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Theatre Three

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

By Heidi Sutton

During the month of December, Santa Claus has taken up residence at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson with Mrs. Claus and the whole gang for the theater’s 12th annual original production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas.”

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

With the book by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel and music and lyrics by Quattrock, this adorable children’s musical has become a yearly tradition for many local families.

Under the direction of Sanzel, an enthusiastic cast of nine adult actors whisk the audience away to the North Pole. It’s Christmas Day and Santa, his elves and reindeer are on their way to deliver presents to all the children. Realizing Santa has left behind one of the presents, a teddy bear, the littlest elf Barnaby convinces the littlest 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 who’s trying to ruin Christmas — ultimately learning the true meaning of the holiday season.

Reprising his role as Barnaby, Hans Paul Hendrickson is delightful as an elf trying desperately to fit in. His solo, “Still with the Ribbon on Top,” is heartfelt and his duet with Sari Feldman as Franklynne, titled “I’m Gonna Fly Now,” is terrific. Feldman is wonderful, playing her character with the perfect level of spunkiness and determination. The audience connects with the two from the beginning.

Steven Uihlein and Phyllis March are Santa and Mrs. Claus and double as the Jewish aunt and nephew characters, Sarah and Andrew. Uihlein’s solo, “Within Our Hearts,” is superb and March’s rendition of “Miracles” is moving.

Although it is Santa the children look forward to seeing, it is S. B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury who steals the show. The incomparable Brett Chizever tackles the role of the evil villain with utter glee. Just a big kid himself, Chizever is perfectly cast. This is a fun role and Chizever relishes in it. Dana Bush, as Irmagarde, his partner in crime, is also an audience favorite. The only original cast member in the show, Bush always gives a strong performance as the wannabe songwriter who follows her heart.

Marquez Catherine Stewart gives a superbly humorous performance as Sam, the head elf who is desperately trying to stay on schedule and keep everything running smoothly. Amanda Geraci and Jenna Kavaler in the roles of Blizzard and Crystal, respectively, are an amazing supporting cast.

Choreographed by Stewart, the dance numbers are fresh and exciting, incorporating the Whip and the Nae Nae as well as a tap-dancing number — “Like Me!” — that is top rate.

This sweet, cleverly written holiday musical is a perfectly wrapped package with a bow on top. The story line, the songs and the message are all timeless and wonderful. And the audience agreed, as the children — yes, the children — yelled, “Encore!” over and over at the end.

Stay after for photos with Santa Claus if you wish — the $5 fee will 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” on Dec. 5, 12, 19 and 26, with a special Christmas Eve performance on Dec. 24. All shows begin at 11 a.m. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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From left, Douglas Quattrock, Jeffrey Sanzel and Hans Paul Hendrickson in a scene from ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni, Kayline Images

Theatre Three’s 32nd annual performance of “A Christmas Carol” opened last weekend. “Too early,” you may say. “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet.” Perhaps, but the spirit of Christmas — giving selflessly and spending time with the ones you love — is a message that holds true all year.

The show is based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel of cranky old miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is concerned only with business. One Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley appears, wearing the chains he’d forged in life, “link by link,” and tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who help him discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Published more than 170 years ago, Dickens’ tale of redemption quickly resonated with the working class and has remained a holiday favorite ever since.

Adapted for the stage by Theatre Three Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel in 1983, the production is constantly evolving, revising itself, with subtle changes that keep it fresh. The audience is led through a gamut of emotions, from fear to sadness to pure joy — a true testament to the magic of live theater.

The show brings back familiar faces year after year, with Sanzel (Scrooge), Douglas Quattrock (Bob Cratchit), Steve McCoy (Jacob Marley) and George Liberman (Mr. Fezziwig) leading a talented cast of 20 who, combined, play nearly 100 roles. The entire company, from the seasoned actors to the children, does a phenomenal job.

Sanzel, who also directs, is in every scene and is wonderful. In a scene with the Ghost of Christmas Past, he instantly transforms from an old, hunched-over tired man to a young man again, dancing the night away at Fezziwig’s holiday party. The transition is effortless and quite remarkable.

Quattrock’s performance as Bob Cratchit is particularly moving, especially in his scenes with Tiny Tim (played by Ryan M. Becker), and Steve McCoy is a daunting Marley. Other standouts include Liberman as the jolly Mr. Fezziwig, Kiernan Urso in the role of young Scrooge and Amanda Geraci, who reprises her role as the sweet but sassy Ghost of Christmas Past. James D. Schultz tackles a new role this year as the cheeky Ghost of Christmas Present “to show the joys of mankind” and does a tremendous job. Newcomer Hans Paul Hendrickson brings an elevated level of tenderness to the role of Scrooge’s optimistic nephew, Fred Halliwell, that is top-notch and operates the towering Ghost of Christmas Future with ease.

A Victorian set designed by Randall Parsons, period costumes by Parsons and Bonnie Vidal, lighting by Robert W. Henderson Jr., music and sound by Ellen Michelmore and the many special effects pull it all together nicely to create a first-class production. Be it your second time or your 32nd, Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol” is well worth revisiting.

Arrive a little early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors in the lobby and stay afterward for photo ops with Scrooge (proceeds benefit the theater’s scholarship fund).

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “A Christmas Carol” on the Mainstage through Dec. 27. New this year, all evening shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $30. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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George Liberman reprises role for 9th year

Alexander Yagud-Wolek and George Liberman in last year’s performance of ‘A Christmas Carol.' Photo by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni, Kayline Productions

By Rita J. Egan

In the classic tale “A Christmas Carol,” a glimpse of his younger years working for Mr. Fezziwig provides a delightful vision of Christmas past for Ebenezer Scrooge. This holiday season, for the 9th year in a row, actor George Liberman will take on the role of the miser’s former boss in Theatre Three’s adaptation of the holiday classic.

It’s a character the actor loves portraying and one whose kind-hearted spirit he captures perfectly, with great energy and a jovial laugh.

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it. “Know it!” said Scrooge. “Was I apprenticed here?”

They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wig, sitting behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement: “Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again!”

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shows to his organ of benevolence; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice.

Excerpt from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” 1843

“Fezziwig was a good businessman, but he believed that a happy workplace is a prosperous workplace, exactly the opposite of the environment that Scrooge is working in. His workplace was miserable; he was miserable. The Fezziwig workplace was totally different. You kind of see that when you go into the whole Fezziwig sequence in the show. It’s just a happy place,” said Liberman, who has played this role more than 400 times.

“The Fezziwig party — he’s inviting all of his workers, regardless of their class. He’s inviting his neighbors in; he’s having a great time. He wants everyone to enjoy themselves,” the actor said. “He’s bubbly, he’s happy; he has a great relationship with his wife. That’s kind of the way I try to portray him — being very, very happy and very bubbly, very full of life — and that’s what I love about the role.”

Douglas Quattrock, director of development and marketing, and group sales and marketing coordinator, who has played Bob Cratchit in the production for the last 12 years, said Liberman has a great understanding of the Fezziwig role. Quattrock explained that the character adds that touch of humanity to the story, where the most important thing is love.

“I think George embodies that. I’ve noticed that tenderness grow over the years. Every year he’s brought that nuance to it that a lot of actors who might play the role once or twice might not capture,” Quattrock said.

Liberman’s relationship with Theatre Three began in 1991, when he attended a performance of “Sweeney Todd.” The actor enjoyed the show so much he began auditioning and through the years has appeared in “Man of La Mancha” (Captain of the Inquisition), “Guys and Dolls” (Rusty Charlie) “Fiddler on the Roof” (Lazar Wolf), as well as others.

Jeffrey Sanzel, Theatre Three’s executive artistic director, describes Liberman as a go-to person who always has great chemistry with his castmates. “George is one of the easiest people to work with. I have never heard anybody say anything other than he’s wonderful,” Sanzel said, who also directs “A Christmas Carol” and stars as Scrooge.

Liberman’s interest in performing began during his days at Adelphi University. While a student there, he was a member of the Adelphi University Octet. The singing group would perform throughout New York State, and he appeared in one of the university’s musicals, “Little Mary Sunshine.” However, he said after graduating from college, due to working full-time and family responsibilities, he didn’t perform again until 1991, appearing in Theatre Three’s production of “Man of La Mancha”.

It wasn’t until the husband and father retired from working as an administrator for the New York State Office of Mental Health nine years ago that he approached Sanzel about participating in “A Christmas Carol.” He explained that the holiday production’s rehearsal and performance schedule would have been too demanding for him while working full-time.

Sanzel said he knew Liberman was perfect for the role of Fezziwig. “He’s very warm. There’s a real honesty about George, which comes across on stage because he’s that way in life,” the director said.

Liberman’s participation in “A Christmas Carol” keeps him, as well as the other actors, extremely busy the last few months of the year. Rehearsals this year began in the beginning of October, when the cast met downstairs to run through their lines, and on Oct. 26, they began rehearsing on stage, with a good percentage of the set constructed. Liberman, who loves to golf, said jokingly that he’s not quite sure what he would do this time of year if he weren’t rehearsing and performing on stage, especially with golf season being over.

Jenna Kavaler, George Liberman and Jeffrey Sanzel in last year’s performance of ‘A Christmas Carol.' Photo by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni, Kayline Productions
Jenna Kavaler, George Liberman and Jeffrey Sanzel in last year’s performance of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni, Kayline Productions

Liberman said he enjoys working with his fellow “A Christmas Carol” actors, both those who have returned from previous years and newcomers. He said Michelle Cosentino will be playing Mrs. Fezziwig for the first time and is wonderful in the role.

Cosentino enjoys working with Liberman as well, and she said she appreciates how welcoming and patient he is. “He’s pretty much Christmas 24/7. It’s like happiness is bursting out of him,” Cosentino said.

Liberman said he continually learns more about the story and the role and has added some refinements over the years, and he said he has grown as an actor as well. The growth has occurred not only due to playing Fezziwig each year, but also by watching Sanzel take on the role of Scrooge every holiday season. Liberman said he has learned a lot by watching the director, especially with how he shades his character in different ways.

In addition to his appreciation for what Fezziwig stands for, Liberman said the theme of “A Christmas Carol” also brings him back each year. He said, for him, the classic holiday story shows that even when you are as mean as Scrooge is, a person can learn the errors of his way.

“The message of the show is a very uplifting, positive message, as it progresses through the show. So I really enjoy doing it,” the actor said.

Liberman hopes that theatergoers will enjoy the message of the holiday story as much as he does. “I would hope that when people walk away, they’re inspired, and they come away with the notion that even the meanest of characters, the meanest of people, can be redeemed and can change, can see the positive in people and can do something positive for those around them,” he said.

Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson, will present its 32nd annual production of “A Christmas Carol” from Nov. 14 to Dec. 27. Ticket prices range from $15 to $30. For more information and show times, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

The entire cast of ‘Alice’s Wonderland Adventures!’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic may be more than 150 years old, but “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” still resonate with children and adults alike. Now Theatre Three’s creative geniuses Tim Peierls and Jeffrey Sanzel have written a brand new Alice-inspired children’s musical — “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures!” — that opened last Saturday. All the familiar characters are here, from the White Rabbit to the Mad Hatter, to the Queen of Hearts to the beloved Cheshire Cat. Throw in an appearance from Humpty Dumpty and Dorothy Gale, add a quick game of Wheel of Fortune for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a hit show.

Sanzel as director leads a talented group of seven adult actors, all of whom play multiple roles, through a delightful and clever production perfect for younger audiences. Seasoned actors Jenna Kavaler, Amanda Geraci, Hans Paul Hendrickson, Andrew Gasparini and Steve Uihlein are all outstanding, as are newcomers Mary Ortiz and Melanie Acampora, making their children’s theater in-house debut.

In the first act we meet Addison Carroll (Kavaler), an actress who is nervous that she will forget her lines as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland.” In a dream sequence, she finds herself transported to a magical land where the White Rabbit accidently takes her script. Addison spends the rest of the show chasing after the harried hare, trying to get it back. Along the way, accompanied by the Cheshire Cat, she has a tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse; plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts, who enjoys shouting, “Off with their heads!” a bit too much; and visits with Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Addison’s adventures help her gain confidence and she awakens from her nap, ready to take on the world.

Sanzel knows his target audience well. Every scene is full of song and dance, fast-paced and short. Riddles and jokes run rampant throughout the production: “Why do flowers work in the kitchen? Because you can’t make tarts without flour!”

The 12 original musical numbers by Peierls, accompanied by Steve McCoy on piano, are the heart of the show. Hendrickson is outstanding in his solos, “We’re All a Little Mad Here” and “The Tweedle’s Song,” in which he impressively performs both Tweedle roles, making his solo a duet. Geraci shines in “So Much to Do,” and the entire company’s “Wonderland Within You” is the perfect finale.

The actors utilize the set from the evening show, “Sweeney Todd,” but that’s OK because the costumes and puppets are so colorful and fun, a set is not even necessary. From the caterpillar with his six arms to the long red robe of the Queen of Hearts, costume designer Teresa Matteson has done an excellent job. It is the 13 puppets, however, designed and constructed by the brilliant Tazukie Fearon, that steal the spotlight. From the moment they make an appearance, the children are mesmerized. This is live theater at its best. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show.

Five-year-old Josephine Cunniffe, of Stony Brook, who said she loved the show, enjoyed the performance with her grandparents. Her favorite character was the White Rabbit.

Ashley Kenter, who’s been coming to Theatre Three since she was a little girl, said her favorite characters were “Alice … and the bunny” and her favorite scenes were when the Cheshire Cat told knock-knock jokes. The 10-year-old, who was having her birthday party at the theater, said she decided to celebrate the milestone at Theatre Three “because there is a lot of room here and they have a lot of good shows.” Her favorite show of all time is “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” which by coincidence is the theater’s next children’s show, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 26.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures!” through Oct. 24. Tickets are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Steve McCoy and Suzanne Mason star in ‘Sweeney Todd’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sari Feldman, Franklin Inc.

Port Jefferson Village residents can score free tickets to see the musical “Sweeney Todd” at Theatre Three on Main Street.

Residents with a valid ID can pick up tickets at the village recreation department office, on the second floor of the Village Center, as supplies last. The tickets are available for two Thursday night shows: Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.

Call 631-802-2160 for more info.

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A scene from ‘The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor.’ Photo from PJDC

The arrival of cooler weather signals the start of a perennial favorite, the Port Jefferson Documentary Series.

Supported by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Suffolk County Film Commission, the PJDS begins its 22nd season on Monday, Sept. 21, at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. The fall series, which will run through Oct. 27, marks the program’s 11th anniversary and the 22nd season of documentaries.

“We are very, very excited,” Lyn Boland, co-director of the film committee that has arranged the documentary series since 2005, said in a recent phone interview. Along with Boland, the committee — nicknamed the Film Ladies — includes co-director Barbara Sverd, Wendy Feinberg, Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross and Lorie Rothstein.

Seven award-winning documentaries will be featured this season, each complemented by a guest speaker who will answer questions at the end of the screening. This year’s selections will explore topics such as genocide, drug cartels, the online black market, art, tradition, cartoons and government cover-ups.

The process of choosing the documentaries is labor-intensive.“[The volunteer committee] gathers the movies from several different sources,” Boland explained. The members go to film festivals like the Hamptons International Film Festival and “try to personally grab one of the directors from one of those films. … We did that with ‘Meet the Patels,’ which was at the Hamptons last fall, and we showed it in the spring and it’s opening in theaters in September. So that’s like the dream sequence.”

‘Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict,’ Photo from PJDC
‘Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict,’ Photo from PJDC

Other festivals they regularly attend include the Tribeca Film Festival, the Stony Brook Film Festival and the American Film Institute’s festival in Washington, D.C. “So we try to go to festivals, we keep an eye on what’s going on in the news and we keep an eye long distance on the big festivals like Toronto, Sundance,” Boland added. “We also get a lot of emails from documentary organizations.”

The committee aims to screen films that people could not easily find elsewhere, so they avoid films that are streaming on services like Amazon or on television, for example.

When selecting the films, “We look for a great story that needs to be told,” Boland said. “We look for a film that’s well made because we really want to keep the standards up. We look for a subject that we haven’t shown too much of; something that’s new. We look for balance in the season. We also have to worry about our budget, being sure that we can afford the speaker and afford the distribution fee.”

Boland is most excited about the screening of the action-drama “Cartel Land.” She called the film — whose credits include executive producer Kathryn Bigelow, who directed “The Hurt Locker” and “Point Break”  — “an amazing story.”

“For a documentary to come out and be picked up by somebody who is as famous as she is and who is a feature director, it’s just an additional testament to how amazing this film is.”

The first five documentaries will be screened on Mondays at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, at 7 p.m. The last two will be screened at the Charles B. Wang Center on the Stony Brook University campus at 6 p.m., also on Mondays. Doors open one half-hour before showtime. Tickets for all films are $7 and will be sold at the door. Admission is free for undergraduate students at the Stony Brook screenings.

The group is always looking for volunteers of all ages to help out at the event.

“We want this to go on beyond us and it would be great to have enough volunteers to have a continuing staff that keeps renewing itself,” Boland said.

For more information or to volunteer, call 631-473-5220 or visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule
• The fall season will kick off at Theatre Three with “Deep Web” on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. The documentary reveals the inside story of Ross William Ulbricht, the convicted 30-year-old entrepreneur accused of being the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” creator and operator of the online black market Silk Road. Winner of Best International Feature at the Global Visions Festival, the film explores “how the brightest minds and thought leaders behind the deep web are now caught in the crosshairs of the battle for control of a future inextricably linked to technology, with our digital rights hanging in the balance.” Narrated by Keanu Reeves, the guest speaker will be director Alex Winter, who played Bill S. Preston, Esq. alongside Reeves in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

An image from ‘Love Marriage in Kabul.’ Photo from PJDC
An image from ‘Love Marriage in Kabul.’ Photo from PJDC

• The second film in the series, “Very Semi-Serious” by Leah Wolchock, to be screened on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at Theatre Three, delves into the history of The New Yorker magazine’s cartoons and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the cartoon department. Cartoon editor Bob Mankoff provides “revealing access to his weekly pitch meetings where aspiring and established cartoonists present their work, and where pride is left behind, as hundreds of submitted cartoons get rejected.” It is the winner of the best Bay Area documentary feature at the Golden Gate Awards following the San Francisco International Film Festival. Guest speaker will be New Yorker cartoonist and former Stony Brook resident George Booth, who is featured in the film.

“Cartel Land,” to be screened on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at Theatre Three, focues on the Mexican drug war, especially vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels. The film focuses on Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of volunteer border patrol group Arizona Border Recon, and Dr. José Mireles, a Michoacán-based physician who leads the Autodefensas, one of the vigilante groups. Matthew Heineman won the Best Director Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography for the film in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The guest speaker will be producer Tom Yellin.

The fourth film, titled “The Russian Woodpecker,” will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. The documentary follows Ukranian artist Fedor Alexandrovich, who believes the catastrophic Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 was an elaborate government cover-up designed to mask a failed 8-billion-ruble antenna, known as the “Russian Woodpecker,” intended to interfere with Western radio frequencies and located near the radioactive site. Rich with Soviet history and the stories of the area’s former residents, this documentary chronicles the history of one of the most chilling events of our time as well as Alexandrovich’s attempts to spread the word of his theory. Winner of the World Documentary Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Director Chad Gracia will be the guest speaker of the evening.

• The series continues on Oct. 19 with a screening of “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” at Theatre Three at 7 p.m. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland uses recently unearthed audio recordings from 1978-79 of the art collector’s last interviews and archival photos to create a portrait of one of the most powerful women in the history of the art world. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring. Guest speakers will be producers Dan Braun and David Koh. Gallery North in Setauket is co-sponsoring the event.

“The Killing Fields of  Dr. Haing S. Ngor,” to be screened at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m., is seen through the eyes of one of the most well-known survivors of the Cambodian genocide, Dr. Haing S. Ngor. The film recently won the Best Documentary Audience Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The guest speaker will be Dr. Ngor’s niece, Sophia Ngor Demetri, who escaped from Cambodia with Dr. Ngor and appears in the film, and his nephew, Wayne Ngor, who narrates the film.

• The final film in the series, “Love Marriage in Kabul,” will be screened at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. The film follows the quest of an Afghan-Australian woman, Mahboba Rawi, as she “passionately negotiates and challenges old traditions” to make a love marriage happen in Kabul. The film provides a rare glimpse into the courtship and marriage customs of Afghanistan. In English and Persian with English subtitles, this film was the winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Sydney Film Festival. The guest speaker, via Skype, will be producer Pat Fiske.

From left, Dana Bush, Michael Giordano, James D. Schultz, Frank Gilleece, Amanda Geraci and Sue Anne Dennehy in a scene from ‘The Pied Piper’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Sari Feldman/Franklin Inc.

Currently in production on the Mainstage, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre brings us a kinder, gentler musical version of the classic fairy tale “The Pied Piper.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and Kevin F. Story and adapted from “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by the Brothers Grimm, it tells the tale of a town that has a bit of a rodent problem. Millions of rats, some the size of toasters, have taken over every nook and cranny. Even the cats are afraid of the rats!

The mayor decrees that anyone who can come up with a successful plan to rid the town of the rats will receive 100 gold pieces. A mysterious stranger appears and convinces the mayor to pay him 974 gold pieces. With a handshake and a promise, a deal is made and the Pied Piper lures the rats away by playing his magical flute. When the mayor has a change of heart and refuses to pay the full amount, the piper seeks revenge by placing the children under a magical spell and leading them out of the town and into a mountain.

With six talented adult actors at the helm, the cast also includes 45 young actors from the theater’s summer Dramatic Academy workshop who portray the children of Hamelin. Frank Gilleece plays Mayor Bruce Armbuckle who does whatever his wife, Mrs. Hilda Arbuckle, played by Sue Anne Dennehy, tells him to do, which includes going back on his word. James D. Schultz plays the bumbling Police Chief Henry Kahnstible and his wife, Mrs. Natasha Kahnstible, is played with aplomb by Amanda Geraci. Dana Bush as Mrs. Lavinia Brewster, the richest woman in town, is terrific.

However, it is the amazing Michael Giordano as the Pied Piper who steals the show. Making his entrance toward the end of the first act, he commands the stage with his wonderful rendition of “I Can Rid You of the Rats.” The audience is entranced as he sings and dances and performs his signature one-handed cartwheel.

While all the young actors did a fine job, special mention should be made of Jamie Terlecki, as Lydia, the lone child left behind. A bright future awaits her on the theater stage.

Accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the songs are playful and fun. Choreography by Sari Feldman is top notch, especially with “Hope Springs Eternal” and “The Blame,” as are the costumes, designed by Amanda Geraci.

Sanzel and Story’s play goes beyond the traditional tale of the Pied Piper with messages about keeping your word, cheating, forgiveness and, for the parents, that children are more valuable than gold. And that is the real magic behind this wonderful production.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show and take a selfie. Next on the agenda is “Squawk: The Live Bird Show” on Aug. 23, a brand new musical titled “Alice’s Wonderland Adventures” from Oct. 3 to 30 and a Halloween Party for ages 4 and up on Oct. 24.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Pied Piper” on Aug. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 11 a.m. and Aug. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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Air-conditioned fun

"Cinderella's Glass Slipper" is running at the Smithtown Performing Arts Center through August 23. Photo from Smithtown Performing Arts Center

It’s really hot out there and lugging the kids, the water bottles and the snacks can be enough to bring on the whining — from you, as much as from them. So, let’s bring on the air-conditioning with some fun indoor activities.

Theater

Nothing livens up the day like a little live theatah! And the kids love hobnobbing with the cast afterwards during the meet and greets.

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, known for its great children’s productions, is putting on “Jack and the Beanstalk” on Friday and Saturdays through August 6 and “The Pied Piper” from August 7 to August 15. Not only is the price right —$10 a ticket —it’s just the right length to keep the littlest kids from squirming. And after the show, you can grab lunch or an ice cream or even have tea at The Secret Garden nearby!

For more information, go to theatrethree.com.

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center also puts on children’s productions performed by young adults. “Cinderella’s Glass Slipper” is running from July 27 to August 23 on Saturdays and Sundays. These tickets are a little more pricey at $15 per ticket.

There’s a shopping center adjacent to the theater with many lunch-time offerings, but that’s if you get that far, since an Italian ice stand is just one door away…

For more information, go to smithtownpac.org.

Museum Row in Garden City

One of the most underrated destinations on the island, in my opinion, is the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. From the moment you enter the glass-encased lobby, you are greeted with airplanes — a Blue Angel jet, for one — dangling from the high ceilings. Before entering the galleries, the kids can enjoy the playroom, complete with a life-size space shuttle and cockpit with buttons and levers to push and experiments to conduct. The kids also love to pretend to be airline passengers in the airline seats —taken from a real airplane — and in the remains of a real galley with pretend food.

Once you’ve dragged the kids from the playroom — and believe me, they’ll need to be dragged, even the nine-year-olds who are technically too old for the play area —you can hit the galleries, which give a history of flight and space. While the first few exhibits explain concepts like “lift,” the majority of the displays feature real airplane cockpits, military jets, a pontoon plane along with flight memorabilia from the World Wars and the early passenger jet days.

Some of the other highlights — really, there are too many to name — include a Blue Angels motion simulator ride, a lunar module prototype, as well as a replica of the lunar module that brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon.

Other museum offerings, at an additional cost, are a space-themed café with hot dogs and other such snacks, a Firefighter’s Museum and a planetarium and Imax theater. This museum is definitely a personal favorite, and it’s open everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Labor Day. For more information, go to the website at cradleofaviation.org.

Just next door to the airplane museum is Nunley’s Carousel. We always try to stop in on our way from the museum. For $2 each, you and your children can take a turn on this classic, old-fashioned merry-go-round. Check the website before you leave home for the hours!

Many are familiar with the wonders of the Long Island Children’s Museum. From it’s Tots Spot play area where the kids can pretend to drive a Long Island Railroad train, be commercial fisherman or climb to the top of the lighthouse and slide down, to its musical instrument exhibit, this is a museum that caters to all ages.

While some of the most popular exhibits are the bubbles, the “beach” area — the sand has a real allure during the winter — and the two-story climbing structure, there are a host of activities to keep the kids entertained. Many of the more sophisticated exhibits such as the building blocks and displays on communication and music are upstairs.

There is a lunchroom with vending machines, and, of course, the café over at the Cradle of Aviation. The museum is open every day until September 7, 2015 and closed on Mondays after. For more information, go to the website licm.org.

 

By Rita J. Egan

Vocalist Amber Ferrari has been busy preparing a brand new show that she will debut at Port Jefferson’s Theatre Three on Aug. 1. Well known on Long Island for her brilliant “Joplin’s Pearl” production, dedicated to 60s icon Janis Joplin, this time around Ferrari has decided to take on a living legend — Madonna.

The show, titled “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari,” will open with the singer performing songs from Adele, Heart, Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin and more, including a couple of her own songs. Ferrari said the second half will consist entirely of Madonna’s hits from the 80s, as well as “Vogue,” which hit the charts in 1990.

Amber Ferrari as Madonna. Photo by Rich Balter Photography
Amber Ferrari as Madonna. Photo by Rich Balter Photography

Unlike “Joplin’s Pearl,” where Ferrari wears a wig and is dressed head-to-toe like Joplin, in this show the singer will wear costumes inspired by Madonna’s famous wardrobe, but she won’t pretend to be her.

“It’s going to be more about enjoying Madonna’s fun music,” Ferrari said.

The singer said she and her husband Chris started discussing the idea of a Madonna show a few years ago and kept it in mind until they had some free time. The couple is excited about the fact that potentially they will have two productions to perform for their audiences. Ferrari is also thrilled to sing more pop songs, as opposed to the rock songs she is known for performing.

“I wanted to pick another icon in a different genre other than rock, because my first set is usually the majority rock ‘n roll,” the singer said.

Douglas Quattrock, director of development, and group sales and marketing coordinator at Theatre Three, has known Ferrari since they performed together in “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert” at the theater a decade ago. He said the audience is in for a fun night, and he knows the singer’s unique and versatile voice can handle any artist’s songs.

“It’s going to be something new, but with the same energy. She throws 120 percent into everything she does. She’s just amazing,” Quattrock said.

Ferrari said she grew up listening to Madonna and lists “Material Girl,” “Into the Groove,” “Holiday,” “Dress You Up,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Like a Virgin,” and “Express Yourself” among her favorites. She said she always thought they were dynamite songs, and she’s including all of them in the Aug. 1 production.

The singer has been busy rehearsing the last few weeks with her fellow band members, which include her husband Chris on guitar, Eddie “Yaz” Yeznach on bass and Jim Carroll on drums. At the Aug. 1 show, Ferrari and band will also be joined by Frank Centrone on keyboard, Billy Aberle on background vocals, and the singer’s father, Bob Hansen, on percussions.

In addition to rehearsals, Ferrari has been working on the costumes for the show, including an 80s-style wedding dress and outfits inspired by Madonna’s “Material Girl” gown and “Lucky Star” outfit. She invites the audience members to join in on the ‘80s fun by asking them to wear their favorite outfit from the decade.

“I think it’s going to be a blast, and I think everyone is going to be surprised. It will take them back to the ‘80s,” Ferrari said.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari” on Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased by calling 631-928-9100 or by visiting www.theatrethree.com.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ comes to Theatre Three

The cast of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at Theatre Three. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

It’s important to be honest, right? That’s the message Theatre Three is spreading in its latest endeavor, “Jack and the Beanstalk” or “The Boy Who Cried Giant.” With book and lyrics by Jeffrey Sanzel, the musical production follows the original fairy tale closely with a sprinkle of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and makes for great entertainment.

Jack lives in a small village with his mother and his best friend, Filpail the cow. Blessed with a vivid imagination, Jack has “a habit of making the truth look like a pretzel.” He has told so many tall tales (“I can even wash a cat!”) that no one believes him anymore. When he finally tells the truth — that he climbed up a beanstalk to a giant’s castle — it falls on deaf ears and therein lies the moral of the story.

For an hour and a half, the talented cast of eight adult actors, directed by Sanzel,  whisk the audience away to a magical faraway land filled with song, dance and much laughter. From the first musical number, the “Song of Boasting,” accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, you know you are in for a real treat. With music and lyrics by Kevin F. Story, and choreography by Sari Feldman, all the songs are terrific, with special mention of the “Ballad of the Empty Pail” and “Song of the Beans.”

Michael Giordano is perfectly cast as Jack and quickly draws the audience in with his energetic personality. His one-handed cartwheels and leapfrogs over Filpail are impressive and keep the young audience on the edge of their seats. For many, these acrobatics are as magical as anything in the story.

Olivia Andrunik, new to Theatre Three’s stage, plays Jack’s mother with just the right amount of scolding and love. Tamralynn Dorsa plays the Fairy Mary Goodwing who just can’t seem to say goodbye. Her rendition of “Song of Truth-Telling” was beautiful. James D. Schultz is hilarious as the giant’s wife, and he commands the stage with his solo, “Song of the Giant’s Wife.” Frank Gilleece plays the butcher in the first act and the giant in the second, and does a fine job as always.

Amanda Geraci and Andrew Gasparini make a great team as Margot and Marco — the thieves who trick Jack into trading his cow for magic beans — and switch roles effortlessly in Act II as Henrietta the Hen and Harry the Harp.

But it is the indefatigable Kevin F. Story as Filpail the cow who steals the show with his “mooving” rendition of “Song of the Cow.”

Add special effects like a magical beanstalk, hilarious props such as a giant shoe and terrific costumes designed by Geraci, and the end result is an enjoyable afternoon of live theater that your kids and you will love. Meet the cast up close and personal in the lobby after the show.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Jack and the Beanstalk” through Aug. 7. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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