For Robert Anthony Jones, landing the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the inaugural production of Babylon’s new Argyle Theatre is a full-circle moment. Jones played the high-spirited small-time gambler in the 1950 hit musical “Guys and Dolls” in his senior year production at Islip High School, a few towns away.
“Now I’ve come back to play the role professionally,” says Jones, 45, who recently Embedded Content performed opposite Kelsey Grammer and Matthew Morrison in “Finding Neverland” on Broadway. The actor also recalls his community theater debut in the Suffolk County village. “It’s such a beautiful homecoming to be in the same town where I started all those years ago.” Embedded content
Making it possible for Jones and other actors, as well as directors and stage crew, to perform and work locally are father and son visionaries Mark and Dylan Perlman, Seaford residents who purchased the historic movie house in 2017. Having opened its doors this month after a $3 million renovation, the 500-seat Argyle Theatre is fully outfitted, boasting an orchestra pit, balcony, dressing rooms and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems.
The Perlmans’ desire to replicate the Broadway experience on Long Island is surely a boon both for the area’s cultural scene and for professional and community artists. “We had open calls in Manhattan and Babylon for ‘Guys and Dolls,’ with over 70 people auditioning locally and about 600 in the city for a cast of 18,” Dylan Perlman says.
He clearly understands the value of providing more opportunity for showcasing homegrown talent. A professional actor since the age of 12, Perlman appeared in the national Broadwaytour of “On Golden Pond,” television series such as “The Good Wife” and “Unforgettable,” and commercial and radio spots. Studying economics at Hofstra University ignited Dylan’s desire to also become involved on the business end of the theater world, he says. Partnering with his father, a psychologist, to develop the Argyle has allowed him to realize his aspirations of working to promote the performing arts while continuing to pursue his own acting ambitions.
Besides offering an audience for Broadway performers such as Jones when between shows or tours, the Argyle is also a springboard for newer artists. Stephen Valenti, a Plainview resident who has performed in regional theater productions in the past decade, recently retired as a professor at New York University and downsized his accounting practice to pursue acting full time. “Performers starting their careers will no doubt learn a lot from the more seasoned professionals,” says Valenti, who plays Arvide Abernathy, the grandfather of “Guys and Dolls” lead evangelist missionary Sarah Brown.
Excited to join the passionate new company, assistant stage manager and Port Jefferson native Lauren Moriah Stern agrees: “We have an incredible theater community on Long Island. This is another wonderful opportunity for theater artists to work and a great steppingstone for those who want to transition into professional theater.”
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday through June 17, The Argyle Theatre, 34 W. Main St., Babylon
INFO $74 ($79 Saturday evenings); 844-631-5483, argyletheatre.com