway before moving to Broadway closing on April 13, 1980. The show received seven Tony Nominations in 1972.

This story of teenage love centers around greaser Danny Zuko and innocent Sandy Dumbrowski who have a summer romance that ends as the new school year begins. To the surprise of both, they bump into each other on the first day of school. But this reunion is awkward at first. Danny, leader of a greaser gang, is not what Sandy thought he was and Danny doesn’t want his gang to know he fell for this prim girl. Supported by a cast of exuberant characters and bursting with hits, this show has continued to delight audiences for decades.

The success of the 1978 movie version launched John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John into movie history and their performances are etched in our brains making it a monumental task for other actors to compare, but Jon Sawyer Coffin as Danny and Jenna Kavaler as Sandy are charismatic. The moment Coffin struts down the aisle in his seductive first entrance, he has the audience eating out of his hands. Kavaler, with her sweet smile, emits wholesomeness and her floating soprano wraps Hopelessly Devoted to You with emotion. We are with this Sandy right from the start and cheer for her and Danny to get together. 

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled a dazzling ensemble of supporting characters with Pink Ladies, Rizzo (Rachel Greenblatt), Jan (Alanna Rose Henriquez), Marty (Heidi Jaye) and Frenchie (Michelle LaBozzetta). They are the cool girls hanging out with the super cool Burger Palace Boys, Kenickie (Steven Uihlein), Doody (C.J. Russo), Roger (Eric J. Hughes) and Sonny (Darren Clayton). This powerhouse company attacks the rock and roll score with vigorous dancing and stunning voices.

There are many stand out performances. Greenblatt’s Rizzo is dynamic as she grasps the audience with her cynical teasing of Sandy in Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, then exposes her vulnerable side with There Are Worse Things I Could Do. Jaye’s Marty portrays sophistication beyond her years and her Freddie My Love is such fun. LaBozzetta’s bubble-headed Frenchie flunks out of beauty school, but finds guidance from her Teen Angel played with animated elan by Londel Collier. The not so cool Jan (Henriquez) teams up with the jokester Roger (Hughes) for a comical Mooning. And, of course, we can’t have Grease without a hot rod, so suddenly taking center stage is Kenicke’s dream car replete with big round headlights prompting the Burger Palace Boys into a lively Greased Lightnin’.

Costumes by Ronald Green III from Pink Lady jackets to black leather jackets mirror the personalities of the characters. Sandy is wrapped in white cardigan over pastel full skirt as opposed to Rizzo’s tight-fitting reds and blacks. The dream sequence of Beauty School Drop Out is a delight with silver curlers piled on the girls’ heads and the entire company swathed in silver beauty parlor capes.

Nicole Bianco’s choreography is bouncy and artistic with many dance routines ending in gorgeous tableaus. Born to Hand-Jive with its synchronized sequences is frenetic.

The multi-level set design by Randall Parsons allows action to flow seamlessly. Lighting design by Robert W. Henderson, Jr. sets the mood from bright to sultry and provides flawless continuity.

Music director, Jeffrey Hoffman, and his four-piece band underscores the fun with their sparkling orchestration. A standout is Bill Kinslow’s sexy saxophone in There Are Worse Things I Can Do.

Theatre Three is celebrating its 51st season of bringing fine entertainment to Long Island audiences by kicking off the festivities with the world’s most popular musical, Grease. Come join in the fun!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Grease through Oct. 30. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For COVID protocols, please visit the website at www.theatrethree.com. For more information, call 631-928-9100.

All photos by Brian Hoerger/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.