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Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts

Photo by Courtney Braun

‘Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “Shrek The Musical Jr.” through March 1. In a faraway kingdom, Shrek finds his swamp invaded by banished fairy tale misfits, runaways who’ve been cast off by Lord Farquaad, a tiny terror with big ambitions. Farquaad tells Shrek he can get his swamp back if he rescues Princess Fiona from the dragon-guarded tower. But every fairy tale has its unexpected twists and turns! Performances are held on Saturdays and Sundays at various times and Feb. 17 to 21 at 1 p.m. for Presidents Week break. All seats are $18. For further information or to order tickets, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

 

By Heidi Sutton

In perfect timing with winter break, DreamWork’s “Shrek Jr.” along with all its fairy-tale creatures have taken up residence at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts in Smithtown. The fun musical runs through March 1. 

Based on the popular 2001 animated film and picture book by William Steig, the show is an edited version of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical but still features many of the beloved scenes and songs we have come to love. 

With book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, it tells the story of how a “little ogre came to live in the swamp with a beautiful princess and his best friend, and a gingerbread man, and a very handsome puppet, and an elf, and a fairy godmother, and a witch, and a crossdressin’ wolf and three pigs!” In short, if you are a fan of classic fairy tales, you’ll love this show.

It’s Shrek’s 7th birthday and, as with all ogres, his parents tell him he must move out and find his own place to live. (“Watch out for men with pitchforks!”) Shrek settles into a swamp far, far away and life is good until all of the fairy-tale creatures in the kingdom of Duloc are exiled to his land by order of Lord Farquaad, the ruthless ruler of Duloc.

In order to get his land back, Shrek strikes a deal with Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon and bring her back to be Farquaad’s queen. Along with the wisecracking Donkey, the ogre embarks on a journey to save the fair maiden and learns valuable lessons, including what makes us special is what makes us strong.

Directed and choreographed by Tommy Ranieri, the talented young cast of 23 embraces this 2½-hour large-scale production and leaves us wanting more. Lead actors Hunter Pszybylski, Leah Kelly and Luke Ferrari shine in their roles as Shrek, Fiona and Donkey; and Luke Hampson steals the show as the tiny terror Lord Farquaad. 

As with all musicals, the songs are the heart of the show, and what wonderful songs they are from the opening group number, “Big Bright Beautiful World”; to Pszybyiski’s beautiful solo “Who I’d Be”; Kelly’s “Morning Person” complete with tap and Irish step dancing; to the finale “This Is Our Story”; and a rousing rendition of Smash Mouth’s “I’m a Believer” to send us on our way.

The multiple costumes of fairy-tale characters, designed by Chakira Doherty, cut no corners and wait until you see the dragon! The elaborate sets by Tim Golebiewski, makeup and special effects tie the entire production together nicely.

SPAC has presented a wonderful opportunity for young adults to hone their craft. This is their story — let them share it with you. Meet Shrek, Fiona and Donkey in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs.

Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “Shrek The Musical Jr.” through March 1. Performances are held on Saturdays and Sundays at various times and Feb. 17 to 21 at 1 p.m. for Presidents Week break. Children’s theater continues with “Moana Jr.” from April 10 to 19. All seats are $18. For further information or to order tickets, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

For more photos from the show, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Photos by Courtney Braun/ SPAC

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Photo by James Gorman

HEARTWARMING FUN

Get out of the cold and catch a performance of the timeless musical classic ‘Annie’ at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. The theater presents its last three performances on Jan. 18 at 2 p.m., Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. and Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. through Jan. 20. Based on the popular comic strip by Harold Gray, the story follows little orphan Annie on her quest to find the parents who abandoned her on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage. Tickets are $40 adults, $36 seniors, $25 students. Call 724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org. 

By Heidi Sutton

The holidays have arrived at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts in a most delightful way. While a spunky orphan commands the spotlight in the theater’s current main stage production of Annie, a spirited young girl named Emily stars in the second annual children’s theater production of Ken Ludwig’s ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. 

Directed by Christine Boehm, the 45-minute fast-paced show with the underlying message “to make life an adventure” is the perfect choice to introduce young children to live theater.

It’s Christmas Eve and Uncle Brierly (Evan Donnellan) greets the audience with a recitation of “the greatest poem of all time,” Clement C. Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. He gets as far as, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” only to be interrupted by Amos the Mouse (Jae Hughes) who is in fact stirring, cookie dough that is, to make cookies for Santa in hopes that he’ll show up this year. You see, Amos and his best human friend Emily (Lorelai Mucciolo) were left off the Naughty or Nice list last year and never received any presents.

It is then that Calliope the Elf (Lisa Naso) shows up to investigate and, after telling Emily and Amos that many other children around the world had the same thing happen to them, convinces them to accompany her back to the North Pole to tell Santa the troubling news and to save Christmas.

When they arrive at Santa’s workshop, they overhear a former elf, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Donnellan), and his sidekick Mulch (Anthony Panarello), plotting to sell the Naughty and Nice list to retailers just like last year.

What follows is a whirlwind attempt to retrieve the list complete with a surprise appearance from Amos’ brother (the amazing Hughes in a dual role), a hilarious case of mistaken identity, a sword fight, an elf cheer, a visit from Santa Claus (Panarello) and a chase scene through the theater to the Benny Hill theme song. There is no shortage of excitement in this show and the cast does a wonderful job portraying this sweet holiday story.

Booster seats are available and snacks are sold during intermission. Stay after the show for a meet and greet and photos with the cast in the lobby.  

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown presents Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Dec. 15, 22, 28 and 29 at 11 a.m. Children’s theater continues with Shrek The Musical Jr. from Feb. 1 to March 1 and Flat Stanley Jr. from May 16 to June 21. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org

All photos by Cassiel Fawcett

 

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for the holidays, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts kicks off its 18th season with a production of the classic family musical “Annie” through Jan. 20. Last seen on the Smithtown stage back in 2010, the show returns with fervor with a whole new cast, albeit a lovable favorite, and brims with hope, optimism and dreams.

With book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, “Annie” the musical premiered on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) in 1977. Since then, the award-winning show has toured around the world and serving as inspiration for many stage, film and television adaptations.

Loosely based on the adventures of Little Orphan Annie, a comic strip created by Harold Gray in the 1920s, “Annie” tells the story of a spunky 11-year-old who has been living at the New York Municipal Orphanage for Girls since her parents dropped her off there when she was an infant with half a locket and a note promising to come back for her. As the years pass Annie grows restless waiting for their return and runs away a lot, testing the patience of the ill-tempered and downright cruel Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage.

“That was 1922 and this is 1933 – they must’ve got stuck in traffic!” Miss Hannigan says sarcastically.

As the holidays roll around, billionaire Oliver Warbucks sends his personal secretary Grace Farrell to the orphanage to choose one lucky orphan to spend Christmas at his mansion. The secretary chooses the rambunctious curly-haired redhead, who quickly steals the hearts of Farrell, Warbucks and the entire household staff. When the billionaire hears Annie’s story, he offers a $50,000 reward to help find her parents, attracting every swindler out there including Miss Hannigan’s shady brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily. Will their scheme be foiled? Will Annie find her real parents?

Directed by Tommy Ranieri, the uber-talented cast embraces the ever-optimistic script and runs with it. The role of the orphans are double cast, with a Red and Green Cast. Last Saturday afternoon’s performance, performed by the Green Cast, featured a wonderful Paige Mathers as Annie (a role shared with Gabby Blum), perfectly capturing her character’s pluckiness, toughness and determination. Mathers’ versions of “Maybe” and “Tomorrow” are delivered perfectly. 

Annie’s fellow orphans, played by Cassidy Gill, Catalina A. Kreitzman, Adrienne Porti, Alexa Oliveto, Alexandra Mitnick and Jenna Hammelman, are terrific as well, most evident in the big number, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.”

Joe Morris is perfectly cast as Oliver Warbucks and shines in “NYC” and “I Don’t Need Anything But You.” The bond he shares with Annie is charming and sweet. 

While the ensemble serves as the supporting cast for the show, they have plenty of time to shine on their own — especially Jeremy Hudson who changes roles quicker than changing clothes. It was nice to see him back on SPAC’s stage.

Erica Giglio Pac steals the spotlight as the cantankerous and boozy Miss Hannigan. Her vocals on “Little Girls” are pitch perfect and her wishful thinking rendition of “Easy Street” with Ryan Cavanagh as Rooster Hannigan and Alyson Gannon as Lily St. Regis leaves the audience wanting more. 

And there is a lot more, with a tap dancing Santa Claus, an appearance by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Doug Vandewinckel) and, amazingly, Shamus, the sweet cocker spaniel who played Sandy in the theater’s 2010 production, reprises his role as Annie’s lovable sidekick.

Choreography by Ryan Cavanagh is excellent, especially in the big numbers like “NYC” and “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” which uses wet mops as props.

Designed by Tim Golebiewski, the set is most impressive as it rolls and turns on wheels. The orphanage, with its many bunk beds, is transformed into a back alley, the entryway of Oliver Warbuck’s mansion and the Oval Office of the White House. Long creme-colored silk curtains are draped to hide the different props and give the scenes an expensive and festive feel. 

The full orchestra brings a wonderful richness to the classic songs, under the direction of Melissa Coyle, while the beautiful period costumes by Ronald Green III, complete with Annie’s iconic red dress, tie the whole production together in a big holiday bow. 

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “Annie” through Jan. 20. Running time is approximately 2½ hours with one intermission. Tickets are $40 adults, $36 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by James Gorman

By Heidi Sutton

It’s been 14 years since the world was first introduced to Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo in DreamWork’s computer-animated comedy “Madagascar.” Since its release, there have been two sequels, a spinoff (“Penguins of Madagascar”) and more recently a stage adaptation.

The latter opened at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts last weekend in the form of “Madagascar A Musical Adventure Jr.,” a show for kids performed by kids, and the end result is a fabulous afternoon of live theater. Sitting in the balcony during last Saturday’s performance, I was quickly reminded of just how clever and funny and entertaining this story is.

Living the good life at the Central Park Zoo, Alex (Hunter Pszybylski), Gloria (Gianna Oppedisano) and Melman (Jacob Christie) help Marty (Thomas Lau) celebrate his 10th birthday. When asked to make a wish, Marty wishes he can go back to the wild (aka Connecticut). Moments later he escapes with “cute and cuddly” penguins, Rico (Ari Spiegel), Kowalski (Hannah Waller), Private (Laurie Kratochvil) and Skipper (Max Lamberg) who are determined to get back to Antarctica “where we belong, on the ice.”

When Marty’s friends go looking for him, the entire group is cornered in the halls of Grand Central Station by the zookeepers and tranquilized. When they awaken, they find themselves in crates on a ship headed to a wildlife preserve in Africa. When the penguins escape their confinement and seize the ship, their antics cause the crates to fall overboard and the four friends wash up on the shores of Madagascar.

There they are met by King Julien (Zachary Podair), his sidekick Maurice (Emily Warner) and a tribe of ring-tailed lemurs who hope that Alex can protect them from the terrible foosa, cat-like animals that “are always trespassing, interrupting our parties and ripping our limbs off!” However, when Alex’s stomach starts rumbling and the lemurs can only offer him seaweed on a stick, things take a turn for the worse.

Expertly directed by Tommy Ranieri, the young cast (19 in all) do an excellent job bringing the personalities of these zany characters to life in this musical about the importance of friendship.

The songs are executed perfectly with special mention to “Relax, Be Cool, Chill Out,” “Best Friends,” “Steak,” and the big dance number “Living in Paradise” with fresh choreography by Ryan Cavanagh.

Costumes are simple but cleverly designed by Ronald Green III with the outfits matching the zoo animal’s colors with an orange wig for Alex’s mane, while his monochromatic friend Marty sports a mohawk. The set, used from the current main stage production, features panels that change to reveal different scenery and the show uses fog and incredible sound effects in telling the story.

The finale, a rousing rendition of “I Like to Move It” led by King Julien himself, is the icing on the cake. Meet the main cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, presents “Madagascar Jr.” through Oct. 27. Up next is a main stage production of “Annie” from Nov. 9 to Jan. 20 and then children’s theater continues with “Shrek the Musical Jr.” For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Courtney Braun

The Cast of Beatlemania

Back by popular demand, The Cast of Beatlemania returns to the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. Enjoy a night with John, Paul, George and Ringo as they sing all the classics. Tickets are $40 per person. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Back row, from left, Anthony M. Panarello, Angelina Mercurio (understudy for Veronica Fox) and Brody Hampson; front row, from left, Luke Hampson and Ryan Cavanagh. Photo by Tommy Ranieri

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh off the massive children’s theater production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts scales things down with a musical retelling of Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The show opened last weekend and runs through Aug. 18.

Written and composed by the award-winning duo of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Seussical”), the “fractured fairytale” takes the 19th-century Danish author’s best known story and adds song and dance to create a delightfully charming treat.

At only 14 years old, Emperor Marcus the Third is nervous to take the throne. After all, he’s only finished Chapter 1 of “How to Be an Effective Emperor”! To make matters worse, the kingdom’s river is starting to overflow and a hole in the road is getting wider. The villagers come to Marcus for help, but the newbie has difficulty making decisions. When the palace’s mop boy Arno suggests he dress the part, Marcus becomes obsessed with his royal attire.

Outfit after outfit produced by Deena the Royal Clothesmaker is rejected. Seizing an opportunity, a swindler named Maurice weasels his way inside the palace and offers to make magic clothes that are “invisible to fools and liars.” Ignoring the counsel of his Royal Advisor William, the emperor gives Maurice the green light and begins plans to hold a parade to show off his new wardrobe. Will someone get Marcus out of this royal mess, or will he reveal more than he bargains for?

Tommy Ranieri directs and choreographs a talented quintet of actors that grab this comedic masterpiece by its royal coattails and run with it, effectively producing something very special.

Luke Hampson is exceptional as the clueless new ruler; Veronica Fox and Anthony M. Panarello do an excellent job portraying worrywarts Deena and William who fear they will lose their jobs because they can’t see the magic clothing; and Brody Hampson plays the role of con artist perfectly.

But it is Ryan Cavanagh in the role of Arno who steals every scene he is in and quickly becomes an audience favorite. In the end, it is he who teaches Marcus the important lesson of “it’s not what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside that counts.”

The wonderful songs tie the show together, with special mention to “The Ancestor Song,” “Only a Guy Like You,” “How Am I Ever Gonna Get To Sleep?” and “Invisible.”

The show offers no special effects or fancy sets, just good old-fashioned live theater the way it was meant to be. The actors are funny and entertaining and are as devoted to making the audience reflect as to making them laugh. Hans Christian Andersen would be proud.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents “The Emperor’s New Clothes” through Aug. 18. Children’s theater continues with “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure Jr.” from Sept. 14 to Oct. 27 and “Shrek the Musical Jr.” from Feb. 1 to March 1. All seats are $18. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

By Rita J. Egan

Theatergoers will be delighted to come and meet those dancing feet at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. The musical “42nd Street” debuted at the theater July 6.

Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and 1933 film of the same name, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1980. During its nine-year run, it won several Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In 2001 the production was revived on Broadway and went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival and others. Filled with memorable musical numbers, “42nd Street” features the book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren.

As for the Smithtown production, it’s expertly directed and choreographed by Ryan Nolin. Tap dancing is one of the focal points of this musical, and each of the actors should be applauded for their skillful and delightful tap dancing throughout the show.

Set during the height of the Great Depression, the story centers around the fictional musical “Pretty Lady“ directed by Julian Marsh, and young Peggy Sawyer’s journey from a young starry-eyed girl from Allentown to the star of the show after the musical’s lead actress, Dorothy Brock, is injured.

Courtney Braun as Peggy is endearing as the naive starlet and sounds terrific during “Young and Healthy,” “About a Quarter to Nine” and “42nd Street.” Jon Rivera plays Marsh, the no-nonsense director, with the right amount of authoritative tone. It is during the second act that he really gets to show off his musical chops with a wonderful version of “Lullaby of Broadway,” and displays his comedic side when he shows Peggy how to greet a love interest convincingly for a scene she is rehearsing.

Tamralynn Dorsa is stunning as temperamental diva Dorothy and shines vocally, especially singing “I Know Now” and “About a Quarter to Nine.” Ryan Cavanagh is charming as Billy Lawlor, the young actor who has his eyes on Peggy, and gives a powerful performance during “Young and Healthy” and “Dames.” 

Scott Earle and Ann Marie Finnie provide the right amount of comedic relief as the show’s songwriters Bert Barry and Maggie Jones, and Finnie’s vocals take front and center during her parts in “Go Into Your Dance,” “Getting Out of Town” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” Alex Pinals plays Andy Lee, the choreographer of “Pretty Lady,” and is perfect for the role with smooth dance moves of his own, and Veronica Fox as Anytime Annie provides a nice amount of sass.

Rounding out the cast perfectly are Erich Grathwohl as Abner Dillon, Brendan Noble playing Pat Denning, Karina Gallagher as Lorraine Flemming, Nicolette Minella in the role of Phyllis Dale and Michael Sherwood easily taking on multiple roles. The colorful, 1930s-inspired outfits, designed by Ronald Green III, and the band led by musical director Melissa Coyle tie it all together nicely.

From the lead actors to the ensemble, everyone is spectacular in the numbers the musical has become known for through the decades. Right from the start, the cast impresses with their dancing feet in the opening number “Audition.” Vocally “We’re in the Money,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “42nd Street” are the stand out numbers they were meant to be thanks to the talented cast. 

Just like the 1933 movie, this production of “42nd Street” is a feel-good piece that has arrived just in time for a fun summer treat.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown, will present “42nd Street” through Aug. 18. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Running time is approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets range from $22 to $38. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700. 

Photos by Lisa Schindlar

By Rita J. Egan

On Saturday, May 18, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts debuted “Les Misérables School Edition,” and its only flaw is the title. With exceptionally talented teenagers and preteens, the production resembles that of a main-stage musical.

Luke Ferrari and Leah Kelly

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, with book by Alain Boublil, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Boublil, the musical digs into the depths of human nature. A myriad of emotions is explored from despair, fear and loathe to love, hope and forgiveness. The young actors in the Smithtown production have the skill and talent to take on the complex characters, and they seem to understand what drives them, which is essential when it comes to a classical musical such as this one.

“Les Misérables” opened in New York City in 1987 and ran until 2003, making it the fifth-longest show on Broadway. Two revivals on the Great White Way followed, one from 2006 to 2008 and another from 2014 to 2016.

Aubrey Alvino and Zak Ketchum

Set in the early 19th century in France, “Les Misérables” follows Jean Valjean who is released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. While Valjean at first feels hopeless for a second chance, the kindness of a bishop inspires him to break his parole and live a new life. While continually avoiding the wrath of police inspector Javert, Valjean goes on to become a successful factory owner, who grants the dying wish of Fantine by giving her daughter Cosette a better life. In later years, Valjean becomes a protective father who resists letting his daughter go as she falls in love with Marius, a young idealist and revolutionist.

In the Smithtown production, directed by Cara Brown, Luke Ferrari is outstanding as Valjean. He captures the former prisoner’s despair and anger earlier in the show and later in the play begins to soften as a more mature and paternal Valjean. His singing is flawless in every song, especially during “Bring Him Home” in the second act when he appeals to God to keep Marius safe.

Angelina Mercurio, center, as Fantine

Hunter Pszybylski is the perfect choice for Javert as he seems to portray the stern character with ease. The actor’s voice is mature beyond his years, and he knows how to command the spotlight, which is his during his solos “Stars” and “Soliloquy (Javert’s Suicide).”

Angelina Mercurio is wonderful as Fantine and delivers a heartbreaking solo with “I Dreamed a Dream,” and she and Ferrari sound incredible during “Come to Me (Fantine’s Death).” Zak Ketcham makes for a handsome Marius, and he proves to be another strong vocalist on all his songs including “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” where he beautifully captures the heartbreak of surviving the tragedy of losing his friends at the barricades.

Aubrey Alvino also captures the heartbreak of Eponine’s experience as she yearns for Marius who only has eyes for Cosette. Her solo “On My Own” during the May 19 show was a tearjerker, and her duo with Ketcham “A Little Fall of Rain” was just as lovely.

Leah Kelly is the naive Cosette, and her vocals are sweet and delightful, especially during “A Heart Full of Love.” Gabby Blum, who plays a young Cosette, performs a perfect “Castle on a Cloud.” Luke Hampson, as Thénardier, and Alexa Adler, as Madame Thénardier, are delightful as the greedy and crafty innkeeper and his wife. The pair play an essential role in the musical to provide some comedic relief, and both actors know how to garner a good number of chuckles from the audience.

All of the cast members provide superb vocals and exceptional performances, which are front and center during numbers such as “At the End of the Day,” “ABC Cafe/Red and Black,” “Lovely Ladies,” “Drink With Me” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.” Everyone on stage and behind the scenes of “Les Misérables School Edition” should be proud of the production, and with this kind of young, local talent, the future looks bright for regional theater.

With only six performances left, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Les Misérables School Edition” through June 2. All tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

All photos by Courtney Braun