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theater review

By Julianne Mosher

Get your pink blazer on and swipe on some lip gloss for the John W. Engeman theater in Northport’s latest production of Legally Blonde The Musical.

Based on the 2001 hit movie starring Reese Witherspoon, the 2007 Broadway musical, written by Heather Hach, hints to a lot of the famous movie moments and quotes, but certainly has its own identity and it’s just as good at as the famous 00’s comedy.

But it couldn’t have gained the standing ovation it received on the theater’s opening night if it weren’t for the talented cast and crew who took on quite a challenge with Jay Gamboa’s choreography and direction from Trey Compton. 

The show starts out with a simple stage design, headed by Kyle Dixon, of a Delta Nu doorframe at Elle Woods’ (Emma Flynn Bespolka) UCLA sorority house. There, we meet her best friends and sorority sisters, Margot (Lara Hayhurst), Serena (Juliana Lamia) and Pilar (Bridgette Carey) who are writing out a congratulations card for Elle who thinks she’s getting engaged to her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Nathan Haltiwanger).

The girls, dressed in their best 2000s-styled clothes (low rise jeans, a lot of color and bedazzles) learn from Elle’s dog, Bruiser, (Little Ricky and Cha Cha), that the soon-to-be bride is at the mall finding the most perfect dress. Always on cue with his scripted barks, jumps and licks, Bruiser with his minimal appearances had the audience in awe at what a good boy he is under the stage lights.

After finding the perfect outfit, hair done and makeup on, Elle meets Warner at a restaurant where he tells her he wants to get serious with her … Down on one knee he takes her hand and much to her surprise and dismay breaks up with her. Afterall, he’s going to law school to kickstart his political career and he needs “a Jackie, not a Marilyn.”

Two weeks of mourning of her idea of marriage falling apart, Elle decides to follow Warner to Harvard Law School. Although she has a degree in fashion merchandising from UCLA, with the financial help of her wealthy parents (Emily Bacino Althaus and Matt DeNoto), and a fantastic cheerleading-inspired live dance performance at Harvard clad in glitter and pink, she (shockingly) gets in and heads to the east coast. What, like it’s hard?

At Harvard, she introduces herself to her classmates, Emmett (Quinn Corcoran), Aaron (Christian Melhuish), Sundeep (Yash Ramanujam) and Enid (Haley Izurieta), as a Gemini who once told Beyonce that orange is definitely not the new pink. Everyone except for Emmett doesn’t take her seriously and backs away, heading to the tough Professor Callahan’s class (James D Sasser) where Elle learns Warner is dating a true “Jackie,” Vivienne Kensington (Nicole Fragala). 

Throughout the rest of Act I, we see Elle struggle with acceptance as she tries to bring her sunny California personality to the gloomy New England university, while also trying to woo her ex back into her life (and dealing with his judgmental and jealous new girlfriend). The musical brings the iconic scene from the screen when Vivienne and her friends invite Elle to a costume party – but it’s not – and she learns that the hard way as she shows up as a Playboy Bunny.

Luckily for Elle, we meet her new best friend who becomes her support system, Paulette (Chanel Edwards-Frédérick), a hair dresser with a sad backstory. Paulette gushes over the new UPS driver, Kyle (Jeffrey Keller), who doesn’t have a lot of lines, but you’ll laugh until your stomach hurts at his seductive walk through the theater and suggestive jokes that have all the girls (and guys) in the beauty salon swoon. Eventually Paulette wins him over by the 99.99 percent effective “bend and snap.”

Back in Elle’s life, she gets added to Professor Callahan’s legal team to represent a former Delta Nu workout superstar, Brooke Wyndham (Julianne Roberts), who is accused of killing her husband. We’re introduced to her in Act II at the woman’s prison where she is demonstrating what is probably the most intense choreography the audience has ever witnessed – a whole song and dance involving constant jump roping. Roberts, with her impeccable lungs, doesn’t miss a beat and double jump with no flaws in her vocal range receiving a long-winded applause when the number is over. You’ll be tired watching her. 

From now on, we’re in court learning about Brooke’s story and who might have actually killed her husband. Using her knowledge of all thing’s beauty, Elle wins the case because everyone knows that you don’t take a shower after a perm…

This show is the most fun you’ll have and with a large cast of 25 talented actors (and two talented pups), you’ll always see something new. The lead role of Elle couldn’t have been better picked as Bespolka truly embodies the character in every sense. In fact, even the ensemble who appeared in only one or two numbers continuously also stole the show. 

So, don’t object to this great opportunity and see for yourself what a great play this is.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Legally Blonde The Musical through August 25. The Main Stage season continues with the murder mystery Clue from Sept. 12 to Oct. 27. Tickets range from $80 to $95. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Julianne Mosher

The colorful pages of Dr. Seuss’ stories come to life on the John W. Engeman’s stage for their latest children’s theater production, and their rendition of Seussical the Musical is one for the books. 

Directed by Danny Meglio, the story follows the plot of “Horton Hears a Who,” with Horton (Patrick McCowen), the elephant, speaking to Jojo (Sophie Achee and Finn Brown) — the smallest Who in Whoville. Jojo and his community live on a speck of dust on a clover that Horton lovingly carries throughout the show.

The elephant’s big ears allow him to hear the chitter chatter of the people on the clover, while the rest of the jungle thinks poor Horton is crazy, constantly ridiculing him. On top of that, Horton gets tricked into egg-sitting for the sassy, popular Mayzie (Jillian Sharpe), who abandons her egg to go party in Florida. But luckily, he has the support of his friend Gertrude (Natalie Sues), especially when he gets bullied by the Wickersham Brothers (Daniel Bishop, Terrence Sheldon and Will Logan) and Sour Kangaroo (Christina Cotignola). The Bird Girls (Michelle Shapiro, Nicki Winzelberg and Ally Clancy) are a three-piece ensemble who help tell the story through song and great harmonies throughout each number.

Written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the show is narrated by the Cat in the Hat (the incredibly talented Jae Hughes) whose mischievous ways will make the entire audience laugh. 

Acting as Jojo’s guide, the Cat helps the young dreamer maneuver through all the different scenes he imagines with special mention to the big dance number, “It’s Possible (McElligot’s Pool).” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a synopsis — you’ll have to see the rest for yourself.

Meant to appeal to young children, with many families in attendance, this musical is really made for all. Grandparents, parents and babysitters alike smiled along as each scene presented a new musical score sung by this professional cast. They effortlessly danced along with choreography by Jillian Sharpe in the most colorful costumes and wigs led by Laura McGauley. 

Anyone who has read Dr. Seuss’ other childhood tales (like “Green Eggs and Ham,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket”) knows that the famous author’s art is truly out of this world and the team at the Engeman Theater and scenic designer Orion Forte did a great job portraying that with funky Seuss-like trees in the jungle of Nool. 

Seussical the Musical is a fun play that explores themes of identity, individuality, creativity, loyalty and community. Kids will leave the energetic production knowing the importance of being unique, standing up for one’s beliefs and that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” 

So, get your tickets now, fill up on some green eggs and ham and head over to the Engeman Theater for a fun trip into the creative mind of Dr. Seuss. Meet the cast after the show for photos and autographs.

The John W, Engeman Theater, 250 Main St. Northport presents Seussical the Musical on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through June 30. All seats are $20. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Julianne Mosher

Nobody does camp better than Theatre Three. This time with their latest production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, the Port Jefferson-based venue succeeds, yet again, with a phenomenal production of the hysterical musical that is bound to offend everyone and anyone in the best way possible.

Adapted from Mel Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name, the story follows two producers who scheme to get rich fast by fraudulently overselling interests in a Broadway musical they’re seeking to fail. Plot twist … it’s a smash hit, much to their dismay.

Theatre Three’s production is just as good as the latest Broadway revival (latest being 2001) which starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The cast and crew outdid themselves with every detail — from the constant costume and wig changes courtesy of Ronald Green III (and there are quite a few) to Randall Parson’s scenic sets that switch between the office of Max Bialystock (Scott Hofer) and Leo Bloom (Tony Butera) to the rooftop of Nazi-turned playwright Franz Leibkind (Evan Teich). 

Yes, a Nazi. Like I said, this play is going to offend. 

Hofer and Butera in the lead roles of the producers shine on stage, again, on the same level that the show’s former Broadway legends bore in the past.

With several dozen different roles — it’s a Mel Brooks show, so of course it’s going to be chaotic — every person who enters stage right and left are fantastic with an ensemble cast that literally does it all. The singing is master level, the choreography is impressive and you’ll be laughing as soon as the curtain opens during the first number, “It’s Opening Night.”

After Bialystock and Bloom find the most offensive musical out there, Springtime for Hitler, they need to find financial backers. Bialystock, a Casanova to the wealthy elderly, uses his charm on widowers while Bloom meets the beautiful and talented Ulla (Brittany Lacey) who becomes the main female lead in the play they’re hoping fails … as well as Bloom’s love interest. 

The next stop is to get the worst director out there — Roger De Bris (Ryan Nolin), a flamboyant failing director with his long-term, life “roommate,” Carmen Ghia (Jim Sluder). While Nolin and Sluder play near-deadbeats in the theater industry, both have remarkable talent in real life.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the three-hour-long show is so good you want to sit through it again and again. You’ll be bound to find something new at every showing.

So, like I mentioned earlier, Theatre Three does campy musicals extremely well. “When You Got It, Flaunt It,” right? And the only advice I have moving forward is to continue and “Keep It Gay” with all that talent on stage.


Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Producers through June 22. Tickets are $40 adults, $32 seniors and students, $25 children (ages 5 to 12) and Wednesday matinees. Please Note: Contains adult humor and situations. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

See preview here.

By Julianne Mosher

Yes, heaven is definitely a place on earth, and it’s right here at Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus in Selden.

Directed by Marie Danvers, Head Over Heels debuted on Broadway in 2018 and is adapted from Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia written in the 16th century. While still performed in its Shakespearian-era dialect, what’s most fun is the incorporation of music of The Go-Go’s.

The story takes place in the kingdom of Arcadia. King Basilius (Aiden Gomez) and his wife Queen Gynecia (Londyn Williams) have two daughters — Phioclea (Sophia Del Carmen) and Pamela (Kayla Pisano) — and we learn that Phioclea is in love with her childhood friend Musidorus (Jaiden Molina), while Pamela, the prettiest in the land, has dozens of suitors but is secretly in love with her servant, Mopsa (Izzy Mangiaracina), the daughter of Dametas (Gabriel Patrascu).

Soon after Pamela dismisses yet another potential husband, the kingdom’s new oracle, Pythio (Jayden Brown), sends a message that Arcadia might be in trouble and gives them four prophecies, saying that Arcadia needs to change.

Pythio, who is nonbinary, explains that when each of the prophecies are fulfilled, four flags will fall. If all four happen (which it does) then Arcadia will fall. 

It sounds like a lot — and it is. Each character has its own individual story within the major plotline. But the students at SCCC make it easy to understand — even if it’s spoken in old English — and we have to appreciate the musical aspect of it all… especially since the music is from the late 1980s. 

With favorites from the Go-Go’s like “We Got the Beat,” “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” “Mad About You,” and “Our Lips are Sealed,” you’ll be singing and dancing along as each song is seamlessly incorporated into the play. 

That being said, the band is live and so is the singing of the students. Brown’s Pythio, while not in every scene, shines every time they are on stage, while Phioclea’s Del Carmen has a voice made for Broadway. These two students have bright futures ahead when it comes to musical theater. 

Molina’s Musidorus is great — especially since he’s able to gender bend throughout the show (yes, he pretends to be a woman to meet with Phioclea who he’s in love with). Williams, Pisano, Patrascu, Mangiaracina and Gomez perform their roles with such ease, as does the ensemble including Angie Barrientos, Alani Etheridge, Andy Laloudakis, Talia Mazza, Joseph Salerno and Amelia Wells. Quite frankly, you’ll be surprised you’re watching community college students perform these numbers.

The set and costume design also add an extra highlight to the show. The set, while minimal, features two large guitars crossed at the neck with a crown shining above. The stage floor is a rotating record that helps during the chase scenes. The costumes are colorful and a mix of punk, pretty, Elizabethan and 1980s party all in one. 

So, do you have the beat? If you don’t, head to Suffolk’s Shea Theatre and you’ll be sure to say “I’m mad about you” to the cast and crew of Head Over Heels.

The Theatres at Suffolk County Community College present Head Over Heels in the Shea Theater, Islip Arts Building SCCC Ammerman campus, 533 College Road, Selden on April 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and April 21 at 2 p.m. General admission is $15, veterans and students 16 years of age or younger $10. SCCC students with current ID are offered one free ticket. To order, call the box office at 631-451-4163.

See a sneak preview of the show here.


By Julianne Mosher

This is the train to… a murder? Full of twists and turns, this is one ride you won’t forget.

Theatre Three’s latest production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express turns the Port Jefferson-based Mainstage into a beautiful, expensive train suitable for travels of only the best of the best. Here, the audience meets eight different passengers who all have a secret with one common denominator. 

When Samuel Ratchett (Angelo DiBiase), a crooked conman, is found dead in his cabin, everyone on the train asks, “Who did it?” That’s when Hercule Poirot (Jeffrey Sanzel), a well-known detective (who can crack any case) steps in — even though this was supposed to be his vacation.

The show, directed by Christine Boehm and adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig, starts off in a hotel in Istanbul where Poirot is reunited with an old friend, Monsieur Bouc (Michael Limone), owner of the lavish train. Bouc offers Poirot a ride to get back home — even though it’s mysteriously fully booked for the off-season. While on the platform, we meet the rest of the cast: Colonel Arbuthnot (David DiMarzo), Mary Debenham (Cassidy Rose O’Brien), Hector McQueen (Steven Uihlein), Princess Dragomiroff (Sheila Sheffield), Helen Hubbard (Linda May), Countess Andrenyi (Michelle LaBozzetta), Michel the Conductor (Zach Johnson), Greta Ohlsson (Samantha Fierro), and the Head Waiter (Richard O’Sullivan). 

With costume and wig design by Ronald Green III, set design by Randall Parsons and projection design from Brian Staton, it’s impressive how the stage turns into several different settings during pre-World War II Europe — a lavish hotel restaurant, three train sleeping cabins in a row, the train bar. With ease, the sets change between scenes, giving the story a movie-like appeal that is on a higher level than Broadway.

And while the sets turn the stage into 1934, a fun effect that adds even more to the stage is a projector screen above the stage that helps tell the story through video and images. We’re introduced early on to Daisy Armstrong (who was loosely based on the Lindbergh baby) — a little girl who’s playing in the yard with her nanny and who is suddenly kidnapped — which, at first, is confusing. Why do we need to know who she is? She’s essential to the story and is that common denominator mentioned before. 

We can’t give too much away, because going in not knowing the plot twists will only make the experience better. Through the two acts, we learn the supposed backstories of all eight passengers on board — and eventually their truths of where each of them was the night Ratchett was brutally murdered. 

But the investigation couldn’t have been complete without Detective Poirot. Sanzel’s interpretation of the famous crime stopper is jaw-dropping and will leave you wanting more stories with him solving another mystery. Along with Sanzel, the entire cast deserves a standing ovation. The accumulated talent of everyone on stage truly tells an intriguing story, but each bringing their own flair and personality as their character. 

Since the show is based in Europe, many accents are heard on stage. It’s impressive that Limone’s Monsieur Bouc and Johnson’s Michel can speak with ease in a thick French accent for the hour-and-a-half-long show. May’s hilarious Helen Hubbard is the comic relief throughout most of the show with her silly persona and thick Minnesotan accent, while Sheffield’s Dragomiroff, LaBozzetta’s Andrenyi, and DiMarzo’s Arbuthnot’s various monologues continues to show the time and effort each actor rehearsed to make this play as realistic as possible.

And while their stories, backgrounds and nationalities are all different, the entire cast as a whole constantly get reactions out of the audience at every turn. Throughout the show, you’ll hear gasps, laughter and even an “I can’t believe it!” when the murderer is finally caught. 

If you want to find out who killed the horrible, nefarious Samuel Ratchett — and learn more about the stories surrounding this vicious crime — you’ll have to head to Theatre Three yourself. You won’t want to miss this so climb aboard and get your ticket to Murder on the Orient Express.


Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Murder on the Orient Express through May 4. Tickets are $40 adults, $32 seniors and students, $25 children (ages 5 to 12) and Wednesday matinees. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Julianne Mosher

The Engeman Theater’s latest production of Jersey Boys will have you singing, dancing and laughing all night long. Based on the life and music of The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli, the show is set in 1960s New Jersey as we follow the four Italian boys through the successes and struggles of reaching, and fulfilling, fame. 

Written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the show is presented almost like a documentary (as it’s based on a true story) with each member giving their perspectives of the band’s history. We start off with Tommy DeVito (Nick Bernardi) and his original group, The Variety Trio, which included his brother, Nick DeVito (Justin Wolfe Smith) and his close friend, Nick Massi (Stephen Cerf). The three perform in clubs, while also participating in some questionable and illegal activity. 

There, they meet a young kind who sits in the shadows of the club and sings along. Frankie Valli (Joey Lavarco) and Tommy brings him up on stage. With his high soprano voice and large range, Lavarco can easily be mistaken for the original Frankie Valli — an impressive talent that not everyone on that stage could do. 

While Frankie starts to enjoy singing with the trio, the trio each get thrown in the slammer until Tommy is eventually freed where he joins with Frankie again to continue working on music and finding their identity as a new group (Tommy’s brother quits).

While this is all happening, we see the love story between Frankie and his girlfriend-then-wife Francine (Katelyn Harold) and the relationship that Tommy has with a mobster friend, Gyp DeCarlo (Mike Keller). While in supporting roles (the two play other parts sporadically throughout the show) the fluidity of their change in character is astonishing. To go from a mobster, to an accountant, to a music industry executive in one act is a grand feat. 

Eventually, a young Joe Pesci — yes, the actor — played by Loren Stone, introduces Frankie, Tommy and Nick Massi to a young songwriter who was known for his hit single, “Short Shorts,” named Bob Gaudino (Sean McGee). The trio found their missing piece, and although they couldn’t figure out a name, they were great at writing songs together. 

But they visit every record company in the city and finally land a deal with the flamboyantly hysterical Bob Crewe (Jonathan Cobrda) who signs them as background singers for other artists. Eventually, they get a sign from above (literally, a sign), that determines their new, and last, name. The Four Seasons and they pitch new music to Crewe who hears hits which then get the four Jersey Boys on the map.

With favorites like, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Walk Like a Man,” if someone in the audience closed their eyes, they’d truly think they’re listening to the actual Four Seasons on the radio. Bernardi, Cerf, Lavarco and McGee’s harmonies synch together well and they look the part with beautifully, and historically accurate, curated costumes by Dustin Cross. 

From then on, the second act shows more of the struggles the four experiences as their fame and fortune get bigger. Through a lot of comedy, and some somber moments, the show will definitely keep you on your toes and singing the whole drive home. 

Directed by Paul Stancato, the set was minimal, but the perfect setting for so many different locations. A simple backdrop of warehouse doors and two spiral staircases, the ensemble perfects going from Jersey, to Manhattan, to on the road, to an apartment, to a club all with ease. 

So, what are you waiting for? The Engeman’s production is a slice of Broadway placed in Northport and it’ll have you thinking, “Oh, What a Night.”

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport presents Jersey Boys through May 26. For tickets or more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Julianne Mosher

How can a modern-day Thanksgiving play not ruffle any feathers, especially in a politically correct society?

Suffolk County Community College’s latest production of The Thanksgiving Play is not what one might expect. In fact, it is pure chaos, but hysterical chaos at its best. 

Directed by Steven Lantz-Gefroh and written by Larissa FastHorse, the show consists of just four actors — Scott Dowd (Jaxton), Jerry Ewald (Caden), Michaela Fitzsimmons (Alicia or A-lee-see-ya), and Taylor D’Agostino (Logan). Set in an adorably relatable elementary school classroom, the four come in to start working on a culturally appropriate and politically correct play about the first Thanksgiving meal for kids. 

One slight problem — all the actors are white, and very woke, and they feel that they cannot ethically perform a historically correct production as they grew up with white privilege. They hire a “real” actress from L.A., Alicia, who they believe is Native American… only to find out in show business looks can be deceiving. 

FastHorse, who is the first female Native American playwright to have a show produced on Broadway, writes this clever satirical comedy with poise by serving up the hypocrisies of woke America, especially with topics like Thanksgiving, Native Americans and, dare I say his name? Christopher Columbus. 

Originally making its Broadway debut in 2023, it comes to the smaller stage at SCCC’s Ammerman Campus in Selden and showcases the raw, amazing talent of these four theater students. Each one has a very bright future set up for them. 

Dowd plays Jaxton, the yogi/part-time actor, who tries to always right his wrongs of being a straight, white male brings humor to the uncomfortable topic of race, especially when he’s tasked to be a part of something that needs to appeal to all people and cultures. Dowd plays the typical hippie who jumps on the bandwagon of whatever trend is going on, and he does it convincingly well.

Ewald plays Caden, a history teacher who has very serious feelings about Christopher Columbus, but also wants his side play writing performed by real humans. As in other SCCC performances, he makes the audience laugh with his slapstick shenanigans. That being said, we should highlight the choreographers for their realistic fight scene that will have you wince, but not look away.

D’Agostino plays Logan, the glue of the story, and the main protagonist who has to navigate these other personalities while trying to keep her job as a teacher in a new school district. But she’s also incredibly woke, and restricted by her overthinking and over producing. D’Agostino’s performance shines, definitely showing the leader that she is on and off the stage. 

And we can’t forget Fitzsimmons, who plays Alicia, the L.A. actress brought in by Logan as the team’s cultural compass navigating Native American culture (Logan saw headshots of her on her website wearing braids and turquois). Your standard L.A. actress, she plays the snotty, and kind of stupid, actress who relies mostly on sex appeal for parts amazingly well. Her facial expressions even when she’s in the background tell a story in itself.

Through satire and humor, this one-act show addresses the misrepresentation of Native Americans, the lack of indigenous casting and the challenges of accurately representing indigenous people in American society — all of which FastHorse experienced herself as a Native American playwright.

And you’re honestly just going to laugh from the moment the four performers step on stage. Throughout the show, we bounce back and forth between the scene in the classroom to small musical numbers relating to Thanksgiving. 

You’ll laugh at the humor, but also with how uncomfortable these conversations can be. So, even though it’s not Thanksgiving time at all, get in the spirit of cultural appropriation and white storytelling, and head over to SCCC to see this unique, hysterical and impressive show. You’re going to gobble it up.

The Theatres at Suffolk County Community College present The Thanksgiving Play in Theatre 119, Islip Arts Building Suffolk County Community College, 533 College Road, Selden on March 15, and 16 at 7:30 p.m., and March 17 at 2 p.m. General admission is $15, veterans and students 16 years of age or younger $10. SCCC students with current ID are offered one free ticket. To order, please call the box office at 631-451-4163.

By Julianne Mosher

Before there was Rent, playwright Jonathan Larson had a one-man show drafted on several pieces of paper. A semi-autobiographical account of what it is like to be turning 30 and not having it all figured out, Theatre Three’s latest production is a story of friendship, growth and love in the years leading up to a mid-life crisis.

Beautifully directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, tick, tick… BOOM! features just three actors, but all of whom have a combined talent of a full theatrical ensemble. 

Larson, who is famed for creating Rent, tragically died just before the rock opera show’s opening night at age 35. tick, tick… BOOM! is the show Larson created before Rent was even a thought in the young artists’ mind. 

Originally penned in 1990, the initial production for tick, tick… BOOM! was performed by Larson as a solo show, but after his death in 1996, it was revamped by playwright David Auburn as a three-piece ensemble and premiered off-Broadway in 2001. A film adaptation directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield as Jon was released by Netflix in 2021. Garfield won an Academy Award for his performance.

Based on Larson’s own life, the show starts off with Jon (Robbie Torres), an aspiring composer, who lives in New York City in 1990. Similar to Larson, he had been trying to make a name for himself in theater since the early 80s and he voices worry that he is turning 30 with no solid future in sight. He lives with his childhood friend, Michael (Jason Furnari), who is a marketing executive — and former actor before he “sold out” — in an apartment in SoHo. Susan (Veronica Fox) is Jon’s girlfriend who is a dancer who “teaches ballet to wealthy and untalented children.”

For years, Jon has been workshopping a musical he wrote called Superbia (which was a real unpublished play written by Larson discovered after his death) and he is nervous about how critics might take it. Susan starts to ask Jon if he’s willing to leave the city as she begins to dream of marriage, kids and Cape Cod. Meanwhile Michael knows Jon needs more stability and helps him snag an interview at his marketing firm. We see Jon’s day-to-day working at the Moondance Diner, catering to annoying tourists and customers as he just tries to finish his shift so he can go back home and continue writing.

Throughout the show, we begin to see the changes in his friends lives while Jon continues to feel stagnant as his 30th birthday nears closer and closer. The anxiety he feels penetrates in his chest and mind going “tick, tick… BOOM!.”

In typical Larson fashion, the set, designed by Randall Parsons, is minimal, but shows the grungy aesthetic that these starving artists were living in during the early 1990s. The cast is able to add furniture in certain scenes to give the appearance of different settings, and as a special treat, the band, which at Theatre Three is typically set off to the side, sits on stage with the cast and is part of the show. 

But what stands out the most are the performances of Torres, Furnari and Fox who work together in such harmony that you’d think the parts they are playing are real life. 

A music-heavy show with no intermission, Torres, Furnari and Fox do an excellent job of memorizing the words of Larson whose lyrics tend to be fast-paced and thought-provoking. A hit number of the night that had the audience applauding was “Therapy,” which features Fox and Torres “arguing” as a couple with two separate choruses intertwined together in a fast-paced rhythm. 

During the show’s opening night, the entire audience gave the cast a standing ovation which will undoubtedly happen again and again for all the upcoming shows. Don’t miss this one.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents tick, tick… BOOM! through March 16. Tickets are $40 adults, $32 seniors and students, $25 children (ages 5 to 12) and Wednesday matinees. The Mainstage season continues with Murder on the Orient Express from April 6 to May 4, and The Producers from May 18 to June 22. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The most relatable comedy you will ever see

By Julianne Mosher

The John W. Engeman Theater’s latest produce is perfect… and it should definitely not change.

During Saturday, Jan. 20’s performance of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, the Northport-based theater was full of nonstop laughs thanks to the four-piece ensemble on stage. 

Starring Gina Naomi Baez and Lauren Weinberg as the two main women and Danny Bernardy and Jason SweetTooth Williams as the two men, this witty musical tackles modern love in all forms in separate vignettes per scene. 

Originally premiering off-Broadway in 1996, the show ran for 12 years, making it off-Broadway’s second longest running show. It has since premiered in a dozen countries and has been translated all over the world. 

Directed and choreographed by John Simpkins, the show starts off with the four playing your general everyday people looking for love. The unnamed people sing about the hopes and dreams of their upcoming date that they each get dressed and ready for, “Cantana For a First Date.” Immediately after, we see Baez and Bernardy chat it up after meeting in person for the first time after an online dating match.

The relatability of these songs and scenes is painful — in a good way. For those in long-term relationships, you’ll cringe being reminded what it was like on the dating scene. For those still single, you’ll nod along in agreement to everything they complain about. 

Matt DaSilva, who was Williams’ understudy during Saturday night’s performance, was stellar in his scenes, notably the third song about two awkward people on their first date. The fact that each actor was able to change characters per scene with ease was impressive — each having their own story to tell.

Other standout songs and performances came from “Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening,” “The Lasagna Incident,” (with a beautiful ballad sung by Weinberg that shows off her phenomenal range), and “And Now the Parents.” You can guess what each of those songs are about and how they relate to dating. 

But the musical isn’t only about looking for love. They capture the wedding day, a typical night for a married couple, childbearing and even death, too. 

One number, that was sweet and funny, was “Funerals Are For Dating,” featuring Baez and Bernardy who hysterically played two old timers meeting at an acquaintance’s funeral. Bernardy tries to pick the mourning woman up and laughter ensues. However, it will leave you smiling because for such a funny moment mixed with sadness (talking about their deceased partners), you’ll smile at the sweet sentiment the end of the number provides. 

However, it’s not entirely sweet. This show is definitely not recommended for someone who might be a prude. Other topics tackled are unhappy sex lives and why men send women pictures of their penis. Adult language and content are prevalent. 

With a beautifully designed set, you will surely be impressed the moment you sit down. A setting described as “a city near you,” the backdrop includes impressive buildings with windows to apartments, and throughout the stage, different living rooms and bedrooms are set up for the appropriate skits.

From the looks of the rooms to the costumes and experiences, this show is going to make you say, “too true” in relation to your life. I can guarantee at least one of the scenes will relate to you and your partner in any stage of your relationship.

Tip? Bring someone on a first date! Remind them what they’re in for…

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change through March 3. Tickets are $80 for Wednesday and Sunday evenings; $85 for Thursdays; $90 for Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday matinees; and $95 for Saturday evenings. Tickets may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, going online at www.engemantheater.com, or visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport.

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.