Tags Posts tagged with "Jeffrey Sanzel"

Jeffrey Sanzel

The entire cast of ‘Alice’s Wonderland Adventures!’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic may be more than 150 years old, but “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” still resonate with children and adults alike. Now Theatre Three’s creative geniuses Tim Peierls and Jeffrey Sanzel have written a brand new Alice-inspired children’s musical — “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures!” — that opened last Saturday. All the familiar characters are here, from the White Rabbit to the Mad Hatter, to the Queen of Hearts to the beloved Cheshire Cat. Throw in an appearance from Humpty Dumpty and Dorothy Gale, add a quick game of Wheel of Fortune for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a hit show.

Sanzel as director leads a talented group of seven adult actors, all of whom play multiple roles, through a delightful and clever production perfect for younger audiences. Seasoned actors Jenna Kavaler, Amanda Geraci, Hans Paul Hendrickson, Andrew Gasparini and Steve Uihlein are all outstanding, as are newcomers Mary Ortiz and Melanie Acampora, making their children’s theater in-house debut.

In the first act we meet Addison Carroll (Kavaler), an actress who is nervous that she will forget her lines as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland.” In a dream sequence, she finds herself transported to a magical land where the White Rabbit accidently takes her script. Addison spends the rest of the show chasing after the harried hare, trying to get it back. Along the way, accompanied by the Cheshire Cat, she has a tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse; plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts, who enjoys shouting, “Off with their heads!” a bit too much; and visits with Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Addison’s adventures help her gain confidence and she awakens from her nap, ready to take on the world.

Sanzel knows his target audience well. Every scene is full of song and dance, fast-paced and short. Riddles and jokes run rampant throughout the production: “Why do flowers work in the kitchen? Because you can’t make tarts without flour!”

The 12 original musical numbers by Peierls, accompanied by Steve McCoy on piano, are the heart of the show. Hendrickson is outstanding in his solos, “We’re All a Little Mad Here” and “The Tweedle’s Song,” in which he impressively performs both Tweedle roles, making his solo a duet. Geraci shines in “So Much to Do,” and the entire company’s “Wonderland Within You” is the perfect finale.

The actors utilize the set from the evening show, “Sweeney Todd,” but that’s OK because the costumes and puppets are so colorful and fun, a set is not even necessary. From the caterpillar with his six arms to the long red robe of the Queen of Hearts, costume designer Teresa Matteson has done an excellent job. It is the 13 puppets, however, designed and constructed by the brilliant Tazukie Fearon, that steal the spotlight. From the moment they make an appearance, the children are mesmerized. This is live theater at its best. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show.

Five-year-old Josephine Cunniffe, of Stony Brook, who said she loved the show, enjoyed the performance with her grandparents. Her favorite character was the White Rabbit.

Ashley Kenter, who’s been coming to Theatre Three since she was a little girl, said her favorite characters were “Alice … and the bunny” and her favorite scenes were when the Cheshire Cat told knock-knock jokes. The 10-year-old, who was having her birthday party at the theater, said she decided to celebrate the milestone at Theatre Three “because there is a lot of room here and they have a lot of good shows.” Her favorite show of all time is “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” which by coincidence is the theater’s next children’s show, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 26.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures!” through Oct. 24. Tickets are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Dana Bush, Michael Giordano, James D. Schultz, Frank Gilleece, Amanda Geraci and Sue Anne Dennehy in a scene from ‘The Pied Piper’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sari Feldman/Franklin Inc.

Currently in production on the Mainstage, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre brings us a kinder, gentler musical version of the classic fairy tale “The Pied Piper.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and Kevin F. Story and adapted from “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by the Brothers Grimm, it tells the tale of a town that has a bit of a rodent problem. Millions of rats, some the size of toasters, have taken over every nook and cranny. Even the cats are afraid of the rats!

The mayor decrees that anyone who can come up with a successful plan to rid the town of the rats will receive 100 gold pieces. A mysterious stranger appears and convinces the mayor to pay him 974 gold pieces. With a handshake and a promise, a deal is made and the Pied Piper lures the rats away by playing his magical flute. When the mayor has a change of heart and refuses to pay the full amount, the piper seeks revenge by placing the children under a magical spell and leading them out of the town and into a mountain.

With six talented adult actors at the helm, the cast also includes 45 young actors from the theater’s summer Dramatic Academy workshop who portray the children of Hamelin. Frank Gilleece plays Mayor Bruce Armbuckle who does whatever his wife, Mrs. Hilda Arbuckle, played by Sue Anne Dennehy, tells him to do, which includes going back on his word. James D. Schultz plays the bumbling Police Chief Henry Kahnstible and his wife, Mrs. Natasha Kahnstible, is played with aplomb by Amanda Geraci. Dana Bush as Mrs. Lavinia Brewster, the richest woman in town, is terrific.

However, it is the amazing Michael Giordano as the Pied Piper who steals the show. Making his entrance toward the end of the first act, he commands the stage with his wonderful rendition of “I Can Rid You of the Rats.” The audience is entranced as he sings and dances and performs his signature one-handed cartwheel.

While all the young actors did a fine job, special mention should be made of Jamie Terlecki, as Lydia, the lone child left behind. A bright future awaits her on the theater stage.

Accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the songs are playful and fun. Choreography by Sari Feldman is top notch, especially with “Hope Springs Eternal” and “The Blame,” as are the costumes, designed by Amanda Geraci.

Sanzel and Story’s play goes beyond the traditional tale of the Pied Piper with messages about keeping your word, cheating, forgiveness and, for the parents, that children are more valuable than gold. And that is the real magic behind this wonderful production.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show and take a selfie. Next on the agenda is “Squawk: The Live Bird Show” on Aug. 23, a brand new musical titled “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures” from Oct. 3 to 30 and a Halloween Party for ages 4 and up on Oct. 24.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Pied Piper” on Aug. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The entire company of ‘Puss in Boots’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sarah E. Bush, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

For too short a time, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre is presenting a delightful adaptation of “Puss in Boots” on the Mainstage. Written by Steve McCoy and Jeffrey Sanzel, the story is loosely based on the 17th century fairy-tale by Charles Perrault, sans the ogre and with a surprise ending.

In Theatre Three’s version, ‘Boots’ chronicles the journey of a poor boy named Christopher. Kicked out of his home by his two older brothers and their wives, with no possessions but his father’s cat, Puss, Christopher sets off to the palace of King Vexmus to seek his fortune. He soon discovers that the cat can talk and wants to help him. A plan is hatched to pose as the rich Marquis of Carabas to win the heart of Princess Anafaizia and the adventure begins.

Jeffrey Sanzel directs a cast of 10 adult actors who deliver a first-rate performance. Hans Paul Hendrickson shines in the leading role of Christopher and also serves as storyteller. His kind and sweet personality quickly gains the sympathy of the audience. Amanda Geraci is wonderful as Puss. Your ‘basic cat of all trades,’ she sings and dances in practically every scene with boundless energy.

Jenna Kavaler is the beautiful Princess Anafaizia, who quickly reveals that her beauty is only skin deep. Bobby Montaniz and Andrew Gasparini are a terrific team as Christopher’s mean brothers, Amos and Shank. Their antics up and down the aisles to try to catch Christopher with a large net are priceless. James D. Schultz is in top form as the bumbling King Vexmus. Hilarious as usual, he clearly enjoys being onstage, making children and adults laugh. Schultz is perfectly matched with newcomer Tiffany Bux as Queen Ire. Bickering like an old married couple, they are very entertaining. Dana Bush as Ida, Marquéz as Missy and Gabrielle Comanda as Julia are a great supporting cast.

Choreographed by the super talented Marquéz and accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the musical numbers are a real treat, from the sweet duet “Take a Moment for Yourself,” sung by Geraci and Comanda, to the catchy tune of “Song of the Marquis of Carabas.” At last Sunday’s performance, many children were observed rocking back and forth in their seats to the music, taking it all in.

The set is simple but effective, utilizing props from the set of the theater’s evening performances of “Oliver!” Imagination is called for, especially when Puss takes the royal family on a tour of her master’s lands. The costumes, designed by Aimee Rabbitt are spot on, with sharp contrast between the rich and the poor.

Overall, Theatre Three’s “Puss in Boots” is funny, entertaining and a perfect introduction to the magic of live theater. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for a meet-and-greet and photo opportunities.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Puss In Boots” on June 6 and 13 at 11 a.m. followed by “Jack & the Beanstalk” from July 10 to Aug. 7 and “The Pied Piper” from Aug. 7 to 15. Tickets are $10 each, with group discounts for 10 or more. For more information, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.