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Douglas Quattrock

By Heidi Sutton

Each time I go to review a children’s show at Theatre Three I am amazed at what I witness; from the performance of an original musical, to the audience reaction, to the lessons that are learned, to meeting the cast at the end of the show. Last Saturday’s production of The House That Jack Built was no exception. 

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, the play features seven stories inspired by the Brothers Grimm and Aesop’s Fables. It originally opened in 2007 but has been revamped with a brand new score and dazzling lighting design. The end result is pure entertainment. 

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, and starring Sean Amato, Samantha Fierro, Jason Furnari, Kaitlyn Jehle, Danielle Pafundi and Steven Uihlein, the show opens where six friends are hanging out in a beach cottage on a rainy day. Bored, they decide to have some fun and after reciting the timeless nursery rhyme, The House That Jack Built, they invite the audience to visit “some special places to see some special faces.” They proceed to act out The Lion and the Mouse That Returned a Favor, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Town Mouse and Country Mouse, Henny Penny, Stubborn as a Mule, The Tortoise and the Hare and The Bremen Town Musicians. 

While all of the stories are wonderful, one of the best is The Fisherman and His Wife where the fisherman (Jason Furnari) catches a magical fish (played to the hilt by Steven Uihlein) who agrees to grant him a wish if he is released back into the ocean. After wishing for a beautiful home, his wife (Danielle Pafundi) gets greedy and sends the fisherman back to ask for a castle, to be king and then to become the Lord of the Sun and the Moon. But it all ends with one too many wishes.

The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse is almost too adorable for words. The Town Mouse (Steven Uihlein with a Brooklyn accent) visits his cousin (Samantha Fierro in a Southern accent) in the country but finds it very boring. Before leaving, he invites her to visit him in the city. Shortly after arriving, the Country Mouse is bombarded with sensory overload and dangers lurking at every turn. Oh, did I mention this story is acted out entirely in rhyme? 

But the audience favorite hands down is the hilarious rendition of The Tortoise and the Hare. Bullied by the Hare (Sean Amato) “You have two speeds; slow and stop,” the Tortoise (Jason Furnari) challenges the Hare to a race. Sprinting through the theater, the Hare decides to take a nap in one of the seats. As much as they try, the audience cannot wake him and the tortoise, cheered on by the kids, meanders through the aisles and back on stage with a big grin to cross the finish line in slow motion. Great stuff.

The actors take turns narrating the stories while the remaining cast quickly changes costumes and act out the parts. A nice touch is the audience participation — helping to be waves in the ocean in A Fisherman and His Wife, and raising their index finger every time the actors say ‘I have an idea’ in The Bremen Town Musicians — which keep the young audience captivated at the edge of their seats.

Utilizing the mainstage set of The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, superb lighting design by Steven Uihlein, original rap songs arranged by Ryan Alvarado, expert piano accompaniment by Douglas J. Quattrock and the cute costumes by Jason Allyn tie everything together. 

Funny, clever , brilliant and beautifully executed, The House That Jack Built is not to be missed. Your children are guaranteed to love it.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St. Port Jefferson presents The House That Jack Built through Feb. 4. Running time is one hour and 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. Children’s theater continues with Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz from Feb. 22 to March 18, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit from April 5 to 29 and the classic fairytale Cinderella from May 27 to June 17. All seats are $10. To order, call 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

New Year's Eve

By Melissa Arnold

Whether it’s been a banner year or a tough one, having some fun to celebrate the new year is never a bad idea. If you’re looking for a unique way to spend New Year’s Eve, then consider grabbing your friends or family and heading over to one of several lighthearted comedy events in the area.

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson is hosting two comedy performances for their New Year’s Laughin’ Eve celebration: an early bird show at 6 p.m. and a prime time show at 8 p.m. 

Now in its 14th year, the event is hosted by Paul Anthony of the Long Island Comedy Festival. “This night of comedy is something that people look forward to every year,” said Douglas Quattrock, artistic associate and director of development for Theatre Three. “We always make an effort to mix up the comedians that we feature so it’s always fresh for our audiences.”

This year’s national headliners include Rich Walker, Eric Tartaglione, and John Ziegler.

Beer, wine, soda and snacks will be available for purchase and are welcome in the theater during the show. Early bird tickets are $55 per person, while tickets to the prime show are $65 per person available for purchase at www.theatrethree.com or by calling 631-928-9100.

Over on the South Shore, the Argyle Theatre in Babylon Village will also team up with the Long Island Comedy Festival to offer two comedy shows at  6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Featuring Bryan McKenna, Maria Walsh and a headline performance by Chris Roach, the Argyle shows promise to heat things up while having fun. Purchase tickets for $50 to $60 per person by visiting www.argyletheatre.com or call 631-230-3500.

Later that night, the Smithtown Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is hosting their own night of comedy in partnership with Governor’s Comedy Clubs starting at 10 p.m. Comedy has been a mainstay at SPAC on New Year’s Eve for more than 10 years now, with 2022 marking the end of a two-year hiatus during the pandemic.

“Everyone is just excited to get together and be entertained again, and we’re thrilled to provide the opportunity for some laughter,” said SPAC managing director Kelly Mucciolo. “We began working with Governor’s this past summer and it’s been a lot of fun for all of us.”

Headlining the SPAC show is Chris Monty of CBS’ “Kevin Can Wait,” along with featured act Tony Landolfi, guest performer Debbie D’Amore and emcee Mary Capone.

Tickets are $70 for SPAC members and $75 for general admission. The show includes  hors d’oeuvres, an open bar of beer and wine, and a champagne toast at midnight. To purchase tickets visit www.smithtownpac.org.

From left, Jeffrey Sanzel, Andy Markowitz, Vivian Koutrakos and Douglas Quattrock at Theatre Three on Dec. 2. Photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

By Heidi Sutton

As the curtain came down at last Friday’s performance of A Christmas Carol at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel stepped out of his role as Ebenezer Scrooge to be honored for his 1500th performance as the miserly curmudgeon. 

Addressing a packed house, the President of Theatre Three’s board of directors Andy Markowitz said, “Tonight is a very special night. We figured it out and [Sanzel] has played this role to close to a half a million people.”

Turning to Sanzel, Markowitz said, “Even though it’s the 1500th performance, and you’ve said this to me before, it might be the first performance to someone in the audience and that is why you always keep it fresh and you always bring your A-game. Throughout your performances you have shown how kindness and love to someone can change the world and change people’s lives forever.”

Markowitz, Managing Director Vivian Koutrakos, and Artistic Associate and fellow actor Douglas Quattrock then presented Sanzel with a special anniversary pin, a photo collage of the cast to commemorate the night and last, but not least, a  new cane for Mr. Scrooge to help him get to the next 1500 performances.   

“On behalf of the cast and everyone here tonight, we want to thank you for taking us on this journey with you,” said Quattrock, who portrays Bob Cratchit in the play.

“To all the people who have been a part of this production, both onstage, backstage and in the audience for over 30 years, and I want to mention two people who not with us but are always with us, Brent Erlanson and Ellen Michelmore, thank you all very much,” said Sanzel.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents A Christmas Carol through Dec. 30. For tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. While Scrooge undergoes a transformation on the Main Stage with A Christmas Carol, Barnaby the Elf is busy making sure all the Christmas presents are delivered on time in the adorable children’s musical, Barnaby Saves Christmas. The show opened last Saturday and runs through Dec. 30. 

Written over 18 years ago by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel with music and lyrics by Quattrock, it remains  as relevant as ever with the ultimate message that “every day is a golden opportunity to be better than you used to be.”

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa’s workshop at the North Pole is a flurry of activity. Head elf Sam (Josie McSwane) and fellow elves Blizzard (Michelle LaBozzetta) and Crystal (Kaitlyn Jehle) are busy putting the final touches on the Christmas presents and loading them on the sleigh. A fourth elf, Barnaby (Ryan Worrell), is the newest trainee and has been given one task by Santa (Sean Amato) — to make a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest. 

When it’s time to deliver the presents to all the good little girls and boys, Barnaby is left behind with Mrs. Claus (Danielle Pafundi). He soon realizes that Santa has left the stuffed bear behind and convinces Blizzard’s fawn Franklynne (Samantha Fierro) to find Santa and “save Christmas.”   

On their adventure they crash land on the roof of the house of Sarah (Danielle Pafundi) and her nephew Andrew (Sean Amato) and learn all about Hanukkah and the Festival of Lights. They also come across S.B. (spoiled brat) Dombulbury (Steven Uihlein), a Scrooge in his own right who has stuffed up all the chimneys with coal with his partner in crime Irving (Jason Furnari), in order to ruin Christmas and has hypnotized Crystal and Blizzard to help him. With the help of his friends, Barnaby will save the day but just wait until you see how!

Directed by Sanzel, the entire cast does an incredible job telling this heartwarming story. The wonderful songs, accompanied on piano by Quattrock, are just lovely, with special mention to Worrell’s solo “Still With a Ribbon on Top,” Pafundi’s solo “Miracles” and Amato’s solo “Within Our Hearts.”

Gorgeous costumes that sparkle and shine for the holidays by Jason Allyn, the incredible lighting by Steven Uihlein and the great choreography by Sari Feldman tie it all together with a beautiful holiday bow. I can think of 100 reasons to go see this show but I will only give the first — it is an unforgettable experience the entire family will love. Elf and reindeer souvenirs will be sold before the show and during intermission and the entire cast will be in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Barnaby Saves Christmas on Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10, 17, 24, 28, 29 and 20 at 11 a.m. Children’s theater continues with The House That Jack Built from Jan. 21 to Feb. 4, 2023 and Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz from Feb. 22 to March 18, 2023. All seats are only $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

The cast of A Kooky Spooky Halloween. Photo by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

Theatre Three was at full capacity last Saturday morning as families with young children came to celebrate the spookiest season with the return of the wonderful musical, A Kooky Spooky Halloween. 

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Steve McCoy, it tells the story of a kind ghost named Abner Perkins (Steven Uihlein) who has just graduated from Haunting High School and has been assigned to be the spooksperson for Ma Aberdeen’s Boarding House (known for being the most haunted house in Harrison Corner USA and for having the best toast!) as its last ghost, Baron Von Yost, has recently retired. Abner is given a diploma and a medallion of invisibility and is sent on his way. 

But Abner has a secret — he’s afraid of the dark! The only person who knows his secret is his best friend Lavinda the Witch (Danielle Pafundi) who gives him a nightlight and promises to help him get settled in.

Abner’s first day of haunting is on Halloween and he comes upon Ma Aberdeen (Ginger Dalton) and her boarders the perplexing Petersons — Paul (Liam Marsigliano), Penelope (Stephanie Moreau) and their son Pip (Sean Amato) — and Kit Garret (Samantha Fierro), a girl who “just came from a small town to a big city with a suitcase in her hand and hope in her heart,” stuffing goodie bags for trick-or-treaters in the kitchen.

In one of the funniest scenes in the show, Abner tries out a series of spells, making the group stuff the bags in double time, dance, do jumping jacks, sing, spin like a top, quack like a duck and stick to each other. Just as he is about to undo the last spell, fellow graduate ghost with a grudge Dora Pike (Beth Ladd) appears, steals his medallion of invisibility and nightlight and heads to the bottom of Black Ridge Gulch, the deepest, darkest gorge in the entire world (where it’s really, really dark). Now visible, Abner must convince the sticky strangers to help him get his medallion back. Will he succeed or will his fear of the dark take over?

With the message that everyone deserves to be understood, director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled an incredible cast to tell this sweet story, with action, suspense, hilarious hijinks, Halloween jokes, and all around fun. The amazing costumes by Jason Allyn, special effects, futuristic lighting and the catchy songs, accompanied on piano by Douglas Quattrock, with special mention to “It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast” and the great rap number “A Need for Speed,” tie it all together for the perfect holiday treat. Your kids will love it!

Ghost pumpkin souvenirs will be sold before the show and during intermission and costumes are encouraged. Meet the entire cast in the lobby on your way out for a keepsake photo.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents A Kooky Spooky Halloween on Oct. 15 and 22 at 11 a.m. and Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. Running time is one hour and 10 minutes with intermission. Children’s theater continues with Barnaby Saves Christmas from Nov. 19 to Dec. 30. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Jeffrey Sanzel, pictured with Michelle LaBozzetta, in a scene from 'A Christmas Carol' in 2018. Photo from Theatre Three

By Melissa Arnold

If you’ve been to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson at any point in the last 30 years, you have Jeffrey Sanzel to thank. Of course, he doesn’t see it that way, but as Executive Artistic Director, he’s responsible for overseeing everything from the upcoming season’s lineup to hiring actors and managing day-to-day operations.

Jeffrey Sanzel Photo courtesy of Theatre Three

Beyond that, he’s also written countless shows of his own and taken his turn onstage. Each December, he reprises the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” and most recently starred in “Every Brilliant Thing,” an intimate one-man production about mental health.

So when it came time to choose an honoree for Theatre Three’s 50th anniversary celebration and fundraiser, the decision was a simple one.

“The amount of work Jeffrey puts in is completely unmatched. Watching him work up close is amazing – he’ll agonize over something as small as the placement of a book or the lighting being a certain way. He has a vision of how everything fits together, not just as a director but an actor,” said Andy Markowitz, president of Theatre Three’s board of directors.

The dinner/dance celebration was originally slated for 2020, the theater’s anniversary year, but was shelved during the pandemic. 

Jeffrey Sanzel in a scene from ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ in July of this year. Photo by Steve Ayle/ShowbizShots.com

“After the original plans were canceled, there was a suggestion to have a 55th celebration instead, but ultimately this is about recognizing Jeffrey for all he does. He deserves it, and this is his time. There’s no need to wait,” said Theatre Three’s Managing Director Vivian Koutrakos who met Sanzel when he first joined the Theatre Three staff in 1989. Since then, he’s earned a reputation for being a meticulous and serious director, but he’s got a humorous side, too. 

“It’s true that his humor is dry and he runs a very tight ship. But he’s honestly the funniest person I’ve ever met, and he makes us laugh every day,” Koutrakos said. “He’s absolutely brilliant.”

Now in its 52nd season, proceeds from the evening will be used to expand Theatre Three’s programming, particularly for children.

“The money raised is going towards new educational programs, specifically one called ‘How Does It Make You Feel?,’ an original musical aimed at elementary schools. The play will address many social-emotional learning topics,” said Sanzel. “In addition, there is a long-term project in the works for educational touring that I’m working on with Oya Bangura from Project Move.”

Sanzel is the creative force behind the theater’s school-based programs, using the stage as a vehicle to educate thousands of students on issues that can be tough to address, such as the Holocaust (“From the Fires”) and bullying (“Stand Up, Stand Out”), among others. Hired actors travel as far as Florida and Canada for the shows, with as many as 100 performances per year.

“The traveling shows for students are about 45 minutes long and are focused on specific age groups. The kids become totally captivated by the shows — it gives them an opportunity to connect with serious issues and ask questions in a way that’s meaningful to them,” Markowitz said.

Above, Theatre Three celebrated Jeffrey Sanzel’s 1,400th performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’ on Nov. 29, 2019 with the cast and crew. Photo by Gabriele Brekne

In addition to the traveling shows, the theater puts on a full mainstage season, children’s theater productions, comedy nights and special events. They also offer acting classes for all ages and skill levels.

Douglas Quattrock, Artistic Associate and Director of Development for the theater, said that while the past few years have been a struggle for the nonprofit, they are excited about the future.

“I think all of us at the theater saw our 50th year as a real turning point. Times are always hard in the arts, but with Jeffrey’s leadership we’ve been able to keep going and maintain the integrity and quality of our work. This team respects Jeffrey and the mark he’s made on this institution so much,” he said. “Personally, he’s given me so many incredible opportunities, brought my stories to life, and become such a dear friend to me over the years. I know that if I ever need him, he’s there for me.”

Dinner dance guests will be treated to a cocktail hour, an elaborate meal with open bar service, and live entertainment from Debra and Patrick Lawler.

As for Sanzel, he’s feeling a little sheepish about all the attention.

“It’s kind of embarrassing,” he joked. “But this is a great honor and the acknowledgement is deeply appreciated.”

Theatre Three’s Dinner/Dance fundraiser will be held on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Danfords Hotel and Marina, 25 E Broadway, Port Jefferson. Tickets are $150 per person. For questions or to purchase tickets, call Theatre Three at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Looking for something to do with the kids on a hot and humid summer day? Allow me to recommend an afternoon of live theater. And with a princess, a prince, a wicked fairy and a spinning wheel, Theatre Three’s latest offering, the premiere of the timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty, will surely fit the bill. Oh and did I mention there’s A/C?

Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, the musical follows the storyline closely but goes one step further in questioning why the wicked fairy put a curse on the princess ultimately causing her to fall asleep for one hundred years. Is she just plain evil or was it all just a misunderstanding?

Directed by Sanzel, a cast of 7 adult actors along with 26 preteen and teen actors from Theatre Three’s Dramatic Academy present this charming re-telling of the most wonderful fairy tale of all.

King Gilder and Queen Gwen have sent out invitations for Briar Rose’s first birthday party. While the good fairies Aurora and Lily receive theirs, the wicked fairy Algabrine does not. Insulted, she crashes the party and as her “gift” to the little princess, she casts a spell that Briar Rose will prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 18th birthday and die. When she leaves, Lily, who has not given her gift yet, changes the spell to have Briar Rose fall into a deep sleep for one hundred years only to be awakened by her one true love.

The king decries that all spinning wheels be destroyed. But there’s always one somewhere, isn’t there?

Steven Uihlein serves as narrator and uses flashbacks to tell the story and to teach an important lesson along the way. Here we meet Algabrine when she was kind and sweet and witness the moment things take a dark turn. A nice touch.

Cassidy Rose O’Brien is perfectly cast as Briar Rose. Strong-willed, confident, thoughtful and kind, she is the perfect fairy tale heroine  and quickly becomes the audience favorite as does her counterpart, a terrific Kiernan Urso as Prince Constantine. Accompanied on piano by Quattrock, their duet, “When I Close My Eyes,” is magical. 

Aria Saltini and Heather Rose Kuhn are wonderful as fairies Aurora and Lily, as is Marianne Schmidt as Cecelia, Constantine’s mother. Josie McSwane knocks it out of the park as Algabrine and has the best entrance I’ve ever seen, thanks to the incredible sound effects and lighting. Costumes by Jason Allyn are the icing on the birthday cake.

The preteen and teen supporting cast play numerous roles throughout including singing and dancing and several have lines (great jokes!). For many, this is their first time performing in front of an audience and it is an amazing opportunity to hone their craft and all did an amazing job. 

With only three performances left,  order your tickets now. And if you reserve seats in the center section of the theater, you will be in for a special treat!

Take a keepsake photo with the cast in the lobby on your way out.

Cast: Steven Uihlein, Cassidy Rose O’Brien, Area Saltini, Heather Rose Kuhn, Josie McSwane, Kiernan Urso, Marianne Schmidt, Maggie Abcug, Kate Marin, Courtney Pearsall, Guiliana Vavalle, Jared Acevedo, Marlaina Baessler, Alissa Boryushkina, Mia Caputo, Aiden Choudhary, Tara Choudhary, Kelsie Curran, Erin Curtin, Ava Garcia, Kathleen Han, Faith Hennessy, Carissa Kaplan, Chloe Kelly, Sophia Kosinski, Amelia Lappe, Hailey Polanish, Lyla Reyes, Michael Rotundo, Francesca Scott, Sophie Weeks, Emilyanne Williams and Rebecca Williams.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Sleeping Beauty on Friday, Aug. 12 at 11 a.m. and Saturday, Aug. 13 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Children’s theater continues with A Kooky Spooky Halloween from Oct. 8 to 22 and Barnaby Saves Christmas from Nov. 19 to Dec. 30. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Theatre Three in Port Jefferson has a brand new children’s show and it’s over the rainbow!

First published in 1900 as a children’s book titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, the story of Dorothy Gale and her three travel companions in the Land of Oz has given rise to many sequels, spin-offs and adaptations including radio shows, musicals and the iconic 1939 MGM film starring a 16-year-old Judy Garland.  

Now Theatre Three presents a brand new take on the classic tale with the world premiere of the family-friendly musical Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz. While the message stays the same, the show features over 10 original song and dance numbers as it travels down the Yellow Brick Road.

We first meet Dorothy at the L. Frank Baum Central School in Harrison Corner. As the editor of the Baum Bugle, she is on deadline trying to get the paper out when a big storm approaches. A wind knocks her down and when she awakens she finds herself in Munchkinland. 

Her news stand has landed on the Wicked Witch of the North causing her demise. When confronted by the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy is protected by Glinda the Good Witch who gives her those famous ruby slippers and sends her down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz who can help her get home.

Along the way Dorothy meets a Scarecrow who wants a brain, a Tinman who yearns for a heart, and a Lion who longs for courage. The three join her on her quest and the adventure begins.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the cast of nine adult actors embrace the wonderful script and run with it. Incredibly all of the scenes from the iconic movie are there: the talking apple trees, the poppies, meeting the Wizard, the flying monkeys, the Winkies and the melting scene, with several actors playing multiple roles.

With a wonderful singing voice, Katie Lemmen is perfectly cast as the sweet yet determined Dorothy who learns many lessons on her journey. Sari Feldman knocks it out of the park as the limber Scarecrow with a great tap dance number titled “I Think” and Steven Uihlein is excellent in the role of the Tinman who keeps rusting up. 

However, it is Finn MacDevitt, in the role of that fraidy-cat Lion terrified of his own tail, who draws the most laughs and is simply divine. His “I’m a Lion” solo is terrific.

Toto, played by the incomparable and adorable Shay Francis Feldman, makes a well-behaved appearance in the first and final scene. 

Stephanie Moreau and Josie McSwane make a wicked good pair as Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West, Jason Furnari is a wise Wizard, Liam Marsigliano is a hilarious Winkie and Heather Rose Kuhn’s winged monkey is charming.

The song and dance numbers choreographed by Sari Feldman and  accompanied on piano by Douglas J. Quattrock are energetic, creative and fun with special mention to “Pitta-Pat” and “Poppies!”

The astounding special effects with the lighting and sound, the awesome props (wait until you see the crystal ball!) coupled with the impressive polished costumes by Jason Allyn are the icing on the cake.

A fun afternoon for the entire family, Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz is a wonderful reminder that “there’s no place like home!”

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz through March 26. Children’s theatre continues with The Adventures of Peter Rabbit from April 16 to May 7 and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from May 28 to June 18. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Every five years or so, Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre reaches into its vault filled with scripts and pulls out a gem. This time it’s a musical twist on the classic story of Puss In Boots. The show opened on Jan. 16.

Although there have been many versions of the European fairy tale over the centuries, the most well known is The Master Cat or Puss in Boots from The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault in 1697. When Puss was reintroduced in Shrek 2 in 2004, a whole new generation was smitten.

Now the clever ‘tail’ returns to Theatre Three’s MainStage with a fresh score and choreography and does not disappoint. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, the show was first performed in 1991 and has withstood the test of time.  

In the kingdom of King Vexmus, a kind-hearted young man named Christopher lives on a farm with his father and his two brothers, Shank and Amos. Every day his brothers force him to work the fields while they take naps. When their father dies, Shank and Amos inherit the farm while Christopher gets his father’s cat Puss and is promptly kicked out. 

With no food, money or a place to live, Christopher begins to lose hope until he discovers that Puss can talk. He confides in the cat that he has fallen in love with the king’s beautiful daughter, Princess Anafazia, who he met briefly when her entourage drove past the farm (in a great flashback scene). Puss agrees to help in the name of love and hatches a scheme to have Christopher pose as the rich and mysterious Marquis of Carabas to win Anafazia’s heart. Will everything go as planned? Will there be a happy ending?

Directed by Sanzel, the fast-paced show is wonderful on so many levels. Steven Uihlein is perfectly cast in the role of Christopher and also serves as storyteller. His plight gains the sympathy of the audience right away. Liam Marsigliano and Jason Furnari make a great comedic team as Amos and Shank. Their futile attempt to farm the land after Christopher leaves is hilarious. 

Michelle LaBozzetta, in the role of Puss, the cat of all trades, steals the show with her energetic and flamboyant personality. In one of the cutest scenes, her character acquires her famous boots by causing a ruckus outside Shank and Amos’s door. 

Sanzel and Josie McSwane are excellent in the roles of the bickering King Vexmus and Queen Ida (or should I say Queen Ida and King Vexmus) who in the end agree to disagree. Haley Saunders is terrific as the spoiled Princess Anafazia, who quickly reveals that this royal’s beauty is only skin deep. Rachel Max as Ida and Louisa Bikowski as Missy, the no nonsense wives of Shank and Amos, and Heather Rose Kuhn as the sweet Julia, Princess Anafazia’s lady-in-waiting, are a fine supporting cast.

Choreographed by Sari Feldman and accompanied on piano by Douglas Quattrock, the 12 musical numbers are the heart of the show, with special mention to the duets “Puss in Boots” with Puss and Christopher and “Take a Moment for Yourself” with Puss and Julia, and the lively group number, “Song of the Marquis of Carabas.”

The charming costumes, designed by Jason Allyn, from the royal gowns in shades of lavender complete with wigs and crowns to the peasant garb in hues of brown, tie the story together perfectly. And wait until you see Puss’s fierce and fabulous outfit! 

This special show doesn’t come around often. Catch a performance before it’s gone.

Running time is one hour and 20 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. Meet the entire cast in the lobby on your way out for a keepsake photo.

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Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Puss In Boots on Jan. 22, 29 and Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. and Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. Children’s theatre continues with Dorothy’s Adventures In Oz from Feb. 23 to March 26 with a sensory friendly performance on Feb. 27 and The Adventures of Peter Rabbit from April 16 to May 7 with a sensory friendly performance on April 24. All seats are $10. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com

 

 

By Heidi Sutton

The holidays have arrived at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson with the 37th annual production of A Christmas Carol. In the lobby the garland is hung and the tree is trimmed and in the Mainstage theater the Victorian London set awaits the wonderful imagination of Charles Dickens and the beloved retelling of a classic tale of redemption.

Based on Dickens’ 1843 novella of the same name, A Christmas Carol introduces the audience to Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter and miserly man who has chosen “the world of business” over love, friendships and community. We first meet Scrooge “of all the good days of the year” on Christmas Eve, exactly 7 years since his business partner Jacob Marley died, as he snaps at his clerk Bob Cratchit, dismisses his nephew Fred Halliwell and chases carolers away. We see Want in the corner, a specter who will haunt Scrooge the entire show.

Later that evening Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost who offers him a precious gift — one last chance at redemption. Draped in the heavy chains he has forged in life, Marley warns Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits — the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future – in an attempt to save his immortal soul.

In one of the most important parts of the show, the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge “the shadows of things that have been” — a series of events that led him to become the man he is today — from his mother dying at childbirth; his time at Wellington House, the boarding school where he spent many Christmases alone as a boy; his loving relationship with his sister Fan and his apprenticeship with the kind-hearted Fezziwig where he proposes to his first and only love, Belle.

The shadows also reveal the exact moment when he chooses to go into a business partnership with Marley (“and so it began”) and is overtaken by greed; when Belle walks out of his life; how he turns on Fezziwig; and the death of Fan.

The cheeky Ghost of Christmas Present arrives to teach Scrooge the joys of mankind. The first stop is Bob Cratchit’s home where he finds out about Tiny Tim’s failing health and that Cratchit’s oldest daughter works long hours in the workhouses to help the family pay their bills. Scrooge’s concern is evident. The mood lightens at a dinner party hosted by his nephew where the guests mock him in spirit during a game and compare him to a bear.

A daunting 14-foot Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the shadows of what is yet to come, including his own death and how it affects those he has wronged. The frightening notion is exactly what the miser needs to turn his life around. His transformation on Christmas Day, especially in his interaction with Want, is a joy to watch. In the end, Scrooge discovers that old Fezziwig was right all along and that love is the only thing in life worth having.

Adapted for the stage by Theatre Three’s Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel, the show evolves and changes every year, keeping it fresh and exciting. This year the show features a revised underscoring created by musical director Brad Frey, slight changes to the opening and closing, a shivaree, and due to COVID regulations, Tiny Tim is a puppet, designed by gifted puppet designer Austin Michael Costello. 

The entire cast is excellent, with many playing multiple roles. Sanzel, who has played the role of Scrooge in over 1400 performances, is fascinating to watch. Slightly hunched over, his character walks slowly with a cane and eases into a chair with a groan. But when the Ghost of Christmas Past brings him to Fezziwig’s Christmas Party, he jumps out of the shadows with a straight back and becomes a young man again dancing the night away with Belle. 

Special mention must also be made of Douglas J. Quattrock in the role of Scrooge’s loyal clerk Bob Cratchitt (a role he has played over 750 times) whose love for his family and the holidays is unconditional. His character’s attempt to be strong for his family while his child is very sick tugs at the heartstrings.

The Victorian set, designed by Randall Parsons, is most impressive with fireplaces that glow, a four-poster bed that tucks away neatly into the wall when the set transforms to the London streets, a church with stained glass windows, and a living home decked out for the holidays. The period costumes, also designed by Parsons, are perfectly on point and the lighting and sound design by Robert W. Henderson Jr. is truly magical, a word that also best describes the entire production.

Sanzel says it best in his director’s notes.“A Christmas Carol is a beautiful reminder that we are members of a community and that our responsibilities go beyond ourselves. Scrooge’s pledge to Tiny Tim’s future shows his ability to help those in his life; his embrace of the specter of Want shows his commitment to the world entire. Dickens’ message is one not just for Christmas but for always.”

Don’t miss this beautiful show.

Arrive early and be treated to a selection of Christmas carols by the actors on the Second Stage on the lower level and stay after for a Polaroid photo with Scrooge for $5 to support the theater’s scholarship fund or take one with your cellphone at no charge. 

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents A Christmas Carol through Dec. 26. A special abridged sensory-sensitive performance will be held on Nov. 28 at 11 a.m. Running time is 2 hours with one intermission. Tickets are $20 each in November; $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12 in December. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.