From the South Shore to the East End, Long Island's got talent. Here, we put the spotlight on locals who are making names for themselves in the entertainment world.
ASHLEY D. KELLEY, New Hyde Park
Kelley plays Storyteller 1 in the country-music-flavored Broadway hit "Shucked." Her desire to perform came about in high school after discovering the musical "Ragtime." "As soon as I heard the opening number. I thought, I want to do this," she said. Since graduating from Temple University in Philadelphia, she has appeared in regional productions of "Nunsense," "Chicago" and "Hairspray," and earned a best actress nomination at the 2018 Lucille Lortel Awards for the Western musical "Bella: An American Tall Tale." Still, nothing compares to being on Broadway. "Every night I go on the stage I still kind of pinch myself and go, wow, I’m here," she said. In “Shucked,” she and Storyteller 2 get to show off their improv skills as they open the show. "We come out and we get hit with a wall of energy from every single person in the theater," she said. Kelley has also appeared on the Netflix series "Luke Cage" and "Insatiable," and she hopes to do more TV work and eventually put out an album.
ESMERALDA CABRERA, East Quogue
Cabrera, who moved here from Los Angeles last year, was a junior when she realized performing was in her blood. That became especially apparent after her first role as Lilith in the Dungeons and Dragons-inspired play "She Kills Monsters." Since then, she has appeared in "Chemical Imbalance" at Southampton Cultural Center, "The Producers" at Northeast Stage in Greenport and her favorite, "The Portuguese Kid," which was a challenge given her shy nature. "Patty in 'The Portuguese Kid' was a character that could be a little fierce, a little fiery, and a lot of people told me that they liked my performance and how I grounded her," she said. Cabrera will play a mother for the first time in "The Chalk Garden" at Southampton Cultural Center in October. She also is contemplating a move to either New York City or back to L.A. to pursue film work.
GINA NAOMI BAEZ, Rockville Centre
Baez says she was 4 when her mom introduced her to “The Sound of Music,” but she never imagined she’d get the chance to play Maria in "The Sound of Music," which runs through July 2 at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. “You think Julie Andrews or Mary Martin,” she says, adding “it’s so important to be a model of representation of Latina women and people of color who want to play these iconic roles. I’m so proud and so honored to be able to do it.” Her other roles have included Fantine in “Les Miserables” at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at The Argyle Theatre in Babylon and Celia in “Rattlesnake Kate” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Baez will take part in the Transport Group's June 26 benefit performance of "Nine: In Concert" at the Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center. After that, she'll be in season 3 of Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” which returns Aug. 8.
MICHAEL DEANER, Melville
Michael plays Young Leo in “Leopoldstadt,” which won the best play Tony Award, on Broadway through July 2. The acting bug hit Michael hard when he made his stage debut at 4 in the Northport Community Theater’s production of “The Music Man.” “There was a moment in the finale where I had to crash the cymbals, and whenever I marched, my knees were trembling because I was so excited,” he said. Michael has played a number of roles in local productions including Young Calogero in “A Bronx Tale” in March 2022 at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Still, nothing can compare to the thrill of being on Broadway. “It’s very cool,” he said. “Being on stage in general is amazing, and there are a lot of kids in my show, so I’ve made a ton of new friends.” In addition to singing and dancing, Michael plays the trumpet and the piano. He will next take part in the workshop of a new musical.
JAKE GOZ, East Northport
Goz, who now lives in Manhattan, stars as Danny Zuko in "Grease" at The Argyle Theatre in Babylon through Aug. 27. He comes from a show-biz family — his parents and grandparents were all performers. In middle school, a teacher who knew about Goz's family asked him to join the choir and by eighth grade he did his first show, "The Music Man." Goz graduated with a master's degree in voice from the Boston Conservatory intending to be an opera singer, but one of his teachers suggested he go to New York City and try musical theater. "And then COVID happened, so there was a bit of a delay but I got here," Goz said. Though he did an opera last year, Goz said his "feet are firmly planted on this side of the fence," referring to musical theater. Playing Danny in "Grease" has been a chance to show off his comic timing as well as his vocal abilities. "We have this idea that Danny’s a greaserr and he’s cool," Goz said. "He’s not cool. He’s trying to be cool, but Dannyy’s a goofball." Goz said he's a free agent after "Grease" wraps, but he's always auditioning for the next thing.
FRANKLIN MASTRANGELO, Orient
Mastrangelo's skills as a singer, keyboardist and saxophonist helped him win the East End Arts' Linda Rie Cohen Rising Star Award. He plans to use to the $10,000 award toward his education at SUNY Oneonta, where he's majoring in music industry. When not studying, he can be found performing jazz, pop and R&B at venues including The Suffolk in Riverhead, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, and The Halyard and Claudio's in Greenport. At school, he gets to indulge his wild side as part of a heavy metal band. He credits his bass-player dad, Phil, for encouraging his love of music. "Every time I saw him playing, it was so inspiring. I knew I wanted to be on that level," he says. Mastrangelo will be playing gigs around Greenport this summer and he says he's hoping to put together a Motown cover band with his father.
AVA MICHELE HYL, Coram
Ava plays Young Rosa and Bella in the Broadway hit "Leopoldstadt," which runs through July 2. She was Inspired to take up acting after seeing the joy her older sister had being a performer. Ava began acting when she was 6 and has since appeared in a number of TV commercials and short films. Though she never thought of herself as "a theater kid," Ava has savored every moment of her time on Broadway. "It's very cool being onstage because while you’re acting you can see people out in the audience and feel their reactions to it," she said. Ava and her mom live in Manhattan most of the week, but head back home after each Sunday's matinee and return to the city on Tuesday. Ava also has a featured role in the upcoming movie "Ramona at Midlife" starring Josh Radnor and Rosemarie DeWitt. "I'm definitely not done with my career as an actress," she said.
JAMIE BAIO, Sayville
For Baio, who recently became a swing performer in Off-Broadway's "The Office: A Musical Parody," getting into musical theater was almost a certainty given that his mom is a choreographer. In 2017, he received the Hampton Theatre Company's Peter Marbury Scholarship award to high school seniors for excellence in theater arts. Since graduating from Wagner College on Staten Island last year, Baio has appeared in several regional shows, including Hampton Theatre's April production "The Lifespan of a Fact" in Quogue. "It was only an 80-minute show, but when you’re talking for 70 minutes out of those 80, and 50 of them are consecutive, it can be really taxing on your voice," he says. Even more challenging is "The Office," where he has to be ready to go on at a moment's notice for anyone in the cast. "I was told they have at least one swing go on per weekend," he said. Baio said his ultimate goal is to work consistently on Broadway.
TRAMAR PETTAWAY, Southampton
Pettaway is a producer of the feature-length film “Footprints of an Angel,” which begins streaming on Vimeo June 24. The project is very personal for Pettaway, who's also a performer (he played the Scarecrow Off-Broadway in "The Wiz" and the Tin Man on tour). The movie is based on a play he wrote to honor his mother, Shonda Pettaway, who died in 2013. "It's about her dealing with cancer, and her son dealing with his mom while also trying to finish school and get his acting career started," Pettaway said. Director Anthony Mealing wrote the screenplay, but Pettaway was involved in casting and knew he wanted Bettina Pennon, Patchogue-raised singer Chrisette Michele, vocalist Meli'sa Morgan and actress Julia Garrison to play major roles. When a 30-minute version of the film was shown in August 2021, Pettaway said "it was the greatest feeling in the world. Watching the audience response was amazing. I felt like we did our job." Pettaway plans to get "Footprints" on the film festival circuit. "I want to reach the masses with the film," he said.
EMILY ROSE DEMARTINO, Shirley
DeMartino plays Essie, one of the factory girls, and also understudies for the role of Mary Phagan in "Parade" on Broadway through Aug. 6. She auditioned for last summer's City Center production of "Parade" and got a callback but didn't get cast. Shortly after she was cast this winter in the role of Bebe in "A Chorus Line" at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, the "Parade" producers asked DeMartino to play Essie in the Broadway company. "I was completely surprised. I didn't even know it was transferring to Broadway," she said. "Parade," a musical dramatization of the 1913 murder of 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan, stars Ben Platt as her accused killer. Working with Platt has been a dream come true for DeMartino. "It can be nerve wracking when you’re working with someone you’ve looked up to your entire life, but he’s so genuine." After "Parade" wraps, DeMartino said she might continue her musical theater education or possibly book another show.
NOAH MARCUS, Dix Hills
Marcus' ship really came in when he was hired by Disney for their nautical musical shows in June, just one month after graduating from Indiana University Bloomington. He and his fellow actors spent a month in Toronto rehearsing three shows — "Twice Charmed," a spin on "Cinderella"; the revue "Disney Dreams"; and "Tangled the Musical," in which he played Maximus the horse. "They're hourlong shows, but Disney bills them as Broadway-caliber productions, and they truly are," he said. Playing Maximus also was an education in puppetry. "It was one of the coolest puppets I’ve ever seen," he said. "I wore the back and controlled the head, the eyes and the ears." He even got to hoof it up a bit. Marcus is hoping to be called back by Disney, but his ultimate goals are to be on Broadway and break into film and TV.
JOHN HANNIGAN, Baldwin
Though he has performed in shows since the fifth grade, Hannigan only turned professional in the past year after leaving a career in the finance world. "One thing that came out of the pandemic for me was an evolved perspective and a certain amount of courage that I hadn’t had before," he said. Hannigan, who now lives in Brooklyn, tried out for two regional productions last summer — "Jersey Boys" in Highlands, North Carolina, and "Forever Plaid," an homage to the guy groups of the 1950s, in Chatham, New York. He landed both. "That was a defining moment for me," he said. Getting the chance to play Smudge for a second time in Plaza Broadway Long Island's "Forever Plaid," which runs from March 18 through April 2 in Elmont, allows him to bring something new to the role, he said. Hannigan will return to North Carolina's Mountain Theater Company this summer for an encore of "Jersey Boys."
DOUGLAS GOODHART, Stony Brook
Gateway Playhouse in Bellport is like a second home for Goodhart, who took classes there when he was 12 and appeared in the theater’s productions of “Urinetown” and “Show Boat” the following year. “I fell in love for the first time right here on the Gateway grounds, and I also got my heart broken here,” he says. After graduating from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Goodhart has never stopped working with roles Off-Broadway in “That Bachelorette Show” in “My Very Own British Invasion” at Paper Mill Playhouse, as well as HBO’s “The Time Traveler's Wife” and a slew of TV commercials. Goodhart is playing Robbie Hart through Feb. 26 in "The Wedding Singer" at Gateway, a role he clearly identifies with. The essence of the character, he says, is all about “losing yourself during a breakup and having to claw back and find yourself.” He also performs with his sketch comedy group Uncle Function. Goodhart also has done a slew of television commercials, including his most recent one for U.S. Bank, in which he plays a man who loves to crochet.
AMBER CORRIGAN, Patchogue
Corrigan began appearing in musicals in community theater when she was 4 and then started studying dance when she was 12. Though proficient in tap, ballet is her first love. The culmination of that love affair came in December when she danced with the Seiskaya Ballet as both Snow Queen and Doll in “The Nutcracker“ at Staller Center for the Arts in Stony Brook, and also got the chance to perform a solo. “Dance is really the hidden language of the soul,” she says. “When I dance, I forget about everything else and just become one with the music and it’s really incredible.” Right now, she's focused on continuing her training with both The Institute for American Musical Theatre and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Ultimately, she hopes to tour internationally with a major ballet company (“Giselle” is her dream role) or star in a Broadway musical.
CHRIS WADOLOWSKI, Lindenhurst
Though Wadolowski started out as a mechanical engineering major at Stony Brook University, his involvement writing scripts and performing with The Actors Conservancy, a theater troupe on campus, changed his plans. He then studied creative writing and took vocal training with an opera singer. While performing in a local production of the musical “Heathers,” a co-star suggested he audition for Argyle’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Out of nearly 400 applicants, Wadolowski was hired for the ensemble and as a swing performer. That was followed by a featured role as Curtis in Argyle’s “The Happy Elf.” He’ll next appear in William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at South Shore Theatre Experience in Lindenhurst Feb. 24-March 4. He’s also working on a script that he’s hoping will be produced. “It's a musical themed after a popular Japanese shonen series called ‘JoJo's Bizarre Adventure,’ ” he says. “A big theme of the show is that the characters and supernatural abilities reference past popular musicians and bands.”
JACKSON PARKER GILL, West Babylon
Jackson started performing when he was 2 and has appeared in several children's shows on Long Island including "The Little Mermaid" (as Scuttle the seagull) and "Moana" (as Hei Hei the rooster). He recently played Randy, his largest role to date, in "A Christmas Story" at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. The role was also his favorite, especially when he got to sing "Up on Santa's Lap," which allowed him to cry, scream and whisk down an enormous slide. Even more delectable was the dinner scene when he gets to put his face into a plate of mashed potatoes. Jackson is always ready to audition for his next show, whatever that may be. One thing he is certain about: "When I get older, I want to be an actor on Broadway."
MELISSA GOLDBERG, Port Jefferson
Since graduating from Oklahoma City University in 2020, Goldberg has not been out of work. Theaters were still closed at first, so she took a retail job at Cartier's in Manhattan, but once those stage lights were turned back on, she's been a frequent presence at The Argyle Theatre in Babylon. She played Glinda in "The Wizard of Oz" and was in "Harry Connick Jr.'s The Happy Elf" for its children's theater. Last fall, she was a swing — and got to appear 25 times — in the main stage production of "Elf," and returned in the spring for "Mamma Mia!." Since then, she's done two shows at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida — "Milk & Honey" and the current "Cinderella," as part of the ensemble (and as understudy for the Fairy Godmother). Goldberg is anxious to return to Long Island theater and do more regional shows. And eventually, she adds, "maybe there's a Broadway debut in there."
ALY KANTOR, Massapequa Park
Kantor says she has been writing plays for a long time but "it was the sort of thing I did alone in my room." She had written plays for children's theater, but got started focusing on more adult projects once the pandemic hit. She joined a group called the Playwrights' Center and took part in Zoom sessions as often as eight hours a week to hone her craft. Her play "Fish Tank" has been published and been performed by universities. In December, EastLine Theatre premiered her play "These Gilded Souls," in which she put her spin on "The Great Gatsby," "Not only is Nick Carraway a queer protagonist … but I’ve also adjusted the character of Jordan Baker to make her more of a queer mentor for Nick," Kantor says. She's now putting the finishing touches on "Occupied," an L.I.-set comedy about two friends who grow from children into caregivers.