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Smithtown Performing Arts Center

Looking for something to do with the kids for Spring Break? The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown will present Disney’s Finding Nemo daily from April 21 to 28.

Marlin, an anxious and over-protective clownfish, lives in the Great Barrier Reef with his kid Nemo, who longs to explore the world beyond their anemone home. But when Nemo is captured and taken to Sydney, Marlin faces his fears and sets off on an epic adventure across the ocean. With the help of lovable characters such as optimistic Dory, laid-back sea turtle Crush, and the supportive Tank Gang, Marlin and Nemo both overcome challenges on their journey to find each other and themselves.

Featuring memorable songs such as “Just Keep Swimming,” “Fish Are Friends Not Food,” and “Go With the Flow,” Finding Nemo Jr. brings a vibrant underwater world to life on stage in a story full of family, friendship, and adventure. Tickets are $25 per person.

To purchase tickets, click on a performance date below:

Sunday April 21 at 11 AM

Sunday April 21 at 2 PM

Monday April 22 at 1 PM

Tuesday April 23 at 1 PM

Wednesday April 24 at 1 PM

Thursday April 25 at 1 PM

Friday April 26 at 1 PM

Saturday April 27 at 11 AM

Saturday April 27 at 2 PM

Sunday April 28 at 2 PM

For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Ring in the new year with laughs as the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main St., Smithtown and Governor’s Comedy Clubs host a night of comedy on Sunday, Dec. 31 at 10 p.m. Stand-ups include Rich Vos, Bryan McKenna, Debbie D’Amore and Carla Oakerson. $80 per person includes an open bar of beer and wine, a selection of hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast at midnight. To order, visit www.smithtownpac.org.

By Julianne Mosher

Do you want to build a snowman? Well, if not now, then you definitely will after watching the latest production of Frozen Jr. at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. 

Based on the popular Disney film, Frozen, this show takes shape as a junior version of the hit 2018 Broadway musical performed by local kids with very big talents.  

Directed and choreographed by Katy Snair with musical direction by Vincent Donnadio, the show will have viewers smiling from start to finish. Ranging in age from 8 to 17, the 17-member cast is extremely talented and clearly love what they are doing. 

But first, a synopsis. The story follows two inseparable sisters who are princesses in the kingdom of Arendelle. The eldest, Elsa, was born with magical powers that allow her to create ice and snow. But as a young child, Elsa doesn’t know how to control her powers and while building a snowman wither her sister Anna, she accidentally harms her. While Anna is healed by the mysterious Hidden Folk (spiritual forest people), their parents decide it would be best to protect Anna by keeping the two apart. 

Anna has no memory of the accident and does not understand why her sister avoids her, locked away in her room wearing her silk blue gloves. When the parents are lost at sea, Elsa continues to stay away, quietly keeping her secret hidden from her sister and the outside world.

Ten years have passed and it is time for Elsa to become Queen, but on coronation day her magic unintentionally brings an eternal winter to the kingdom. Accused of sorcery, she flees into the mountains to hide. Anna enlists the help of Kristoff the icemaker to help her find her sister and free Arendelle from the spell. This is a true story of love and acceptance that will thaw the coldest of hearts.

The show starts with young Elsa (Jillian Cerrato) and young Anna (Erin Risolo) playing and spending time with each other, quickly growing into pre-teen Elsa (Anabelle Koelmel) and Anna (Bailey DeLauter). While these four may play the littler versions of the main characters, they shine just as bright with their charisma and talent. Then, right before our eyes, we meet adult Elsa (Amanda Sidman) and Anna (Alexa Oliveto) who are true stars of the show.

For performers just starting off their careers, they are in for really great futures in whatever they choose to do. Both Sidman and Oliveto are able to hold their notes in a very music-heavy production while dancing in floor-length gowns with ease.

During the coronation, we meet Kristoff (Jacob Donlon), Anna’s love interest. Without giving too much away, he’s going to be your least favorite character, but one of your favorite performers on the stage. 

Other standout performances came from Derek Hough (Hans) and his trusty reindeer sidekick, Sven (Michael Krebo). One favorite moment from the viewing was the first time Krebo came out dressed as the friendly reindeer, which was used as a talking puppet head that looked like the character. Emily Weaver’s rendition of the lovable snowman, Olaf (who likes warm hugs), was fantastic, too, making the audience laugh constantly.

Other costumes, designed by Kelly Mucciolo and Tim Conway, look straight out of the movie. Not only is Anna’s signature green dress on point, but Elsa’s costume change during “Let It Go” into her famous blue shimmering dress made the audience gasp, cheer and clap.

The set is minimal, but is welcomed by animated projections on a screen towards the back of the stage depicting different locations in the Kingdom of Arendelle, including the inside and outside of the castle, the snowy mountains and Elsa’s ice castle. During certain songs, you might expect to see some snow fall from the ceiling of the theater.

And one last nice addition to the day out is your chance to meet Elsa and Anna in the lobby for a photo. Don’t miss this adorable, wintery event perfect for pre and post-holiday fun.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown presents Frozen Jr. through Jan. 21. All seats are $25. To order, visit www.smithtownpac.org.


From left, Richard O’Sullivan, Will Logan, and Heather Legnosky in a scene from the show. Photo by Jackie St. Louis/SPAC

By Stephanie Giunta

“What does today’s audience want in Christmas?” was one of the first questions posed at the onset of Smithtown Performing Arts Center’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!). The cast promised a jocular twist on the beloved holiday classics and a fresh look at timeless tales injected with modern-day pop culture — and they delivered. In fact, I think I heard Santa’s “Ho! Ho! Ho!” in both laughter and solidarity all the way from the North Pole.

The show, a whimsical combination of vaudeville, ad-lib, and traditional narration, was originally written by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, and John K. Alvarez, and debuted in 2003 in Cape May, New Jersey. For the past 20 years, the show has been adapted across the country, and kept fresh and new with the poignant inclusion of topical media narratives. Even Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift made the cut!

Will Logan (Will), sets the stage by performing the timeless Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. Heather Legnosky (Heather) and Richard O’Sullivan (Rich) concede, but only because they are desperate to work to qualify for health insurance. Claiming the audience has grown bored of the same seasonal production they put on year after year, they convince Will to add a little spice to the performance —by cramming every Christmas story and holiday tradition into a comical hurricane of a variety show. And with this irreverent mash up, no Christmas carol or reference is safe. Especially your fruitcake. 

Directed by Jordan Hue, the trio takes the audience through a smattering of seasonal favorites, including The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and It’s A Wonderful Life. As someone who is a die-hard Christmas fan and has seen the Rankin Bass classics countless times, the actors used so many references to their comedic advantage. 

Specifically, Will’s portrayal of Hermey the bicuspid-obsessed elf who is a wannabe dentist, and Rich’s rendition of Yukon Cornelius [Rudolph], had me laughing. Not only do they deliver the lines from the show verbatim with some racy humor peppered in, their ability to mimic the original cartoon voice overs is so on point. 

Through the quick rush of all of the myths and memories, there are some surprisingly touching moments. Heather’s delivery of Linus’ monologue from A Charlie Brown Christmas was a beautiful, heartfelt moment among the stop-and-go kitschiness and jollity, allowing the audience to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. And with a snap of your fingers, the moment passes and the crew moves onto the Gift of the Magi, where Heather morphs into a new-age character straight from the Jersey Shore. 

Will, Heather, and Rich are gifted actors that have the ability to transition from scene to scene with speed and precision, keep the mood light, and the audience enthused. The creative overlap between storylines, especially the back-and-forth between A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life lets their talent shine through. Their change in intonation, articulation and ability to play two roles simultaneously was only trumped by the fluidity of their overall performance. And Rich’s deadpan way of casually referring to Charles Dickens as ‘Chuck Dickens’ had me in stitches. 

The show takes a warm, soft feeling of Christmas and pokes fun in an off-the-cuff, non-traditional manner. It’s like a chocolate chip cookie with potato chips inside — sweet, but unexpectedly salty, and ultimately a solid combination. 

Put your sneakers on, and get ready for a high-speed run down memory lane filled with jaunty holiday innuendoes that will leave you laughing and craving peppermint hot chocolate.

Cast & Crew: Will Logan, Heather Legnosky, Richard O’Sullivan, Jordan Hue, Michael Mucciolo, Kelly Mucciolo, Joseph Castoro and Megan DelMonico

Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main Street, Smithtown will present Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) through December 23. Recommended for ages 12 and up, tickets are $32 adults, $30 seniors, $28 students. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org. 

Jeffrey Sanzel returns as Ebenezer Scrooge for the 39th annual production of 'A Christmas Carol' at Theatre Three Photo by Steven Uihlein/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Melissa Arnold

Sure, it’s freezing outside and there’s probably a million things you need to do before the holidays arrive. But here’s a thought: before hunkering down to binge watch the newest Hallmark movies, why not enjoy some live entertainment?

Whether it’s an old classic or something new, local theaters have plenty of options for spreading holiday cheer. Here are just a few.

Community Playhouse of Northport presents ‘Elf’

Perhaps no modern character embodies the Christmas spirit more than Buddy Hobbs, famously played by Will Ferrell in the 2003 blockbuster Elf. The musical adaptation has all of the zany antics from the original film, along with fun music and some plot differences that make for a fresh experience even if you’ve seen the film.  

Life at the North Pole is all Buddy the Elf has ever known. He doesn’t know that he’s really human, raised by elves far away from his birth family. When he learns the truth, hyperactive Buddy sets out on an epic journey to find his father in New York City. Elf is a heartwarming and hilarious tale of self-discovery and family ties.

Budd (Gage Deoquino) and Jovie (Maeve Barth-Dwyer) star in ‘Elf.’ photo by Suzie Lustig

“There’s a timelessness to Elf, and Buddy has a way of charming people and making everyone feel good. Even though there’s a Christmas theme, it’s really about coming together as a family and I think everyone can relate to that,” said producer Suzie Lustig. 

Now in its 2nd season, the Community Playhouse was founded by a group of theater families who wanted to keep those traditions alive in Northport. The cast of Elf is comprised of 50 actors, giving as many people as possible the chance to get involved.

“Our youngest performer is 6 and the oldest is around 75, so there are opportunities for everyone. The relationships and connections that we’ve made are so important — we’re intentional about mentoring young performers and making everyone feel like they have a chance to grow here,” Lustig said. “Elf really fits into what we try to do with all of our shows — a multi-generational cast and a story that you can bring the entire family to. Live theater is fueled by the interaction between the performers and the audience; their enthusiasm and their laughter is what makes it such a fun and magical experience for everyone. We may be a streaming generation now, but there’s no replacement for being with a group of people and being entertained in person.”

If you go: Elf show dates are Nov. 9, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19 at the Brosnan Theater, 158 Laurel Avenue, Northport. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. An opportunity to meet the cast, including Santa, will precede Sunday performances at 1:30 p.m. Visit www.communityplayhousenorthport.org or call 631-683-8444 for tickets.

The Minstrel Players of Northport present  ‘A Christmas Carol’

Ask five people about their favorite version of A Christmas Carol and you’ll probably get just as many answers. Charles Dickens’ classic novella has spun off countless adaptations for the stage and screen, and it’s even common for small-town productions to add their own special touches.

Money-hungry Ebenezer Scrooge couldn’t care less about the Christmas season — he’s got no family and it hurts his business. But then he’s visited by three ghosts who show him how his bad attitude affected him and others in the past, present and potential future. It’s a deeply moving story about the choices we make, facing consequences and seeking forgiveness.

At The Minstrel Players, siblings Ray and Tara Palen were inspired to combine elements from their favorite versions of A Christmas Carol while writing their adaptation. This year’s narrator role will be split into two parts, with a male and female actor each taking a turn to tell the tale.

“In our show, we run the whole gamut of Scrooge’s life. We take a close look at his time in boarding school, including his falling in love for the first time and the end of that relationship. Ultimately, Scrooge falls in love with money instead,” said director Tricia Ieronimo. “I think the general message of hope and redemption, and seeing the change of heart for someone as crotchety as Scrooge, really resonates with audiences.”

The production has run successfully for nearly 20 years, with both audiences and actors returning regularly.

“The cast is up to 33 people now, with new adults and new children getting involved. We love welcoming new faces, whether they’re acting or helping out at the theater, and watching our audiences grow as well,” Ieronimo said. “We’ve really become a family over the years and that comes through in our productions.”

If you go: A Christmas Carol will be held at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9, and at 3 p.m. Dec. 10. Minstrel Players perform at the Houghton Hall Theatre at Trinity Episcopal Church, 130 Main St., Northport. For tickets, call 516-361-7232 or email [email protected].

Theatre Three of Port Jefferson presents ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’

From left, Sean Amato as Fred Halliwell and Jeffrey Sanzel as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 39th annual production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Theatre Three.
Photo by Steven Uihlein/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Theatre Three has a longstanding tradition of performing “A Christmas Carol” each year since 1984. In fact, executive artistic director Jeffrey Sanzel has played the role of Scrooge more than 1,500 times — and he’s not tired of it yet.

“I’ve said these lines literally thousands of times, but we’re always working with new people who are bringing their own readings to their roles. Sometimes a line will strike me differently than it has before, which changes my thought process,” Sanzel said. 

The full group of 28 actors is split into two casts. The 10 adult actors will appear in every show, while the younger actors will alternate. Several of the cast members have played in the show for many years, and some have even gone on to take adult roles after making their debut as children.

They have also put their own creative spin on Dickens’ storyline.

“The script is re-adapted every year, so it’s always evolving. Sometimes it can take several years for an idea to take shape and eventually work its way into the show. What’s great is we have people come year after year because they want to see what’s different. It’s always fresh and new.”

Please note, no children under 5 are permitted at this show.

If you go: A Christmas Carol runs from Nov. 11 to Dec. 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson. Tickets are $25 per person in November; $40 adults $32 seniors and students in December. To purchase tickets, visit www.theatrethree.com or call (631) 928-9100.


If you’re looking for something lighter, Barnaby Saves Christmas has become a holiday classic in its own right since its debut performance at Theatre Three in 2004. This original children’s production was written by Douglas Quattrock, the theater’s artistic associate and director of development.

In the early 2000s. Quattrock spent some time helping out in the sales office and found that they were always getting calls asking about a show for younger children.

“I play piano and I’ve always loved writing songs, so I had this idea to write about Santa’s littlest elf. It’s a story I would tell to my nieces and nephews when they were growing up,” Quattrock recalled. “After the first performance in 2004, [Theatre Three executive artistic director] Jeffrey Sanzel started working on it with me, and the script continued to evolve into what it is today. The camaraderie between Barnaby and Franklynne is really special, and there’s a powerful message about never giving up.”

Barnaby, the littlest elf, has always been told he’s too small to make a difference. But when trouble strikes at the North Pole, it’s up to Barnaby and his pal Frankie (the littlest reindeer) to stop Christmas from being canceled. The hour-long show is a sweet and magical story of self-confidence, friendship and resilience. Barnaby even gets to meet a Jewish family on his journey, who teaches him about Hanukkah and believing in miracles.

“Doug puts his whole heart into this show. It’s like Rankin and Bass caliber – beautiful, funny, heartwarming, with catchy music and a wonderful message that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can make a difference,” Sanzel said. “There are kids who have grown up seeing it and it’s one of our best-received children’s shows, which is why we bring it back year after year.”

If you go: Barnaby Saves Christmas runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson. All seats are $12. To purchase tickets, visit www.theatrethree.com or call (631) 928-9100.

Smithtown Performing Arts Center presents ‘Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)’

Some people love classic holiday movies and make it a tradition to watch them annually. But if you’re looking for a fun twist on those old favorites, the Smithtown Performing Arts Center (SPAC) has you covered.

This year’s holiday production, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some), was actually chosen for practical reasons.  

“We’re putting on a production of Frozen Jr. [for kids] during the winter, so we also wanted to do a show for adults that could run in the evenings while using the Frozen stage and set,” explained Kelly Mucciolo, managing director of SPAC. 

Productions like these are also known as “trunk shows” because they can be performed on any stage, feature a small cast, just a few props and little to no set decoration.

This three-man show introduces the audience to three burned-out actors that are sick of repeatedly performing A Christmas Carol year after year. They vent their frustrations to the audience before deciding to take matters into their own hands, piecing together a madcap performance that includes all of your Christmas favorites, carols, seasonal traditions from around the world and more.

“This is an off the cuff-style collection of every Christmas story you’ve ever heard of, put together in a very silly and slapdash way so you get a little bit of everything,” Mucciolo said. “This is such a happy time of year, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. I think this show is a fun way to spend an evening and get away from some of the hustle and bustle while still being out with your family.”

Come prepared for a little audience participation and maybe even some singing. 

Please note, this performance is recommended for ages 12 and up.

If you go: Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23 at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown. Tickets are $32 for adults, with discounts for students and seniors. For showtimes and to purchase, visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at podium, announces new downtown revitalization stimulus funds for Smithtown communities. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

By Sabrina Artusa

Suffolk County is giving Kings Park, St. James and Smithtown a sizable chunk of downtown revitalization stimulus.

These funds, made available by the pandemic economic recovery allotments, will help revitalize the downtown districts while investing in developing infrastructure in downtown areas.

Through the JumpSMART Small Business Downtown Investment Program, which awards money to nonprofits, organizations and businesses, and the Jumpstart program, which awards money to towns and municipalities, the county gave $5.5 million to improve the local downtown economies.

“We recognize that our long-term economic prosperity is dependent to an extent on the success of our downtowns,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “Our downtowns are the places where we have the vibrancy we need to keep and attract young people in our community.”

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center was awarded $500,000, and Celebrate St. James, a leading organization in preserving arts and culture in St. James, was awarded a $100,000 JumpSMART grant. The town was additionally given a $900,000 JumpStart grant for the acquisition and restoration of the century-old Calderone Theatre, which is currently in disrepair.

Kings Park, Bellone said, has one of the most prosperous downtowns in Suffolk County. The Agape Community Sports Services was awarded a $1.45 million JumpSMART Award. Bellone described the organization as a “major regional tourism asset” expected to attract 350,000 people to Kings Park.

The Town of Smithtown was also awarded $2.5 million for traffic and street improvements in Kings Park.

“Every single penny we receive will be well spent, and it will be to benefit the Smithtown community,” Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“This is how we are able to raise local talent, invest in local communities and, more importantly, put your tax dollars back in your hands, which is why we are doing it.” Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) added.

Also in attendance were legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), Suffolk County’s commissioner of Economic Development and Planning Sarah Lansdale, and Jonathan Keyes, director of downtown revitalization and transit-oriented development.

“Without the Legislature voting to put these funds in place in this year’s operating budget and in the capital budget over the last couple of years, this wouldn’t be possible,” Bellone said.

By Julianne Mosher

There are 525,600 reasons to head to the Smithtown Performing Arts Center and see their rendition of Rent.

Directed by Kevin Burns, the show opens in the heart of Manhattan’s East Village in the late 1980s with this exquisite rock opera originally written by Jonathan Larson. A modern-day musical, loosely inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme,” Larson created the script based on where he was living in the early 90s — in a rundown apartment with several roommates all just trying to survive and, of course, pay rent. 

Set in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, the musical follows the stories of several people, a group of friends and acquaintances, living with addiction, abuse, AIDs, homelessness and more. But despite the heavy topics, Larson’s opera-styled score brings humor and wit to situations that are not for the faint of heart. 

We open with Roger (Zach Johnson) and Mark Cohen (David Reyes), an aspiring singer and filmmaker, sitting in their cold apartment during Christmas. Roger’s girlfriend passed away and while grieving, he meets his new neighbor, Mimi (Alisa Barsch) who asks him to “light her candle” during a power outage. 

We learn of Benny (Trentin Chalmers), a friend-turned-businessman who is trying to evict the old comrades from their underwhelming living space, and we meet Tom Collins (Shiloh Bennett) who’s an anarchist professor living with HIV who falls for the positive and eccentric Angel (Ruben Fernandez), a drag queen street performer. 

Eventually we’re introduced to Maureen (Jess Ader-Ferretti), Mark’s artist ex-girlfriend who left him for Joanne (Michelle Demetillo) a strong-willed lawyer. 

This is a beautifully crafted story of love and loss. 

With a  minimalist set, each and every actor uses their talents of voice and expression to give the scenery life, plus the costumes are straight out of the Broadway musical (1996) turned film (2005). That being said, the cast is so impressive that if one were to listen to their live performance and then the recordings of the original cast, you’d think it’s the same group. 

With the band right on stage in the middle of the action, you learn of the hopes and dreams of the characters, experience loss and eventually find hope. In the three hours of viewing time, this emotional roller-coaster is definitely worth it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll experience a whole new outlook on life. 

Johnson, Reyes, Barsch, Chalmers, Bennett, Ader-Ferretti and Demetillo’s performances on opening night were stellar. The talent of the main cast deserves two thumbs up, and of course, Fernandez embodies the beautiful Angel, both in and out of drag, perfectly — plus, he can dance in heels. 

But the ensemble cast need a round of applause, too. The several roles each and every one of them play isn’t at all confusing, especially since there are several story lines happening at one given time. In fact, those in the background help ground the rest of the group and make the storylines even better.

So, go buy your tickets now because there’s “no day but today” and you deserve to go “out tonight!”

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 E. Main Street, Smithtown presents “Rent” through Oct. 22. Tickets are $35 adults, $32 seniors (55 and older), $28 students (21 and under). To order, call 1-800-595-4849 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Meet Jeff Corwin at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center on Aug. 27.

By Melissa Arnold

‘We cannot protect what we do not cherish, and we will not cherish what we do not know…’ — Jeff Corwin

Jeff Corwin has been a vocal and passionate advocate for wildlife and the natural world since the 1990s. The celebrated biologist and conservationist is a recognizable face on television, hosting shows including Disney Channel’s Going Wild, Animal Planet’s The Jeff Corwin Experience, and more recently, Ocean Treks and Wildlife Nation on ABC.

From a cobra festival in India and unexplored jungles in South America, to the African savanna and beyond, Corwin continues to teach audiences that our incredible world deserves protection.

On Aug. 27, Jeff Corwin will partner with Sweetbriar Nature Center to share stories from his adventures around the world and highlight the challenges faced by a variety of endangered species.

The special event, held at the newly renovated Smithtown Performing Arts Center (SPAC), will serve as a wonderful education event hosted by Sweetbriar, a not-for-profit corporation. 

“The Smithtown Performing Arts Center board is always seeking out opportunities to help out community-based nonprofits and share our beautiful, historic space.” said Michael Mucciolo, board president for SPAC. “Our theater has a long history of attracting families with young kids, and I think they’ll have a wonderful time seeing something they’ve never seen before and learning from such an expert like Jeff.”

Sweetbriar Nature Center is situated on 54 acres of garden, woodland, field and wetland habitats on the Nissequogue River. Hundreds of species of plants and animals call the center home — many arrived as part of their extensive wildlife rehabilitation program.

“Everything that we do here is for the benefit of the animals,” said Janine Bendicksen, curator and wildlife rehabilitation coordinator for the center. “Many of the animals that get brought in to us are often at death’s door, sick enough that they allow a human to pick them up. About half of them are successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild, which is fantastic.”

A lot of the patients they receive have similar stories, Bendicksen explained. A concerned member of the community might stumble upon an injured animal on their property or while out on a hike and contact their local Animal Control department, which then reaches out to Sweetbriar.

Whether it’s a wounded eagle on a bike trail or a couple of rabbits playing chase in a mechanic’s garage, the staff at Sweetbriar have seen just about everything.

Around 100 of Sweetbriar’s permanent residents are animals that are permanently injured or otherwise unreleasable. A few birds, including a great horned owl named Lily, have been there longer than Bendicksen has — more than 20 years.

Bendicksen studied fine art and art history, eventually finding her way to Sweetbriar as curator. In addition to her work with rehabilitation, she is responsible for creating art displays and supervising creative projects around the property.

“I was one of those kids who people were always bringing their animals to, and I tried my best to help them. Sweetbriar hits on everything that makes me happy,” she said.

The center’s educational team works hard to instill that same wonder and love of nature in people of all ages. This is especially evident during the summer, when hundreds of children from around Long Island come to the center for weeklong enrichment programs or day visits.

Throughout the school year, Sweetbriar also host field trips, opportunities for families, and in-school presentations.

The dual mission of education and rehabilitation is what makes Jeff Corwin the ideal guest speaker for the event, said Sweetbriar board member Maureen Calamia.

“Jeff has a great reputation and deep care for wildlife, especially those species that are borderline extinct. His enthusiasm is such an asset,” she said.

With only four dedicated staff members, Sweetbriar relies on the ongoing support of volunteers and donors. 

“A lot of people unfortunately don’t know what’s going on in their own backyard, or how to treat nature or wildlife. Sweetbriar does a tremendous service through their programming, both in person and also through their social media, which has a global following,” Calamia said. “They are great stewards, and everyone knows to turn to them if there’s an animal in need. This event is a wonderful way to support their hard work.”

“Tales from the Field with Jeff Corwin” will be held on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main Street, Smithtown at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at www.sweetbriarnc.org or at www.smithtownpac.org. This event is made possible by a grant from the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning.

Sweetbriar is always in need of donations and volunteers, regardless of experience or skills. Visit their website or call 631-979-6344 learn how you can help.

The cast of 'Seussical Jr'. Photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

By Heidi Sutton 

Written in 2000 by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Seussical the Musical is a love letter to Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, featuring stories from his  most famous children books including “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches an Egg,” “Gertrude McFuzz,” “McElligot’s Pool” and “Oh the Thinks You Can Think!”

Now the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, in partnership with the Smithtown Historical Society, pays tribute to the creative genius by bringing his colorful characters to life in an outdoor production of Seussical Jr. on the historical society’s grounds through Aug. 17.

Acted out entirely in rhyme, the Cat in the Hat serves as narrator and introduces us to Horton the Elephant who one day 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, the Wickersham Brothers steal it and hand it off to Vlad Vladikoff the black-bottomed eagle who drops it in a field of thousands of clover. Horton is then tricked into sitting on Mayzie LaBird’s egg for 51 weeks, is captured by hunters and eventually sold to the circus. When Gertrude McFuzz finds the clover and give it back to Horton, he is put on trial by Sour Kangaroo for “sitting on an egg and talking to a speck.” Will this faithful pachyderm ever catch a break? What will happen to the citizens of Whoville? Only Judge Yertle the Turtle will decide.

During last Saturday’s opening performance, the 13-member young adult cast — Eldan Bazile, Kat Conway, Alexa Gallery, Erin Risolo, Samantha Rubin, Molly Sanges, Ava Ross, Robby Boswell, Alex Eskin, Julia Gallery, Julia Jackson, Caroline Nuzzo, and Lorelai Mucciolo — did a phenomenal job transporting the audience to the Jungle of Nool. Other cast members include Katie Lehmann, Amanda Sidman, Kendall Danley, Allison Heidrich and Medha Rao.

The wonderful songs, including the catchy introduction “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” by the entire cast, to “Horton Hears a Who,” “Notice Me Horton,” an uplifting rendition of “It’s Possible,” Horton and Jojo’s duet, “Alone in the Universe,” and “Solla Sollew,” are perfectly executed. 

Using limited props, costumes and sets, the summer stock theater show is the perfect way for these young actors to hone their craft, with the audience seated less than 4 feet from the stage, and small children lounging on blankets in front of them. They learn to ignore the distractions such as a car beeping, a plane flying overhead or a child suddenly jumping up to grab a snack, as well as coping with the weather and bugs. Teamwork also plays a major role in this valuable experience of a lifetime. 

In the end, the audience walks away from this musical extravaganza with the inspiring message that “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” to follow your dreams and let your imagination fly. 

Smithtown Performing Arts Center presents Seussical Jr. at their outdoor stage on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown with no intermission on Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 17. All seats are $18.50. To order, call 800-595-4849 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

Kara Vertucci stars as the rebellious Princess Ida in the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island’s 2023 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida. (Photo by NanMagna. Copyright 2023 The Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island.)

The battle of the sexes will break out into open warfare when the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island brings its 2023 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic Princess Ida to the Smithtown Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m.  The production will feature a 23-piece orchestra.

 Princess Ida—which debuted in 1884 at London’s Savoy opera, with book and lyrics by W.S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan—is a favorite with Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados, with its score in particular regarded as perhaps Sullivan’s greatest.  The current production is the Light Opera Company’s first since 2007.

More dramatic in tone than any other Gilbert & Sullivan work, c In the end the story boils down to whether the opera’s young people are doomed to grow into their parents, repeating all their mistakes, or if they can escape the machinations of their parents, move beyond hatred and violence, and forge a new future for themselves.

In the new production of the opera, Kara Vertucci of Lindenhurst plays Princess Ida and Joseph Anthony Smith of Freeport plays Prince Hilarion, with Chris Jurak of Brightwaters as King Gama and Ben Salers of Northport as King Hildebrand.  Lady Psyche is played by Patricia Gallagher of West Hempstead, and Lady Blanche by Terry Hochler of East Meadow, with Alyssa M. Mener of Massapequa Park as Melissa; Jordan Breslow of Bellmore plays Florian and Richard Risi of Locust Valley plays Cyril.  Ida’s brothers, the formidable Warriors Three, are played by Henry Horstmann of Lindenhurst (Arac), John Benvenuto of Floral Park (Guron) and Marc Eliot Stein of Brooklyn (Scynthius).  Tamara Shyngle of Brentwood plays Sacharissa, Claudia Arroyo of Port Washington is Chloe and Hanna Roth of Upper Brookville plays Ada.  The director is Gayden Wren, and the music director is Leonard Lehrman.

Princess Ida is unlike any other Gilbert & Sullivan opera,” said Wren, a longtime member of the company and also the author of an acclaimed book about Gilbert & Sullivan.  “It’s Shakespearean in its scope, and its humor—which combines farce, slapstick, satire and burlesque—is in the service of a story of unique emotional power.  Ida and Hilarion are two sides of the same coin, young aristocrats who’ve been pawns in their fathers’ rivalry almost since they were born.  The story pits them as enemies, but as the opera progresses they begin to see something of themselves in each other, and to sense the outlines of a future different from the one they’ve always been told awaits them.

“Ultimately this is a story of generational conflict, of young people trying to get past the mistakes and hatreds of their parents, trying to forge a new world they might actually live in together,” Wren concluded.  “When people ask me what it’s about, I say it’s about a prince, a princess and an arranged marriage … but also about climate change, racial and ethnic rivalries, inequality, social justice and pretty much anything else that’s going on in the world today.  It’s funny, it’s beautiful, but there’s no Gilbert & Sullivan story that’s more directly relevant to the world of today.”

Princess Ida will be presented on Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m. at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center, 2 East Main Street in Smithtown.  Admission is $30, seniors and students $25.  For further information, call (516) 619-7415 or visit www.gaslocoli.org.