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Steve McCoy

The three bears, from left, discover Goldilocks sleeping in Baby Bear’s bed.

By Heidi Sutton

Summer is just around the corner, making for the perfect opportunity to review safety and stranger danger protocols with young children. Theatre Three’s latest show, “Goldilocks — Is That You?” accomplishes just that through the magic of live theater.

The cast of ‘Goldilocks — Is That You?’

The original musical, written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin F. Story, is an interpretation of one of the most popular fairy tales of all time, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” by Robert Southey, and encompasses all of the beloved characters from the original story plus a few colorful new ones.

In this production, Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear are show biz bears who have retired from the circus and are now living in a house in the country. It’s the first of the month and the banker, Billy de Goat Gruff, has come to collect the rent money, which they don’t have. The grouchy goat gives them until the end of the day or they will be kicked out. While their porridge is cooling down, the bears decide to go for a walk to think of ways to come up with the rent.

In the meantime, Goldilocks, a Campfire Bluebird Pioneer Scout Girl who lives with her grandmother Granny Locks, sets off to her cousin’s house to deliver cookies. She ends up at the bear family’s house by mistake and lets herself in. In one of the funniest scenes of the show, Goldilocks tastes the three bowls of porridge, sits in the three chairs and tries out the three beds, choosing Baby Bear’s bed in which to take a nap.

When Granny Locks realizes that Goldilocks has not arrived at her destination, she seeks the help of local forest ranger Wolf Hunter to find the missing girl. They arrive at the bear’s house just as Baby Bear realizes that “someone’s been sleeping in my bed, and she’s still there!” Luckily for Goldilocks the bears are friendly — they even know Granny Locks from their circus days when she was Eloise of the Flying Trapeze. 

But all’s not well. The banker still wants his rent money, so the group puts on a show to help young people learn about safety to raise the funds. Soon all the children in the audience are learning about the importance of staying safe and that “strangers can mean danger — so don’t talk to strangers.”

Eric J. Hughes, Nicole Bianco and Jessica Contino play the three showbiz bears in ‘Goldilocks — Is That You?’

Expertly directed by Sanzel, the talented cast of seven adults put on a charming and funny show, evident by the constant giggles from the young audience at last Saturday’s opening performance. Meg Bush is perfectly cast as the sweet and innocent Goldilocks and Dylan Robert Poulos, channeling his inner Gilbert Godfrey, is hilarious in the role of Billy de Goat Gruff. Eric J. Hughes, Nicole Bianco and Jessica Contino tackle the roles of the three bears and do a fine job, especially Contino as the adorable Baby Bear. Ginger Dalton plays a fun Granny Locks and Steven Uihlein as the superhero Wolf Hunter, Forest Ranger (“Wherever there’s trouble or danger, you’ll find Wolf Hunter, Forest Ranger!”) is an audience favorite.  

The musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are delightful; the choreography by Nicole Bianco, which incorporates baton twirling, ballet and tap, are fresh and exciting; and the costumes, by the design team of Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John, are amazing, especially on the bears and Billy De Goat Gruff. 

All in all, the play can be compared to a great  big bear hug and is just right for young children from beginning to end. Meet the cast in the lobby for photos after the show.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Goldilocks — Is That You?” on June 2 and 9 at 11 a.m. with a sensory-sensitive performance on June 3 at 11 a.m. Children’s theater continues with “The Princess Who Saved the Dragon” from July 6 to Aug. 9 and “Alice’s Most Decidedly Unusual Adventures in Wonderland” from Aug. 3 to 11. Tickets are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

The cast of ‘Curtains’

By Heidi Sutton

Theatre Three closes out its 48th season with a rousing revival of the musical comedy whodunit “Curtains.” The show, which opened on the Mainstage last Saturday night, will keep the audience guessing, and laughing, right up to until the very end.

With book by Rupert Holmes and music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb (both of “Chicago” and “Cabaret” fame), the eight-time Tony-nominated show had a successful Broadway run starring David Hyde Pierce (who won a Tony for his performance) from 2007 to 2008. Now the hilarious musical comes to Port Jefferson and does not disappoint.

A scene from ‘Curtains’

The play takes place at the Colonial Theater in Boston in 1959. A theater troupe is performing a new cowboy musical “Robbin’ Hood!” (think “Oklahoma!”) on opening night. As the ensemble performs the final act, “Wide Open Spaces,” it is clear that the star of the show, Jessica Cranshaw (Meg Bush) is a complete mess — singing out of tune, missing dance steps and flubbing her lines. (“I was distracted all night by a man waving his hands at me,” she laments. “That was the conductor,” the director mutters.) 

A few minutes after the final curtain Cranshaw collapses and is rushed to the hospital. It is later discovered that she has been murdered. “Now she has a conflict — she’s dead.”

Lt. Frank Cioffi (Steve McCoy) of the Boston Police Department, a homicide detective who happens to be a musical theater buff, is assigned to the case. The entire company is suspect, so he immediately places them on lockdown, barring them from leaving the theater until the case is solved.

The reviews are in!

The reviews come pouring in and they are brutal, especially from the Boston Globe. The producers decide to invite the newspaper’s critic, Daryl Grady (Andrew Gasparini), back when the show has been revamped.

The crew immediately starts reworking the songs and improving the scenes, with more than the occasional input from Detective Cioffi. “I’ve done a little community theater,” he admits modestly. “In ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ my Bottom was very well-received.” He is also distracted by one of the actresses, Niki (Jenna Kavaler) and their blossoming relationship is fun to watch.

In the meantime, a second victim, co-producer Sidney Bernstein (Lon Shomer) is found hanging from the rafters, Bernstein’s wife, Carmen (Mary Ellin Kurtz) is shot at and Cioffi is pushed off a catwalk and narrowly survives. The plot thickens.

As the show progresses, Cioffi starts peeling away the layers of this “family” to uncover romantic relationships, jealousy, blackmail, rocky family dynamics and infidelity. Will he be able to solve the crime in time or will the entire company be picked off one by one?

A scene from ‘Curtains’

Singing, dancing and clever humor abound in this production that showcases a cast of 23 uber-talented actors directed by Jeffrey Sanzel. The high-energy performances, choreographed by Whitney Stone, are exhausting to watch but the cast pulls them off with ease. The musical numbers, accompanied by a live orchestra led by Jeffrey Hoffman, are a nice blend of show tunes and love songs. The costumes and wigs designed by Chakira Dohertyn are fun, especially the cowboy and cowgirl outfits; and the Western-themed set, designed by Randall Parson, ties the whole show together nicely. 

The incredible cast also features Nicole Bianco, Christopher M. Fretto, Dylan Robert Poulos, James Taffurelli, James Schultz, Tracylynn Conner, Matt Senese, Melanie Acampora, Eric J. Hughes, Lindsay DeFranco, Kyle Breitenbach, Cassidy O’Brien, Steven Uihlein, Alex Esquivel, Jeffrey Pangurn and Kiernan Urso.

If you’re looking for a fun night out, don’t miss “Curtains.” Griswold’s Cafe, located on the lower level of the theater, will be open before the show and during intermission for a snack or beverage, and take a chance on a 50/50 raffle. You may win big! Running time is two and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Curtains” through June 23. Contains mature content. After a brief hiatus, the 2018-19 Mainstage season will open with “The Addams Family” from Sept. 15 to Oct. 27. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

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.

 

LEAVE US IN PEACE — WE JUST WANT TO DO PLAYS! TracyLynn Conner, Dondi Rollins and Morgan Howell Rumble in a scene from ‘Dark’

By Heidi Sutton

When a One-Act Play Festival receives 415 submissions, it cannot be easy to choose just a handful. But that’s exactly what Theatre Three’s Festival of One-Act Plays founder and Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel was tasked with doing this year and the result is extraordinary. Showcasing seven original works, the annual festival opened last weekend for a 10-performance run.

“For the first time on any stage, these works come to life,” explained Sanzel, who also serves as director. “These are premieres; they are ‘firsts.’ A comedy [is] followed by a drama, a farce by an experimental work …” in a two-hour marathon in the cozy setting of The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre on the Second Stage, a space so intimate that it “allows the audience to breathe the same air as these … characters. There is no wall. There is no division.”

Steve McCoy and Dylan Robert Poulos in a scene from ‘At the Circus’

The show kicks off with Chip Bolcik’s “At the Circus,” starring veteran actor Steve McCoy and festival newcomer Dylan Robert Poulos. In an ironic twist, a trapeze artist (McCoy) and a clown (Poulos) have grown tired of life in the circus and dream of a life of normalcy, of running away with the audience. They long to have a house with a window to look out of, a driveway, the opportunity to drive to the grocery store. “They have no idea how lucky they are, do they?” wonders Poulos as he looks longingly into the crowd, giving nod to the old adage “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Next up is “Interview with the First Family” by Tom Slot, a behind-the-scenes reality TV look at what really happened in the Garden of Eden and where they are now. Adam (Antoine Jones) is a surfer, Eve (Susan Emory) works at a bakery — “People can’t get enough of my apple pie,” Cain (Morgan Howell Rumble) is a convict doing time for killing his brother Abel and God (Linda May) is just sitting back seeing how the world spins and working on her stand up act. Her biggest regret? Creating the mosquito. 

“Plumb Desire,” written by Patrick Gabridge, is a hilarious take on how hard it is to find a good handyman these days and the relationships that develop. Darius (played by Steve Wangner) has found such a man in Jackson (Dondi Rollins), a plumber who has been renovating his bathroom. Jackson hasn’t shown up lately so Darius tracks him down and tries to woo him back with flowers and a six pack of beer. “I’ve been searching for a plumber for so long and you are the one,” he whines, adding, “Do you remember when we   replaced all the vents on the radiators?” Jackson finally breaks down and admits that “sometimes plumbers can be flaky — it comes with the territory.” Will he be back on Monday to finish the job?

TracyLynn Conner and Meg Bush in a scene from ‘Class”

Comedy switches to drama with Andrea Fleck Clardy’s “After Class.” Madison (Meg Bush in a powerful performance) is a mentally disturbed student who speaks of bringing a gun she’s nicknamed “Kim” to class as her teacher Amy Clausen (TracyLynn Connor) struggles with handling the scary situation.  

After intermission, “Bird Feed” by Melanie Acampora takes center stage. Three pigeons sit on a ledge in Manhattan chatting. It’s Georgie’s (Susan Emory) birthday — she’s two years old today. Her friends Bertha (Meg Bush) and Rayna (Nicole Bianco) want to take her out to celebrate when Bertha overhears someone saying that the average life span of a pigeon is just two and half years, leading to a contemplation on birthdays and mortality.  

There’s a mole loose in the world of acting in Jack McCleland’s “Dark.” It’s open hunting season and actors are being picked off one by one. Every time they find a hiding spot, they are mysteriously found and shot to death. Three actors — Steve (Morgan Howell Rumble), Meg (TracyLynn Conner) and understudy Carl (Dondi Rollins) are holed up in a warehouse and are being ordered to come out. “Leave us in peace! We’re actors — we just want to do plays!” they plead. One last warm up and they venture outside and the snitch is finally revealed as Ethel Merman’s rendition of “No Business Like Show Business” plays jubilantly in the background.

Meg Bush, Nicole Bianco and Susan Emory in a scene from ‘Bird Feed’

Sanzel saves the best for last with Charles West’s courtroom spoof, “Home Versus the Holidays.” A man is on trial for waving a sword at a church group singing Christmas carols in front of his home. The audience is sworn in as the jury and the judge (Linda May) calls the first witness to the stand, the chaperone to the group (Steve Wangner).

After the district attorney (Nicole Bianco) asks him some questions, the defense lawyer (Antoine Jones) is allowed to cross-examine and hilarity ensues. Using visuals, song lyrics and the alleged weapon, Jones turns the Christmas spirit on its head in a stunning performance that must be seen to be believed. You’ll be in stitches long after the show ends.

With an excellent lineup and incredible cast, this festival is not to be missed. Get your ticket before they’re sold out.

The cast: Nicole Bianco, Meg Bush, TracyLynn Conner, Susan Emory, Antoine Jones, Linda May, Steve McCoy, Dylan Robert Poulos, Dondi Rollins, Morgan Howell Rumble, Steve Wangner

Sponsored by Lippencott Financial Group, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present The 21st Annual Festival of One-Act Plays through May 6. Contains adult language and subject matter. Parental discretion is advised. Running time is two hours with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $20. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From left, Jessica Contino, Meg Bush, K.D. Guadagno and Nicole Bianco in a scene from 'The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

In tandem with the release of the new animated film, “Peter Rabbit,” Theatre Three presents its annual live children’s theater production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” now through April 14. The action-packed show is the perfect way for families to enjoy spring break.

From left, Dylan Robert Poulos and Steve Uihlein. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The original musical, written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, is loosely based on one of the best-selling books of all time, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter and features all of the beloved characters in the story.

Peter Rabbit and his cousin, Benjamin Bunny, are as naughty as ever this year as they sneak into their neighbor Mr. McGregor’s garden time and time again to steal his vegetables. When his patience grows thin, the farmer, who’s “a meanie with a temper like a bear,” sets out to stop the marauders once and for all. When Peter is caught in a trap, his mother must step in to help him. Will the two neighbors be able to come up with a compromise?

Directed by Sanzel, the eight adult cast members embrace the adorable script and run with it. Dylan Robert Poulos reprises his role as Peter with boundless energy and his astounding acrobats steal the show. Steven Uihlein, as Peter’s partner in crime, Benjamin, provides plenty of comic relief, and Jessica Contino is lovely as the calm and even-tempered Mrs. Rabbit.

Mrs. Rabbit with good little bunnies, Cotton-Tail, Flopsy and Mopsy.

When they’re not eating bread and milk and blackberries, Peter’s sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail (the talented trio of Nicole Bianco, K.D. Guadagno and Meg Bush) spend much of the show looking for their brother in the theater, engaging audience members along the way. Andrew Lenahan and Elizabeth Ladd round out the cast as the harmonious duo Mr. and Mrs. McGregor who love their garden.

The familiar musical numbers, written by Kevin F. Story and accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are the heart of the show. Choreography by Nicole Bianco is top notch, especially with “Run, Peter, Run” and the fun hip-hop number, “Peter’s Socks.” Costumes by Teresa Matteson are charming, from the bunnies’ colorful dresses of pink, yellow and blue to their white bunny tails.

About 5 minutes into Sunday morning’s show a little boy in the audience turned to his grandmother and loudly stated “This is so wonderful!!” This reviewer would have to concur. Grab your children or grandchildren and hop over to Theatre Three for an incredibly sweet treat. They’ll love you for it.

Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny have some fun with the McGregors.

Running time is approximately one hour and 10 minutes with one 10-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and souvenir bunnies in various spring colors will be sold before the show and during intermission for $5. Proceeds will help maintain the historic building. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 17 and 24 and April 4, 5, 6, 7 and 14 at 11 a.m.

Children’s theater will continue on the Mainstage with “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” from April 21 to May 5; “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9 and a brand new original play, “The Princess Who Saved a Dragon,” from July 6 to Aug. 9. All seats are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

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.

Steve McCoy as John Barrymore and Dylan Robert Poulos as Andrew in a scene from 'I Hate Hamlet'. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Fresh on the heels of “A Christmas Carol,” Paul Rudnick’s delightful comedy “I Hate Hamlet” rings in the New Year at Theatre Three with a touch of Shakespeare, a friendly ghost and loads of laughs, all the while examining the age-old debate about the art of live theater versus the fame of television and film.

Directed by Mary Powers, the story centers around Andrew Rally (Dylan Robert Poulos), a successful television actor on the sitcom “L.A. Medical” and the star in a series of commercials peddling breakfast cereal. When the show is suddenly canceled, Andrew moves from California to New York City to try his hand at live theater and is offered the lead role in the Central Park stage production of the tragic masterpiece, “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark.”

Above, the cast of ‘I Hate Hamlet’. Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From all outward appearances, Andrew is living the good life: a beautiful girlfriend, the perfect apartment just off Washington Square and the chance to hone in on his craft by performing the works of the Bard. However, inside he is lacking confidence, his girlfriend of five months, 29-year-old Deirdre McDavey (Jessica Contino), is keeping a firm grip on her chastity leaving him frustrated, his new digs appears to be haunted and, for some reason, he just hates “Hamlet.”

When his agent Lillian Troy (Marci Bing) informs Andrew he is living in the same apartment once occupied by John Barrymore, whose portrayal of Hamlet led to him being called the “greatest living American tragedian,” Deirdre and real estate broker Felicia Dantine (Linda May) find the whole scenario too coincidental to pass up and the four conduct a séance to conjure up the dead actor. Shortly thereafter, Barrymore’s specter (Steve McCoy) appears in the apartment dressed as Hamlet and sets out to convince the insecure actor that he can and should take the part. Only visible to Andrew, producer Gary Peter Lefkowitz (Steve Ayle) and Lillian, Barrymore’s ghost cannot leave until opening night and utilizes his time teaching Andrew how to duel and to appreciate the poetry that is “Hamlet.”

When Gary offers Andrew a new role in a television pilot with the promise of millions of dollars and fame, the actor must decide between Shakespeare in the Park or commercial success. Which will he choose? That is the question.

Jessica Contino as Deidre and Steve McCoy as John Barrymore in a scene from ‘I Hate Hamlet’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Costumes are wonderful, especially the Shakespearian garb, and the set is most impressive indeed. In the first act, the two-level apartment, complete with fireplace, long staircase and balcony, is in disarray, with moving boxes scattered about, a rolled-up carpet and couches wrapped in plastic. As the lights go up in the second act, the apartment has been beautifully transformed to Barrymore’s heyday of the 1920s, bearing a remarkable resemblance to the interior of a Gothic castle.

With a stellar cast, top-notch performances and terrific script, “I Hate Hamlet” promises a lovely evening at the theater. Whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or it’s not your cup of tea, either way you’re in for a wonderful treat. Don’t miss this one.

Enjoy a drink at Griswold’s Café on the lower level of the theater and take a chance at 50/50 during intermission. Proceeds will help upgrade and maintain the historic building.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “I Hate Hamlet” through Feb. 3. Contains adult subject matter; parental discretion is advised. The Mainstage season continues with the musical comedy “Nunsense” from Feb. 24 to March 24 and the courtroom drama “12 Angry Men” from April 7 to May 5. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 students and seniors, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Above, the cast of ‘A Kooky, Spooky Halloween’ at Theatre Three.

By Heidi Sutton

There’s something kooky going on at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. As a matter of fact, there’s something spooky going on there as well. In perfect timing with the upcoming holiday, the Children’s Theatre presents a brand new musical treat, “A Kooky Spooky Halloween,” through Oct. 28.

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Steve McCoy, the adorable show emphasizes the importance of telling the truth and helping others. Skillfully directed by Sanzel, the talented cast of eight adults embraces the brilliant script and, with plenty of audience interaction, presents a wonderful afternoon of live theater.

The cast sings ‘It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast’

Ghost Abner Perkins (Dylan Robert Poulos) has just graduated from Haunted High School and awarded a medallion of invisibility. His first assignment is to be the spooksperson on Halloween for Ma Aberdeen’s Boarding House, “the most haunted house in Harrison County, USA,” which is also known for serving the best toast. There’s only one problem — Abner is afraid of the dark. “It’s like a vampire who’s afraid of necks!” quips his friend Lavinda (Jessica Contino), a good natured witch, before presenting him with a night-light to wear on his hat. Lavinda promises to help Abner with his haunting duties for the first few days.

When they arrive at the boarding house, they come upon Ma Aberdeen (Ginger Dalton), the finest toast maker in the land, and her boarders, Kit Garret (Meg Bush) and the Petersons — Paul the periodontist (Steven Uihlein), his wife Penelope (Nina Moran) and their son Pip (Eric J. Hughes), whose alliterations using words that start with the letter P are perfectly prodigious!

As the sun sets, Abner plays silly tricks on the unsuspecting group, making them stuff Halloween goodie bags in double time, exercise, sing, dance and get stuck to each other. Things are going hauntingly well until fellow graduate Dora Pike (Elizabeth Ladd) shows up. A ghost with a grudge (she was hoping to be assigned to Ma Aberdeen’s boarding house), Dora steals Abner’s night-light and medallion out of revenge and makes her way to Black Ridge Gulch, the deepest, darkest gorge in the entire world (where it’s really, really dark).

Dylan Robert Poulos and Jessica Contino star as Abner and Lavinda in the show.

Now visible, Abner convinces the boarders, who are still stuck to each other, to accompany him and Lavinda on a quest to retrieve his property. Will Abner be able to overcome his fear of the dark? Will the two ghosts be able to reach a compromise?

From the first number, “A-Haunting We Will Go” by the entire company, to the downright creepy “It Will All Fade to Black” by Dora, and the catchy “It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast,” the original songs by Steve McCoy are the heart of the show. Utilizing the set from the current Mainstage production, “The Bridges of Madison County,” the show features excellent choreography by Nicole Bianco. Ditto the costumes by Teresa Matteson.

“A Kooky Spooky Halloween” is the perfect show to get into the spirit of Halloween and a wonderful way to spend a fall afternoon. But be forewarned — for some strange reason, you’ll exit the theater having a craving for toast! Meet the cast in the lobby for photos on your way out.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” on Oct. 14, 21 and 28 at 11 a.m. and Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. with a sensory-sensitive performance on Oct. 15 at 11 a.m. Running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes with one intermission, and Halloween costumes are encouraged.

Children’s Theatre will continue with everyone’s holiday favorite, “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30 and “Rapunzel — The Untold Story” from Jan. 20 to Feb. 24. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

TracyLynn Conner and Brian Gill in a scene from 'The Bridges of Madison County'

By Michael Tessler

You know you’ve seen an incredible production when you find yourself pondering your own life and place in the universe after exiting the theater. That was the case last Sunday afternoon after attending a production of “The Bridges of Madison County” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson.

TracyLynn Conner and Brian Gill with the cast from ‘The Bridges of Madison County’

Based on the award-winning novel by Robert James Walker and the beloved film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, this musical adaptation has a score worthy of Broadway, and Theatre Three provides a cast equally deserving of that designation.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, this is an unconventional love story. Not cliched but brutally honest and so refreshingly human.

As not to spoil much, we meet our protagonist Francesca, an Italian refugee fleeing a war-torn Italy and a life she’s ready to leave behind. To accomplish this she marries Bud Johnson, a simple-minded but well-meaning American soldier who left life on the farm to serve his country. Both travel back to the United States where they build a home and a beautiful family. Their son Michael doesn’t want to live the life of a farmer like his father; their daughter Carolyn, however, embraces it as she trains an award-winning steer for the annual state fair.

Francesca, lovingly called Fran by her husband, longs for the life she dreamed of as a little girl. She feels it is far too late to begin anew, and while there is food on the table, there’s no money for her to visit her home in Italy and the life she left behind. So she settles for a life as a farmer’s wife, trying to find contentment packing lunches.

From left, Marissa Girgus, Dennis Creighton, Steve McCoy, TracyLynn Conner, Matthew Rafanelli and Ella Watts in a scene from ‘The Bridges of Madison County’

Everything changes for Fran when her husband and children take a trip to the state fair. She gets a rare opportunity to breathe and relax. That is until a beat up pickup truck rolls into her driveway and with it the arrival of Robert Kincaid — a professional photographer from National Geographic putting together a photo series on bridges throughout the United States. He’s lost and needs some directions. He’s well-traveled, having just recently visited Italy and having seen every corner of the globe. Fran invites him into her home and, by extension, her life. Thus her world changes forever.

Though I won’t spoil the rest, the show is a real treat. You’ll feel just about every emotion in the book in this two-act musical. Once again Jeffrey Sanzel shines as a director capable of any genre. His unique vision can make a timeless story feel brand new again.

Undoubtedly some lines are picked up directly from the book and film adaptation, but Sanzel’s production takes you for a ride in that worn down pickup truck. You get a glimpse into someone’s world, and that’s a beautiful thing. Sanzel guides his incredibly talented cast, making it impossible not to feel for these characters. I found myself so invested in characters who managed to emote so much in such a short time. Sanzel has no problem setting the bar higher and higher with each passing performance.

This show’s phenomenal cast certainly made his job easier though! Leading the production is the show’s star, TracyLynn Conner who portrays Francesca. First off, her accent is marvelous and never breaks even once. Her voice is one of the finest I’ve ever heard on a stage. Operatic, emotional and just so beautiful to listen to.

Much credit goes to Jeffrey Hoffman who handled the show’s musical direction and turned this small cast into an incredible musical ensemble.

Matthew Rafanelli and Ella Watts

Fran’s husband Bud is played by Dennis Creighton, who really captures the essence of the character and shows his musical tenor in the show’s second act and final number. He’s accompanied by two incredible young actors — Ella Watts as their daughter Carolyn and Matthew Rafanelli as her bookish brother, Michael. I was particularly impressed with Watts. This former star of NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live!” has a voice so incredibly refined that you wish she had even more time on stage. Rafanelli really shines in his role and you’ll find yourself constantly rooting for him and his dreams and flashing back to your own childhood sibling drama. No doubt we’ll be seeing both actors on stage many times in the future!

Theatre Three veteran and Bryan Cranston look alike Steve McCoy remains one of my favorite company members. He plays Charlie — the friendly, simpleton neighbor of the Johnsons and provides comic relief throughout some of the show’s tougher moments. His wife Marge provides nonstop laughter followed by some incredibly endearing scenes. She is portrayed by the incredibly talented Amy Wodon Huben.

Brian Gill’s low and powerful voice brings Robert Kincaid, the world traveling photographer to life. His duets with Conner are some of the highlights of the show. His personality is infectious and translates beautifully on stage.

Last, though certainly not least, is the incredibly diversified performances of Marissa Girgus who plays not one but over four roles. She steps into each of them flawlessly, creating performances both touching and comedic. I felt all sorts of emotions during her nothing short of groovy performance of “Another Life.”

Being a smaller cast, you can get a sense that each character was crafted to perfection not just by the actors but by their director. They feel so real and so dynamic, which is exceptional as several actors play multiple roles … something that usually takes you out of an experience but now suddenly enhances it.

Brian Gill and TracyLynn Conner

My favorite part of the show (outside of its cast) was its unique score, which combines two radically different genres to make something genuinely unique. Strings played as though from the Italian countryside, harrowing and haunting — a reminder of an old world, an abandoned life combined with the lively sound of the great American Midwest, and the wholehearted lifestyle of the American farmer. For a brief moment these sounds clash into something unique and unforgettable.

This may be one of the most beautiful sets I’ve seen at Theatre Three. Randall Parsons transports you to the great American Midwest. Robert W. Henderson Jr., the show’s lighting designer, ensures the light breaks through the barn wood in spectacular ways. One can’t help but feel nostalgic when looking at the kitchen they designed as well.

From top to bottom this show is local theater at its finest. Provoking several audible gasps from the audience followed by thunderous rounds of applause, “The Bridges of Madison County” is something you wish you could photograph and treasure forever.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Bridges of Madison County” on the Mainstage through Oct. 28. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 not permitted. Contains adult subject matter. Parental discretion is advised.

A special event, “Behind the Curtain with ‘The Bridges of Madison County’” will be held on Oct. 22. Join Director Jeffrey Sanzel, musical director Jeffrey Hoffman and actor TracyLynn Conner for a freewheeling exploration of this powerful contemporary musical. The full buffet supper and talk will begin at 5 p.m. $30 per person. The event will be followed by the Mainstage performance of “The Bridges of Madison County” at 7 p.m. Tickets for the performance may be purchased separately.

For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

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