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SCPA

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Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Rita J. Egan

The year 2015 marked Smithtown’s 350th anniversary and the return of movies to the town. In addition to commemorative events, locals were able to stop by the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts and take in a feature film to enhance their trip down memory lane.

The movie theater that once operated in the building where SCPA stands today opened in 1933 and offered motion pictures until November of 2001. Toward the end of November 2014, the building, which has not been significantly altered aesthetically in over 80 years, once again became home to beloved movies to commemorate the town’s milestone. While the original lineup of films planned for the theater will wrap up on Oct. 30 with “The Sixth Sense” and “The Exorcist,” management has planned to offer more movies in the upcoming months. Tickets for this double feature are $10.00.

Nov. 27 — ‘The Wizard Of Oz’
Dec. 4 — ‘A Christmas Story’
Jan. 8 — ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956)
Jan. 9 — ‘Rocky’
Jan. 15 — ‘The Addams Family’
Jan. 16 — ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’
Jan. 22 — ‘Carrie’ (1976)
Jan. 23 — ‘The Silence of the Lambs’
Feb. 5 — ‘Network’
Feb. 6 — ‘Dirty Harry’
June 16 — ‘Hook’
June 24 — ‘Thelma & Louise’
*All movies start at 7 p.m. and are $8 per ticket.

Ian Washington, house manager, hosted numerous movie nights at the theater this year. Washington said while attendance varied, overall the movie nights were well received by local residents. During the year he heard comments such as “we’re so happy you’re doing this again” and “please keep doing it.”

Washington said in addition to theatergoers being pleased to see the films, they also requested that the performing arts center show others. “It was a great experience and a great test run of what we know we can do,” he said.

The house manager said among the over 60 films that the theater offered in 2015, he was excited to see movies such as “Rain Man,” the original “Batman,” “Spaceballs” and “Blazing Saddles.” He said the more popular movies with audiences were “Casablanca,” “Gone with the Wind,” “King Kong” and the most attended of all of them, “A Christmas Story.” Washington said “Jaws” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy also did well.

Like last season, the motion pictures will alternate with the performing arts center’s live stage presentations. After the double feature of thrillers on Oct. 30, the theater has a dozen movies scheduled until the end of June with the possibility of more being added for the last few months of 2016.    

“People love that we’re doing it again,” said Washington.

The new lineup of movies will kick off with “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m., and once again, back by popular demand, there will be a holiday showing of “A Christmas Story” on Friday, Dec. 4.

Last year management chose many of the movies based on local residents’ memories of their visits to the theater throughout the decades. This time around, films were selected based on whether they are hitting a milestone anniversary in 2016. Due to this selection process, theatergoers can once again enjoy classics such as “Rocky,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “Carrie,” “Dirty Harry” and “Thelma & Louise” on the big screen in the upcoming year.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2 E. Main Street in Smithtown. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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From left, Michael Bertolini, Mary Ellin Kurtz and Staci Rosenberg-Simons in a scene from ‘Arsenic & Old Lace.’ Photo by Samantha Cuomo

By Charles J. Morgan

When a theatrical company does a chestnut, it is because it has not only stood the test of time but has pleased audiences through the years. 

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts has trotted out one of those chestnuts, Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace,” that darkly humorous comedy about two charmingly wicked aging sisters who go about murdering lonely men by poisoning them with a glass of home-made elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strychnine and “just a pinch” of cyanide as if they were dusting furniture in their antique home in Brooklyn, reminiscent of the old houses on Westminster, Rugby and Argyle roads in your scribe’s native Flatbush.

Mary Ellin Kurtz and Staci Rosenberg-Simons portray the malevolent Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, respectively. Their overly sweet demeanor toward one another comes off perfectly; their Victorian good manners are the perfect cover for their evil deeds. Their innocence is not even feigned … it is sincere!

Then there is their brother, Teddy, a harmless lunatic who thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt. Bobby Montaniz has this role and plays it to the hilt. With a bristling moustache and pince-nez glasses, he actually looked like TR. His “Charge!!!” up the stairs, bugle in hand, forces the sisters to explain, “The stairs? . . . San Juan Hill.” In his “signing clothes,” a cutaway frock coat and striped pants, he signs the “Treaty,” which is his own commitment papers to an insane asylum. His TR lines all have to do with real, historical TR incidents. Your scribe’s favorite was when he places his hand on the shoulder of the visiting preacher from the local church intoning “I’ve always enjoyed my talks with Cardinal Gibbons!” Montaniz was the comic foil of this show.

Steve Corbellini plays the sisters’ nephew, Mortimer. He is supreme as the one who discovers what the sisters have done. He is torn between simply turning them in to the police and his nepotic love for them. Corbellini has a remarkable stage presence and a comic ability that is first class.

Lauren Gobes has the role of Elaine, Mortimer’s fiancée. She is pretty, ingénue-like and possessed of impressive range … from beloved to spurned and back again.

On to the scene comes Mortimer’s brother Jonathan, handled expertly by Michael Newman . . . the “bad” Brewster. His voice is threatening and thunderous, and his reciting of his lines in a sort of monotone brings out a deep-seated evil. His shady confederate is Dr.  Einstein, the hard drinking, failed surgeon. Eugene Dailey has the role and interprets it masterfully. Rounding out the cast are Mark DeCaterina, Michael Bertolini, John Steele and Kevin Shaw, all of which do a fine job.

Now chestnuts need good sets, and Timothy Golebiewski as set designer ran a team of constructors including Brian Barteld, Clarke Serv and Russ Brown in mounting a massive, highly impressive interior complete with wainscoting, window seat and, especially noteworthy, a staircase with a double landing leading to “upstairs” rooms. The furniture looked like it had been bought during the presidency of Grover Cleveland.

On to this set steps director Jordan Hue who, confronted with this broad physical venue, had the job of interpreting and blocking the cast, carrying out the director’s job of making the characters as real as possible, and coupling that with the actors own talents and engendering a seamless performance. In this Hue succeeded eminently.

This is a chestnut pulled from the roast for the audience’s delectation. The SCPA has done its usual fine work on a production well worth seeing.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, will present the classic comedy “Arsenic & Old Lace” through Oct. 4. Tickets are $35 adults, $20 students. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Eric Schell and Faith Ahmed in a scene from ‘West Side Story’ at the SCPA. Photo from the SCPA

By Charles J. Morgan

About an eon ago your scribe was watching a TV talk show on the family’s round screen box on which a participant referred to “West Side Story” as a “slice of New York life.” Another participant, the great Robert Morley, snorted, “Ectually, old boy, it’s Romeo and Juliet.” Morley was right, and the Playbill at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Art’s opening really was the Bard’s opus with full credit put to music, and not just music but Broadway music and dance.

With a team featuring Arthur Laurent’s book, Leonard Bernstein’s music, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics and Jerome Robbins’ choreography, success was all but secure. In SCPA’s effort it was secured in Smithtown.

Direction was by Jordan Hue who, facing the challenge of a massive cast, showed his craftsmanship in blocking and interpretation. Each Jet and each Shark were real tangible creatures thanks to Hue’s disciplined creativity.

The show is practically all choreography, and thanks to the genius of the indefatigable Melissa Rapelje, excellently performed execution was the armature of the show. She faced the off-beat accents, the dissonances and the diversity of rhythms undaunted. Her skills with interpretive, modern, Latin and even ballet were never more displayed.

Coalescing with the dancing and singing was the superb live music led by Melissa Coyle on keyboard with conductor Craig Coyle on piano. Jim Waddell was outstanding on drums. The number “Cool it!,” performed by the Jets, was accompanied by Waddell using only the sizzling hi-hats. Craig Lindsey and Bob Dalpiaz handled extremely competent reeds. Jill Boardman was on violin and Russ Brown’s bass anchored all the intricate changes of rhythm easily. Finally, Joe Boardman’s trumpet reached aesthetically ethereal heights … as usual.

The two “star-crossed lovers” were Eric Schell as Tony and Faith Ahmed as Maria. Schell’s tenor and Ahmed’s soprano melded smoothly in both duet and solo. In the “balcony” (fire escape) scene their “Tonight” was a truly velvet love song while Schell’s rendition of  “Maria” was lovingly rendered. Ahmed also exhibited obvious talent in “I Feel Pretty.”

In a choreographed dream sequence Courtney Braun sang a solo “Somewhere There’s a Place” with both charm and power delightfully linked. Justin Albinder stood out as the doomed Bernardo. As “Action” Bobby Montaniz leads the Jets in a hilarious mockery of the sadistic Officer Krupke. Some of the lines are quite dated: (“…my mother pushes tea…), yet Montaniz is the key to the humor of it all.

In addition to choreographer, Rapelje also played the role of the second lead, Anita. Her drive, verve and singing while leading the girls all keyed to a spicy rendition of “Puerto Rico” like a dish of asopao jibaro.

Add the intricate lighting by Chris Creevy, the massive, flexible set design by Timothy Golebiewski and the wonderful costumes by Ronald Green III and you have a wonderful evening of live theater.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present “West Side Story” through Aug. 30. Tickets are $35. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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.