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Theatre Three

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

“Luck Be a Lady”

“If I Were a Bell”

“I’ve Never Been in Love Before”

“Take Back Your Mink”

These familiar songs are part of the rich tapestry that makes up American musical theatre history and all are in the classic, Guys and Dolls, the perfect choice to launch Theatre Three into its 52nd season of bringing fine entertainment to Long Island  audiences.

Frank Loesser’s stunning music combined with his compelling lyrics accompanied by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ whimsical book resulted in a one-of-a-kind show that truly represents Broadway’s Golden Age.

Inspiration for this 1950’s musical came from early 20th Century short stories penned by Damon Runyan most notably “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,” “Blood Pressure” and “Pick the Winner.” Runyan’s penchant toward gambling, especially craps and horse racing, played out in his short stories and in this musical. Likewise, Runyan’s connection to the underworld and best friend, mobster accountant, Otto Berman, is reflected in his works with Berman given the alias “Regret the horse player.” Runyan and his humorous works about gamblers, hustlers, and gangsters from Brooklyn or Midtown Manhattan with unusual names such as “Nathan Detroit,” “Big Julie” and “Harry the Horse” proved a perfect springboard for creating this delightfully entertaining musical. 

Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway in 1950 winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was adapted for the movies in 1955 with a star-studded cast including Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. Since then, this fan favorite has enjoyed numerous Broadway and London revivals before venturing into Port Jefferson.

This captivating Theatre Three production takes hold of the audience right from the start with a spirited overture under the musical direction of Jeffrey Hoffman that instantly immerses the audience in the light-hearted tone of the show. Then lights go up on the company of actors in mid-twentieth century period piece colorful dresses and dashing suits thanks to costume designers Jason Allyn and Ronald Green III.

Randall Parsons’ scenic design is abstract yet functional with a backdrop of towering city skyscrapers inside a frame outlined with tiny white lights then transforms into the Hot Box Club, this time with a backdrop of shimmering silver streamers before morphing into industrial pipes and smog representing the gambling garage. Stacey Boggs’ lighting design accentuates each scene from brilliant whites to smoldering greens and reds.

Director Jeffrey Sanzel has assembled a dynamic cast that dazzles and owns the flavor of 1950’s New York City. 

There are essentially four leads in this show. Rachel Greenblatt is engaging as puritanical missionary Sarah Brown, dedicated to saving sinners and surprised by her own vulnerability at falling for smooth talking gambler, Sky Masterson (Kevin Shaw). Greenblatt hits the stratosphere with her trilling soprano in such songs as “I’ll Know, If I Were a Bell” and “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.” Shaw’s Sky Masterson is suave, charismatic and oh so cool as a big-time gambler, but becomes equally surprised to realize he has fallen for this prudish do-gooder. There are two showstoppers in this musical and Shaw owns one of them with his rousing “Luck Be a Lady.”

The other two leads in the show are Nathan Detroit (Steven Uihlein), who is obsessed with gambling and not his fiancée, Adelaide (Sari Feldman), with whom he has been engaged for the past 14 years. Uihlein and Feldman are adorable together and their duet in “Sue Me” is humorous as Nathan tries to deflect Adelaide’s insistence that they marry. Feldman equally shines when belting out “Adelaide’s Lament” bemoaning that her one continuous cold is due to waiting so long for that band of gold. Feldman luxuriates in Adelaide’s affectations including her high-pitched New York City accent, rhythmic gait and innocence mixed with determination to finally marry that man.

Nathan is not only dealing with Adelaide’s pressures, but he is being pressured to rent the Biltmore garage for the big crap game. The only problem is he doesn’t have the money for the rent, hence he makes a bet on what he perceives is a sure thing. Nathan bets Sky $1,000 that he will not be able to get Sarah to go to dinner with him in Havana the following evening. 

But the smooth-talking Masterson convinces the sweet missionary to fly off to Havana for dinner. That leaves Nathan in a double mess. He doesn’t have the money for the garage and now he owes Sky $1,000 for losing their bet.

The adroit Company in this show takes on Ryan Nolin’s impressive choreography with gusto. In the Latin flavored Havana interlude the dancers — Rob Ferzola, Melissa Norman, Cassidy Rose O’Brien and Alex Yagud-Wolek — exude sensuality as they ease into Nolin’s gorgeous tableaus. Nolin keeps the party going with Adelaide’s animated Hot Box chorus girls and their effervescent dance routines. 

The second showstopper belongs to Finn MacDevitt’s animated Nicely-Nicely Johnson whose bouncy aerobic routines in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin the Boat,” received rousing applause on opening night.

Theatre Three’s Guys and Dolls is a jubilant celebration of Broadway’s Golden Age. Don’t miss this one. 

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents ‘Guys and Dolls’ through Oct. 22. Tickets are $35, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Photos by Brian Hoerger/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Open cast call

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will hold an open auditions for The Sweet Delilah Swim Club on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 10 a.m.  and Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.

This hilarious and touching show features five very different but deeply connected Southern women whose friendships began on their college swim team. Each summer they meet for a reunion at the same beach cottage in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Visiting them on four weekends over thirty-three years, we learn of their lives, loves, and losses. A heartfelt comedy about friendships that last forever.

Seeking four female actors (the role of Sheree Hollinger is cast).who appear mid 30s to late 40s. Readings will be from the script.  Callbacks to be determined.  Please bring picture/resume.  Rehearsals begin in November  and performances will be from Jan. 14 to Jan. 29.

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

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.

Food Drive

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson hosts a food and personal care items drive at Infant Jesus Convent, 110 Hawkins Ave.(off Myrtle Ave.), Port Jefferson on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon to benefit the pantry at Infant Jesus Church. Items needed include juice, complete pancake mix, syrup, jelly, mac & cheese, cooking oil, cereal, oatmeal, canned fruit, black beans and healthy snacks as well as shampoo, conditioner and deoderant. Grocery store cards and cash also accepted. 

'Cave of Adullam' will be screened at Theatre Three on Oct. 10. Photo courtesy of PJDS
Line-up spotlights how singular stories impact society

By Tara Mae 

What responsibility to people have to each other and the planet? This question is a  recurring theme examined when the award-winning Port Jefferson Documentary Series’ film festival returns this fall. The season kicks off Monday, Sept. 19 and runs on select Mondays through Nov. 28. 

“There is an underlying thread of social responsibility — stand up and do the right thing or at least recognize when things are going wrong and put a spotlight on it —  throughout the whole season. It takes a lot of guts to take such a stance,” said co-Director Lyn Boland.

Screenings will be held in person at 7 p.m. With the exception of Rebellion, which will be screened at John F. Kennedy Middle School, 200 Jayne Blvd. in Port Jefferson Station, all documentaries will be shown at Theatre Three, 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. 

“This series offers a valuable service, We are offering an opportunity for an arts organization in our community. Many of these films are noncommercial; people would not necessarily be able to see them in movie theaters,” said Theatre Three’s Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel. 

‘An Act of Worship’

Sponsored by the Suffolk County Film Commission, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, Maggio Environmental, Maia Salon Spa and Wellness, and Covati and Janhsen, CPAs, the festival, which started in 2005, will present seven thought-provoking documentaries this year.

Evoking questions of personal responsibility, public activism, and corporate accountability, these documentaries explore the private motivations of public figures, community workers, and morally dubious entities who exploit areas of opaque legality for profit. 

Kaepernick & America kicks off the series, exploring the thought process of a man whose actions speak loudly; An Act of Worship amplifies the ingenuity, initiatives, and endurance of female Muslim American activists; The Cave of Adullam chronicles the steadfast dedication of a Black martial arts sensei striving to support at-risk Black youths; Rebellion, American Pain, and The YouTube Effect detail the detrimental impact of a trifecta of concurrent crises: climate change, opioid addiction, and misinformation, respectively. The seventh film, to be screened on Nov. 28, is to be announced at a later date.

“This festival really has something for everybody. I do think that we have some really remarkable films. Quite a number explore current events — things that are so much on everyone’s mind,” Boland added.

Following every screening, Tom Needham, host of The Sounds of Film on WUSB, will emcee a Q&A session with the director or producer of the documentary. Some guests will appear in person while others will appear via Zoom.

The documentaries are selected by the all-female film board: co-directors Lyn Boland, Wendy Feinberg, and Barbara Sverd as well as Honey Katz, Lorie Rothstein, and Lynn Rein. Collectively known as “the film ladies,” each woman nominates a documentary to be included in the series and if approved, arranges for the speaker(s) to participate in the Q&A. 

After its nomination, the board and volunteers review the film to decide whether it makes the cut. The next step can be among the most challenging: securing the rights to show the documentary. This feat is generally negotiated by contacting the film distribution company or reaching out directly to a filmmaker in person at a festival, or through email and phone. Certain documentarians, such as Alex Winter (The Youtube Effect), have previously shown other work at the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, and thus have an existing connection to it. 

Films are largely sourced from festivals like the TriBeca Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. Board members pay their own travel expenses, tickets, and industry passes.  

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series is a passion project for everyone involved. 

“My favorite parts of this endeavor are attending film festivals, previewing films on the big screen, and meeting the directors and subjects in the films in person. The satisfaction of having previewed dozens of films and finally then narrowing down to seven of the best with guest speakers for each…I love it. To me, it is entertainment,” said co-director Wendy Feinberg.

Individual tickets are $10 each online or at the door. A season pass is $58 and also available online or at the door. 

For further details about the documentaries, booking tickets, or the series in general, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film Schedule
‘Kaepernick & America’

The season begins with a screening of Kaepernick & America at Theatre Three on Sept. 19. The documentary relives the summer of 2016, an election year with unrest rumbling through America, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee and America lost its mind. Kaepernick & America examines the man and his protest, exploring the remarkable conflict stirred by such a symbolic gesture. Guest speaker will be co-director Tommy Walker.

Up next is An Act of Worship on Oct. 3 at Theatre Three. The film weaves a glorious tapestry of personal stories, verité, archival footage, and home movies together, to open a window into the world of Muslim Americans. The film follows three women activists who have come of age since 9/11 and who are part of a new generation of Muslims in America. Guest speakers will be director Nausheen Dadabhoy and producer Sofian Khan.

The award-winning film Cave of Adullam heads to Theatre Three on Oct. 10. The film focuses on martial arts sensei Jason Wilson and his efforts to help often-troubled black youths from Detroit at the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy that he founded in 2008. Guest speaker will be director Laura Checkoway.

■ After a brief hiatus, the series continues with a screening of Rebellion at John F. Kennedy Middle School on Oct. 24. The film gives us an in-depth look into the global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion (XR), established in the United Kingdom, from its beginnings in 2018. Guest spaker will be co-director Maia Kenworthy via Zoom.

■ Moving into November, American Pain will be screened at Theatre Three on Nov. 14. A jaw-dropping true crime documentary, the film tells the story of twin brothers and bodybuilders Chris and Jeff George, who operated a franchise of pain clinics in Florida where they handed out pain pills like candy. Director Darren Foster offers an incredibly compelling and shocking story that exposes the tower of corruption that made the George’s enterprise so massively successful. Guest speaker will be producer Carolyn Hepburn.

The Youtube Effect heads to Theatre Three on Nov. 21. The documentary takes viewers on a timely and gripping journey inside the cloistered world of YouTube and parent Google. It investigates YouTube’s rise from humble beginnings in the attic of a pizzeria to its explosion onto the world stage, becoming the largest media platform in history and sparking a cultural revolution, while creating massive controversy in the age of disinformation. The film is a startling but necessary look at a website that has become so intertwined with our daily lives. Guest speaker via Zoom will be director Alex Winter.

■ Film on Nov. 28 TBD.

*Please note all films begin at 7 p.m.

 

The 2021 cast of 'A Christmas Carol

Save the date! Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will hold young people’s auditions (ages 8 to 17) for its 38th annual production of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ on Tuesday, September 20 at 7 p.m.

They will be double-casting nine roles (for a total of eighteen fully vaccinated young people). Readings are provided [download them here]. A Christmas carol (“Christmas Is Coming”) will be taught. Rehearsals begin late September and are weeknights (beginning at 7 p.m.); Saturdays (mornings or afternoons); and Sundays (mornings, afternoons, or evenings). Young people must appear in half of the performances, including the student matinees.

Performances will be held from November 12 to December 30, on the Mainstage. Young people must appear in half of the performances, including the student matinees.

Please Note: Due to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases and our ever-changing public health safety environment, THEATRE THREE is only casting fully vaccinated young people.

For more information, call 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.

Get ready for a night of laughter! Theatre Three, 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson, will host a Friday Night Face-Off on the Second Stage on July 29 at 10:30 p.m. Friday Night Face Off is Long Island’s longest running Improv Comedy Show. Using audience suggestions, FNFO pits two teams of improvisers against each other in an all-out championship!! Think “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” on about a dozen Redbulls and completely uncensored!

Beer, wine and other refreshments will be served and there is never a drink minimum. Recommended for audiences 16 and up, due to adult content. Tickets are $15 at the door only.

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

Join Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson for one of its last two performances of “Puss-In-Boots,” a hilarious musical re-telling of a boy and his ingenious feline on July 29 and July 30 at 11 a.m. When Christopher inherits his father’s clever cat, he sets out on an adventure that takes him to the palace of King Vexmus and beyond and learns that faith comes from within. $10 per person. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Stock photo

Theatre Three will host a food and personal care items drive on Sunday, July 31 from 9 a.m. to noon. Please help those in need during these difficult times. Items will be collected at the Infant Jesus Church food pantry, 110 Hawkins St. (off Myrtle Ave.) in Port Jefferson Village.

At this time, the pantry has an extreme need of the following items: juice, white rice (1 lb and 2 lb bags), coffee, pancake mix (complete), mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, sugar, Maseca corn flour, cooking oil, cereal, oatmeal, canned fruit, black beans and healthy snacks as well as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, baby wipes and diapers (size 5 & 6). Grocery store gift cards and cash also accepted. 

For more information, please call 631-938-6464.