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Randal Parsons

By Heidi Sutton

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Beautifully decorated for the holidays, the historic theater is currently presenting its annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a community treasure that is celebrating its 35th season. 

Based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel of the same name, the story is a familiar one that needs to be retold often as a reminder to keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year round. 

Adapted for the stage by Theatre Three’s Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel, it tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Sanzel), a man who has allowed himself to succumb to the mighty dollar and lives in the world of business. When we meet Scrooge for the first time, he is a bitter and stingy and feared man who has a particular abhorrence for Christmas and charity. He considers the poor and needy to be lazy. “I cannot afford to make idle people merry,” he sneers.

It is only when he is visited by the ghost of his business partner Jacob Marley (Andrew Lenahan) on Christmas Eve that he is given a shot at redemption. Enveloped in the chains he has forged in life, Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, who eventually help him discover the true meaning of Christmas and save his immortal soul.

With the Ghost of Christmas Past (Michelle LaBozzetta) we visit Scrooge as a young boy, left alone at boarding school for Christmas; as an apprentice at Fezziwig’s where he falls in love with Belle; and the exact point when he meets Marley (“and so it began”) and his life begins to unravel.

A “cheeky” Ghost of Christmas Present (Stephen Wangner) brings Scrooge to his clerk Bob Cratchit’s (Douglas Quattrock) home where he sees an ailing Tiny Tim and to his nephew Fred Halliwell’s (Steven Uihlein) home to understand how his late sister’s son feels about him.

Finally, the daunting Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Steven Uihlein) shows Scrooge the shadows of what is yet to come, including his own death and how those around him are affected. The harrowing experience is exactly what the miser needs to turn his life around. 

The Victorian set and costumes designed by Randall Parsons, lighting by Robert W. Henderson Jr., musical direction by Brad Frey and the many special effects produce a beautifully executed well-oiled machine with powerful performances from the entire cast. 

Arrive a little early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors in the lobby and stay afterward for a photo keepsake with Scrooge. The $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 29. Please note all evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person through November; $35 adults, $28 seniors and students in December. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger

The cast of 'The Addams Family'. Photo by Brian Hoerger

By Heidi Sutton

Halloween is still a few weeks away, but there’s something creepy and kooky and altogether spooky going on at Theatre Three that’s not to be missed.

The theater opens its 49th season with the musical comedy “The Addams Family,” a nostalgic trip down memory lane for fans of this atypical clan, and judging by the packed house on opening night, that amounts to quite a few.

Created by Charles Addams, the lovable, albeit macabre, family first appeared in a New Yorker comic strip in 1938 but truly came to life in the 1960s ABC television series starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez and Morticia. The two film versions in the 1990s paved the way for the Broadway musical in 2010 starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth.

The cast of ‘The Addams Family’. Photo by Brian Hoerger

Last Saturday’s opening performance began as it should, with the audience snapping their fingers or clapping their hands to the iconic theme song, and suddenly they appeared — all the familiar, eccentric characters we have all come to love — Gomez (Matt Senese), Morticia (TracyLynn Conner), Uncle Fester (Rick Grossman), Grandma (Ginger Dalton), Wednesday (Jessica Murphy), Pugsley (Max Venezia), Lurch (James Taffurelli) and Thing and Cousin Itt (both played by Cameron Turner). What followed was a fun, wonderful evening of live theater.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the show opens, most fittingly, in the family cemetery (“Oh the intoxicating smell of the graveyard!”) as the family lets their ancestors out of a mausoleum to celebrate what it is to be an Addams. It is here that we see the first of many “Thriller”-inspired musical numbers, expertly choreographed by Nicole Bianco, that dominate the show.

The storyline revolves around Wednesday who is all grown up and has fallen in love with a “normal boy,” Lucas Beineke (Matt Paredi) from Ohio (“the swing state!”), and wants to bring him and his parents, straight arrow Mal (Steve Ayle) and the perfectly rhyming Alice (Linda May), over for one “normal night.” She confides in her father that she wants to marry Lucas and makes him promise not to tell her mother yet, putting Gomez in several hilarious sticky situations and leading up to his solo, “Trapped (like a corpse in the ground).”

Matt Senese as Gomez and Jessica Murphy as Wednesday. Photo by Brian Hoerger

Uncle Fester, on the other hand, recruits the ancestors to find out if this is really true love, and if so, to help it along. Dressed in ghostly white costumes, they float in and out of every scene as they spy on the family’s affairs.

As the Beineke family arrive, they are invited to take part in the family game, Full Disclosure, during which everyone takes a sip from a sacred chalice and reveals something they’ve never told anyone. When Pugsley steals a magical potion from Grandma (“One swig of that and Mary Poppins turns into Madea!”) and pours it in the chalice, the evening takes a dark and eventful turn.

Accompanied by an outstanding eight-member band led by Jeffrey Hoffman, the 20 musical numbers perfectly tie the storyline together.   The costumes by Chakira Doherty are wonderful, especially for the ghoulish ancestors, and the Gothic set, cleverly designed by Randall Parsons includes panels that swivel and rotate to reveal different scenery. As the actors sing their solo or duet, they move toward the edge of the stage as the curtain closes, allowing the set to be quickly changed for the next scene.

With exceptional vocals, the entire cast become fully immersed in their individual character. The chemistry between Gomez and Morticia is as alive as ever. Morticia: “I feel darkness and grief and unspeakable sorrow.” Gomez: “I love it when you speak sexy, Cara Mia.” 

Matt Senese as Gomez and TracyLynn Conner as Morticia. Photo by Peter Lanscombe

Although she’s in love, Wednesday’s inner darkness makes several appearances, and Uncle Fester is as lovable as ever (yes, he is still in love with the moon.) Pugsley secretly loves to be tortured (electrocuted to be precise) by his big sister, Grandma is still wacky and Lurch is still grunting; but in the end they are just one big family that has to deal with every day issues just like everyone else.

In his director’s notes, Sanzel sums it up perfectly. “The ultimate message of ‘The Addams Family’ musical is to find out who you are so you can be true to yourself. Whether vacationing in the sewers of Paris, starting out in a new marriage or finding the spark in an old one, or flying to your true love (‘To the moon, Alice!’), the Addams Family and ‘The Addams Family’ remind us to ‘live before we die.’”

Go see this wonderful show. You’ll find much to cherish.

Stay after the performance for a photo with the cast on stage if you wish — the $5 donation goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Addams Family” through Oct. 27. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students and $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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