Theater

Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

‘I WILL HONOR CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART’ 

Above, the 2016 cast of “A Christmas Carol” at Theatre Three gathers for a group photo before opening night last Saturday. The Port Jefferson theater celebrates its 33rd annual production of the immortal classic this holiday season.

Written by Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol” was the most successful book of the 1843 holiday season, selling six thousand copies by Christmas. Eight stage adaptations were in production within two months of the book’s publication.

Today, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to find the true meaning of Christmas through visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future is as popular as it was over 150 years ago. Charles Dickens, through the voice of Scrooge, continues to urge us to honor Christmas in our hearts and try to keep it all the year. 

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Scrooge (Jeffrey Sanzel) encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come for the first time. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Michael Tessler

Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge & Jessica Contino as Ghost of Christmas Past. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions., Inc.
Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge & Jessica Contino as Ghost of Christmas Past. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions., Inc.

Though the holidays are usually filled with joy, they’re certainly not without their own special breed of stress, which seems to melt away as Theatre Three gifts our community with a profound and magical experience that allows us to escape into the marvelous imaginative world of the late, great Charles Dickens. Theatre Three provides more than just a distraction — it provides unparalleled delights that will stir up the best childlike emotions in each of us.

Jeffrey Sanzel, the show’s director, faces the unique challenge of annually reimagining “A Christmas Carol.” He seamlessly completes this task with his usual grace and confidence. For over 30 years the show has been a must-see tradition for Long Island families and visitors. Sanzel’s vision shines brighter than ever as he masterfully directs his cast. While the story remains the same, its characters are all the more captivating because of the great direction he provides.

What’s most impressive is that not only does Sanzel direct, but he also stars in the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge. For those unfamiliar with the classic Dickens novel, Scrooge is a man whose greed supersedes his humanity. One night he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (Steven Uihlein) who informs him that hell awaits him if he doesn’t change his ways. This propels him on an unlikely journey of self-reflection and change.

Sanzel plays not only an older Scrooge, but a younger more lively version of himself. His ability to change physicality and characters instantly is one of his most impressive qualities, and there are plenty!

Douglas J. Quattrock as Bob Cratchit & Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge in a scene from 'A Christmas Carol'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
Douglas J. Quattrock as Bob Cratchit & Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol’. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Bob Cratchit, played by the ever-so-gentle Douglas Quattrock, is beyond endearing. There’s a righteousness and goodness about this man that can be felt genuinely by the audience. Cratchit, who works as a clerk for the elderly Mr. Scrooge, endures considerable workplace trauma to make sure his family is fed and taken care of. Despite his hard work, his youngest son, Tiny Tim, remains at the precipice of death. Quattrock will have you grinning cheek to cheek as he embraces his wife played with love by Suzie Dunn and the rest of the family.

Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge & Jessica Contino as Ghost of Christmas Past in a scene from 'A Christmas Carol'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge & Jessica Contino as Ghost of Christmas Past in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol’. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Alongside Cratchit is the kind-hearted and abandoned nephew of Scrooge, Fred Halliwell. There’s a certain glee in Dylan Poulos’ performance. He’s almost infused with the spirit of Christmas itself, which I suppose would make sense as he also plays the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come! Halliwell seeks nothing more than to rekindle a relationship with his past by getting to know his only living relative, dear Uncle Scrooge. What he doesn’t realize is that his eyes are the same eyes as his departed mother, a painful reminder for old Ebenezer. Fan Scrooge Halliwell (Megan Bush/Sophia Knapp) lives and breathes in certain sequences, and perfectly portrays the love between two close siblings.

Among my favorite cast members is the larger-than-life Fezziwig, played with great fervor by George Liberman. He’s joined alongside his stage wife, played by Ginger Dalton. These two form a comedic pair that will have you smiling as wide as the horizon! There’s something so whimsical about watching Fezziwig’s ball unfold on-stage: the dancing, the singing, everything. Watching you can’t help but feel that you’re up there with them. My favorite part of this sequence is watching the curmudgeon Scrooge transform into a spruce young man who woos and proposes to Fezziwig’s daughter, Belle, played by a belle of extraordinary talent, Emily Gates.

Scrooge (Jeffrey Sanzel) with a very ‘cheeky’ Ghost of Christmas Present (Bobby Montaniz).
Scrooge (Jeffrey Sanzel) with a very ‘cheeky’ Ghost of Christmas Present (Bobby Montaniz). Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

All three spirits are truly splendid. Jessica Contino shines as the Ghost of Christmas Past, bringing Scrooge on a journey that forces him to reconcile many of the mistakes and heartbreaks a long life will bring. Bobby Montaniz nails perfectly the essence of the Ghost of Christmas Present, and while he’s not a giant, his impressive voice certainly sounds like he is! His deep laughter will echo in your belly all through the evening!

Finally the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come may be the most visually impressive puppetry I’ve seen at Theatre Three yet (and they pulled out an actual dragon for “Shrek!”). This massive and haunting figure must be at least 15 feet tall and is adorned in a black tattered cloak and hood and is perfectly embellished by the brilliant lighting layout by Robert Henderson.

In addition to an incredible cast and superb lighting, this is one of the most beautiful sets I’ve ever seen. There’s a craftsmanship that far exceeds your usual stage show, and not only does it show but genuinely adds to the ambiance of the production. I’ve got nothing but praise for Randall Parsons, the show’s production designer and his costume counterpart Bonnie Vidal.

There are many additional names in the cast and crew who are deserving of praise, especially the incredibly talented children who alternate each night and demonstrate a professionalism and talent well beyond their years. Give yourself and your loved ones a gift that is truly made of magic. Go see “A Christmas Carol.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 31. All tickets are $20 in November and range from $20 to $35 in December. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Ed Blair

One was a Broadway star who flew as Peter Pan, vowed to “wash that man right out of my hair” in South Pacific, and frolicked with the Von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music.” The other was a sweet southern singer and popular TV hostess who urged viewers to “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

Audiences will have the opportunity to learn about the lives of two legendary stars while enjoying musical highlights from the iconic ladies’ careers, as The Ward Melville Heritage Organization presents “Holiday Wishes from Mary Martin & Dinah Shore” at its Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village. Actors will portray the duo in a beautifully decorated seasonal setting through Jan. 11. The event, presented by St. George Living History Productions, is followed by a high-tea luncheon featuring finger sandwiches and delectable desserts.

Mary Martin
Mary Martin

 

As a girl, Mary Martin took an early interest in performing. She channeled her creative impulses by teaching dance, opening her own studio in Mineral Wells, Texas. Fate intervened, however, and when her dance studio burned down, Martin decided to leave Texas and take her shot at making it in Hollywood.

After a number of auditions proved fruitless, Martin got her break when she caught the eye of Oscar Hammerstein, who thought her voice could play on Broadway. She became an overnight sensation in her stage debut in 1938, when the 25-year-old won audiences over with her poignant rendition of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” in Cole Porter’s “Leave It to Me!” Martin followed up with a Tony Award for her role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” The classic song from the show, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” was actually written at her suggestion, and Martin dutifully washed her hair on stage every night during the run — eight times a week.

The now-famous star added Tony Awards for her performances in the title role in “Peter Pan” and as Maria in “The Sound of Music.” She also starred in “Annie Get Your Gun” and played opposite Robert Preston in “I Do! I Do!” Martin made media history, when, on March 7, 1955, NBC broadcast a live presentation of “Peter Pan.” The musical, with nearly all of the show’s original cast, was the first full-length Broadway production to air on color TV. The show attracted a then-record audience of 65 million viewers, the highest ever up to that time for a single television program. Martin won an Emmy Award for her performance. Mary Martin died in 1990 at the age of 77. There are two stars bearing her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dinah Shore
Dinah Shore

As a student at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee native Dinah Shore began her career by performing her own short program on a Nashville radio station. After graduation in 1938, she moved to New York City, where she landed a job as a singer on WNEW. Her career progressed slowly, but she scored a few hits and became more well known during the World War II years, when she traveled with the USO, performing for the troops. “I’ll Walk Alone,” “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and “Buttons and Bows” were all major hits that catapulted her to stardom.

Shore appeared in a few films, but she made her impact on television as TV sets became standard features in homes across the nation in the early 1950s. Her variety show made its debut in 1951. It evolved into “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” in 1956, which became a mainstay through 1963. Shore’s warmth and engaging personality appealed to TV audiences, and she followed her earlier successes by hosting popular talk shows — “Dinah’s Place,” “Dinah!” and “Dinah and Friends.” Along the way, she accumulated 10 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Shore also had a passion for golf. She founded the Colgate/Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle Golf Championship and sponsored the Dinah Shore Classic for a number of years, earning her an honorary membership in the Ladies Professional Golf Association Hall of Fame. Three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honor Dinah Shore, who died in 1994 at the age of 77.

What led writer/director Sal St. George to pair Martin and Shore in his production? “Mary did a special with Noel Coward in 1955, and that inspired me to ponder what a collaboration between her and Dinah would be like,” he explained. “It is a nostalgic part of the Golden Age of television of the 1960s when ‘Specials’ or ‘Spectaculars’ were well produced and had legitimate star quality. This is also Dinah’s 100th birthday year, so we took this opportunity to celebrate her life.”

St. George added, “This is also our 15th year presenting programs for WMHO. We wanted to make this show different and more glamorous than ever before. Consequently, we thought about adding a second celebrity guest. We have never had two high profile women together on the stage. This is the perfect holiday show for the family — great tunes from the Broadway songbook, plenty of good old-fashioned comedy and dazzling costumes — plus an appearance by Peter Pan. Who can ask for more!”

The WMHO Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook will host “Holiday Wishes from Mary Martin & Dinah Shore” through Jan. 11. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows are at 11:30 a.m.; Sunday shows at 12:30 p.m. The high-tea luncheon performance, catered by Crazy Beans, is sponsored in part by the Roosevelt Investment Group Inc. General admission is $50; seniors 60 and over $48; groups of 20 or more $45. Advance reservations are required by calling 631-689-5888. For more information, visit www.wmho.org.

Douglas Quattrock as Bob Cratchit in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol’. Photo from Theatre Three

By Melissa Arnold

Acting has been a part of Douglas Quattrock’s life for decades now, but like a kid at Christmas, he waits all year to take the stage for Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol,” which opens this weekend. Quattrock, 52, of Selden, is director of development, group sales and special events coordinator for the theater. On stage, he’s Bob Cratchit, the long-suffering clerk of Ebenezer Scrooge and the father of Tiny Tim. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Quattrock as he prepares to play the quintessential character for the 27th year.

How long have you been with Theatre Three?

I performed in my first show at Theatre Three in 1982 and became an official part of the staff in 2004.

What got you interested in acting?

I grew up in New York City and then moved out to Long Island in high school. I had to take an elective, and they had a spot open in chorus, but I didn’t realize I could sing. After that I spent a lot of time in the music room and taught myself to play piano. From there I got involved with the school’s productions and discovered I had a passion for it, whether I was acting or on the stage crew.

When did you first appear in ‘A Christmas Carol’?

Back in 1989, I was doing a show in East Islip, and (director) Jeff Sanzel saw me perform. He came backstage and asked me if I would audition for Bob Cratchit for the upcoming production at Theatre Three.

From left, Doug Quattrock as Bob Cratchit and Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge in a scene from 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo from Theatre Three
From left, Doug Quattrock as Bob Cratchit and Jeffrey Sanzel as Scrooge in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo from Theatre Three

Did you hope to play Bob Cratchit from the beginning?

Absolutely. I’d seen the production before and a few friends had done the role before me. I’ve loved the story for as long as I can remember. I love [Cratchit’s] hope and connection to his family — he comes from a large family, just like I do. We grew up in a small apartment and my parents always struggled to make Christmas special for us, even if they couldn’t afford much. They taught us it was all about family.

Do you feel you’ve brought anything new or different to the role?

As I’ve gotten older, I come to appreciate more the value of family and what really matters in life … I focus so much on that in the role. I hope people can see that, and that my family knows how much I love and appreciate their support.

Tell me about the cast.

While Scrooge, Mr. Fezziwig and myself have been the same for many years, there are also new people that come onboard every year. They bring a fresh, new energy to the show and new dynamics. For example, I’ve (appeared with) many different women who were playing Mrs. Cratchit over the years. Each of them has her own way of playing the role, which affects our relationship on stage. It’s really exciting to see how it changes with time.

From left,The Cratchit family, sans Tiny Tim, from left, Jace Rodrigues, Marquez Stewart, Douglas Quattrock, Zoe Kahnis and Kellianne Crovello in a scene from last year’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Photo from Theatre Three
From left,The Cratchit family, sans Tiny Tim, from left, Jace Rodrigues, Marquez Stewart, Douglas Quattrock, Zoe Kahnis and Kellianne Crovello in a scene from last year’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Photo from Theatre Three

What is it like working with the young people in the cast?

The children are just amazing. It’s fun to watch them grow up and go on to other roles in the show or other productions over the years. [Director] Jeffrey [Sanzel] works so hard to instill good values and responsibility in them, to let them know how important they are to the show. If they’re not on stage, they’re either watching rehearsals or doing homework — they need to keep up with every aspect of their lives. Theater provides such a wonderful outlet of expression and education for children.

What is it like working with Jeffrey Sanzel as both director and Scrooge?

He has so much passion and warmth not only for this story, but for everything he does here professionally. I consider him a friend. It’s amazing for me to watch him make the transformation into Scrooge — he’s very scary. It’s especially so because he’s also my boss in real life! But we have a unique relationship.

Is the show scary? Are there any special effects?

Yes, it is scary — we don’t recommend it for children under five, and if they’re five, they shouldn’t sit in the front. There are fog machines, strobe lights, loud noises, darkness, voices from below, a 14-foot ghost and much more. We recommend that they watch other versions of “A Christmas Carol” first so they have an idea of what the show’s about.

Is this your favorite time of year?

Without a doubt!

‘A Christmas Carol’ will be adding extra shows during the Port Jefferson Dickens Festival, which falls on Dec. 3 and 4 this year. What do you most enjoy about the Dickens Festival weekend?

It’s amazing seeing how the whole village embraces this production. They decorate [Port Jefferson] so beautifully and everyone comes together to support what we do. It’s like the whole place comes to life.

What is so special about community theater?

It’s about taking limited resources and creating the best productions from that. We create with heart, imagination and a lot of hard work. That comes from within. And when a show goes well, it’s that much more exciting and valuable.

People have said that you always make them teary-eyed in your last scene with Scrooge. How does that make you feel?

That’s my favorite scene, even though it’s the shortest between us. From Bob’s perspective, the whole story has been building up to that moment, when Scrooge says (Bob’s) son, Tim, will walk again. Scrooge has so many redemptive moments in the last few minutes of the show, and it’s so powerful. I love knowing that moves people. I want people in the audience to see that even the tiniest gestures of kindness can mean so much to someone. That is Christmas to me. If the audience can walk away with that message, and capture the spirit of the season, then I’ve done my job.

“A Christmas Carol” will run at Theatre Three, 412 E. Main St., Port Jefferson, from Nov. 19 to Dec. 30. All tickets are $20 in November and range from $20 to $35 in December. For information or to purchase tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Samantha Carroll and Jeremy Hudson sing ‘Follow Your Heart’ in a scene from ‘Urinetown.’ Photo courtesy of the SCPA

By Rebecca Anzel

“Urinetown: The Musical,” currently in production at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center through Nov. 6, has received rave reviews. The two lead characters, Hope Cladwell and Bobby Strong, are played by real-life couple Samantha Carroll and Jeremy Hudson. I sat down with the two actors on Saturday night before the show to ask them about their latest roles.

Samantha Carroll and Jeremy Hudson sing ‘Follow Your Heart’ in a scene from ‘Urinetown.’ Photo courtesy of SCPA
Samantha Carroll and Jeremy Hudson sing ‘Follow Your Heart’ in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical.’ Photo courtesy of SCPA

How did you two meet?

S: The first time we actually met was here at Smithtown Theater years ago when we both auditioned for Light in the Piazza, which was my first show. Jeremy didn’t make the cut but we read together on stage and I remembered it and I found him on Facebook—

J: She Facebook stalked me throughout college.

S: I just was like, “I read with this guy and he’s nice.” We became closer friends at the Engeman. We started doing children’s theater there together and he was in a production of White Christmas that I was a dresser.

J: Even before that though — Little Women.

S: Oh god yeah, and then we did Little Women together at CM. Our friendship and love, eventually, has come through working at all these different theaters. But we did actually meet at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts years ago. And here we are.

J: It was a long time ago. 2007.

What is it like being engaged to each other and starring opposite each other in a show?

S: I mean, it’s like any other day really. We met doing shows together so I guess it’s normal. It’s easier to learn the lines. I trust him on stage. Our families are even more excited than we are.

J: Yeah, it’s a fun opportunity that’s few and far between. It’s a chance to have both of our lives kind of converge at one point to be able to do a show like this together. We try and make the most of the time we have doing this show because —

S: We don’t know when it’ll come again to work together, so it’s very nice.

Photo courtesy of SCPA  Samantha Carroll and Jeremy Hudson in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical.' Photo courtesy of SCPA
Photo courtesy of SCPA
Samantha Carroll and Jeremy Hudson in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical.’ Photo courtesy of SCPA

What other theaters have you both worked in?

S: Together, we worked at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale and the John W. Engeman in Northport. This is definitely our biggest roles together. Playing opposite each other is really, it’s silly but we’re both serious enough that we don’t just burst out laughing.

J: We can keep it together for five minutes.

 

You said that you performed at this theater in a teen production. Have you done any other shows here?

S: I have. I’ve been here my whole theater life. I’ve done many of the Wonderettes shows — they’re doing another Wonderettes coming this May and June. Light in the Piazza was my first really big one. Most recently, I’ve been in Violet, which was a really big favorite, and we were both actually in First Date together a few months ago as well.

J: Last March. More than a few months at this point.

S: But yeah, I was in Little Mermaid. The list goes on and on. And Jeremy’s worked here before as well.

J: I haven’t done quite as much but I have done a few shows in the past. I did Assassins here, I did Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson was another one I did here.

How old were you each when you decided that you wanted to be an actor? What attracted you to the profession?

S: I think I was probably about 6 or 7 when I started to be interested in it. My mom took me to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and at that point I was like, “Oh, well I have to be Belle.” I mean, I’m still waiting. I think my first acting class was probably at 8 years old and then I started singing lessons in sixth grade, so once I got to high school, I realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Beauty and the Beast, those princesses and those villains, inspired me to be where I am.

J: And I was in high school, I guess. My brother — my older brother, 10 years my senior so much older brother — used to do theater and growing up I would always go with my parents to see him do shows pretty consistently, so it was always kind of a part of my life. And then I did one myself and I was like, “Hey this is fun.” My first show was Grease, and then Guys and Dolls. I just enjoyed doing it, and having been a part of it my entire life, I just kind of slid into it myself.

Samantha Carroll in a scene from 'Urinetown The Musical," Photo courtesy of SCPA
Samantha Carroll in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical,” Photo courtesy of SCPA

Do you ever get nervous on stage?

S: For sure. Nerves are good, though, because it means you care about it and it keeps you focused.

J: The thing is, I forget there are audiences there, so I just am doing it and because I’ve done it so many times now, I’m used to people watching me do whatever. The only time I get more nervous, so to speak, is if I start to really think about it. Sometimes I’ll be on stage doing a scene and, not to say I won’t be in the moment, but I’ll just think, “I’m standing on a stage and there are people staring at me.” And then at that point what I’m doing starts to sink in, and then maybe at that point.

S: We don’t stay up at night thinking how terrifying it is to be on stage, or we wouldn’t do it. I think we get just general butterflies, especially when your parents are in the audience. You just want to be good. We’re perfectionists, unfortunately, to a fault.

What is it like watching each other perform?

S: It’s so cool. I do some stuff in Millbrook Playhouse in Pennsylvania, and Jeremy has come out to to see me in everything. I always just wait to hear what he has to say, because those mean the most to me. His words and his critiques, he doesn’t have many.

J: Not to her face at least.

S: And seeing Jeremy is amazing too. I got to see him in 1776 last year.

J: You don’t get to see me do as much as I see you.

S: He sees me a little more because he works a big-boy job too.

J: One of the many reasons we’re going to get married is just because it’s nice to share similar interests in this because it is a very time-consuming, very all-encompassing profession job. Being an actor or actress takes a lot out of you, so to be on the same page and to have that point of reference or common ground, so to speak, between the two of us is good.

What is it like when you get a standing ovation?

S: It’s not expected, but it’s very nice when it happens.

J: It’s good that an audience is that invested because it takes a lot to sit through a show, even a show you like, and then feel the need to stand up and show your appreciation for it afterwards means a lot.

Jeremy Hudson and cast in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical.’ Photo courtesy of SCPA
Jeremy Hudson and cast in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical.’ Photo courtesy of SCPA

Has anything strange ever happened out in the audience that you noticed while on stage?

J: All the time. People on their cell phones, people falling asleep.

S: Snoring!

J: People eating.

S: Choking. We’ve done so much children’s theater together, the kids are, you know, they just scream the whole time. We’ve seen it all.

J: Audiences feel like because they’re sitting in a dark theater that people don’t see them. But lo and behold, being on stage you see everyone and everything. I look out and scan the audience every once in awhile. If you’re doing something weird, I will see you, and we will be talking about you. Being an audience member requires just as much investment as being a performer on the stage. It’s why I don’t like sitting in the front row myself because I feel like I’m a part of the performance as well, because the actors can see you. They can see you throughout the show.

S: And they will look at you. It’s actually easy to see the front row, but a lot of other rows are harder to see. It depends on the cues, but you can always see the first row.

J: Always.

What is your dream role?

S: Currently — they change all the time — I would love to be Alice in Bright Star who was played by Carmen Cusack on Broadway.  And I would die and go to heaven to be anything in Waitress.

J: I mean, who doesn’t want to be in Le Mis, but I would like to play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables again. I did it in a teen production ten years ago, so I would like to do that again in a real production. That would be fun.

Do you have theaters in mind that you want to work in?

J: Anything between 7th and 8th Avenues between 42nd and 49th Street would be great.

S: Any theater that’s going to be professional and lovely, we would love to work at.

What attracted you to “Urinetown the Musical”? What made you want to audition?

S: I actually did “Urinetown” at the same theater 10 years ago in the teen production and I played Hope — the same part. I found out they were doing it again and Ken [Washington], the director, had talked to me about if I would like to reprise my role but on the main stage. I said absolutely. It’s a strange show, but it’s very funny and I like to be Hope so I wanted to do it again.

J: I saw the actual show 10 years ago and I have always liked it and wanted to be a part of it. It’s always been on my short list of shows to do, so I’m glad I’ve gotten the opportunity to do it at this point.

What is it like working with the director?

S: I have worked with Ken since I was 16 years old and he has seen me grow up. He is still the fun, grumpy man I remember he was, but you know, I think Ken has such a passion for theater. It’s definitely rubbed off in a good way. We love Ken.

J: He cares a great deal and he has a wealth of knowledge as far as theater goes, so it’s definitely something that is good to tap in to from time to time.

What is it like working with the cast?

S: Well, this cast specifically is a lot of, as we like to say, Long Island notables, just people who have kind of been doing this for such a long time. We’re very luck, honestly. A lot of big personalities, but in a really great way.

J: It’s a very eclectic group of people. All bring individual strengths [to the stage].

 

What is your favorite scene and song in the show?

S: My favorite scene and song is definitely “Follow Your Heart.” I’ve always loved it. “Be still, Hear it beating, It’s leading you, Follow your heart” was actually my yearbook quote for high school. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt and I get to do it with the best partner in the world.

J: I enjoy the scene leading up to “Run Freedom Run!” and that song. It’s just fun because it’s a bunch of strange people and it’s just very funny. It’s 80 percent the same every night and 20 percent slightly different, which always keeps things interesting.

Michael Newman and Samantha Carroll in a scene from 'Urinetown The Musical.' Photo from SCPA
Michael Newman and Samantha Carroll in a scene from ‘Urinetown The Musical.’ Photo from SCPA

Why should people come see the show?

S: If you ask any theater person at all, they’ll say to you, “‘Urinetown’ is the best,” or, “I love ‘Urinetown’.” I’ve been in it three times. It’s just one that people who don’t usually come to see theater don’t always come to, but they really should because it’s very, very funny. Hilarity ensues.

J: It’s just such an original piece of theater. The show came out in the early 2000s but it’s still very timely in terms of the current climate with politics. It has a lot of good things to say. The music is very catchy, and it’s one of those shows where you hear the name and you’re like, “I don’t know — it sounds weird,” but then you actually go to sit down and you see it and within 15, 20 minutes you’re like, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t miss the opportunity to see this!”

What is up next for both of you?

S: I am very shortly starting Mary Poppins at the John W. Engeman. I’m in the ensemble but I’m covering a few different tracks of a lot of the character roles. I’m going to be doing that the whole Christmas season. And Jeremy will get one soon, but he’s—

J: Currently in between things. I have to, what with work and whatnot, I have to be a little more selective in what—

S: So he can make the dollar bills. It’s honestly either just you’re doing three shows at a time, one after the other, or you don’t do something for six months.

J: As long as we can make a living, or any wage, really, performing, that is the ideal. I would love to do theater but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only thing I would like to do.

S: But we’ll always do it, regardless of if we have babies or have full-time jobs, we’ll definitely always come back and do theater because that’s what we love.

Is there anything else that you want to say to our readers?

J: This is a wonderful show, here, and Smithtown Performing Arts Center. There is a theater in Smithtown, it’s on Main Street.

S: Please come see Urinetown and everything else because everything they do here is really wonderful.

J: They put a lot of time and effort and thought into shows here. This is specifically a show that desperately needs an audience to enjoy it for it to really reach it’s maximum potential, so come on down everyone.

Photo courtesy of the Engeman Theater

‘CAUSE EVERYTHING IS RENT Broadway stars Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal took time out from signing autographs to pose with staff members from the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, from left, Phyllis Molloy, Alex Spitzli, Michael DeCristofaro, Richard T. Dolce, Jessie Eppelheimer, Jennifer Tully, Kate Keating and Alexandra Heidrich, after the duo’s sold-out show, ‘Anthony and Adam LIVE,’ on Oct. 17.

WELL DESERVED: From left, Douglas Quattrock, director of development/group sales at Theatre Three; Lions Michael DeGutis, Dan Jacoby and Mark Cherches with Theatre Three’s Artistic Executive Director and honoree Jeffrey Sanzel. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

When he’s not being a Scrooge during the holidays, Jeffrey Sanzel is working hard to make this world a better place through the creativity of live theater. Sanzel, the Executive Artistic Director at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, was chosen by the Port Jefferson Lions Club to be this year’s honoree of the Vincent Bove Award for his service to the community and for his unfaltering commitment to stop bullying.

Vincent Bove was the mayor of Belle Terre for 25 years, sat on the board of trustees of Mather Hospital until he passed away in 2006 and was on the board of Theatre Three. He was also the driving force behind Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket.

Jeffrey Sanzel, center, with longtime members of the Theatre Three family, Douglas Quattrock and Vivian Koutrakis after receiving his award. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Jeffrey Sanzel, center, with longtime members of the Theatre Three family, Douglas Quattrock and Vivian Koutrakos after receiving his award. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Lions Club members Michael DeGutis, Dan Jacoby and Mark Cherches presented the award to Sanzel on the Mainstage before the theater’s Saturday evening performance of “Legally Blonde.” “The Lions love Theatre Three,” said DeGutis, referring to the Port Jefferson institution that turned 70 this year. “We want to stop the bullying that’s going on all across Long Island,” said Jacoby before presenting Sanzel with a check in the amount of $1,800 for Theatre Three’s educational touring program, The Bullying Project.

“I’ve known Jeffrey for his iconic Ebenezer Scrooge, his fabulous Fagan [‘Oliver!’], his poignant ‘From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust,’ which he wrote and directed. He’s supported the Bullying Project, the Daniel Miller Project; it’s just been a wonderful association all these years,” said Cherches before presenting Sanzel with the award “for his outstanding contributions to the Port Jefferson community … as an actor, director, author, creator and visionary.” Sanzel then received a long standing ovation from the packed house.

“This is an incredibly beautiful award,” said Sanzel. “We are thrilled with the support we’ve gotten [from the Lions Club] over the years. They were the foundation support when we started Class Dismissed: The Bullying Project 11 years ago and then 3 years ago with Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project. These projects would not exist without the support of the Lions Club.”

The evening was also a poignant one for the Theatre Three family as Saturday would’ve also been Ellen Michelmore’s birthday, the theater’s musical director who succumbed to cancer in May. “Ellen is a reminder to be a good person,” said a visibly shaken Sanzel, “… so receiving this today is a reminder to do good things in the world and of course the Lions Club is that reminder every day … so on behalf of Theatre Three and the arts community of Long Island we thank you for what you do.”

For more information on Theatre Three’s Bullying Project, please visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Douglas Quattrock, Jeffrey Sanzel and Hans Paul Hendrickson in a scene from 'A Christmas Carol' at Theatre Three. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three

Save the date! Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present Behind the Curtain with “A Christmas Carol” on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. Executive Artist Director Jeffrey Sanzel, who has appeared as Scrooge for over 1,000 performances, will guide you through the history of the story, its many adaptations and the journey of the theater’s 33 years of presenting this Christmas classic. A full buffet dinner and talk will be followed by the Mainstage performance of Theatre Three’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Tickets for the event are $30 per person and include the buffet dinner and talk. Tickets for the 7 p.m. performance may be purchased separately. For further information and reservations, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The cast of ‘Urinetown’. Photo courtesy of the SCPA

By Heidi Sutton

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts closes out its 14th season with the award-winning satirical comedy, “Urinetown The Musical,” which opened last weekend. With superb direction by Ken Washington, the 16-member seasoned cast guides the audience through two and a half wonderful hours of greed, love, corruption, regret, rebellion, fear, justice and long lines to the bathroom! Oh and it is very funny!

Officer Lockstock (Michael Bertolini) and street urchin Little Sally (Courtney Braun) in a scene from ‘Urinetown’, Photo courtesy of SCPA
Officer Lockstock (Michael Bertolini) and street urchin Little Sally (Courtney Braun) in a scene from ‘Urinetown’, Photo courtesy of SCPA

The incredible Michael Bertolini returns as Officer Lockstock, a role he played 10 years ago in the same theater, and serves as narrator to set the scene. The town is experiencing a 20-year drought, he explains, which has caused a severe water shortage, causing the government to ban all private toilets. Everyone must use public bathrooms in order to “take care of their private business.” However, all the urinals are controlled by corporate giant Urine Good Company run by the greedy Caldwell B. Cladwell (Michael Newman). In other words, everyone must “pay to pee.” Anyone who doesn’t pay is arrested and sent to Urinetown, “a mystical place, a bad place, filled with symbolism,” never to be seen again. “Whaaat!”

The cast

Michael Bertolini

Courtney Braun

Mark Cahill

Samantha Carroll

Erich Grathwohl

Ronnie Green

Jeremy Hudson

Amanda-Camille Isaac

M.E. Junge

Mary Ellin Kurtz

Kaylyn Lewis

Eddie Martinez

Michael Newman

Ryan Nolin

Dondi Rollins Jr.

Jim Sluder

When Cladwell’s daughter Hope (Samantha Carroll) returns from college to work at UGC, she meets Bobby Strong (Jeremy Hudson), an assistant janitor at one of the cheapest toilets in town, run by Miss Pennywise (Mary Ellin Kurtz). Bob and Hope fall in love and she encourages him to follow his heart. His heart tells him to form a rebellion and the fight to pee for free is on. Will good win over evil or will Bobby be sent to Urinetown?

Musical director Melissa Coyle, on keyboards, leads a powerful ensemble with Alexandria DeVries on reeds, Ken Mahoney on trombone, Michael Molloy on bass and Jim Waddell on drums. The musical numbers, choreographed by M.E. Junge, are all top notch. Carroll and Hudson’s duet, “Follow Your Heart,” is very sweet (there’s clearly some chemistry there), while Michael Newman is hilarious as he hops around the stage singing “Don’t Be the Bunny.” Other stand-out numbers include “Cop Song,” which incorporates flashlights and batons into the choreography and the gospel number, “Run, Freedom, Run!” and the cast shines in “Snuff That Girl” and “What Is Urinetown?” both clearly inspired by “West Side Story” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

As Little Sally says to Officer Lockstock at the end, “This isn’t a happy musical but the music is happy …. and the title is awful!” True, but you should still go see it!

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Urinetown The Musical” through Nov. 6. Tickets range from $20 to $35. To order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

From left, Danny Meglio, Kate Keating and Jackie Hughes in a scene from 'The Wizard of Oz.' Photo by Jennifer Tully

By Heidi Sutton

The cast of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Photo by Beth Hallisey
The cast of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Photo by Beth Hallisey

The month of October means that the classic tale of the “Wizard of Oz” is back on the Engeman’s stage in Northport. Presented every year at this time with the support of the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the beloved children’s theater musical only gets better with age. Suzanne Mason, who played the Wicked Witch of the West in last year’s production, sits in the director’s chair this time and leads an adult cast of eight through an hour and half of pure “joy and rapture.”

Based on the children’s books by L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz” tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, who are swept out of Kansas by a tornado and transported over the rainbow to a magical land of munchkins, witches and ruby slippers. Engeman’s “Wizard” gives us an abridged version of the classic tale (no poppies here) but tackles it with such enthusiasm that will make audiences fall in love with Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow all over again.

Kate Keating stars as Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz.' Photo by Jennifer Tully
Kate Keating stars as Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Photo by Jennifer Tully

Kate Keating reprises her role as Dorothy Gale and treats the audience to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the very beginning of the show. Keating’s enthusiastic performance is truly wonderful and at times she sounds just like a young Judy Garland. Jackie Hughes tackles the role of Scarecrow with ease, wobbly legs and all, giving us a sweet rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain,” and Danny Meglio is a terrific Tin Man on a quest to get a heart. Samm Carroll plays the dual role of meanies Ms. Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West with just the right amount of grouchiness.

However, it is Andrew McCluskey as Cowardly Lion who steals the show. In pure comedic form, he delivers a performance that would make Bert Lahr proud. Stephanie Krasner in the role of Nico the Monkey Bat, Joshua Cahn as the Wizard and Courtney Fekete as Glinda round out the supporting cast and do a fine job.

A nice touch is the constant interaction between the actors and the audience. During the frequent set changes, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man walk through the aisles asking the children which way they should go to see the Wizard. Even the Wicked Witch suddenly appears from around the corner, causing many young audience members to jump out of their seats.

Jackie Hughes as is Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Jennifer Tully
Jackie Hughes as is Scarecrow in ‘The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Jennifer Tully

Designed by Jess Costagliola, the costumes are exactly what one would expect, from Dorothy’s iconic blue gingham dress to Glinda’s beautiful pink gown. That is until the munchkins come out and mix things up a bit. With giant hats and big googly eyes, their rendition of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead!” is hilarious. Wings flap on Nico the Monkey Bat and wait until you see the Wizard!

With familiar music, lots of humor and not-too-scary special effects, this “Wizard of Oz” is the perfect show with which to introduce a young child to live theater. So turn off the televisions, iPads and cell phones and start your journey down the Yellow Brick Road as soon as you can — this production is not to be missed. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. (An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program.) Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “The Wizard of Oz” through Nov. 6 followed by a holiday favorite, “Frosty,” from Nov. 26 to Dec. 31. All tickets are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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