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Sari Feldman

By Heidi Sutton

When I heard “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” was returning to the Engeman Theater in Northport I was thrilled. Last year’s production was amazing, with an incredible cast that brought the audience to their feet at the end of the first act with “I Like to Move It” and again at the end of the show. This year’s cast would have big shoes to fill, I thought. Thankfully, much of the original cast has returned and the show is better than ever.

Based on the 2005 DreamWorks animated motion picture, “Madagascar,” it follows four friends from the Central Park Zoo and their adventures to the wild.

The cast of ‘Madagascar’ at the Engeman

As the show opens, the zookeepers introduce the audience to Alex the Lion (Bobby Montaniz), his monochromatic best bud Marty the Zebra (Jahlil Burke) and gal pal Gloria the Hippo (Rita Sarli). When we are about to meet Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (Suzanne Mason), the zookeepers announce she had to take a sick day — she has found another spot. Ba-dum-tshh!

They are living the good life and are well cared for. But Marty, who just celebrated his 10th birthday, has been dreaming of going to the wild. When he overhears the cute and cuddly penguins (Robbie McGrath, Sarah Juliano, Sari Feldman and Aly Leonard) planning a breakout, the zebra decides to join them.

When his three buddies go after him, all four, including the penguins, are captured and end up in crates on a ship bound for Kenya. The penguins will have none of that and take control of the ship, causing it to sway back and forth. The crates fall into the ocean and wash up on the island of Madagascar.

There they meet the illustrious King Julien (Jae Hughes), self-proclaimed Lord of the Lemurs, and his adviser, Maurice (Sarah Juliano) who see Alex as their new protector from the bloodthirsty foosa “who are always bothering us and ripping our limbs off.” But when all the lemurs have to offer the lion is seaweed on a stick, he starts to get hungry for his favorite food, steak, and begins to look at Marty in a whole new way. Will Alex be able to keep it together or will his best friend end up on the dinner plate?

Directed and choreographed by Marquez Stewart, the nine-member cast does an exceptional job bringing this great story to life. The show is fast-paced, silly, funny and always entertaining. The show spills out into the audience often, and all of the songs are executed beautifully.

In the end, “Madagascar” makes us realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side and the incredible power of friendship.

If you’ve seen the show before, you’ll love it even more the second time around. If you’ve never seen it, what are you waiting for? It’s time to go to the wild!

Stay for a meet and greet with the actors after the show.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” through April 28.

Children’s theater continues with “Rapunzel: A Tangled Fairytale” from July 27 to Aug. 25 and “The Wizard of Oz” from Sept. 21 to Oct. 27. All seats are $15. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Corinne Wight 

Some of the cast members pose for photos at the end of last Saturday’s performance. Photo courtesy of John W. Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

When the computer-animated fairy tale “Shrek” hit the movie theaters in 2001, it was a huge commercial success. Critics loved it also, calling it “an adorable, infectious work of true sophistication” (NY Daily News). The DreamWorks film went on to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, sprouted several sequels (including one in 3-D) and eventually morphed into “Shrek The Musical.” With book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, the show ran on Broadway from 2008 to 2010.

Loosely based on William Steig’s picture book by the same name, it tells the story of a green ogre named Shrek whose life is turned upside down when all of the fairy tale creatures in the kingdom are banished to his swamp by order of Lord Farquaad. Shrek strikes a deal with Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a fire breathing dragon in order to get his land back. Along with his sidekick, Donkey, he sets off on an adventure that will change his life forever.

Now everyone’s favorite ogre and his fairy tale friends have set up camp at the Engeman Theater in a children’s theater production of “Shrek The Musical.” The show, which runs through Sept. 2, is a condensed version of the Broadway musical yet manages to keep many of its wonderful songs and beloved scenes.

Directed by Kevin F. Story, the 14-member cast embraces the clever script and runs with it. Evan Schultz is terrific as the grumpy hermit turned hero, Shrek, who has little patience for his chatterbox companion, Donkey, perfectly executed by Marlin D. Slack. Channeling his inner Eddie Murphy, Slack shines in “Make a Move” and steals the show.

Sari Feldman plays a sassy Princess Fiona who is waiting for true love’s first kiss in order to break a witch’s spell. Young audience members will love “I Think I Got You Beat,” which features a farting and burping contest between Shrek and Fiona. “Better out than in I always say,” quips Shrek. 

Daniel Schinina tackles the role of Lord Farquaad, the ruthless ruler of Duloc, on his knees and with ease, and Jenna Kavaler is wonderful as the ferocious dragon who keeps three knights alive in the castle to sing backup when she’s feeling blue.

The members of the ensemble — Veronica Fox, Katie Dolce, Amanda Geraci, Sam Kronenfeld, Samantha Masone, Meaghan McInnes, Robbie McGrath, Jojo Minasi, Daniel Schinina and Jeff Tierney — round out the talented cast and play multiple roles throughout the show.

Many of the beloved storybook characters from the film make an appearance, including Gingy, Big Bad Wolf, Peter Pan, Wicked Witch, the Three Blind Mice, Pinocchio (yes his nose grows!) and the Three Little Pigs. Several of the popular lines from the original script that made the movie so great have been recycled as well, from Shrek’s “Ogres are like onions. We both have layers” and Donkey’s “In the morning I’m making waffles!” and of course, “Men of Lord Farquaad’s stature are of short supply.” 

There’s a lot to enjoy about this show, whether you are amazed at Pinocchio’s nose, grinning at the creativity behind the Gingerbread Man or laughing at Lord Farquaad’s legs. In the end, the beautiful finale, “This Is Our Story,” teaches us that you shouldn’t judge someone before you know them and that what makes us special makes us strong. Take your kids or grandkids to see “Shrek The Musical” — they’ll love it and so will you!

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located toward the back of the program. Booster seats are available.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Shrek The Musical” through Sept. 2. Children’s theater continues with Disney’s “The Little Mermaid JR” from Sept. 22 to Oct. 28 and “Frosty” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

A scene from ‘Life, the Theatre, and Other Unlikelihoods’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

When a beloved community theater is about to turn 50, it is time to celebrate in a big way. For the next three years, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will present a series of special events building up to its 50th anniversary, beginning with Life in the Theatre: A Glimpse Behind the Curtain on Sunday, May 20, at 7 p.m.

John Fugelsang will be the host of the evening

The fundraiser, which will be hosted by actor, comedian, broadcaster and Theatre Three alum John Fugelsang, will include an original comedy by Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel followed by a special guest appearance by musician, actor, writer and radio host Seth Rudetsky.

Founded in 1969 by Jerry Friedman and John and Linda Herr, the troupe started out performing at the Smith Haven Ministries at the Smith Haven Mall. “They all lived in the Three Village area, hence the name, ‘Theatre Three,'” said board member and former artistic director Bradlee Bing, who joined the group shortly after.

Over the years, Theatre Three occupied several different spaces including in the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street in the village before purchasing the current building at 412 Main St. in 1979 after the United Artist Theater closed. In the beginning, there were “only adult-themed musicals, plays and cabaret-style revues,” Bing said. The theater has since expanded to offer children’s theater, educational tours, concerts and acting lessons.

“It is inconceivable that 48 years have passed so quickly,” said Bing who first approached Sanzel about launching a three-year celebration.

Seth Rudetsky will be the headliner in the second act. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three

The event on May 20 will open with the world premiere of “Life, the Theatre, and Other Unlikelihoods,” a one-act musical  featuring original songs by Brian Crawley (Tony nominee for “Violet”), Tim Peierls, Douglas J. Quattrock and Sanzel. Starring Dylan Robert Poulos, the play will celebrate the joys and challenges of becoming an actor, from taking acting lessons as a child to landing that big role, or not.

Directed and narrated by Sanzel, the 17-member cast, playing dozens of roles, will also include Melanie Acampora, Marci Bing, Meg Bush, TracyLynn Conner, Jessica Contino, Ginger Dalton, Sari Feldman, Andrew Gasparini, Eric J. Hughes, Linda May, Phyllis March, Steve McCoy, Cameron Turner, Steven Uihlein and Stephen Wangner.

For Sanzel the experience of creating this one-act musical has morphed into “becoming a celebration of what we do … and is one of the greatest and most joyous writing experiences I’ve ever had.”

He continued, “Yes, the world of theater is fun and interesting but it is a huge amount of work and an enormous commitment. The flipside is the reward which is extraordinary. This play traces how we all come together as family in this amount of time and then we say goodbye and the poignancy of that.”

For Bing, this event is just the beginning. “We have identified it as year one, getting ready, year two, getting set and year three, go. We are developing activities that will prepare us for our final year celebration that will be a three-day event featuring a cocktail reception free of charge open to everyone that has ever been associated with the theater: actor, musician, technician, subscriber, ushers, family and friends on June 5, a semiformal sit down recognition, celebrity dinner on June 6 and a show at the theater highlighting 50 years of theater performances on June 7.”

For Sanzel, “It really is a celebration of theater, the universality, but it is also a celebration of Theatre Three. This event is the perfect launch toward our 50th anniversary.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Life in the Theatre” on May 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 presale, $75 at the door. Proceeds will go toward programming at the theater. To order, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

 

Cast of Theatre Three's 'Nunsense'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Theatre Three continues its 48th season with the heavenly musical comedy “Nunsense.” The show, which opened on the Mainstage last Saturday evening, catered to a packed house ready to sit back, relax and have some fun. And judging by the rip-roaring laughter all night, it did not disappoint.

With book, music and lyrics by Dan Goggin, the original Off-Broadway production opened in 1985 and ran for 3,672 performances, becoming the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show in history. By the time it closed 10 years later, “Nunsense” had become an international phenomenon, having been translated into over 20 languages with more than 8,000 productions worldwide.

TracyLynn Conner, Sari Feldman and Jessica Contino in a scene from ‘Nunsense’

Now the congregation has taken up residence at Theatre Three and although Catholics will most identify with this hilarious show, audiences of all faiths are sure to have their spirits lifted as well.

The Little Sisters of Hoboken are in a bit of a pickle. While 19 of the nuns are off playing Bingo, the convent’s cook, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidently poisons the remaining 52 nuns by serving them a batch of botulism-laced vichyssoise. As one nun quips, “For 52, bon appetite was also bon voyage.”

After a successful greeting-card fundraiser, 48 of the sisters are laid to rest. Thinking there is plenty of money left over, Mother Superior spends the rest of the money on a plasma TV, leaving no money to pay for the last four burials. While the remaining deceased are temporarily stored in cold storage, five of the nuns decide to stage a variety show in the Mt. Saint Helen’s School auditorium to raise the rest of the money. “We’ve just got to get those girls out of the freezer,” they lament.

Sister Mary Regina (Phyliss March) and Sister Robert Anne (Sari Feldman) share a moment.

Under the skillful direction of Jeffrey Sanzel, the show’s über-talented cast is given the freedom to bring out the strong personalities of their characters and have a blast doing it. At the beginning of the production, the group sings, “Though we’re on our way to heaven, we’re here to raise some hell.” Blessed with wonderful harmonic voices, great comedic timing and a seemingly inexhaustable amount of energy, they put on quite a show.

The incomparable Phyllis March plays uptight Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina who loosens up quite a bit at the end of the first act in one of the funniest scenes in the play, and Linda May is wonderful as the second-in-command Sister Mary Hubert who has higher aspirations.

TracyLynn Conner is hilarious as the wide-eyed Sister Mary Amnesia who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. “She just a big mess,” mutters Mother Superior under her breath. Conner steals the show with her duet with a puppet in “So You Want to Be a Nun.”

Sari Feldman is Sister Robert Anne, the streetwise understudy from Brooklyn who “Just wants to be a star” and finally gets the chance to shine brightly in Act Two. Jessica Contino rounds out the cast as the sweet Sister Mary Leo who dreams of being the first nun ballerina.

The brilliant script is full of hilarious puns — “How do you make holy water?” “I don’t know, how DO you make holy water?” “You boil the hell out of it!” — along with double entendres and every nun joke out there. The wonderful songs, 20 in all, are accompanied by the terrific Mt. Saint Helen’s School Band under the direction of Steve McCoy.

Vichyssoise anyone?Linda May, Phyliss March and TracyLynn Conner in a scene from ‘Nunsense’

A nice touch is the constant audience participation, which is strictly voluntary. Before the show and intermission the nuns greet the patrons and pose for photos, and during the show the audience takes part in a quiz with a chance to win prizes. A short film by Ray Mason and Sanzel starring the five sisters of Hoboken in the second act is just the icing on the cake. From the initial Mt. Saint Helen’s cheer to the final amen, “Nunsense” is simply divine and should not be missed.

Enjoy a drink at Griswold’s Café on the lower level of the theater and take a chance at 50/50 during intermission. The theater, more specifically, the nuns will be collecting donations for Hurricane Maria on behalf of Direct Relief at the end of the night.

Sponsored by Bridgehampton National Bank, the production is dedicated to the memory of Carolyn Droscoski who passed away suddenly on Feb. 5 at the age of 61. “Our hearts and our stage will be a little emptier.” Droscoski was a constant presence at Theatre Three, appearing on the  Mainstage, cabaret and children’s theater for over 40 years. According to the theater’s website, the actress appeared Off-Broadway and traveled the country in the various incarnations of “Nunsense” and is one of the few actresses to have played all five roles.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St. in Port Jefferson, will present “Nunsense” through March 24. The season will continue with “12 Angry Men” from April 7 to May 5 and the musical comedy “Curtains” from May 19 to June 23. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From left, Aria, age 4, of Rocky Point and Cara, age 6, of Port Jefferson Station pose with the cast of ‘Rapunzel: The Untold Story!’ after last Saturday’s opening performance. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

The Brothers Grimm have left behind a tremendous legacy with their wonderful fairy tales including “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella” and “Rapunzel,” just to name a few. The latter is the subject of Theatre Three’s latest children’s musical, albeit with a clever twist. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin F. Story, “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” turns the original fairy tale of a damsel trapped in a tower on its head and provides for a hilarious and magical afternoon.

The show is narrated by The Barker, enthusiastically played by Dylan Robert Poulos, who guides the story from the corner of the stage. “How will you be spending the hour? By watching a girl in a tower,” he quips.

Meg Bush, Jessica Contino and Dylan Robert Poulos in a scene from ‘Rapunzel: The Untold Story!’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

When a husband (Steven Uihlein) is asked by his pregnant wife (Melanie Acampora) to steal some vegetables from the witch’s garden next door, he reluctantly agrees. (Happy wife, happy life, right?) After being caught red-handed for the third time, he asks the witch (Meg Bush) if she will turn him into a frog? Take his first-born child? “No,” she replies, “Just … don’t do it again.” Turns out she is a good, sweet and kind witch and therein lies the twist. When the couple’s child is born, the witch decides to send over a vegetable basket to congratulate them and sprinkles it with a slow-releasing happiness potion.

As Rapunzel (Jessica Contino) enters her teenage years, she becomes increasingly ill-tempered, something many parents can relate to, and makes everyone’s life miserable. She refuses to cut her hair and is always in a rotten mood. The situation is so bad that her parents beg the witch to take her off their hands and lock her away in a tower. It is then that the witch realizes that she accidently mixed up the happy potion with a rotten potion — “I made a goof and the girl is proof” — and sets out to find a handsome prince (Andrew Lenahan) to break the spell. Will this version of “Rapunzel” have a happy ending?

Directed by Sanzel, the six adult cast members take the cleverly written script and run with it. They know their target audience well and do an excellent job conveying the story. A nice touch is the constant interaction with the audience. Whenever a problem arises, The Barker gestures for the lights to go up and asks the audience for encouragement, revealing the moral of the story — that the real magic in the world is friendship.

Accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the original song and dance numbers, with choreography by Sari Feldman, are fun and engaging and the costumes by Teresa Matteson are spot on. Utilizing the gorgeous set from the current Mainstage production of “I Hate Hamlet,” with its Gothic castle interior and a balcony resembling a tower, is just the icing on the cake.

Snacks and beverages are available for purchase during intermission, booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. Also, make sure to stop by and say hello to the cast in the lobby after the show. The actors welcome questions (“Is that your real hair?”) and readily pose for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” through Feb. 24. Children’s theater continues with “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” from March 10 to April 14, “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” from April 21 to May 5 and “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9. All seats are $10. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

The holiday season is finally here and nowhere on the North Shore is that more evident than Port Jefferson. This weekend the quaint village will magically transform into the Dickensian era as it hosts the 22nd annual Charles Dickens Festival.

Among the many festivities will be Theatre Three’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” which was the inspiration for the first Dickens Festival, and the original children’s musical “Barnaby Saves Christmas.”

The latter is celebrating its 14th anniversary this year, a testament to the caliber of its script by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel and its music and lyrics by Quattrock. This wonderful show, which features several appearances by Santa himself, has become an annual tradition for many.

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa, his elves and reindeer have just left the North Pole to deliver presents to all the children. Realizing Santa has left behind one of the presents, “a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest,” the littlest elf Barnaby convinces the tiniest reindeer, Franklynne, to set off on an adventure “to save Christmas.” Along the way they meet a Jewish family and learn all about Hanukkah and bump into an evil villain named S. B. Dombulbury who, with his partner in crime Irmagarde, stuff chimneys with coal in order to steal all the presents.

Eric Hughes reprises his role as Barnaby, the little elf who just wants to fit in, and Sari Feldman returns as Franklynne, the flying reindeer who is afraid to fly, especially the landing part. The scene where Barnaby helps Franklynne perfect her landing is a personal favorite. The pair have the audience rooting for them to succeed from the very beginning.

Steven Uihlein is back as S.B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury, channeling a bit of Dr. Evil with his muhaha laugh. Uihlein is terrific as he goes around hypnotizing everyone so they will do his bidding. His unwitting partner in crime, Irmagarde, is played to perfection by Dana Bush. The only original cast member in the show, Bush is an audience favorite. Andrew Lenahan and Phyllis March are wonderul in the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus and double as the Jewish aunt and nephew characters, Sarah and Andrew. Dylan Robert Poulos tackles the role of Sam, the head elf who is desperately trying to stay on schedule and keep track of elves Blizzard (Meg Bush) and Crystal (Jessica Contino). Their interactions are the funniest moments in the show and draw much laughter from the children in the audience.

Choreography by Sari Feldman is classic and fun, while the costumes, from the pointy elf shoes to Santa’s red velvet suit, are top notch. The entire score, accompanied on piano by Quattrock, is incredibly endearing and you’ll be humming the tunes for days to come. Go see “Barnaby Saves Christmas” and experience an afternoon of pure holiday joy.

Souvenir elf and reindeer dolls 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, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” through Dec. 30. All shows begin at 11 a.m. Booster seats are available. Running time is approximately one hour and 15 minutes with one intermission. Recommended for ages 3 and up. Up next is a production of “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” from Jan. 20 to Feb. 24 and “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit from March 10 to April 14. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From left, Emily Gates, Ashley Iadanza, Melanie Acampora, Bobby Montaniz and Steve Uihlein in a scene from ‘The Princess & the Pea’.Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc

When Hans Christian Andersen passed away in Copenhagen in 1875 the Danish government stated they had lost a national treasure. Although a writer of many genres, he is best remembered for his wonderful fairy tales, including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Red Shoes,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “Thumbelina” and, my favorite, “The Tinder Box.” As a child, I read them all but I always remember being fascinated by “The Princess & the Pea” and the curious image of a young girl trying to fall asleep atop of 10 mattresses.

The entire company of ‘The Princess & the Pea’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Through June 10, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre kicks off its 2017-2018 season with a hilarious musical retelling of the sleepy story that is not to be missed. With a genius script written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Steve McCoy, the story teaches us that true nobility comes from inside.

Priscilla Noble and her friend Tom have just graduated from college. On the last day of school Tom reveals to Priscilla that he is really Prince Sterling of Pewtersberg and that he has feelings for her. He invites Priscilla to visit him at his castle over the summer so that they can get to know each other better. In the meantime his mother, Queen Irritata of Pewtersberg, has arranged for her son to marry Princess Monica from a neighboring kingdom. When both girls arrive at the castle, the queen puts them through a series of challenges that, in theory, only a true princess would overcome. Add a tower, a bunch of mattresses and a large pea and you’ve got yourself an entertaining afternoon of live theater.

Directed by Sanzel, a stellar cast of nine adult actors keep the young audience entranced. Never have I seen a more well-behaved group of children than at last Saturday morning’s performance, sitting quietly and just taking it all in, a true testament to the magic of live theater.

Jessica Contino and Dylan Robert Poulos star in ‘The Princess & the Pea’.Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc

Jessica Contino plays the lead role of Priscilla with confidence and determination. Continuously being put down for being a commoner by the queen, her character remains polite and respectful throughout. A perfect role model for today’s youth, she proves that studying and doing well in school pays off in the end.

Dylan Robert Poulos is perfectly cast as the tall, dark and handsome Prince Sterling and Andrew Gasparini shines as Lord Chancellor Pandergrovel.

Emily Gates is terrific in the role of Princess Monica, falling asleep all over the stage, much to the dismay of her sisters Princess Miranda (Melanie Acampora) and Princess Margot (Ashley Iadanza) who have been give strict orders by their parents to marry her off. And boy can she snore!

Newcomer Linda Pentz tackles the role of Queen Irritata of Pewtersberg, who seems to have a permanent migraine (“honestly!”), with aplomb. Determined to have her son marry royalty, her character remains stubborn until the very end.

Jessica Contino and Linda Pentz in a scene from ‘The Princess & the Pea’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

However, it is the queen’s brothers, Henry, Earl of Blunt, played by Steven Uihlein, and Richard, Duke of Yuck (yes you read that right), played by Bobby Montaniz, who steal the show with their comedic antics. These two should have a comedy act together!

The original score, with choreography by Sari Feldman, is fresh and hip, with special mention to “A Friend in Need,” “I Say, You Do!” and “The Test,” which is performed entirely in rap. Teresa Matteson’s detailed costumes, especially the intricate royal garb and wigs, are first rate, and live musical accompaniment by Steve McCoy on piano is a nice touch.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photo ops and tell Princess Monica to get some sleep! Honestly!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Princess & the Pea” through June 10 with a sensory-friendly performance on June 4. Children’s Theatre will continue with “Aladdin & the Lamp” from July 7 to Aug. 10 and “The Frog Prince” from Aug. 4 to 12. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

The entire company. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Spring has finally arrived to the Village of Port Jefferson — the tulips, the daffodils, even the Bradford pear trees are in full bloom. Spring in the village also signals the arrival of another perennial favorite, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit,” at Theatre Three. Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson and suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this adorable children’s musical has become an annual tradition for many families in the area.

Directed by Sanzel, the story follows the mischievous adventures of Peter Rabbit, played by Dylan Robert Poulos, and his cousin Benjamin Bunny, played by Steven Uihlein, as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden again and again to steal his vegetables.

Caitlin Nofi, Beth Whitford and Melanie Acampora play good little bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail who spend most of their time searching for their wayward brother Peter. Jessica Contino is terrific as Mrs. Rabbit, playing the role with just the right amount of strictness.

Andrew Lenahan, last seen in “Raggedy Ann & Andy,” tackles the role of Mr. McGregor and does a fine job while Emily Gates shines as Mrs. McGregor. The two draw the most laughs from the parents when Gates says “We’re friends, aren’t we?” and Lenahan answers, “Are we? I thought we were married.”

A scene from ‘The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

The set is sparse, with a few props including a scarecrow, a few signs, a table and a trap door for a rabbit hole but let your imagination fly and you will see a mouthwatering garden full of parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and lettuce that can be very tempting for a little rabbit. The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are on point, from the farmer’s overalls to the little white tails on the rabbits with brand new dresses for Flopsy, Mopsy ad Cotton-Tail in soft shades of yellow, pink and purple.

With fresh choreography by Sari Feldman, the musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are all fun and hip, especially “One More Time Around,” “Run, Peter, Run!” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

The show is action-packed with several chase scenes through the aisles, a Mission-Impossible-inspired heist to retrieve Peter’s socks and shoes and vest and jacket and hat from a scarecrow erected by Mr. McGregor, acrobatics (courtesy of Poulos) and audience participation. Throw in some singing and dancing and Theatre Three has a bona fide hit. So gather up all your good little bunnies and hop over to Theatre Three for a real spring treat.

Souvenir bunnies in various colors are sold during intermission, and booster seats are available. Meet the entire cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St., in Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through May 6 with a sensory-friendly performance on April 23. Children’s Theater will continue with “The Princess & the Pea” from May 27 to June 10, “Aladdin & the Lamp” from July 7 to Aug. 10 and “The Frog Prince” from Aug. 4 to 12. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

From left, Phyllis March, Maryellen Molfetta and Ginger Dalton in a scene from the show. Photo by Brian Hoerger

By Michael Tessler

Theatre Three’s latest production “Where There’$ a Will,” opened last Saturday night to an intrigued audience. Originally produced in 1985 by an eighteen-year-old Jeffrey Sanzel, this wonderful piece of theater is such a hidden treasure that I’m glad it resurfaced just in time for me to review!

Our story begins as the late millionaire Hiram Cedricson, a self-proclaimed “Potato King,” has assembled his widow (and fourth wife), her not-so-new lover and a slapdash theater crew of washouts, has-beens and could-bes to hear his last will and testament be read aloud by a uniquely unqualified lawyer.

Phyllis March and Mary Ellin Kurtz in a scene from the show. Photo by Brian Hoerger

Hilarity ensues as the lawyer reveals that prior to Cedricson’s death he wrote an original play … with no prior experience in theater, with a title so funny that I’m unable to print it. His dying wish is for this cast and crew of misfits to perform the show verbatim, in a decrepit theater he purchased just before his death … in two weeks. If they can accomplish this, they each receive $500,000. If they fail, the snarky widow and her lover get all the money.

So despite quarrels and some seriously conflicting personalities, the group agrees to the terms. What none of them realize is that Hiram Cedricson was the furthest thing from a writer and that his show would be an accidental comedy of epic proportions! The result is as Cedricson so eloquently puts it — “wonderfug.” What’s best is that the ghost of Cedricson and two of his former wives (one dead, one divorced) get to enjoy the chaos as casual spectators from the balcony, bickering among themselves through the process.

Ginger Dalton in a scene from ‘Where There’$ a Will’. Photo by Brian Hoerger

By every definition this is an all-star cast — immensely talented, perfectly paced, and hilariously human. Expertly directed by Sanzel, each actor takes on a caricature so unique and well-written that it’s impossible not to feel emotionally invested in their success. There is such incredible range in their performances. All of these cast members could have and likely were leads in previous productions.

There are so many familiar faces that at times, and much to my amusement, I felt like I was watching a reunion show of Long Island’s greatest talent. Though I lack the column inches necessary to write in detail about each of these extraordinary actors, I do want to say that this is by far the best ensemble cast I’ve ever seen outside of a Broadway production. They are so much more than just funny — they are uniquely lovable, memorable and multidimensional.

This can be attributed not just to the enormous talent of this cast, but to the show’s ambitious and masterfully crafted script. Somehow, not a single character goes underutilized in both acts of this large-scale comedy.

From left, Phylis March, Jessica Contino and Mary Ellin Kurtz in a scene from Sanzel’s new play. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Though not a musical, there are several musical numbers, all of which will have you grinning cheek to cheek. Throughout the show there is a wonderful score dreamed up by Theatre Three’s Tim Peierls, and Randall Parsons creates a visually striking set, which is complemented perfectly by Robert Henderson’s lighting design. The young but extraordinarily talented Peter Casdia expertly stage manages the production, ensuring a flawless experience. Costume designer Chakira Doherty must have had some fun putting together the most uniquely diverse set of costumes I can remember in recent productions.

Jeffrey Sanzel and his assistant director Andrew Markowitz put on a genuinely charming production, perfect for ringing in the spring season. “Where There’$ a Will” feels like a classic that has been playing forever, and that’s because maybe it should be.

The cast: Steve Ayle, Marci Bing, Michael Butera, Carol Carota, Jessica Contino, Ginger Dalton, Susan Emory, Sari Feldman, Jack Howell, Joan Howell, Skyler Quinn Johnson, Mary Ellin Kurtz, Linda May, Phyllis March, Steve McCoy, Maryellen Molfetta and Ruthie Pincus

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Where’s There’$ a Will” through May 6 on the Mainstage. Tickets for adults $35; seniors and students $28; children ages 5 to 12 for $20. Children under 5 are not permitted. A matinee will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 with $20 tickets. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The cast of ‘Respect,’ from left, Jessica Contino, Amanda-Camille, Lori Beth Belkin and Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc

By Michael Tessler

Let me start by saying that I don’t think I was the show’s intended audience. That being said, this became one of my favorite shows in recent memory. Theatre Three’s “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women,” a jukebox musical by Dorothy Marcic that opened this weekend, had me laughing, tapping my feet and, on two occasions, holding back tears (alas, to no avail).

Skillfully directed by Mary Powers, this truly powerful production tells not just the story of one woman or one era — but rather represents in so many ways the diversity and difficult journey toward equality experienced by all women.

Clockwise from left, Amanda-Camile, Jessica Contino, Lori Beth Belkin, Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc

Music, as I was often reminded growing up, is a reflection of our souls and in many ways a caricature of how we view ourselves. This piece takes the most popular music of the last century and uses it to form an evocative narrative that demonstrates just how powerful music can be.

Music in its most righteous form can be used as a tool for liberation and in its worst used to reinforce oppression. Its impact, especially in American culture, has very much defined the national consciousness.

This show delves into that concept as we meet the protagonist, presumably the show’s playwright. She is a widow and entering a stage in her life where she desperately wishes to better understand herself and the women in her family. She takes it upon herself to research the most popular music of the previous century, beginning a powerful journey of self-discovery and liberation.

With musical direction by Steve McCoy, this show’s small but dynamic cast is genuinely empowering. Their harmonies are beautiful and ever-changing as the show travels through the decades. They belt out the classics and remind you of a few forgotten treasures. No matter what your taste, this show has something for you, from the mesmerizing harmonies of “Mr. Sandman” to the fierce “I Will Survive.” Lori Beth Belkin, Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni, Jessica Contino and Amanda-Camille shine in their performances from heartfelt soul to rock and roll.

Sari Feldman’s choreography evolves with the production, masterfully adapting with each new era. You’ll get a taste of nearly every decade, from the Charleston to the more contemporary dance moves of Britney Spears and everything in-between.

The show’s set and lighting design by Randall Parsons and Robert W. Henderson Jr. doesn’t overly complicate itself but rather compliments the cast perfectly, featuring impressive light installations that provide ample mood lighting and a screen that provides historical visuals and points of reference throughout the show — great embellishments to an already great performance.

“Respect” is an incredible spectacle that transports the viewer through time using the power of music. Theatre Three’s matinee audience was the most lively I’ve ever seen. Viewers young and old found themselves clapping and resisting the urge to sing along.

All of Athena Hall was captivated by nostalgia and the beautiful sounds produced by this enormously talented cast and on-stage pit. Personalities of the past returned to life with brief flashes of Rosa Parks, Robert Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop, Scarlett O’Hara and so many others.

This musical shouldn’t just be watched by those who find comfort in the nostalgic sounds of their youth, but by the men and women of today who will leave the theater with a new found appreciation for all the progress we’ve made and the work still left to do. This show is empowering, humbling, emotional, hysterical and wonderfully refreshing. For me, it was the surprise treat of the season!

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” on the Mainstage through March 25. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 not permitted. Wednesday matinee $20. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.