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Jeffrey Sanzel

The cast of 'The Three Little Pigs.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

The well-known story of “The Three Little Pigs” is a timeless children’s fable that has been around for hundreds of years. With his stomach growling, a big, bad wolf comes upon three pigs who have each built homes from different materials — straw, wood and brick. After the wolf easily blows down the first two houses, the pigs run to the third pig’s brick house. When the wolf fails to blow down the brick house, he decides to go down the chimney and ultimately meets a bitter end.

With book and lyrics by Jeffrey Sanzel and music by the late Brent Erlanson, Theatre Three’s version, which opened last weekend, gives us a kinder, gentler version of the fable, throws in two homeless mice and gives the wolf the talent to rap. Spoken entirely in song and verse, which is a quite delightful experience, this show is fresh, funny and downright adorable, making it the perfect choice for younger audiences, especially first-time theatergoers.

From left, Jessica Contino, Andrew Gasparini and Emily Gates in a scene from ‘The Three Little Pigs’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sanzel skillfully directs an energetic adult cast of six, all who seem to be having the time of their lives. The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are the heart of the show with special mention to “You’ve Got Me, I’ve Got You,” and “You Build a House, You Find a Dream.”

The story centers on three little pigs who have decided to become independent of each other and, with suitcases in hand, go off to build their own homes. Little Pig, played wonderfully by Jessica Contino, decides to build her house with straw. “There’s no law I can’t build with straw,” she quips.

“Sticks are the way I say,” says the grouchy Middle Pig (Andrew Gasparini) who thinks he’s better than everyone else. “Pay attention and you will see, there’s no one in existence who compares with me,” seems to be his favorite saying. Gasparini takes this juicy role and runs with it.

Emily Gates is perfectly cast as the Older Pig who builds a brick house. Mature and wise and kind, her character’s ability to open her heart to friend, stranger or foe is a welcome sight in today’s world.

Melanie Acampora and Steven Uihlein make a great team as Sister and Brother Mouse (Sigh!) who are down on their luck and seek help from the pigs. Being turned away because they are different is difficult to watch.

From left, Jessica Contino, Andrew Gasparini, Emily Gates and Dylan Robert Poulos. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

But it is Dylan Robert Poulos as Mr. Wolf who huffs, yeah, and puffs, yeah, and steals the show. “I’m a wolf with a cause, but with dangerous claws,” he growls as he chases the pigs throughout the theater. Poulos’ performance in “Mr. Wolf [W]raps It Up” is an instant favorite with the audience as he raps with the other cast members and performs amazing backflips across the stage.

As seen in every children’s production at Theatre Three, the show uses this opportunity to teach moral lessons — in this case, embracing diversity and going beyond tolerance. “We’re all the same, the only difference is race and name,” says the wiser Older Pig. The act of sharing is also emphasized.

The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are perfect, from pink pig ears to little pig tails. Even the pig’s suitcases match their specific houses! Did I mention this show is adorable? The set, designed by Randall Parsons, alternates between the three pig houses but still allows for plenty of imagination, which is a very good thing.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo ops.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Three Little Pigs” through Feb. 25. The season will continue with “Raggedy Ann & Andy” from March 4 to 25, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” from April 12 to May 6 and “The Princess and the Pea” from May 27 to June 10. Sensory-friendly performances are available during each production. All seats are $10. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

A scene from ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Theatre Three. File photo

Port Jefferson: Theatre Three, currently in its 33rd annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” is the first Long Island theater to participate in the Mannequin Challenge, a viral internet video trend where people remain frozen in time while a camera films them.

“We had over fifty people involved, including cast, crew, designers, staff, family and friends of the theater. It was a great way to bring everybody together to do something that celebrates the community that is Theatre Three’s Christmas Carol,” said Artistic Director and resident Scrooge Jeffrey Sanzel.

In the two-minute and 20-second video, viewers are transported through the historic theater beginning at the box office, into the lobby and past the audience sitting in their seats. The camera then captures a scene of “A Christmas Carol” frozen in time and proceeds to take the viewer backstage and behind the scenes, all to the tune of “Carol of the Bells.”

To view the video, please visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Managing Director Vivian Koutrakos, 2016 Volunteer of the Year Megan Bush, Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel and Group Sales and Director of Development Douglas Quattrock. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson: Theatre Three’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year was announced at the end of last Saturday night’s performance of “A Christmas Carol.” According to Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel, the award is given out every year to someone who has made a contribution without asking for anything in return.

This year’s recipient is 17-year-old Megan Bush, who has been with the theater since age 7. A senior at Ward Melville High School, Megan began her relationship with the theater as an acting student playing the role of Want in “A Christmas Carol.”

“For the past 10 years we have watched Megan grow up,” said Sanzel. “She has been a teaching assistant, she has been a teacher in our Dramatic Academy, she has been a stage manager — one of the youngest in the history of the theater — she has been my personal assistant on various productions as an assistant director, she has worked with the young people in all the casts of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the one word in her vocabulary that does not exist is the word ‘no.’ Nobody deserves this award more than she does,” he said.

Megan, whose mother Dana and sister Sarah were past recipients of the same award, was visibly surprised at the announcement. “What makes tonight so special is that we are continuing a tradition,” said Sanzel.

Eric Hughes and Sari Feldman star in 'Barnaby Saves Christmas'. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

In 2003 Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel sat down and wrote an adorable holiday story for children about a little elf and a tiny reindeer who show us that “Christmas lies within our hearts.” Celebrating its 13th anniversary this year, Theatre Three’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas” has become a beloved tradition in Port Jefferson and one that is looked forward to each December.

The cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
The cast of ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Under the direction of Sanzel, nine adult actors whisk the audience away to the North Pole and into the home of Santa and Mrs. Claus. It’s the night before Christmas and Santa, his elves and reindeer are on their way to deliver presents to all the children. When the littlest elf Barnaby realizes that Santa has left behind a little stuffed bear, he convinces the tiniest reindeer Franklynne to find Santa and “save Christmas.” Along the way they bump into an evil villain named S. B. Dombulbury who, with his partner in crime Irmagarde, is trying to ruin Christmas for everyone, and meet a Jewish family and learn all about the Festival of Lights.

Newcomer Eric Hughes tackles the role of Barnaby with boundless energy and a couple of back flips too! Accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics, Hughes’ solo, “Still With a Ribbon on Top” is terrific as is his performance in “My Big Shot” in the second act. Sari Feldman, who also choreographs the numbers, returns as Franklynne, the little reindeer who is afraid of flying, specifically the landing part. The scene where Barnaby helps Franklynne perfect her landing skills, “I’m Gonna Fly Now,” is the highlight of the show.

Jason Furnari, who originated the role of Barnaby 13 years ago, and Phyllis March play the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus this year and also double as the Jewish aunt Sarah and nephew Andrew, who seems to have very selective hearing. Furnari’s solo ”Within Our Hearts” is heartfelt and March’s rendition of “Miracles” is beautiful.

From left,  Dylan Robert Poulos, Dana Bush, Steven Uihlein and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
From left, Dylan Robert Poulos, Dana Bush, Steven Uihlein and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Emily Gates plays Sam the head elf who is trying to stay on schedule and keep track of elves Crystal (Jessica Contino) and Blizzard (Dylan Robert Poulos). Their interactions are the funniest moments in the show.

Steven Uihlein plays S.B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury, the antagonist in the show. “I’m just misunderstood,” he laments as he and Irmagarde (Dana Bush) stuff the chimneys with coal so he can steal all the presents. When his plan is uncovered, the cast chases him through the audience, much to the delight of the children. Will Barnaby and Franklynne stop S.B. Dombulbury from “stealing Christmas”? Will they learn the true meaning of Christmas?

If you haven’t already done so, make “Barnaby Saves Christmas” a holiday tradition with your family. You’ll be glad you did. Souvenir elves and reindeer will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo with Santa Claus on stage if you wish — the $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund — and meet the rest of the cast in the lobby.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson, will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 10, 17, 28, 29 and 30 with a special Christmas Eve performance on Dec. 24. All performances begin at 11 a.m. Running time is 1½ hours. Recommended for ages 3 and up. Up next is a production of “The Three Little Pigs” from Jan. 21 to Feb. 25 and “Raggedy Ann & Andy” from March 4 to 25. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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.

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.

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 'Pumpkin Patch Magic.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Just in time for Halloween, Theatre Three brings us “Pumpkin Patch Magic” or “If at First You Don’t Succeed,” a spooktacular musical for young children that is as sweet as a Kit Kat bar. Written over 20 years ago, the play has emerged from the shadows with a complete makeover and returned to the stage last Saturday. With fresh new lyrics and music by Jules Cohen, wonderful direction by Jeffrey Sanzel, a brilliant script chock full of rhyme, and a cast that is top notch, this show is sure to become an annual tradition.

It’s October in the Land of Halloween and everyone has certain chores in order for pumpkins to end up in pumpkin patches all over the world. The gnomes, known for their homegrown gnome poems, have to grow the pumpkins, the witches have to fly the pumpkins to the patch, the ghosts have to place the pumpkins in the patch without being seen and the rulers of the land have to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Fairy Loquacious Chattelot, played by Jessica Contino, serves as narrator and introduces the audience to four citizens of the Land of Halloween who are trying to help but can’t. Norman Gnome (Steven Uihlein) has trouble growing a pumpkin — during one attempt he ends up growing a head of lettuce! “I’m all thumbs and none of them are green,” he laments. His fellow gnomes, Nemo (Kyle Breitenbach) and Nathan (Dylan Poulos) feel Norman is useless and in the way. Ermengarde Broomwellsweepalot (Emily Gates), the witch, doesn’t know how to fly so is tasked by her fellow witch Ethel Broomwellsweepalot (Zoe Dunmire) with taking care of all the other chores including painting broom handles.

The gnomes of 'Pumpkin Patch Magic.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.
The gnomes of ‘Pumpkin Patch Magic.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Graham Ghost (Jason Furnari) can’t seem to turn himself invisible — his conversations with Harvey the invisible ghost are hilarious! — and Princess Pumpkin (Melanie Acampora) is a nervous mess who has trouble making decisions and therefore can’t rule the Queendom, much to the dismay of her mother Queen Honoria (Ginger Dalton). Tensions run high. Will the Fairy Loquacious Chattelot help them with some good advice? Or will her advice backfire? Will the children find pumpkins in the pumpkin patch to decorate or will Halloween be ruined?

The musical numbers, with their jazzy undertones, are the heart of the show. From the opening number, “It’s Halloween!” by the whole company, to the clever “I’m All Thumbs,” sung by the gnomes, to Graham Ghost’s solo, “I’m Gettin’ Out [Moving to a Ghost Town],” each song, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, is better than the next. Costumes by Teresa Matteson are another highlight of the production with noticeable effort and attention to detail. Choreography by Sari Feldman is fun and hip, especially during “Not Easy Being Me.”

Children are encouraged to come to the show in their Halloween costumes. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo-ops. Running time is 90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Theatre Three, 412 Man St., Port Jefferson will present “Pumpkin Patch Magic” through Oct. 29. A special sensory-sensitive performance is scheduled for Oct. 9 where the house lights will remain on throughout the performance and children may move around the theater. Next up is the 13th anniversary of “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 25 to Dec. 30 (sensory-sensitive performance on Nov. 27.) All tickets are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Rachel Greenblatt, Brittany Lacey, Jenna Kavaler and Amanda Geraci in a scene from ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Michael Tessler

“Legally Blonde” is the sort of film I’d usually enjoy bundled up in a blanket on a cold winter day, perhaps while digging into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, laughing loudly to myself. And yet Saturday night at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson I found myself sharing in that same wholesome joy surrounded by hundreds of others equally filled with laughter and milewide smiles. “Legally Blonde: The Musical” doesn’t shy away from its film roots but rather embraces them, incorporating songs and themes that deliver the story like never before!

Jeffrey Sanzel, the show’s director, continues to demonstrate a mastery of theater worthy of Broadway or the West End. This is not a compliment I deliver lightly, but it is so rightfully deserved. His ability to transcend genre and create flawless spectacles of comedy, drama, music and dance have stunned me continuously through the many shows I’ve now reviewed. Not once have I left the theater’s Athena Hall without being uplifted or captivated by the raw, genuine emotions neatly packed within the confines of a Theatre Three production.

Brittany Lacey as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical. Photo by Brian Hoerger
Brittany Lacey as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical. Photo by Brian Hoerger

“Legally Blonde,” while a light-hearted romp, was certainly no exception to that rule. After a long and difficult week I found myself leaving the theater feeling lighter than air. Not even for a moment is the beautiful illusion of theater ruined, undoubtedly because of Sanzel’s magic touch. His actors are so well-paced, so well-trained, a truly regimented troupe of thespians. Their stage comes to life.

Our protagonist is the stuff of “Greek” legend, and by that I mean she’s the president of the Delta Nu sorority at UCLA. Elle Woods, your quintessential popular blonde stereotype, is awaiting an overdue dinner with her longtime college boyfriend (played with lovable arrogance by Chris Brady) whom she expects to propose. Hilarity ensues as quite the opposite happens. Without spoiling too much, Elle begins on an unlikely adventure to Harvard Law School, a place not exactly known to be fashion forward!

This show is filled to the brim with comedic caricatures playing on our preconceived notions in a delightful way. From the hunky UPS man played to comedic perfection by Kyle Breitenbach to the rude, snobby, love-to-hate law student Vivienne Kensington played impressively by Caitlin Nofi, to the “blood in the water” lawyer Professor Callahan played by Theatre Three veteran Steve McCoy.

Brittany Lacey and Brett Chizever in a scene from 'Legally Blonde: The Musical' byPhoto by Brian Hoerger
Brittany Lacey and Brett Chizever in a scene from ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’ byPhoto by Brian Hoerger

At the show’s center is actress Brittany Lacey. Her performance as Elle Woods is local theater at its finest. Her voice both powerful and soft, her delivery of lines so expressive and authentic, and most impressively her ability to dance in flawless precision while belting notes that require two and a half lungs. Many times throughout the production, I wondered if the show’s original writers had somehow met Lacey and based the show’s protagonist after her. Casting could not have been better. She’s accompanied by the awkwardly lovable Emmett played with a special tenderness by Brett Chizever. Before the show’s end you’ll love these two!

Randall Parsons has built a set of simplistic brilliance, the entire stage enclosed by an ever-changing border of glowing lights complemented perfectly with Robert W. Henderson’s lighting design. Shining in the spotlight is the brightest pinks I’ve ever seen with gorgeous costumes by Su Jung Weaver. All these elements are coordinated seamlessly by stage manager Peter Casdia. Jeffrey Hoffman, the show’s musical director, expertly leads a “Greek” chorus and a cast of superb vocal talents. From the show’s opening number, “Omigod You Guys,” to the more touching “Ireland” it seems there was not a mark to be missed! Don’t miss out on seeing this show. I guarantee it’ll take a “chip off your shoulder!”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson kicks off its 47th Mainstage season with “Legally Blonde: The Musical” through Oct. 29. Tickets range from $20 to $35. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.