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(Original publication: April 10, 2003)

When Jeffrey Fuerst began writing his original children's play, "The Substitute Tooth Fairy," an unseemly vision suddenly popped into his head. "I kept getting this image of a big fat guy with a pockmarked face, who had more hair on his knuckles than on his head," says Fuerst, who lives in Hastings-on-Hudson. "It was the total opposite of what you'd consider the Walt Disney tooth fairy."

Yet, somehow, it all made sense and soon developed into a full-fledged story featuring a skeptical 8-year-old named Pearl and a tooth fairy who comes down with the flu.

"What I've really written is a play with a voice and a vision, but it isn't a large-cast musical," says Fuerst. "I call it a cartoon for the stage. There's a lot of slapstick and cartoony aspects to keep the kids' attention, but there's also a lot of zingers and zest and wit to appeal to the adults in the audience."

For Melinda O'Brien, co-founder of M&M Productions which will offer 12 free library performances of "The Substitute Tooth Fairy" starting this weekend in Yonkers the show has undeniable appeal, especially for first-time theatergoers.

"It's a real play for kids," she says. "It's something to introduce them to the theater. They can see the conventions of theater in a simplified way."

The seven-member cast includes Haley Jane Rose of Buchanan as young Pearl; WHUD radio host Kacey Morabito of Cold Spring, as Pearl's mother; Giom Grech of Cold Spring, as Pearl's father; R.J. and Christine D'Amato of Yonkers, as gangsters; Carol Egan of Peekskill, as the ailing tooth fairy; and Dan Anderson of Garrison, who stars as the pink-tutu-wearing substitute tooth fairy.

Fuerst, who was previously a writer and editor at the now-defunct Zillions magazine, published by Consumer Reports and who recently authored "The Kids' Baseball Workout" hopes that children will be captivated by the show and walk away eager to see more theatrical productions. "My goal," he says, "is to have kids leave the audience saying, 'This live theater is cool!' "

And, of course, still believing in the magic of the tooth fairy.


Help celebrate Washington Irving's 220th Birthday 19th-century style with two days of festivities at Sunnyside. Activities include shadow-puppet shows (11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 and 4:30), performances by storyteller-musician Jim Keyes (12:15 and 2 p.m.), crafts for kids (birthday cards and crowns), and lawn games for all. A costumed Washington Irving will accept children's handmade birthday cards (and join guests in eating birthday cake) at 1 p.m. each day. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $9 adults, $8 seniors, $5 children 3-17; free admission for kids under 5. West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9, Tarrytown. 914-631-8200. ...The fifth annual African-American Children's Book Festival, set to run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, will feature appearances by children's book authors and celebrities, including singer Roberta Flack and filmmaker Spike Lee. Flack is scheduled for an 11 a.m. appearance and will read two books (accompanied by soprano Alicia Hall); Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, will read from their new book, "Please, Baby, Please," at around noon. Other highlights include a 1 p.m. reading by author Gavin Curtis ("The Bat Boy and His Violin") and a 3 p.m. tap-dance performance by George "Mo Leggs" Patterson III of "Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk." Admission is free; 50 percent of the proceeds from book sales will go to the Police Athletic League of New York City. Presented by Verizon Reads and Kids Cultural Books. Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan. 203-359-6925. ... The WHUD Kids Fair comes back to White Plains from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with its usual mix of entertainment, animal exhibitions, safety demonstrations and children's rides. Admission is $3 for kids, $7 for adults; activities are free. Proceeds go toward the HOPE for Youth Foundation and children's charities in the Hudson Valley. Westchester County Center, intersection of the Bronx River Parkway, Tarrytown Road and Central Avenue. 914-995-4050. ... Musician Ken Butler will entertain kids by performing on instruments made from toothbrushes, brooms and snow shovels. 2 p.m. Saturday. Free. Presented by the Arts Alliance of Haverstraw. Haverstraw Middle School, 16 Grand St. 845-786-0253. ... Take Part in Art, the Neuberger Museum of Art's annual family festival, will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event will include musical performances, children's art workshops led by teaching artist Andrea Guttman and selections from the show "Really Rosie," presented by actors from the Newman Theatre in Pleasantville. Admission is $5; free for kids 2 and under. On the campus of Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Road. 914-251-6112. ... Thinking about adding an iguana to the household? Then you may want to check out the New York Metro Reptile Show, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Westchester County Center. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children (7-12). 914-995-4050. ... Kids who love trucks will want to head straight to the parking lot at the Chappaqua Public Library (from 10 a.m. to noon April 15) for Big Truck Day. They'll be invited to climb aboard fire engines, dump trucks and other popular vehicles. Free. 195 S. Greeley Ave. 914-238-4779. ... The Rye Historical Society will offer two mornings of "mini camp," for kids ages 6 to 11, from 10 a.m. to noon April 15 and 16. Activities include Colonial games, cooking and crafts. $9 per child each day. At the Square House Museum, 1 Purchase St. Reserve a spot at 914-967-7588.

Copyright 2003 The Journal News, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper serving Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties in New York.
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