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Theatre Three

‘The Judge’ offers a unique portrait of Kholoud Al-Faquih, above, the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Sharia’a courts.
Popular film festival gives voice to stories that need to be told

By Heidi Sutton

Islamic law, autism, the stock market — these diverse subject matters and more will be explored at length as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) kicks off its spring 2018 season Monday evening, March 19.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS will present seven award-winning documentaries on Monday nights through April 30, alternating between two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with guest speakers.

The documentaries were handpicked by a seven-member film board that includes co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. The “film ladies,” as they are affectionately known, each choose one film to present and then a seventh film is chosen unanimously by the group.

It is a system that has worked well since 2005. “I have learned that almost everybody [on the board] has their fingers on the pulse of some segment of our audience,” said Boland in a recent phone interview. “I think that we all have slightly different ways of judging the films that we are attracted to,” which the co-director says is a good thing. “You really want a balanced season that appeals to a lot of people.”

According to Boland, the goal of the festival has always been the same. “What we want most is to give our community the kind of access to important well-done documentaries that are fresh, shown the way they were created to be shown, on a big screen with a good sound system at an affordable price. A guest speaker will amplify the experience.”

This spring’s exciting lineup was selected after the members attended screenings at DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival. When choosing the selections, Boland said she looks for a story “that really grabs me, that I think is dramatic, important, … a must see film,” adding “It is our hope that [the film selection] is really adding to the public discourse — that this is something people will talk about and think about.”

Kicking off the festival is the Long Island premiere of “The China Hustle.” “[This film] is one of those cool movies that is like a slow reveal — a financial mystery that you just start putting the pieces together as the film goes on and you really see what a ‘hustle’ the whole situation is with these fake Chinese companies that grabbed American investors,” Boland divulged. “It is absolutely fascinating.”

The co-director is most excited about sharing “The Judge” with festivalgoers. The documentary follows Kholoud Al-Faqih and her journey to be the first female judge in a Shari’a court in Palestine. “I think it is particularly appropriate to be screened now during Women’s History Month. [Al-Faqih] is a very mesmerizing figure — practical, smart, stubborn and just totally dedicated. That appealed to me,” said Boland. “[The film shows] how family disputes were negotiated in a Muslim religious court. As a former matrimonial attorney I was amazed how similar the issues were [to the United States] and how similarly they were handled.”

She is also enamored by “This Is Congo.” Skillfully directed by Daniel McCabe, Boland describes it as “an incredibly risky showing about what’s going on in Congo that nobody’s talking about, nobody’s writing about. This is a story that needs to be told and we have to do our part to get some of these things out.” Boland’s favorite part of the evening is the Q&A, which this year will feature for the first time six directors and one screenwriter.

The documentary series wouldn’t be possible without the support of numerous volunteers. Every season, help is needed for each part of the process, from distributing flyers and running the ticket booths to tracking down directors and even recommending new films. “We need volunteers not only to help the evenings go more smoothly but we would really love to have more people on the board,” said Boland. If you love documentary films and would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5220.

The board was recently notified that the PJDS was chosen by Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island survey as the Best Film Festival on Long Island, beating out the Stony Brook Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival for the second year in a row for “its devotion to documentaries — which are evocative, thought provoking, and shed light on often-unrepresented segments of our population.” To Boland, it is affirmation that the group’s tireless work is paying off. “I am just thrilled,” she gushed. “Every time we have our first meeting to start work on the next series … I am just amazed at how everybody hangs in there … just because they really love films and love to bring them to the community. That’s the bottom line.”

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from March 19 to April 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person. (No credit cards please.) New this year at the Long Island Museum’s screenings is the Cinema and Chardonnay program. For $5, participants can purchase a glass of chardonnay and/or a $1 bag of pretzels and then enjoy the wine and snack while watching the film. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule

▶ The spring season will kick off with a special screening of “The China Hustle” at Theatre Three on March 19. The documentary exposes a new financial crime perpetrated by Wall Street where investors dumped their money into Chinese businesses that turned out to be fraudulent. The hook of the story is that everyone involved is guilty, including the investor who called out the fraud in the first place. Guest speakers will be Director Jed Rothstein by Skype and Juan Carlos Conesa, chair of Dept. of Economics, Stony Brook University.

▶ “Sammy Davis, Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” to be screened at the Long Island Museum on March 26, is the first major documentary to examine Davis’ vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress in 20th century America. With interviews from Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Novak along with photographs, television, film and concert. Moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on WUSB, guest speaker will be screenwriter and co-producer Laurence Maslon.

▶ The series continues with “The Judge” on April 2 at the Long Island Museum. The Muslim Shari’a courts in the Middle East have excluded women for centuries, and the influential religious legal system has never appointed a woman as a judge — until Kholoud Al-Faqih came along. The documentary follows the Palestine judge’s brave journey as a lawyer, her tireless fight for justice for women and her drop-in visits with clients, friends and family. Guest speaker will be Director Erika Cohn.

▶ “This Is Congo,” to be screened at Theatre Three on April 9, is a riveting, unfiltered immersion into the world’s longest continuing conflict and those who are surviving within it. Following four compelling characters: a whistleblower, a patriotic military commander, a mineral dealer and a displaced tailor — the film offers viewers a truly Congolese perspective on the problems that plague this lushly beautiful nation. Moderated by Shimelis Gulema, professor of Africana studies and history, SBU, the guest speaker for the evening will be Director Daniel McCabe.

▶ The series continues on April 16 at Theatre Three with an impressionist, fly-on-the-wall portrait of the life and glorious music of Israeli-born Itzhak Perlman, widely considered the greatest living violinist. Titled “Itzhak,” the documentary follows the virtuoso around the world for a year, portraying his huge passion and spirit. Wheelchair-bound from childhood polio, Perlman recounts overcoming obstacles with humor and talent. Featuring archival materials and performance clips, the guest speaker will be Director Alison Chernick.

▶ “Love, Cecil,” which will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 23, brings to life the glamorous world of fashion/celebrity photographer and stage set designer, Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) through the use of archival footage, interviews and readings from his diaries by actor Rupert Everett. Guest speaker for the evening will be Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

▶ The final film for the spring 2018 season, “Mole Man” will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 30 and follows Ron Heist, a 66-year-old autistic man who built a 50-room structure, consisting solely of scrap materials, on the land behind his parent’s home in Western Pennsylvania. His creation was built without the use of nails or mortar and keeps expanding, as he collects, classifies and displays objects from a deserted cluster of homes in the woods. This is the story of an extraordinary life, a family and the beauty of thinking differently. Director Guy Fiorita will be the guest speaker.

All photos courtesy of the PJDS

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.

Carolyn Droscoski. Photo from Theatre Three

A cherished member of Theatre Three, and by extension the Port Jefferson community, was lost this month.

Carolyn Droscoski, 61, of Port Jefferson Station died suddenly of an aneurysm, according to her close friend Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three. She was a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson Station and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

“Anyone that you spoke to would say the same thing — it was just her voice, her vocals,” Koutrakos said of what she would remember most about her close friend, along with her beautiful smile. Koutrakos said she’d heard Droscoski described as having “leather lungs,” a tribute to her booming, powerful singing voice. “She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

“She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news.”

— Debbie Schwartz McGinley

Droscoski had 40-years-worth of history at Theatre Three. She performed in dozens of productions, including memorable performances as Rose in “Gypsy,” Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music,” Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream,” and many incarnations of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” according to Theatre Three’s website.

Times Beacon Record News Media reviewed her 2013 performance in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” as Mrs. Claus: “Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Stephen Doone and Carolyn Droscoski, are in numerous scenes and steal the show. Every appearance on stage had the children sitting up straight and pointing. During a recent Saturday show, many children cried when the lights came up for intermission, thinking the show was over and wanting to see Santa just one more time. Doone and Droscoski also double as Andrew and Sarah, the nice Jewish couple who teach Barnaby and Franklynne all about Hanukkah, and switch roles effortlessly. The musical numbers are terrific and are accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics. ‘Still with the Ribbon on Top,’ sung by Hughes, reveals Barnaby’s struggle to fit in; ‘Miracles,’ sung beautifully by Droscoski as Sarah, will touch your heart and ‘S.B. Dombulbury’ will have you tapping your feet.”

Droscoski traveled the country in an off-Broadway production of “Nunsense,” a show in which she played five different roles. She also performed and toured with her band, Everyday People, which performed countless shows in Port Jefferson. She even appeared in promotional materials for the snack Cracker Jack.

“The only thing I could say is I loved her, and she made me happy,” her longtime partner Charlie Cacioppo said. He added she often affectionately referred to him as “Bubba” or Charles Francis.

“She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

— Vivian Koutrakos

She had two sisters and four brothers, as well as many nieces and nephews, according to her sister Barbara Cassidy.

“The most important thing in her life was her family,” Cassidy said. “She was the biggest cheerleader for her many beloved nieces and nephews.”

Upon Theatre Three sharing the news of her passing on its Facebook page — a post that was shared and commented on more than 50 times — admirers of her talents and friends posted condolences and memories of the beloved performer.

“She was kind, fun, caring and always treated me like a regular person — not just a kid,” a poster named Debbie Schwartz McGinley wrote, adding Droscoski had played her mother in a 1980 production of “A Christmas Carol.” “She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news. All my love to her family, friends, and especially my old school T3 family!”

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.

Theatre Three will present a sensory-friendly performance of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11.

By Jennifer Sloat

Sensory-friendly performances are now part of the marquee at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. The shows are modified to provide a more comfortable setting for children with special needs. The theater’s artistic director, Jeffrey Sanzel, said they have been providing sensory friendly shows since October 2016 and the feedback he is receiving has been very positive.

“A parent contacted us and asked us if we would consider doing it,” said Sanzel. “We want to be inclusive and so I started looking into it.”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Goldilocks — Is That You?” will take place on June 3.

Sanzel, who previously taught high school for two years, reached out to a former student who works with autistic children to get her feedback and assistance in making the modifications. He began the work in June 2016 and the first sensory sensitive show was performed in October of 2016.

Families who attend the show can expect house lights to remain up and special effects and sound levels to be lowered. The music is quieter and there are no strobe lights. Actors do not run through the aisles and instead do a slow motion chase. Kids can also move freely about the auditorium during the show, lowering stress levels for parents who are concerned about disturbing fellow audience members.

“Knowing that we would not be frowned upon in the event my son could not contain his excitement made it an enjoyable event for all of us,” said audience member Lisa Clark. “[My son] Christopher loved the show and did not want to leave. When a cast member realized we were having trouble getting him to the lobby to take pictures with the rest of the cast, she summoned the cast to gather around him. How awesome is that?”

A sensory-friendly performance of “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” will be held on Jan. 21

A social story, provided on the theater’s website, is also used to lessen anxiety that kids may be feeling about attending the show. The online picture book can be reviewed by the children beforehand, providing a virtual walk through of attending a live show. It includes photos of the outside and inside of the theater, the box office and a picture of who will be giving them their tickets. Kids will see the path they will take to their seats, where they will sit and what the stage looks like. They will also see pictures of the actors in and out of their costume

“The thing that has been amazing is that ninety-nine percent of the kids have stayed the entire show; only twice did a child have to leave the show for a bit and come back up,” said Sanzel. All throughout the show the children are engaged, laughing and cheering. “We write our own shows and it is wonderful that they clearly are enjoying it.”

Perhaps most comforting of all is the opportunity for parents, caregivers and children to be in the company of others with whom they have something in common. “Families love it,” said Theatre Three company member Jessica Contino. “They are so thankful afterward. We stand in lobby for a meet and greet [after the show]. A young man in a wheelchair stopped us last year and said it was their second show. You just feel so good about it. It really hits home for some.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Sensory-friendly children shows are typically offered on the first Sunday of every month. Upcoming shows include “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” on Jan. 21, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 11, “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” on April 29 and “Goldilocks — Is That You?” on June 3. All performances are at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. For further information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.


The cast of 'Barnaby Saves Christmas'

By Heidi Sutton

In 2003, Theatre Three’s Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel sat down and wrote an adorable musical for children titled “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” about a little elf named Barnaby and a tiny reindeer called Franklynne who teach us that “Christmas lies within our hearts.” I recently had the opportunity to ask the two playwrights a few questions about the show that has become a beloved holiday tradition for families on the North Shore.

Can you believe it’s been 14 years?

DQ: No I can’t … it feels like just yesterday. I couldn’t possibly be getting that old!

What inspired you to write a holiday show for children?

JS: Doug conceived and created “Barnaby.” I had very little to do with its initial creation. He brought me a rough draft and the incredible score the summer before we premiered it. I was immediately taken by his terrific songs and I loved the idea of a holiday show that touched on another culture. During the fall, he continued to write and rewrite the show and went into rehearsal with it. It opened to great response and we knew we had our annual show.

Over the next several years, Doug and I worked on the book together, trading ideas, trying new things. Doug continued to add to the score and we have revised the show every year. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the beautiful score and the show’s great big heart — Barnaby and Franklynne are truly amazing holiday figures with as much character as Rudolph or Santa.

DQ: I have 13 nieces and nephews and I used to babysit when they were young and they would ask me to tell them bedtime stories. I used to make up stories for them, and one holiday season I started to tell them about a little elf and his reindeer friend. I always tried to put messages in the stories such as believing in yourself, believing that you can do anything, getting over fears and things like that.

They would get a little piece of the story at a time. Then I started writing songs to go along with that particular story and play them for the kids. Theatre Three always does “A Christmas Carol,” and that is a little scary for the young ones, and I wanted to offer a holiday show for the children. When I spoke to Jeff about the idea, he loved it and encouraged me to give it a shot. I was much more confident writing songs, which in themselves are stories, but writing an actual play was another thing. “Barnaby” was the first play I ever wrote and without Jeff’s extraordinary talent and guidance I don’t think I could have ever done it. His knowledge of theater and storytelling is second to none.

‘Barnaby’ is considered a Christmas story yet Hanukkah is very much a part of it. Why was it important to you to include the Festival of Lights in this story?

DQ: As people, I have always believed that we can all learn something from each other. Whatever your faith or beliefs, we are all here in this life together. We should respect and be open to others ways of living. The Festival of Lights celebrates a miracle and is a story of perseverance … not giving up. Barnaby and Franklynne are faced with a struggle at that point in the plot, and it struck me as the perfect opportunity to share that beautiful story. That’s where the song “Miracles” comes in.

JS: The fact that children get a small education on Hanukkah is an additional gift. We’ve had so many people thank us for adding that and finding the connection in the overall holiday spirit.

How does it make you feel when you hear the children laughing and see them enjoy the show?

DQ: It’s beyond gratifying and a little surreal. I love when the kids laugh and sing the songs on their way out of the theater.

What message did you hope to convey when you wrote this show?

DQ: The message of the story is really in some of the lyrics of the songs. “… Every day’s a golden opportunity to be better than you used to be…” “There are so many miracles that happen everyday” and lastly. “… Christmas lies within our hearts, The toys we give are just a sign of all the love we feel inside, and there’s enough to share for you and me.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 23, 24, 28, 29 and 30 at 11 a.m. All seats are $10. To order, 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.

By Michael Tessler

Theatre Three delivers perhaps one of my most favorite holiday traditions: a classic retelling of Charles Dickens’ most beloved work, “A Christmas Carol,” right in the heart of downtown Port Jefferson. This stage adaptation is so beautifully conceived and has been so well refined over the years that it’d appear Dickens’ 174-year-old novel jumps quite literally from the pages onto the stage in a fashion that can be best described as magical.

This particular production, which is celebrating its 34th year, is nothing short of miraculous, not just for its stunning set design, incredible wardrobe and perfectly planned lighting and sound … but also for the fact that somehow each and every year the show (while familiar) feels brand new.

Jeffrey Sanzel, the show’s director and the actor behind the famous literary curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge, shuffles the cast, set and various elements of the show, refining it and bringing new life to it each and every season. In the long and impressive shelf life of “A Christmas Carol” there has never, in my opinion, been a better Scrooge than Jeffrey Sanzel. No actor has ever lived and breathed that character for so long and with such passion as Sanzel. Watching his character’s transformation unfold on stage is pure delight.

This year’s show beams with talent. One can’t help but admire the incredible skill of the show’s youngest cast members who perform alongside their adult counterparts as equals both in professionalism and talent. Not for a moment does any actor’s performance take you out of this whimsical Dickensian world Sanzel creates.

Steve Wangner shines as Bob Cratchit, bringing to life all the warmth and love of Scrooge’s least favorite employee. Wangner had big shoes to fill, replacing Douglas Quattrock who has long held the role. No doubt Quattrock should be proud of his successor who masterfully carried Tiny Tim (portrayed jointly by Ryan Becker and Cameron Turner) upon his shoulders. His family dynamic especially with his wife (Suzie Dunn) and children is wonderfully endearing.

My personal favorite of the ensemble cast is Mr. Fezziwig portrayed by the cheerful George Liberman. Though I’ve got the bias of loving his character, this actor’s presence puts an instant smile on your face and reminds you of the wholesome fun of Christmas time. His partner in crime, Mrs. Fezziwig, is portrayed by the wonderful Ginger Dalton who also excels as Mrs. Dilber … the cockney maid of Scrooge whose comedic ability is unparalleled in the two-act show.

Megan Bush brings to life Belle, the first and only love of Scrooge and daughter of Fezziwig. Though her character’s time on stage is brief, she so perfectly captures the innocence of a first love and shows us a side of Scrooge we often forget. Steve McCoy, the wildly talented Theatre Three veteran, brings to life (and death) Scrooge’s late business partner Jacob Marley. His performance is haunting in the best kind of way. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the kind and loving Fan performed both by Heather Kuhn and Sophia Knapp. Her special relationship with young Scrooge (Kiernan Urso and Alexander Yagud-Wolek) encapsulates the special bond reserved just for siblings.

This year the three spirits have outdone themselves — beginning with the stunningly talented Jessica Contino whose Ghost of Christmas Past comes to life in almost angelic form. She is followed by the hysterical and larger-than-life Antoine Jones as the Ghost of Christmas Present, whose epic bellowing laughter echoes through the historic Athena Hall. Last, but certainly not least is the incredible puppetry of Dylan Robert Poulos as the Ghost of Christmas Future who also shows off his talent as an actor in the role of Scrooge’s orphaned nephew Fred Halliwell.

Randall Parsons and Bonnie Vidal bring 19th-century England to Port Jefferson with stunning production design and impeccable costuming. Robert W. Henderson Jr. transports you to the past, present and future with some mesmerizing lighting. This year’s production also welcomed newcomer Melissa Troxler as stage manager who ran the set flawlessly from an audience perspective. Brad Frey provides some wonderful musical direction in addition to the late Ellen Michelmore, whose lasting legacy at Theatre Three can be heard with the beautiful musical conception and sound effects that remain a centerpiece of this production.

Leaving the theater I found my heart filled with a joy and merriment only felt in those special moments when you’re surrounded by family and huddled around a great big Christmas tree. For that wonderful moment, I felt the spirit of Christmas itself … and what a wonderful gift it was to receive from the cast and crew of Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol.”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “A Christmas Carol” now through Dec. 30. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students and $20 children ages 5 to 12. (Children under 5 are not permitted.) To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.


All photos by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Photo by Brian Hoerger

Join Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson for a special event, Behind the Curtain: A Christmas Carol on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 5 p.m. Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel, who has appeared as Scrooge in over 1,000 performances, will guide you through the history of the story, its many adaptations and the journey of Theatre Three’s 33 years of presenting “A Christmas Carol.” The event will be followed by the Mainstage performance of Theatre Three’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” The event is $30 per person and includes a full buffet supper. Tickets for the 7 p.m. performance may be purchased separately. For more information, call 631-928-9100.