Rising stars on Long Island
From the South Shore to the East End, Long Island's got talent. In this new feature, we put the spotlight on locals who are making names for themselves in the entertainment world.
J.D. LIFSHITZ, 22, and, RAPHAEL MARGULES, 23, both from Lawrence(Credit: PMK-BNC)
GIG They produced the zombie film "Contracted: Phase II."
THEIR STORY The two met as students at Yeshiva Elementary and reconnected after high school, after each had made an entree into the film world. Lifshitz was cyber penpals with horror filmmaker Eli Roth ("Hostel"), which led to an internship with director Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour"). Margules, meanwhile, interned for producer Israel Wolfson. In 2012, Lifshitz and Margules moved to Los Angeles and in a few months raised enough capital to start their company BoulderLight Pictures. Their first film, "Contracted," made for $55,000 in 2013, fared so well on video on demand and Netflix that distributor IFC Films upped the budget for the sequel, which opened Friday in Manhattan and is available on demand. "Horror is a great place to start to build an infrastructure. It's a lucrative genre," Lifshitz says. "But we want to make all kind of films."
WHAT'S NEXT Their thriller "Dementia" arrives in January.
PETER MICHAEL MARINO, 49, from East Meadow(Credit: Alicia Levy)
GIG He wrote and stars in the play "Late With Lance."
HIS STORY Marino, who was in "Stomp" for five years, also wrote the 2007 musical "Desperately Seeking Susan," which opened on London's West End. "It was also the fastest show to close on the West End," he jokes. Undeterred, Marino put a comic spin on the experience in his one-man show, "Desperately Seeking the Exit," which played in New York City and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012. For this year's festival, he developed "Late With Lance," about "a fanatical, nontalented musical theater chorus boy wannabe" who hosts a talk show. "He's expecting famous people to show up, and when they don't, he pulls people from the audience," Marino says. The show plays at Manhattan's Triple Crown Underground Sept. 25 and 27 and Oct. 2 and 4.
WHAT'S NEXT He's mounting Solo Com, a festival of about 100 original one-person comedy shows, in November at the Flatiron District's People's Improv Theater, where he teaches.
ISSAM MKAIKI, 4, from Islip Terrace(Credit: Walid Mkaiki)
GIGHe's in the Oct. 7 episode of "Law & Order: SVU"
HIS STORY No one can call Issam a slacker. At 7 weeks old, he appeared in a print ad. But his "SVU" role as the neglected child of a drug-addicted mother could be his chance to break out. For his audition, Issam impressed the director and producer with an emotional scene he was asked to do on the spot. Issam worked with a stunt coordinator for one segment in which he had to cross the street diagonally by himself. "It's going to look like he was dodging vehicles," says his mom, Christina Mkaiki. Issam bonded with director Martha Mitchell and star Mariska Hargitay, whom Issam called "the nice, pretty lady with the black dress." When shooting wrapped, Hargitay surprised him with a gift of four Rescue Bots.
WHAT'S NEXT Issam has been on several auditions and he'll attend Fashion Week and the Long Beach International Film Festival.
RHETT ROSSI, 43, from Bellmore(Credit: Rhett Rossi)
GIGHe wrote and stars in the one-man show "This Is the How."
HIS STORYYou may have seen Rossi, who now lives in Brooklyn, in any number of Off-Broadway plays or on TV ("Law & Order"). While appearing in a play called "The Wool Gatherer" in the late 1990s, Rossi began writing the autobiographical "This Is the How," about "growing up on Long Island during the heavy-metal era of the '80s." His 2010 play, "In God's Hat," in which Rossi also starred as a man just released from prison, got a rave from The New York Times. In his revised version of "This Is the How," which comes to Manhattan's Playroom Theater in October, Rossi plays everyone from his parents to local hooligans. "I've always been able to impersonate people," he says.
WHAT'S NEXTRossi is working on getting "In God's Hat" made into a film.
MICHAEL MINGOIA, 35, from Yaphank(Credit: Justine Lynn)
GIGHe stars in "Random Us" at the NYC Fringe Festival.
HIS STORYMingoia, who previously lived in Rocky Point, earned a bachelor of music degree from Five Towns College, and as a member of the vocal jazz ensemble Mixed Nuts, he performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. He developed acting aspirations a few years ago, and after taking classes, landed TV roles on "As the World Turns," "The Good Wife" and "The Michael J. Fox Show." "Random Us," a dramedy about the trials of a married couple, has been a welcome challenge for Mingoia. "This is the hardest character I've ever had to play because he had a lot of different shades," Mingoia says. He also wrote the song "Whirlwind of Your Love" for the play, which will be presented at the Kraine Theater Thursday, Sunday and Aug. 27.
WHAT'S NEXTMingoia is working on his first full-length album.
CHRISTOPHER MESSINA, 30, from Smithtown(Credit: Anna Ty Bergman)
GIGHe plays Joe Pesci and understudies Frankie Valli in Broadway's "Jersey Boys."
HIS STORYMessina started acting while attending Hauppauge High School, where his dad is the wrestling team coach. After a semester at Suffolk Community College, Messina left school to pursue acting and began with roles at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts. His eye was always on Broadway, and in 2011 he was cast as Pesci in the second "Jersey Boys" touring company, where he also served as a dance captain. In July 2014, he joined the Broadway company, and while he says Pesci is fun to play, nothing tops the times he's gone as Valli. "When you play Frankie, you go on the roller coaster that is his life," he says. "It's vocally taxing and emotionally taxing. . . . It's so great to sink your teeth into such an amazing script."
WHAT'S NEXTMessina's dream is to be cast as Valli.
BECKY GOLDBERG, 28, Farmingville(Credit: Andréa Zotos Breslin)
GIG Becky Goldberg co-wrote the musical "210 Amlent Avenue."
HER STORY Goldberg, a Stony Brook University alum who now teaches at the school, began working on "210 Amlent Avenue" with classmate Karl Hinze in college. The show, which is set in the Hamptons during a July Fourth celebration, deals with an unexpected guest's questions about what caused the death of his parents. "I gravitate toward stories about people's struggles to find themselves after they experience some sort of emotional upheaval," Goldberg says. The show, which she calls "a small chamber musical," has had readings at Stony Brook and in New York City. It will have its first fully staged performance at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre Thursday, July 9, through Sunday, July 12, and Tuesday, July 14, as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
WHAT'S NEXT Goldberg hopes the show will get picked up by a regional theater company. She also is working on a new play.
BILLY RECCE, 17, Amityville(Credit: Billy Recce via Facebook)
GIG Billy Recce wrote the book and music for "Balloon Boy: The Musical.".
HIS STORY Recce, who began writing plays when he was 11, has had his works performed at the Kennedy Center and New York's Cherry Lane Theatre. He started "Balloon Boy" when he was in seventh grade after becoming fascinated by a highly publicized 2009 story of a Colorado man who claimed his son was stuck in a weather balloon in the sky. Recce, who says his influences range from Stephen Sondheim to "Saturday Night Live," wanted to put his own satirical spin on the event and came up with "Balloon Boy." The show is being presented at the New York Musical Theatre Festival Tuesday, July 7, and Saturday, July 11, at The Studio Theatre at Theater Row in Manhattan..
WHAT'S NEXT In the fall, Recce will enter Fordham University's playwriting program. Recce says he has also begun work on another play.
KATIE ZIMMER, 16, Commack(Credit: Susan Zimmer)
GIG Katie Zimmer is a pop singer-songwriter..
HER STORY As a child, Zimmer never imagined she'd have a singing career. "I had a lung disease as a child, so I didn't even start singing until I was 11," she says. Zimmer, who found her voice after lip syncing at a fifth-grade talent show, says she's never taken any singing lessons. She's performed at many local talent contests, and took first place in the "Your Big Break" competition at the Gold Coast Arts Center last year. Zimmer has now written her first two singles, which she says are pop-oriented, and will perform them Saturday, July 11, at the Long Island Summer Festival at Pennysaver Amphitheater in Farmingville.
WHAT'S NEXT Zimmer will take part in the Great American Showcase at the Jones Beach bandshell on July 23.
MARK NEWMAN, from Great Neck(Credit: Danal Records / Glenn Gamboa)
GIG He's a roots rock musician.
HIS STORY Newman started playing guitar with bands while in high school. "I wound up singing because I was usually the main songwriter in the band," he says. "It's not that I thought I was a great singer, it's just that everybody else in the band was worse." He's since performed with noted musicians, including John Oates, Sam Moore and Sam the Sham, who taught him to slow down his playing. "He's written some great blues songs, and I got to play them with him, and it was really an eye-opener," Newman says. Last fall, Newman released a new album, "Walls of Jericho," and his EP "Brussels," featuring him and his acoustic guitar, came out in March. His song "What She Does to Me" was heard on "NCIS: Los Angeles" in 2012.
WHAT'S NEXT He plays The Bitter End in Manhattan Monday, June 22 KJ Farrell's in Bellmore Tuesday, June 23 and Manning's Pub & Grill in Carle Place Thursday, June 25.
TAYLOR GILDERSLEEVE, 23, from Mattituck(Credit: Morgan Gildersleeve)
GIG She just shot an episode of MTV's new series "One Bad Choice," which premieres July 9.
HER STORY Gildersleeve's first acting job was playing Sydney Harris, a teen who dabbled in drinking, on the soap "All My Children" in 2006 and '07. "You're producing an hourlong episode every single day, which is unheard-of in any other genre," she says. "It was like the most intense summer camp a kid could want." She's also guest starred on many series, including "Law & Order," "30 Rock" and "Person of Interest." This year, she graduated to leading roles with January's Lifetime movie "Sugar Daddies" with Peter Strauss, and now "One Bad Choice." "Each episode is a real-life cautionary tale where one bad choice changes the course of someone's life," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT Her indie movie thriller "The Factory" comes out in October, and she's making a movie in France with her fiance.
DANA HENNEBORN, 30, East Islip(Credit: Rock of Ages)
GIG She plays Young Groupie in "Rock of Ages" at The Venetian Las Vegas through Aug. 30.
HER STORY After earning her bachelor of fine arts degree in dance from the University at Buffalo in 2008, Henneborn spent the next four years performing on cruise ships. When attempts to crack Broadway didn't pan out, she accepted a friend's invitation in January 2014 to stay at her house in Las Vegas. "She needed someone to watch her cats," Henneborn says. She seemed destined to land a role in "Rock of Ages": Henneborn auditioned for it three times in Vegas and about 20 times in New York. "I even auditioned for the Norwegian Cruise Line show," she says. Her favorite number is the challenging "Any Way You Want It." "I have to climb a pole to sing it," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT Henneborn is ready to sign on for another year if her contract is extended.
STEVEN CARL McCASLAND, 28, from Dix Hills(Credit: Samantha Mercado-Tudda)
GIG Five plays he wrote will be performed at Clarion Theatre in Manhattan May 7-31.
HIS STORY McCasland began writing short stories in middle school, including one about Teddy Roosevelt visiting orphanages that he turned into a play for his summer camp. At Pace University, he studied directing, and he's helmed many productions, including the 2013 revival of the legendary Broadway flop "Moose Murders." The Clarion plays -- four of which he directed -- concern forgotten episodes in the lives of real people, he says. "28 Marchant Avenue," for example, deals with the lobotomy of JFK's sister, Rosemary. "I've always been sort of a history geek," he says, "and I find that these little moments are so interesting and tell so much about these people."
WHAT'S NEXT He's writing a play about Fanny Brice, and is working with composer Matthew Martin on a musical about Jacqueline Susann.
JOHN KERWIN, originally from Long Beach(Credit: Katja Bresch)
GIG He hosts a late-night talk show on DirecTV's Jewish Life channel.
HIS STORY Kerwin, who also grew up in the Briarwood section of Queens, started out doing stand-up comedy at Catch a Rising Star in New York and The Improv in Hollywood, where he was the house emcee. "Instead of just introducing Robin Williams or Jerry Seinfeld or Eddie Murphy, I would have them come out and start talking to them," Kerwin says. One night, a producer caught Kerwin on stage, and "The John Kerwin Show," which he's done for 14 years on JLTV, was born. Favorite guests have included Larry Hagman and David Carradine. His most memorable guest: Cloris Leachman, who opted for more than a peck when she asked Kerwin for a kiss.
WHAT'S NEXT To hopefully land his dream guest, Sarah Jessica Parker. "She's everything that you want in a great guest," he says, "effervescent, funny, smart, talented."
BROOKE MORIBER, 26, from Westhampton Beach(Credit: Fadil Berisha)
GIG She's a singer-songwriter who's also performed on Broadway.
HER STORY Moriber's career began in a big way -- she played young Cosette for six months in "Les Miserables" on Broadway. "They would measure you every week, and once you grew to a certain point, you were fired," she says. Since then, Moriber has had no problem finding work, both on TV ("As the World Turns," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") and in six more Broadway shows, including "The Threepenny Opera" in 2006 with her idol, Cyndi Lauper. Moriber will next perform songs from her first EP, "Fire," at Pianos NYC on May 18. "I'd like to become a pop star being able to also do Broadway shows. That's my dream," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT Moriber and her band will play at Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville on June 3, and she's just completed the short film "Off Track Betty."
MICHAEL RICIGLIANO JR., 43, of Locust Valley(Credit: Joe Trentacosta)
GIG His Off-Broadway play ?A Queen for a Day? begins previews April 14.
HIS STORY He?s a lawyer by day, self-taught writer by night. ?I read a couple of books on how to write a screenplay, and then I started writing some scripts and bought software for the final draft,? he says. ?You write and you write, you find your own voice, and then it kind of works out from there.? His first effort was a screenplay for a 2010 short film about the mob called ?Lily of the Feast? that he recently expanded into a feature-length movie starring Paul Sorvino and Troy Garity. ?A Queen for a Day,? which opens May 3 at St. Clement?s Theatre, also deals with the mob and stars ?Sopranos? actor Vincent Pastore.
WHAT'S NEXT He?s just finished his second play, ?Phalen House,? about an Irish bed-and-breakfast in the Catskills.
MIKEY WAX, 28, originally from Syosset
GIG The singer-songwriter?s ?You Lift Me Up? can be heard in promos for ?Keeping Up With the Kardashians.?
HIS STORY Wax began writing songs when he was 8, but didn?t start performing until he attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He released his first record, ?In Case I Go Again,? in 2009, and the music video, shot in Syosset, became a YouTube smash. ?You Lift Me Up,? which he co-wrote with his brother, Jonathan, has been even bigger thanks to the Kardashian promos and Spotify. He?s touring now and plays Manhattan?s Rockwood Music Hall tomorrow night. ?I?m taking a step from being a baby singer-songwriter to more of a mature singer-songwriter and playing prestigious venues,? he says.
WHAT'S NEXT More tour dates, and after that, who knows. ?If I could just support myself making music and doing what I love, that would be great,? Wax says.
TANNER FLOOD, 11 of Eatons Neck(Credit: Chris Ware)
GIG He plays Jane Krakowski?s son in the Netflix sitcom ?Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.?
HIS STORY Tanner was 4 when he was signed by an agent after reciting Shel Silverstein?s ?Acrobat? at his audition. Since then, Tanner has had roles in movies (?Moonrise Kingdom?) and TV (?30 Rock,? ?Royal Pains?). In ?Kimmy Schmidt,? he plays spoiled rich brat Buckley, who?s not above stealing or attacking co-star Tituss Burgess, dressed as Iron Man, with a bat. ?I wondered sometimes what I would be like if I really was spoiled, and playing that role I got to find out,? Tanner says. ?I also found out I?m pretty good at beating up people with a baseball bat and blowing up hospitals.?
WHAT'S NEXT This weekend he attends the Palm Beach International Film Festival for the premiere of ?Living With the Dead.? ?I have a big crying scene,? Tanner says: ?My mom says she?s leaving forever, and I chase her down the road.?
RAYMOND JAMES MASON, 25, of West Babylon(Credit: KatieMarie Gorczynski)
GIG A trombonist with the Afrobeat band Antibalas, and he can be heard on the hit "Uptown Funk."
HIS STORY AMason's musical path began in third grade when he heard a teacher play "Ride of the Valkyries" on trombone. "I heard it as 'Kill the Wabbit,' " from the Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?" he says. "So I decided I wanted to play trombone." After graduating from New York University, his job playing in the orchestra for the Broadway musical "Fela!" led to his current gig with Antibalas. He's also performed with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Roots and Taylor Swift, and he's all over the radio dial playing his horn on the Mark Ronson-Bruno Mars smash "Uptown Funk."
WHAT'S NEXT He'll be playing with Antibalas at City Winery in Manhattan March 22 and in a salute to David Byrne and Talking Heads at Carnegie Hall March 23.
LANCELOT THEOBALD JR., of Hempstead(Credit: Marisol Diaz)
GIG Choreographer on the movie "At the Top of the Pyramid".
HIS STORY After failing to make cut following a tryout for the New England Patriots, Theobald turned to dance and won a scholarship to Bernice Johnson's Dance School in Jamaica. "When I went to school I realized I knew how to dance hip-hop and tap, but I didn't really know the other disciplines," Theobald said. He learned them quickly and has since worked with "Hairspray" actress Nikki Blonsky and choreographed the MTV series "Skins." "At the Top of the Pyramid," which he calls a cross between "Bring It On" and "Friday Night Lights," is the first film he's choreographed and involves some elaborate numbers including a party scene in which he had people dancing on tables. He also has a small role in the film.
WHAT'S NEXT Theobald will be acting in two more movies.
RYAN CASSATA, 21, from Bay Shore(Credit: Kris Lyseggen)
GIG He's a singer-songwriter who just released his eighth album.
HIS STORY Cassata, who now lives in San Francisco, started playing guitar at age 6 and by 14 was playing clubs like The Vibe Lounge and The Crazy Donkey. He also has opened for Karmin and Salt N Pepa, and won a battle of the bands that led to a gig at Vans Warped Tour in 2013. Though Cassata describes his music as a mix of "foot-stomping folk, political and love songs," his newest album is more rock and roll, he says. Cassata, who is transgender, has also played at numerous Pride Festivals, and was the focus of the acclaimed 2014 documentary "Songs for Alexis," which dealt with his relationship with his girlfriend.
WHAT'S NEXT He plays 89 North in Patchogue on April 26.
MARC PALMIERI, 44, of Melville(Credit: John Painz)
GIG His play "The Groundling" is at Manhattan's Axis Company through March 8.
HIS STORY Palmieri attended Wake Forest University on a baseball scholarship, but in his senior year turned to drama. As an aspiring actor in New York, he took a job coaching baseball at Chaminade High School in Mineola to supplement his income. Commuting on the train, he'd write down conversations into a series of sketches that became his first play, "Poor Fellas." He also acted in the 1997 indie movie "Too Much Sleep," wrote the screenplay for a 1998 Jennifer Love Hewitt movie "Telling You," and had a critical success with his play "Levittown." "The Groundling," a comedy set on Long Island, has elements of "Love's Labours Lost" and focuses on a troubled marriage. "I've also taught Shakespeare and that experience really informed the writing of this play," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT He's hoping the play will continue in another venue.
NICK FONDULIS, of Manorville(Credit: Paul Gregory)
GIG He can be heard in the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
HIS STORY Since graduating from Syracuse University, Fondulis has worked regularly including roles on "As the World Turns" and "30 Rock." "Tina Fey walked over to me and said 'Hey, Nick, I'm Tina. I thought, 'I know who you are,' but it made me feel like she accepted me on her level," he says. He recently played eight roles in "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at Chain Theatre in Long Island City, and lent his voice to Grand Theft Auto V, though the project was kept a secret to the actors. "All I knew was that the dialogue had to do with cars," he says. "When people asked me what I worked on, I could genuinely tell them I don't know."
WHAT'S NEXT He is in two more live radio plays at Chain.
MELANIE BROOK, 23, originally from Oceanside(Credit: Keith Sherman and Associates)
GIG She plays a repressed book club member in "50 Shades! The Musical Parody."
HER STORY While attending Wagner College in Staten Island, Brook got a role in "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding," an improv-driven comedy. The experience helped when she tried out for "50 Shades." "My character goes through a sexual revolution during this monologue in Act 2. At the callback, instead of the monologue, they gave me the beginning and said it's up to you to finish it," says Brook, who's in the touring company and joins the Off-Broadway production at the Elektra Theatre next month. Brook also headlined her own cabaret show last year at 54 Below after winning a contest the club sponsored. "A show like that is something I thought about for when I'm 70 and have an illustrious career. That's a really cool thing to have that at 22," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT To enjoy a long run in "50 Shades."
SARAH GAVILLA, 14, of Melville(Credit: Len Marks Photography)
GIG A dancer who just toured in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
HER STORY Sarah started dancing at 4 and studied at North Shore Studio of Dance in Huntington Station and Eglevsky Ballet school in Bethpage. She played Clara in North Shore Studio's production of "The Nutcracker" last year, so the school's director, former Rockette Danielle Kimmins, encouraged Sarah to audition for the role in the Radio City tour. She beat out about 200 girls and has loved traveling and being part of a professional ensemble. "The Rockettes are very supportive to me," she says. "When you're in a touring company, you're always together and just like one big family. ... We even set up a Christmas tree in the dressing room."
WHAT'S NEXT Sarah is taking a break after the tour, though she plans to try out for more shows. She's hoping for a career in ballet but doesn't rule out Broadway.
JAYMEE FRANKEL, 25, and LIANNE FRANKEL, 20, of East Setauket(Credit: Josh Frankel)
GIG They sing at The Bitter End in Manhattan on Jan. 17.
THEIR STORY The siblings have been writing songs and performing since they were youngsters, and they tried out for "The X Factor" at Nassau Coliseum in 2013. "After we sang, the judges asked us to come back in an hour and a half with a different look, a little more edgy, and with a different song," says Lianne, a University of Delaware student. They didn't make the cut but have since lined up several gigs in the city. Playing at The Bitter End, which will feature dad Josh Frankel on guitar, is their most prestigious venue to date. "The thought of performing on same stage as Billy Joel, Lady Gaga and Ingrid Michaelson," says Jaymee, "that in itself is an accomplishment."
WHAT'S NEXT Jaymee will perform at Arlene's Grocery in Manhattan on Feb. 7.
ERIC LOPEZ, 19, of Wading River
GIG He plays "enraged fan" Nelson Zee in "702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical" at St. Luke's Theatre in Manhattan and will be seen on "American Idol."
HIS STORY Lopez, who's studying music and theater at Manhattanville College in upstate Purchase, ditched class to try out twice for the "Jackie Mason" musical. Both times he was rejected, but a third try led to a swing role as Nelson Zee after belting out "I'm Alive" from "Next to Normal." (He takes on the role full-time starting Monday.) He also sang "Baby, One More Time" for Adam Lambert, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. during "Idol's" Nassau Coliseum auditions last summer. Though he can't reveal the outcome, Lopez says he will be on the show. "I didn't even tell my mother about that audition," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT He plans to stay with the "Mason" show "for as long as they want me," he says.
MOORE THEOBALD, 10, Huntington(Credit: John Capo Public Relations)
GIG He's Tiny Tim in "A Christmas Carol" at Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which ran from Dec. 11-21.
HIS STORY The play's been the thing for Moore since he was 6 and began doing Shakespeare with Blackfriars Cultural Arts, an Old Bethpage children's theater group. Last year he appeared in "South Pacific" at Engeman Theater and in an episode of NBC's short-lived series "Believe." The creative forces of "A Christmas Carol" were impressed when they saw Moore as Lennox in Blackfriars' summer show "Macbeth" and cast him on the spot as Tiny Tim. (His brother Quinn, 14, plays young Scrooge and Peter Cratchit.) You also may know him from a Universal Orlando ad. "They paid for me to have fun shooting the commercial and to go on the rides. And the food there was delicious."
WHAT'S NEXT Moore is auditioning and hopes to have a new gig in early 2015.
ETHAN EISENBERG, 13, of Wading River(Credit: Luke DeLalio)
GIG He stars as Ralphie Parker in "A Christmas Story" at John W. Engeman Theater in Northport through Jan. 4.
HIS STORY Ethan studied acting at Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts in Wheatley Heights and the Gateway Acting School in Bellport. "There is an expression that real acting is not acting, and that never really made any sense to me until I went to Gateway," he says. At Gateway Playhouse, he played Pugsley in "The Addams Family" and Michael Banks in "Mary Poppins," but the role of Ralphie has been a real plum. "It's a vocally challenging show," he says. "Ralphie sings the whole time, which is different from the movie, and it's a lot of high belting. I'm onstage the whole time. That's a new thing for me, and it's great."
WHAT'S NEXT Once the show ends, Ethan will be making the rounds of auditions.
AMANDA GERACI, 23, of Smithtown(Credit: Carissa Brtalik)
GIG She's the Ghost of Christmas Past and Janet Halliwell in "A Christmas Carol" at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson through Dec. 27.
HER STORY As a child, Geraci would sing along to Disney movies and Broadway albums. "Anytime I saw a raised platform I would go on the stage," she says. Since then, Geraci has graced the stages at her alma mater, Adelphi University, and former Manhattan supper club Feinstein's at Loews Regency. In August she became a full-time member of Theatre Three's troupe after appearing in several shows there. Her ghostly role is a departure for Geraci, who typically plays ingenues. "I play the ghost as a very high-upper-class society lady. This was a chance for me to play older and take on a much more serious character than I'm used to," she says.
WHAT'S NEXT She's in Theatre Three's sex farce "Don't Dress for Dinner," which opens Jan. 10.
ADDISON SCOTT, 25, originally from Plainview(Credit: Addison Scott)
GIG He's a singer-songwriter.
HIS STORY It was inevitable that Scott would embark on a musical career: His father was a drummer, and his big inspiration was his grandfather, who played trumpet in Glenn Miller's orchestra. Scott, who taught himself guitar and began singing seven years ago, has played drums with several Long Island bands. In 2011, he recorded his first EP and also opened for Boys Like Girls and All American Rejects at The Paramount in Huntington. Last year, he moved to Los Angeles and has played the famous House of Blues three times. He's since signed with a music publisher and has written songs for commercials and several artists, including Nickelodeon star Cody Longo.
WHAT'S NEXT Scott wants to continue writing songs for other artists and himself, he says. "In a few years, I want to drive down the LIE and hear my song come on the radio."
NICOLETTE PIERINI, 10, of Wheatley Heights(Credit: Yolanda Perez)
GIG She plays Mia, one of the orphans, in the upcoming movie "Annie".
HER STORY Nicolette was 7 when she began taking classes in improv, singing and dancing. Since then, she's appeared in movies ("Tio Papi" with Kelly McGillis and "The Magic of Belle Isle" with Morgan Freeman) and on TV ("Law & Order: SVU"). "Annie," however, is her most prestigious project yet, one that took her through five rounds of auditions. "I think I got the part because I'm very tiny, and I look like a 5-year-old. I also knew how to learn the dances quickly," she says. Nicolette also loved working with stars Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, whom she says "was like our mother -- whenever we needed help, she would be there." She and the "Annie" cast will be in the Macy's parade.
WHAT'S NEXT Nicolette says she is "constantly auditioning," and has her sights on more movies and Broadway.
JUSTIN FLAGG, 31, originally from Bellport(Credit: Xanthe Elbrick)
GIG He's an actor and a folk singer.
HIS STORY When Flagg was 5, he asked his mom for a pair of patent leather shoes. "My mother told me if I wanted them, I had to take tap dancing lessons," he says. So he studied tap at Stage Door in Patchogue, which led to a role as a newsboy in "Gypsy" at Gateway Playhouse. Flagg soon became Gateway's go-to actor whenever a role called for a boy. He spent his senior year of high school studying at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, then attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Since then, he's acted on the London and New York stages and appeared in the film "Death-Defying Acts" with Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
WHAT'S NEXT In March, he'll star as Pete Seeger in "Lonesome Traveler," an Off-Broadway musical about the history of American folk music.
ERIC WILZIG, 22, of Woodmere(Credit: Beryl Ostroff)
GIG He's a magician and illusionist.
HIS STORY When he was 5, Wilzig got a magic kit and was entranced. He attended Tannen's Magic Camp in Manhattan when he was 12 and learned tricks of the trade from David Copperfield and Criss Angel. In his teens, Wilzig began mounting his own show and has since performed at Times Square Arts Center, Resorts Hotel-Casino in Atlantic City, and he just wrapped a summer tour on the East Coast college circuit. His signature trick -- being handcuffed and escaping from a locked steel box -- was inspired by his idol, Harry Houdini. He also has a degree in finance and marketing from Rutgers University. "You can have the greatest show in the world, but it's nothing if you can't promote it," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT Wilzig is lining up holiday- show gigs and ultimately wants his own show in Las Vegas.
RAFFAELA CAPP 22, originally from Westbury(Credit: Robert Kazandjian)
GIG She's an actress and screenwriter.
HER STORY Capp, who also lived in Nesconset and Sayville, started acting when she was 5 and played a princess in a local production of "The King and I." She also played Eponine in "Les Misérables" at Broadhollow and has appeared in commercials and music videos. She studied drama and musical theater at Sarah Lawrence College and at CAP 21's conservatory in Manhattan, and was understudy for Ado Annie in "Oklahoma!" at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. She moved to Los Angeles two years ago, hoping to work in films. In the Christmas release "The Bandit Hound," about a bank-robbing dog, Capp plays a waitress.
WHAT'S NEXT Capp wrote the screenplay for a romantic comedy called "Taking a Chance on Love," and she and her mom are producing the play "Dog See God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead" in Los Angeles. Correction: An earlier version of this story said she played Ado Annie and had the wrong title of the play she's producing.
MIKELPARIS, Douglaston(Credit: Mikelparis.com)
GIG A keyboardist touring with rockers O.A.R.
HIS STORY MikelParis, whose parents live in Floral Park, started sitting and experimenting at the piano when he was 4, and has been hooked ever since. In seventh grade, he joined his school's jazz band as a keyboardist and realized he wanted a career in music. After studying jazz piano, music composition and theater at The Hartt School, the University of Hartford's music conservatory, MikelParis was Off-Broadway bound, landing in "Stomp" for several years. "By 2005, I was really starting to get the itch to play again, plus my body was in physical need of a rest," MikelParis says. That summer he played with The Dan Band, and, through the tour manager, heard that O.A.R. needed a full-time keyboardist. He also sings backup vocals.
WHAT'S NEXT MikelParis is putting together a pitch reel for a web series called TuneTrek, a travel and music show.
SAM TESCH, 15, Rosyln(Credit: Elizabeth Liberatore)
GIG He sings standards and opera.
HIS STORY As a child, Sam grew up listening to the music of the Rat Pack, and fell in love with it. He began vocal training at 8 and by age 10 began performing at charity events, including one sponsored by Freeport radio station WGBB. He also has entered numerous local talent competitions, including Nassau County Reach for the Stars and Huntington's Got Talent, where he was a finalist. Though Sam aspires to become the next Michael Bublé, he wouldn't rule out an operatic career. "When I started with high classical opera training, I rebelled a little because it's very difficult and could be tedious," he says. "I have more patience now that I'm older."
WHAT'S NEXT Sam will sing "God Bless America" at Madison Square Garden at the New York Liberty game on Aug. 8 and "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Camden Yards in Baltimore on Sept. 12.
DAN WOLPOW, 28, originally from Dix Hills(Credit: Matt Murphy)
GIG He's a playwright and lyricist.
HIS STORY Wolpow, who now lives in Brooklyn, was a psychology major at Cornell University, but his mind was really set on theater. While there, he took a playwriting class and even had his original one-act musical performed onstage at Cornell. After college, he enrolled in the BMI workshop, which he said was "two years of intense musical writing training." His training paid off last month with the premiere of "Cloned!," a sci-fi musical he collaborated on with Adam Spiegel that can best be called a mashup of "Back to the Future" and "The Comedy of Errors." Wolpow wrote the book and lyrics for the show, which had an extended run at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
WHAT'S NEXT There's talk of a regional production of "Cloned!" and he has been commissioned to write "The Whole Megillah," a children's musical for Purim.
BETTINA SKYE, 53, originally from Merrick
GIG An actress who has appeared onstage, on TV and in indie films.
HER STORY Skye's introduction to theater began when she was 10 and studied at Five Towns Theater Workshop in Lynbrook. She won a scholarship to SUNY Albany in theater, and, after graduating, studied at the Actors Studio in Manhattan. Since then, she's worked everywhere from Ellis Island, as a Polish immigrant in a theatrical production, to Madison Square Garden, where she appeared in "A Christmas Carol" (F. Murray Abraham was Scrooge). She's also been in the film "Escape From King's Park" and the daytime soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."
WHAT'S NEXT Skye appears in the upcoming films "Girl Clown" as a "crazy clown agent" and "The Inherited" with Annabella Sciorra, and has roles in October on "Cake Boss" and Cartoon Network's "The Eric Andre Show."
ANDREW KOSS, Floral Park(Credit: Kristin Hoebermann)
GIG He's an actor.
HIS STORY While studying law at St. John's University, Koss began taking acting classes in Manhattan. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles where he was cast as an underworld heavy in the HBO film "True Friends." He eventually returned to New York, where he appeared in several short films that played the festival circuit. Koss is also a playwright whose one-act drama "Officers of War," in which he also starred, played at Lincoln Center. His latest project is "Zizi and Honeyboy," a short film he wrote and appears in with Doris Roberts. The "Tuesdays With Morrie"-ish story of an Italian aunt and her nephew is currently shooting in Glen Cove.
WHAT'S NEXT He's hoping to get financing to make a full-length version of "Zizi and Honeyboy." "I would love to take this to Cannes, Sundance, and hit all the big festivals," he says.
AMY POWERS, 53, originally from Seaford(Credit: Demann Crawford)
GIG A songwriter and a co-producer of Off-Broadway's "Heathers."
HER STORY Powers attended Harvard Law School, where she spent much class time writing song parodies. She did eventually join a law firm, which literally made her sick. "I got chronic fatigue syndrome, and while recovering, I wrote my first song at the suggestion of my then-boyfriend to amuse myself," says Powers, who now lives in Los Angeles. The song was her entry into a musical theater writing workshop run by BMI, the music rights organization. That led to a job with Andrew Lloyd Webber to develop lyrics for "Sunset Boulevard." She's since written songs for other shows as well as Mattel's Barbie movies, and with "Heathers" can now add producer to her credits.
WHAT'S NEXT She wrote the lyrics for the musical "Doctor Zhivago," which she hopes will open in London's West End later this year.
ROB HINDERLITER, 28, Westhampton Beach(Credit: Dirty Sugar Photography)
GIG He's an actor and co-producer of several Broadway shows.
HIS STORY Hinderliter says that when he was 6 he wanted to act, but didn't discover theater until attending Westhampton Beach High School. He studied musical theater at Pace University, and after graduation landed roles Off-Broadway in "Pinkalicious" and "Fantasy Football: The Musical." Last year, he and fellow Pace alum Dominick LaRuffa formed R&D Theatricals, which coproduced the Tony-winning "All the Way." Hinderliter says he's following the advice given to him by his idol, Brian Stokes Mitchell. "He said, the smartest thing you can ever do is to be creating your own concepts and producing and still be an actor if you want to be an actor," Hinderliter says.
WHAT'S NEXT Hinderliter stars in the psychological movie drama "3 A.M.," and he and LaRuffa will co-produce the fall Broadway revival of "You Can't Take It With You."
MELISSA GIATTINO, originally from Bellport(Credit: John W. Engement Theater)
GIG A dancer-choreographer who stars in "Two on Tap".
HER STORY Dancing was in Giattino's blood -- her parents opened a dance school in Bellport when she was 2, "so I was crawling around the studio," Giattino says. She made her stage debut as one of the orphans in "Annie" at Gateway Playhouse and performed at the theater every summer as a child. At 17, she joined the touring company of "A Chorus Line," which led to two years with the Rockettes and a spot in the 2001 Broadway revival of "42nd Street." "I was a swing and an understudy, so I played everyone in the show at least once," she says. More recently, she choreographed "42nd Street" at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, where she appeared in "Two on Tap" earlier this year.
WHAT'S NEXT Come July, she'll begin rehearsals for a holiday edition of "Two on Tap."
GIANNI PACI, 21, Oyster Bay(Credit: Jen Painter)
GIG A singer-songwriter who just released his debut single.
HIS STORY Paci knew he wanted to be a musician the moment he began playing the guitar at age 11. As both a member of various bands and as a solo artist, Paci's opened for Ace Frehley of Kiss, Steven Adler of Guns n' Roses, Owl City and others. In January he graduated with a B.A. in musicology from New York University and in February released his first single, "Goodbye." Teen mag Tiger Beat also dubbed Paci "the cutest boy you're not crushing on yet" in a feature on his former band, Pine Hollows. "Five years from now, I see myself having a platinum album and doing world tours," he says. "It feels like 26 years old is when artists that I love had their big album or a classic album released."
WHAT'S NEXT Paci will perform at Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington on June 13.
EMERY KELLY (center), 16, Holbrook(Credit: Hot Rock Media)
GIG He's in the boy band Forever in Your Mind.
HIS STORY Kelly was 5 when he began performing at CM Performing Arts Center, Gateway Playhouse and other L.I. venues. Last spring, he tackled a new stage -- auditioning for Fox's "The X Factor." After the judges cut him early on, Kelly was invited back and paired with eliminated contestants Ricky Garcia and Jon Klaasen to form Forever in Your Mind. They didn't make the finals, but the group has done well with a gig at Digifest L.A. and the single "Sweet Little Something."
WHAT'S NEXT Forever in Your Mind has two local gigs this week: Digifest NYC at Citi Field on Saturday and Revolution in Amityville on Sunday. "I haven't been home in five months, so I really want to see my family and friends," says Kelly. The group's EP is also due to come out later this year.
MEGAN MINUTILLO, 28, St. James(Credit: Tiffany Farley)
GIG She's a playwright and a director.
HER STORY After graduating from New York University, Minutillo planned on teaching theater. Instead she started writing about her experiences looking for a job and shared those stories with family and friends. "My mom was the first person who said, 'You can make this a play.' She was laughing so hard when I was recounting the things that had happened," Minutillo says. Since then her plays have been presented at Manhattan Repertory Theatre and she also has directed them. Directing has since become her passion -- "I like creating the pictures everybody sees" -- and she's helmed productions at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
WHAT'S NEXT She's directing the May 2 cabaret show "Duets," featuring pairings of Broadway pros and theater hopefuls, at 54 Below in Manhattan, and a staged reading of "Crimes of the Heart," at Guild Hall on May 6.
CHRIS ROACH, 45, Ronkonkoma(Credit: NONE)
GIG He's a stand-up comic and actor.
HIS STORY Roach was a taking a management course 12 years ago when he realized he had to overcome his fear of public speaking. Doing open-mic nights not only solved the problem, but led to a new career as a stand-up, opening for comics including Bobby Collins. He next studied acting for four years and landed roles on stage ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") and TV ("One Life to Live" and "The Michael J. Fox Show"). His latest project is "Umbrellas Kill," a short film he wrote and stars in that will be shown at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson tomorrow night at 8. "It's a mockumentary about one man's journey to ban oversized umbrellas on the streets of New York," he says.
WHAT'S NEXT He's in Barry Levinson's movie "The Humbling" with Al Pacino, and Steven Soderbergh's upcoming HBO miniseries "The Knick."
KAYLA STOCKERT, 16, Sayville(Credit: startraksphoto.com / Michael Simon)
GIG This singer has a Roslyn concert Wednesday night.
HER STORY Stockert loves the "oldies" and has performed at venues from Queens College to the Apollo Theater. Her repertoire includes songs by Connie Francis, who gave Stockert a language lesson. "A friend of mine knew her. I told her how much I liked her song 'Mama,' so she helped me with the Italian in that song," says Stockert. Kayla appeared on Fox's "The X Factor" last fall, and, though Simon Cowell and his fellow judges didn't advance her, they were encouraging. "They all said I'm going to be a star someday . . . 'and to keep doing what you're doing,' " Stockert says. She's following their advice and is planning her second CD. Stockert, who also writes her own songs, will perform at Roslyn High School tonight at 7 with the band Iridesense.
WHAT'S NEXT She's in the movie "The Grief of Others," featuring Rachel Dratch.
CRISTINA FAICCO, 25, Commack(Credit: Robert Mannis)
GIG She played young Cosette and young Eponine in Broadway's original "Les Misérables."
HER STORY Faicco was 4 when she made her debut as a pirate in "Peter Pan" at Star Playhouse in Commack. At 10, she appeared in a musical at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, where she was spotted by a casting director for "Les Miz." She sang "Castle on a Cloud" twice at her audition. "The second time, I had kind of an out-of-body experience, like I was no longer in the audition room," she says. Faicco was with the show for seven months. Since graduating from Ithaca College, she has appeared in musicals for Theatre Three, Plaza Productions and the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
WHAT'S NEXT Faicco plays Patsy in "Bingo the Winning Musical," which opens April 12 at Theatre Three. She also has her own voice studio.
CARLY TAMER, 12, East Northport(Credit: Yolanda Perez)
GIG She's appeared on stage, screen and TV.
HER STORY At age 6, Carly landed a role on the Nickelodeon children's show "Team Umizoomi." After that, she appeared on "Sesame Street" and "30 Rock," with fellow Long Islander Alec Baldwin, whom Carly said was "really nice." Carly, who is trained in jazz, tap and ballet, showed off her dancing talents during the national tours of "Billy Elliot" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." "I absolutely loved being on tour. Different sites, different places, different food," she says. Her most challenging role so far has been Gloria in the thriller "Wait Until Dark" at Engeman last year.
WHAT'S NEXT Carly was part of a recent reading of "First Daughter Suite," a new musical starring Carolee Carmello that may be Broadway bound. She hopes to eventually have a career like Sutton Foster's.