- Me and Jezebel
‘Me and Jezebel’ Resurrects Bette Davis at Theatre Three
JANUARY 11, 2016 BY BARBARA ANNE KIRSHNER
“You leave the theatre feeling like you just spent the
evening with Bette Davis!” exclaimed audience member Adrienne
Pellegrino on opening night of playwright Elizabeth Fuller’s Me
and Jezebel, a delightful treat being served up at Theatre Three
in Port Jefferson through February 6.
Bette Davis had a
reputation for being acerbic, determined and aggressive, all
personal qualities magnified in her performances. In 1938, Davis
won her second Academy Award for the role of headstrong Julie
Marsden in William Wyler’s Jezebel. Fuller uses that name in the
title of Me and Jezebel—initially a memoir adapted into this
play—to reference Davis, the explosive character who imposed
upon her family.
This legendary personality turned the
lives of her tranquil Westport, Connecticut hosts upside down.
In 1985, 77-year-old Davis accompanied a mutual friend to
the Fuller house one evening for dinner. The next day Davis
called and asked to stay with the couple a night or two due to
the New York hotel strike and the need for a quiet place to work
on her biography. The star-struck Liz [Fuller] readily
agreed—much to the dismay of her author husband, John Fuller.
This overnight stretched into a month-long invasion in which
Davis dictated grocery lists without offering to pay, required a
firm mattress and made numerous phone calls to Hollywood, Paris
and Rome in a time when long distance calls were anything but
free. Adding fuel to Davis’ already enflamed temper was her
daughter’s tell-all book, My Mother’s Keeper, which was
published that same month. Davis was seeking sanctuary from
reporters, and what better place than this bucolic locale.
Directed by Theatre Three veteran Bradlee E. Bing, Me and
Jezebel is a two-character comedy featuring Elizabeth Ann
Castrogiovanni as Elizabeth Fuller and Marci Bing as Bette
Davis. Both actresses deliver tour de force performances in
their equally challenging roles.
serves as narrator with the additional task of magically
morphing at times into the 4-year-old playwright’s son,
Christopher, at other times into husband John, holy roller
Grace, and even a restaurant waiter.
Among the standout
moments, is an argument between Liz and John, who is fed up with
Davis’ extended stay. Both characters come to life
simultaneously in Castrogiovanni’s versatile hands. Liz’s
devotion is deep, initiated when as a child her O’l Ma granny
introduced her to Davis’ films, and by Act II, she has adopted
Davis’ mannerisms and fashion, which makes for an amusing
vision—like an extra in All About Eve.
The task of
recreating the legendary Bette Davis is not an easy one, yet an
audible gasp is heard from the audience upon Bing’s first
entrance as she resurrects Davis for the stage. Bing captures
every nuance of Davis, from her staccato gait to her throaty
tone and grandiose gestures punctuated with swirling cigarette
smoke. She is a whirlwind crashing the serene Fuller household
and spouting Bette-isms, such as “When they stop wanting your
autograph, you’re finished,” or “Old age ain’t no place for
sissies.” Additionally, she spits out condemnations, revealing
her jealousy and hatred for Joan Crawford.
There is a
glimpse of a warm, caring side when interacting with Liz’s
4-year-old son during a visit to McDonald’s. Christopher flies
into a tantrum when his happy meal doesn’t contain the airplane
he wanted. Davis explains you don’t always get what you want and
offers her disappointment at not being cast as Scarlett O’Hara
in Gone With the Wind as an example. But the following year she
was offered Julie in Jezebel, and the rest is history. Chris
hangs on her every word and the tantrum subsides.
Bing and his wife Marci have been connected with Theatre Three
since the early days of the playhouse. He formerly served as
artistic director and is presently on Theatre Three’s Board of
Directors. With this production, Marci gains yet another acting
credit to her already impressive body of work.
Parsons’ set, complete with receding forest green columns
framing the detailed Fuller living room, is as attractive as it
is serviceable for the actors. The lighting by Robert W.
Henderson, Jr. emphasizes the living space while allowing the
columns to function as a backdrop for the stage.
director of Me and Jezebel, Bing has created a free-spirited,
impeccably timed romp. This is a fun-filled evening of theater
with just a touch of sentimentality.
Theatre Three is
located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson. Call 631-928-9100
or visit theatrethree.com for more info, including tickets and
- A Christmas Carol
Theatre Three’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ Is a Holiday Gift
By Barbara Anne Kirshner, Dan's Papers
November 16, 2015
With the holiday season rapidly approaching it is time for
Theatre Three to herald in its annual favorite, Charles Dickens’
A Christmas Carol. Step inside this more than 160-year-old
historic building and instantly be transported to Dickens’
Victorian England. Jeff Sanzel adapted and directs the play, and
he performs Ebenezer Scrooge with relish every year for more
than two decades.
One might question how the theater
continues attracting audiences to a show that has been produced
annually for over 20 years, but it does. This year’s opening
night performance, on Saturday, November 14, attracted another
large, enthusiastic crowd. Maybe audiences still flock to A
Christmas Carol because of Theatre Three’s strong commitment to
excellence. Regular A Christmas Carol aficionados will delight
in the production’s latest twists and turns, while the integrity
of Dickens’ enchanting tale remains intact.
begins even before the audience is in their seats. Actors gather
in the main hall of the theater, adorned with festive Christmas
decorations, and their sweet, soaring voices ring throughout the
hall immersing the crowd in holiday cheer. Then the actors file
out, signaling the audience to find their seats.
Meticulous care is taken in every aspect of this production,
including the program, which is fashioned as a Victorian
newspaper, Dickens’ Times, complete with headlines in Old
Once seated, all eyes focus on a single
spotlight, center stage, illuminating a black stand with what
appears to be a glass globe, then a blackout followed by lights
up on Scrooge’s office where he scoffs at his nephew, Fred
Halliwell’s (Hans Paul Hendrickson) invitation to Christmas
dinner. All holiday cheer is instantly extinguished, as is any
request by the Seekers of Mercy for a charitable donation.
Scrooge scoffs, “If they would rather die, they should do that
Mrs. Dilber (Michelle Cosentino), the
housekeeper, reminds Scrooge his partner Jacob Marley died 7
years ago this very night. Scrooge simply darns his robe, climbs
into bed. Of course the audience is well versed in
happens next, but the depth of Steve McCoy’s Jacob Marley is
riveting. He is a true villain and we clearly understand why he
is forced to spend eternity in chains with each link
representing yet another illgotten
gain. When Marley speaks,
a soul-chilling echo causes audible gasps from the audience.
Menacingly, he warns, “For seven years no rest, no peace,
but you still have time.” A tremulous clatter of chains
announces Marley’s disappearance, leaving Scrooge with a glimmer
of hope if only he heeds the word.
The procession of
spirits begins. Christmas Past (Amanda Geraci), striking in
white satin Victorian dress, conjures Scrooge’s wretched
childhood. Cast into an orphanage by his father, who blames
Scrooge’s birth for his wife’s death, the child is alone even
during the holidays.
Enter Fan, Scrooge’s older sister
lovingly played by Megan Bush. She presents young Scrooge with
the glass globe seen previously in the spotlight and surprises
him with news that he is coming home for good. Unfortunately,
his father can only bear three days of seeing him before
banishing Scrooge back to the orphanage.
As a young man,
Scrooge is working for Marley and learning the meaning of
avarice. He proposes to his beloved Belle, played by Jenna
Kavaler in charming, ingénue fashion. But the courtship is
short-lived as she
returns his engagement ring, lamenting,
“Another idol has replaced me…a golden one.”
that moment is wrenching for Scrooge. Christmas Past returns him
to his bedroom, but peace is quickly broken by the Ghost of
Christmas Present, James D. Schultz, who gives a standout
performance complete with hardy laughter as he delights in
Scrooge’s miserly ways, making him face the
struggles of his humble clerk Bob Cratchit, deftly portrayed by
Douglas J. Quattrock, who labors to provide for his large
family, especially his fragile son, Tiny Tim (played by the
adorable Alex Yagud-Wolek).
With lesson learned, a now
giddy, magnanimous Scrooge uplifts the audience, raising
Cratchit’s salary and promising medical care to save Tiny Tim.
Scrooge bubbles, “The spirits of past, present and future shall
shine through me.”
Jeff Sanzel is dynamic as Scrooge.
The audience is with him from the moment he enters the stage as
he takes us on an emotional journey—from mean and miserly, to
gentle, sad, scared and finally elated. He is
accomplished actors, many playing multiple roles, and Randall
Parsons’ effective turntable sets easily morph from dark and
macabre to light and merry, thanks to Robert W. Henderson, Jr’s
lighting changes. Ellen Michelmore’s haunting sound
effects, and period costumes by Randall Parsons and Bonnie Vidal
further transport the audience.
This is a show for the
entire family—so don’t just drop off the kids. People of all
ages will adore this holiday gift.
- Barnaby Saves Christmas
Barnaby Saves Christmas Is a Holiday Treat at Theatre
by Heidi Sutton December 2, 2015
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Sweeney Todd
THE VILLAGE TIMES
“Theatre Three’s SWEENEY TODD is a
By Staci Santini September 24,
experience “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” the
musical currently running at Theater Three in Port Jefferson, is
to once again enter the clever imagination of Creative Director
Jeff Sanzel. It is bold, it is daring, it is courageous and it
is uncomfortable, as it should be. With productions such as “Les
Misérables” and “Oliver” in his repertoire, Sanzel is no
stranger to challenging and enormous projects, and Sweeney Todd
is no exception. He brings the darkness of this satire to light
and as we watch, as grievous as the subject matter may be, we
Although there have been numerous
publications attempting to give honesty to the story with
references to actual people, Sweeney Todd is an urban legend.
The story is based on a vengeful London Fleet Street Barber in
1785 who slits the throats of his customers. Mrs. Lovett is his
pie-making accomplice, and together they join forces to make
mincemeat out of his victims, literally. The pies become all the
rage and cannibalism commonplace to Lovett’s naïve patrons.
Opening at New York’s Uris Theater in 1979, the musical has
consistently won numerous Tonys, including Angela Lansbury for
Best Actress and Len Cariou for Best Actor. The infamous Stephen
Sondheim is responsible for the award-winning score.
is always the case with Theater Three, the performances are
astonishing, but there were several other stars in the room the
evening of the premier that were not on stage. This production
is visual perfection. From the set to the lighting to sound to
the choreography, the team Sanzel assembled for this production
created a true optic masterpiece. Scenic Designer, Randall
Parsons; Lighting Designer, Robert W. Henderson Jr.; Sound
Designer, Peter Casdia and Choreographer, Sari Feldman took this
show to soaring heights. Whether it was the actors running up
and falling down in the aisles or witnessing victims slide off
the barber chair and down into morbid eternity, the viewers were
captivated by the imagery.
The costumes, as created by
Ronald Green III, are sublime. Green’s vision of black and gray
hues with pops of white serves the energy of this production
well. They were a marvel to look at. The haunting score is
handled well by the orchestra and under the musical direction of
Jack Kohl, complements the shocking scenes on stage.
no actor in the Theater Three family of thespians more suited
for the role of Sweeney Todd than Steve McCoy. His initial
appearance on stage is chilling and the connection to the
character Hannibal Lector in the movie “The Silence of the
Lambs” is uncanny. Right before our eyes, McCoy creates a
monster on stage, a singing, maniacal murdering monster with a
heart. Only McCoy can do that and he does.
McCoy, Suzanne Mason as Mrs. Lovett commands our attention every
moment she is on stage, which is often. Mason plays this
unsavory character with such likability that we completely
forget that she is not only a murderer’s accomplice, but his
manipulative business partner as well. She is charming almost to
a fault, from her brilliant cockney accent to her empathetic
gestures to her completely sociopathic consciousness, we are
enthralled with her. Once again, Sanzel’s intuition when it
comes to selecting actors is right on point.
plays Johanna, reinforcing that her superior vocal range can
take on any role she assumes. Her ethereal voice is a welcome
distraction to the comedic yet gloomy story line. Bryan Elsesser
as her paramour, Anthony Hope, is delightful; his version of the
song “Johanna” is standing ovation-worthy. John Hudson as the
Baz Luhrman-type character, Italian Barber Pirelli, is also a
surprise and perfectly apprehended. Robert Butterley gives new
meaning to word “chauvinist,” as he plays the very dislikable
Judge Turpin and, as always, veteran Linda May is the ultimate
forlorn Beggar Woman.
Honorable mention must be made of
Andrew Gasparini as simpleton Tobias who does more than justice
to this sympathy-invoking role.
Sweeney Todd might not be
considered a musical for everyone, the subject matter coarse and
offensive, but the irony is that, that is exactly the reason to
see it. When a theater embraces a musical like Sweeney Todd in
such a manner that it is enjoyable and appealing, purchasing a
ticket should be instinctive. The value lies not so much in the
story line, but in the performances and depiction of complex
characters, which is done so well here.
There is an old
saying that if you hang around the barber shop long enough, you
will eventually get your haircut, in this case — your throat
slit. Not sure you want to hang around Sweeney Todd too long,
but it is sure worth a visit.
'Please, sir, give us more
by Steve Parks, May 27, 2015
"In 'Oliver Twist,' I want to show Goodness triumphing over
every form of adversity."
altogether clear that Dickens knew precisely how "Oliver Twist"
would evolve when he began serializing the novel in 1837 --
except that (spoiler alert!) it would end well for the title
character. But from the get-go of Lionel Bart's 1960 musical,
now receiving a Theatre Three reincarnation, it's a given that
the fix is in for Goodness to prevail.
As directed by
Jeffrey Sanzel, also playing the complicated villain Fagin,
"Oliver!" sings and dances with dramatic purpose, flawlessly
accompanied by Jackson Kohl's orchestra.
From his first
line, following the opening "Food, Glorious Food" anthem that
bespeaks the nearstarvation diet of workhouse orphanages,
Kiernan Urso as Oliver has us eating out of his outstretched
hands, begging, "Please, sir, I want some more."
sprawling story, encapsulated in the show that won a 1963 Tony
for best original score and a 1968 Oscar for best picture,
unfolds like a page-turner, framed by Randall Parsons'
multilevel set of gaslight illumination (Robert Henderson Jr.)
evoking 19th century London. Doug Vandewinckel
March temper their grim workhouse personas with hammy takes on
the flirtatious "I Shall Scream."
Hans Hendrickson as the
Artful Dodger (nattily costumed by Chakira Doherty) leads in the
welcoming recruitment of Oliver into a life of crime with a
boisterous "Consider Yourself." Sanzel, playing a thieves' den
mother of sorts, prescribes the boy's assigned career on "Pick a
Pocket or Two," a trade he taught Nancy, played with lusty
abandon by Jennifer Collester Tully, who sings with ironic
resignation, "It's a Fine Life." Later, she breaks our hearts
with her ode to poor judgment in character with a passionate "As
Long as He Needs Me." The "he," of course, is remorseless Bill
Sikes, the monster criminal Fagin schooled.
helps us see why speaking "My Name" makes everyone in earshot
quiver in fear. The song serves as stark contrast to Oliver's
pathetic query, "Where Is Love?" and the ensemble number "Who
Will Buy?," choreographed with haunting precision by Marquez.
But nothing in musical literature surpasses "Reviewing
the Situation" in moral ambiguity. Sanzel pulls it off with
grace notes of humanizing humor while never excusing Fagin's
Full disclosure: I'm partial to
"Oliver!"—the first Broadway show I saw, way back when. Theatre
Three's is the best I've seen since.
- The Boy From Oz
BWW Reviews: The Boy From Oz at Theatre Three
by Melissa Giordano 10-1-14
The Tony nominated
musical The Boy From Oz brings many emotions to the surface. The
story is about the life of Australian entertainer Peter Allen.
His zest for life, dealing with deteriorating health, and the
love he is surrounded by create for the audience a roller
coaster of feelings. For the record, Martin Sherman and Nick
Enright have certainly created a story of heart and
Jeffrey Sanzel superbly
directs this wonderful incarnation - running through November
1st at Theater Three in Port Jefferson - with a gifted cast
headed up by the talented Steve McCoy portraying Peter. The
tale, set to Peter Allen's music, takes us through Peter's life
from when he was starting out as an entertainer, him "making it"
playing Carnegie Hall, his dysfunctional family, all the way
until his untimely death. His marriage to Liza Minelli,
fantastically portrayed by Sari Feldman, is also discussed as is
his quarreling with Liza's mother, Judy Garland, portrayed by
Lori Beth Belkin.
Additionally, a highlight among the
cast is Andrew Timmins who is an absolute firecracker as Young
Peter. His tap dance sequences draw a rousing round of applause
as does his performance of "When I Get My Name In Lights". Also,
a special mention to Brett Chizever, splendidly portraying
Peter's partner Greg, who gives a moving performance of "I
Honestly Love You" in Act Two. And Long Island theatre vet Mary
Ellin Kurtz is divine as Peter's devoted mother, Marion.
Not on stage but also a focus is the live orchestra accompanying
the stellar cast. Excellently led by Musical Director Jack Kohl,
the orchestra is comprised of Bob Dalpiaz, Joel Levy, Mike
Kendrot, Jeff Lange, Gary Meyer, Charles Clausen, Peter
Auricchio, Rex Enderlin, Mike Chiusano, Jim Carroll, and Don
Larsen. They practically sit in the audience stage right.
The entire cast is truly top notch and it seems each of them
is truly enjoying their time in this production.
The Boy From Oz is a great way to kick off Theatre Three's
incredible 45th season. This brilliant cast and emotional story
will make for a thrilling night of theatre.
The Boy From
Oz is presented by Theatre Three of Port Jefferson, Long Island,
through November 1st. Music & Lyrics by Peter Allen (and
others), Book by Martin Sherman & Nick Enright, Original
Production by Ben Gannon & Robert Fox, Directed by Jeffrey
Sanzel, Production Design by Randall Parsons, Costume Design by
Ronald Green III, Lighting Design by Robert W. Henderson, Jr.,
Sound Design by Neil Creedon, Stage Management by Peter Casdia,
Choreographed by Marquez Catherine Stewart, Musical Direction by
Jack Kohl. For more information and to purchase tickets, please
call (631)928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.
- I Love You
"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change Strikes a Chord
Around the World"
by Steve Parks, March 5, 2015
Somewhere along the relationship
spectrum, we've all been there. Dating. Love. Sex. Marriage.
Omigod, children! And if we're lucky, maybe even love and sex
after kids. So it shouldn't surprise us if a catchy little
musical revue/sketch comedy that touches all those bases strikes
a chord from New York to New Zealand.
"I Love You, You're
Perfect, Now Change," which logged 12 years (1996-2008) and
5,003 Off-Broadway performances, makes a
reappearance at Theatre Three, where Steve McCoy directs a game
foursome in an on-the-make progression from first dates to
James D. Schultz and Lisa Brodsky pair up in
negotiating past first, second and third dates in their
characters' way-too-busy lives -- a scenario more relevant than
ever in this era of virtual connections.
Next, Lisa Brodsky
joins Kavaler in a "Single Man Drought" duet, setting a tone of
desperation that pervades Act I, fitfully ending in wedding
Brodsky gets Act II off to a rousing country-soap
start with "Always a Bridesmaid," co-starring a typically
hideous dress (costumes by Amanda Geraci). James Schultz
regresses into baby babble as a new dad, then skips a couple of
decades as he propositions a woman who, like him, is crashing
the funeral of a stranger once or twice removed. His duet with
Brodsky, "I Can Live With That," borders on terminally sweet,
delivering them not quite to their graves. But this adept cast
manages to age gracefully in vignettes signifying life's
milestones, accompanied by Jack Kohl's heartbeat piano-bassdrum
Just don't expect "Change," a cute diversion, to
change your life.
- Master Class
"Master Class at Theatre Three
is a spellbinding tour de force not to be missed."
Originally published: June 10, 2014
By STEVE PARKS
'I bark quite a bit," says Maria
Callas, "but I don't bite."
For 20th century divas, being
demanding and imperious was part of the job description. But as
for the not-biting clause, Callas -- played by Marci Bing with
fiercely guarded vulnerability -- isn't telling the truth. She
bares metaphorical scars of bites she's taken out of her hide in
the name of art and, yes, love.
Terrence McNally's 1996
Tony winner for best play -- last revived in 2011 -- receives an
inspired reinterpretation at Theatre Three, directed with a keen
ear for artistic and emotional authenticity by Jeffrey Sanzel.
When we meet Callas, teaching aspiring opera singers in a
Juilliard concert hall, she's well past her prime. Her famously
temperamental voice having surrendered to exhaustion, she
retired as the world's greatest bel canto soprano in 1965.
Callas, who died in 1977 at age 53, taught master classes at
Juilliard. We are her audience for this session.
McNally's script appropriates her words recorded in these
classes. But in this play with music -- it seems sacrilegious to
call Puccini, Verdi and Bellini incidental -- McNally takes
"Our first victim -- who is she?"
Callas asks her accompanist, played by Steve McCoy on keyboard
and in character. He alone fully appreciates the greatness of
her presence. Cristina Faicco's meek Sophie flees in tears as
Callas interrupts her on the first utterance, "O." John Hudson
as Tony the tenor fares better. Though he, too, is interrupted,
he has the courage -- Callas prefers an anatomically analogous
term -- to challenge her with vocal authority.
Sharon enters in a ballgown, Callas rearms. "Never dress like
that before midnight," she says in one of her gentler
admonishments. Exit Sharon, who excuses herself to throw up
offstage. But TracyLynn Conner's Sharon returns, dressed down a
bit, to haunt Callas. In the role that won Audra McDonald the
second of her six Tonys, Connor shows us (and Callas) her
formidable operatic chops. Her voice sends Callas into
reminiscent retreat, recalling glory nights at La Scala,
represented in dreamlike tiers on Randall Parsons' elegantly
simple set with lights of Robert Henderson Jr.'s design. Bing
seamlessly crosses gender and generations in Callas' memory
monologues, tracing romantic regrets as she loses Aristotle
Onassis to Jackie the Widow.
"Master Class" at Theatre
Three is a spellbinding tour de force not to be missed.
- Bingo - The Winning Musical
– The Winning Musical”
Reviewed by: Jeb
Ladouceur, Smithtown Matters
Sunday, April 20, 2014
what Bingo is…but this is the first time I’ve seen the familiar
game used as a metaphor for life’s foibles. Thus devised,
one-liners spring from Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid, & David
Holcenberg’s hilarious “Bingo! The Winning Musical” in
rat-tat-tat sequence. Example: In one scene when Sam the Bingo
Caller announces that the next game’s objective is to form a
single, straight line on the card…the thrice divorced,
on-the-hunt sexpot Honey (perfectly played by Laura Bell)
proclaims, “Ahhh…’Single’ and ‘Straight’…my two favorite words!”
The other three women
in the diverse, Bingo-addicted quartet that continuously fires
off similar rib-tickling gems are Vern, Patsy, and Bernice
(Debbie D’Amore, Cristina Faicco, and Linda May). They are ably
supported by Sam the Caller (Ed Brennan, who has miraculously
made the switch from his recent portrayal of the tragic Javert
in Les Miserables).
The entire cast of ‘Bingo! - The
Winning Musical’ at Theatre Three. Photo by John
Lanscombe.Minnie (Sheila Sheffield the Hall Manager) wanders the
audience and plays a straight-faced shill for Sam as if the two
have been at it for decades—that’s how good the timing is. And
timing is everything in rapid fire give-and-take like theirs.
When a neophyte gambler, Alison (delivered convincingly by
Amanda Geraci) arrives in the Bingo Hall, the petite gal with
the big voice belts out “I’ve Made up My Mind” with authority
that belies her diminutive stature. It’s one of a dozen songs
rendered with equal gusto by various cast members. Geraci is
assigned the only role even remotely associated with a plot in
this essentially scenario-free variety show. Wisely, Director
Jeffrey Sanzel elects not to emphasize the heavy aspect and risk
losing a fun-loving audience that’s already been won.
everyone involved in local theater knows, Theatre Three major
domo Sanzel is about as versatile a figure as can be found in
any of Long Island’s numerous playhouses. Having won last year’s
Encore Award for his superb direction in “The Diary of Anne
Frank,” the executive artistic director of the company that’s
rightfully become known as Port Jefferson’s ‘Broadway on Main
Street’ has brought a talented troupe full circle. Gone (at
least for now) is the gut-wrenching drama of persecution and
anti-Semitism played out in a cramped Amsterdam attic…and not
surprisingly, in its place Sanzel has mounted a contrasting
At the outset, let it be said that this
critic generally disdains the somewhat underhanded ploy used to
name this play. To me, injecting a laudatory double entendre
blurb into the name of a theatrical production is akin to
titling a book, “A Terrific Novel!” or “My Favorite Mystery.” It
smacks of presumption at best, and is intentionally deceptive at
worst. Critiquing is best left to those of us who stake our
reputations on the appropriate application of such adjectives.
But Mr. Sanzel didn’t name this comic romp, so he’s hardly
to blame for any deception, intended or otherwise…and as a
matter of fact, the musical on Theatre Three’s Mainstage thru
May 24th happens to be ‘winning’…big time!
Winning Musical” with its minimal cast, modest prop
requirements, and contrived opportunities for audience
participation, was an ideal off-Broadway vehicle in those
regards. Indeed, “Bingo!...” never did make it to the Great
White Way, and even downtown the production closed after a
relatively brief run. My guess is the proletarian nature of the
theme had a lot to do with that. It seems at least questionable
whether die-hard Bingo aficionados are similarly dedicated
That said, Theatre Three has successfully
used this comic freight train of a play to shine a light on
human eccentricities. The result: ‘Bingo!...” deserves the
- Crossing Delancey
Originally published: March 10, 2014
Updated: March 11, 2014 9:40 AM
By STEVE PARKS
Sam the Pickle Man complains that
the matchmaker is "selling me like a used car."
Accustomed to peddling his sweet-and-sours, Sam figures he'd do
a better sales job on his own. But Isabelle, the object of his
sweet desire, has eyes only for the author of her fantasy
Boy meets girl. Girl rejects boy. Granny and
Matchmaker interfere. You could call them obnoxious. But at a
certain age, elders get away with anything short of mayhem. It's
all so endearing and, yes, predictable -- forget spoilers -- as
staged at Theatre Three. Tenderly directed by Mary Powers,
"Crossing Delancey" will surprise no one. True love is destiny
in such romantic comedies as Susan Sandler's play that became
the 1988 movie starring Amy Irving (Mrs. Steven Spielberg at the
It's the getting there that pays off in this
beautifully rendered mating dance choreographed on Randall
Parsons' impeccably detailed uptown/downtown set anchored by an
Isabelle suspects their inevitability when Sam sends her a hat.
"I'm being wooed," she tells her bubbe.
As played by
Elizabeth Ann Castrogiovanni, Isabelle is a late bloomer
cloistered in the bookshop where she toils in futile hope that
Tyler, the novelist who stops by to see how his books are
selling, will remember her name. He never does -- until Izzy
dons that hat. Castrogiovanni turns the neat trick of being
convincingly helpless in Tyler's presence while maddeningly
aloof in Sam's.
As Tyler, Steve Ayle rescues "Crossing
Delancey" from saccharine overdose. Ayle makes this antihero
slimy enough that we see what she sees in him -- girls Izzy's
age love bad boys -- even as we want to slap some sense into her
-- gently, of course. That's bubbe's role.
Dennehy as Izzy's granny oozes equal doses of wisdom and
mischief in a way that teases us into thinking she might be our
granny, too. Sheila Sheffield, as the ravenous matchmaker,
pushes the comic buttons that make her seem entrepreneurially
But it would all be wasted without a
solicitous beau. That would be James Schultz as Sam, the man on
a single-minded mission -- or rather a mission that would banish
"single" from his vocabulary and Izzy's. You can't help but root
for a Sam so ardently presented by Schultz.
nor Izzy looks both ways when crossing their Delancey.
- Starting Here, Starting Now
'Starting Here, Starting Now' review
Originally published: January 22, 2014 2:36
By STEVE PARKS email@example.com
Richard Maltby Jr. and composer David Shire might have been
among Broadway's leading creative duos today -- with a little
bit of luck. But that's a lyric from another show. As it is,
Maltby and Shire count among their admirers no less a genius
than Stephen Sondheim. The master, now 83, cites the wanderlust
ditty "Travel" as one of the few songs by others that Sondheim
wishes he'd written. Originally penned for a student production
of "Cyrano" -- Maltby and Shire, both 76, first collaborated at
Yale -- "Travel" is among two-dozen songs charmingly delivered
in Theatre Three's resurrection of the 1977 Off-Broadway revue,
"Starting Here, Starting Now."
In part because Maltby
and Shire never made it to the top on Broadway, their extensive
songbook remains relatively fresh. Their near misses are "Baby"
(1983), the episodic musical about having them, and "Big: The
Musical" (1996), based on the hugely popular Tom Hanks'
reverse-Peter-Pan movie about a boy who grows up overnight. Both
were multiple Tony nominees but winners of none, trumped by
blockbusters "Cats" and "Rent," respectively. So, despite their
vintage, many tunes from "Starting Here, Starting Now" may be
new to your ears. Among the more familiar are the title song and
"Autumn," both of which Barbra Streisand has recorded and
included in her concert playlist.
triangle of Jacqueline Hughes, Steve McCoy and Corryn David pays
full-throated tribute to "Starting Here" etc., near the top of
the show, elegantly accompanied by pianist Jack Kohl and his
onstage bass/percussion ensemble. Hughes sings such antic
numbers as the delightfully clever "Crossword Puzzle," while
David belts out torchy laments, notably "What About Today." That
leaves McCoy to play both cad (wooing one girl while texting
another on "We Can Talk to Each Other") and fool for love ("I
Don't Remember Christmas"). McCoy also makes a subtle fashion
statement just by changing his hat and doffing his coat to
reveal a bright purple shirt in "Flair" -- costumes by Bonnie
Vidal and Randall Parsons, who also designed the terraced set
suggesting a park.
Director Edward Carignan changes pace
between tightly choreographed numbers for three ("One Step's"
lyrically sublime "when did my world become splendid") and solo
scene-chewing (Hughes in the over-the-top "I'm Going to Make You
"Starting Here, Starting Now" makes for pleasant
date-night fare -- especially date nights for long-married
couples no longer seeking to impress one another.
- Stand Up! Stand Out! - The Bullying Project
troupe touts anti-bullying message
Originally published: March 7, 2014 9:14 AM
Updated: March 7, 2014 1:33
By STEVE PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org
wouldn't think a show about bullying would open with a game of
patty-cake. But the bully and the girl she has targeted are both
elementary students in Theatre Three's latest play for Long
When it comes to bullying, it's never too
early to reach schoolchildren. That's the theory behind "Stand
Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project," the puppet-and-people show
aimed at kindergartners through fourth-graders.
is to get to them before bullying starts," says Jeffrey Sanzel,
who has written 120 children's shows for Theatre Three,
including four productions that have toured Long Island and the
Northeast. Three shows, including the latest effort, are offered
to Long Island school districts.
One show, "Class Dismissed:
The Bullying Project," which debuted in 2007, targets fifth-
through eighth-graders. The sequel is intended to "reach kids
before patterns are established," said Douglas Quattrock,
Theatre Three's director of development, whose specialty is
composing music for children's theater. Quattrock recalls being
bullied when his family moved from Queens to Selden.
"When I was growing up in the city, I had three older brothers,
so no one picked on me," Quattrock said. "We moved out here when
I was 16 and there were no big brothers to protect me. I'd
transferred to a new school, and when you're in theater, people
make certain assumptions. Mostly, it was a feeling of being left
That's one of the key messages in "Stand Up! Stand
Out!," according to Sanzel, who worked on the latest "Bullying
Project" for six years before its showcase last month on Theatre
Three's main stage in Port Jefferson.
"I admit to being
on both sides of the bullying coin," said Sanzel, who grew up in
suburban Rochester and lives in Sound Beach. In his new play,
bullying is more than physical threats and intimidation. It's
also name-calling and social isolation.
The company has a 30-year history in
educational theater, beginning with "And These, Our Friends," an
anti-DWI program for grades seven through 12. It toured for 20
years before going on hiatus.
"From the Fires: Voices of
the Holocaust" premiered in 1996 and has been performed more
than 500 times in schools, libraries, churches and synagogues
from Toronto to Washington.
The two "Bullying Projects," with
lyrics by Sanzel to Quattrock's music, round out Theatre Three's
touring curriculum. "These shows are all educationally based,
but theatricality's also important," Sanzel said. "We present
something kids won't find in a movie or TV show."
Theatre Three's executive artistic director, Sanzel concedes
that his motives aren't entirely altruistic.
tours are part of our income," he said. The company, which first
pitched the show to the public in two Feb. 4 presentations,
charges school districts $1,250 per performance. The plays run
35 minutes, plus 10 minutes for a question-and-answer session
with the five cast members and puppeteer. Shows are designed to
fit one class period.
The difference between "Class
Dismissed" and "Stand Up! Stand Out!" -- besides the target
audience's age -- is the focus. The first "Bullying Project,"
for middle schools, concentrates on the bully. The second
focuses on bystanders who haven't learned to be mean yet.
kid who's a bully probably won't respond to a message play,"
Sanzel said. "But he may respond to peer pressure if kids who've
gone along with picking on unpopular kids refuse to."
Guilt over doing nothing
In "Stand Up! Stand Out!" the
bully is a girl. Olivia, like all the child characters, is
played by actors in their 20s. Adults are represented by
puppets, designed and manipulated by Tazukie Fearon. Olivia,
played with a taunting, high-pitched tone by Amanda Geraci,
enlists Jayden, portrayed by James Schultz, in playing "keep
away" with a doll Nellie (Caitlin Nofi) has brought to school.
The doll winds up in the possession of Peg (Jacqueline Hughes).
While trying to concentrate on her homework that night, Peg
feels guilty about doing nothing to intercede on Nellie's
behalf. After consulting her puppet-parents, she returns the
doll to Nellie at school the next day.
As part of a class
assignment, Peg recruits Nellie, and later Tyler (Bobby
Montaniz) and Jayden, for an anti-bullying skit involving
fairy-tale characters -- from Alice and Cinderella to the Three
Little Pigs and the ultimate bully, the Big Bad Wolf. Sari
Feldman choreographs for both humans and puppets.
there was a show like this around when I was bullied in
elementary school," said Hughes, 25, of Kings Park. "I was in
first-grade and I remember the girl's name to this day."
Hughes said she draws from that experience to portray Peg. "I
use childlike mannerisms without overdoing it. We don't want to
mock or talk down to the kids in our audience. Skipping around
and playing patty-cake in the first number, 'A Perfect Day,'
gets us all in a kid frame of mind."
About a dozen
performances have been booked so far, and Sanzel said he expects
more to be added in the fall.
"The show started out as a
musical based on 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears,' " he said.
"It didn't work because, as any kid knows, the three bears
aren't bullies. Once we turned to the Big Bad Wolf, it came
'Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying
Booking: Ellen Michelmore, 631-928-2624,
Study guide available here
Next free showcase: 11 a.m.
and 4 p.m., May 13, 2014
Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port
- Les Misérables
'Les Misérables' review:
September 25, 2013 3:04 PM
Updated: September 27, 2013 11:04
By STEVE PARKS email@example.com
The year is
1815 and prisoner 24601 is paroled after serving 19 years for
stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister's starving son.
You could say Jean Valjean has an attitude.
robbed a house," Javert, the officer who arrested Valjean,
reminds him with haughty moral assurance.
"I broke a
window pane," 24601 confesses in snarky retort.
sung-through exchange between Ed Brennan (Javert) and Steve
McCoy (Valjean) sets the tone for director Jeffrey Sanzel's
enlighteningly linear production of "Les Misérables" at Theatre
The antagonists' mutually exclusive visions of
godliness drive the Victor Hugo novel and monster-hit musical by
Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Herbert Kretzmer.
McCoy projects both rage and tenderness -- the former in his
defiant "Who Am I?" and the latter in "Bring Him Home."
Javert pursues Valjean for breaking parole, even after he turns
himself into a model citizen. We hear agony in Brennan's robust
voice in Javert's soliloquy, confronting his failure to execute
Along the way, lives are wrecked or
rescued in a swirl of revolution that begins with the
degradation of Fantine (Tamralynn Dorsa) in a house of evil --
the proprietors played with comic abandon by James Schultz and
At Fantine's deathbed, Valjean
pledges to raise Cosette, the daughter she'll never know. He
keeps his word to the point of saving her beloved (Brett
Chizever as Marius), one of the few survivors of an overrun
street barricade in the student revolution that claims the lives
of Eponine (besotted by unrequited love as played by Cristina
Faicco), Enjolras (fervent Jeremy Hudson) and the brave child,
Gavroche (Jonathan Koch alternating with James Tully). As Marius
forsakes Eponine for Cosette (Katelyn Keating), Faicco delivers
one of the show's several emotional highlights: the tragic torch
ballad "On My Own."
Chakira Doherty's costumes deliver us
to 19th century France with appropriate class delineation.
Randall Parsons' spare set, abetted by Robert Henderson Jr.'s
shrouded lighting, serves Sanzel's purpose of keeping each scene
moving with minimal distraction, and serving a libretto that can
be dizzying in its twists. Jack Kohl's six-piece orchestra
accompanies with the rich sound of a larger ensemble -- enhanced
by a deep cast with a chorus of actors who regularly play lead
The straightforward storytelling -- story-singing,
if you will -- enhances an already powerful tale.
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
“All of These
Spellers Are Letter Perfect”
News flash: "The 25th Annual
Putnam County Spelling Bee" is rigged!
It's one of
"Bee's" adorable conceits that four pre-selected audience
volunteers join the adult cast playing junior high kids. But
there's no way they could let a volunteer win. It would require
an on-the-fly rewrite by Rachel Scheinkin and William Finn,
creators of the 2005 Tony Award winner.
So, on Theatre
Three's opening night, when the last volunteer nailed two in a
row, she had to be eliminated with an unspellable word.
there's the matter of fairness. Defending champion Chip, a
swaggering Chris Brady, gets the word "omphaloskepsis"
(contemplation of one's navel). The next contestant is asked to
The other "real" contestants are TracyLynn
Conner as Marcy, the robotic Miss Perfectionist; Jacqueline
Hughes as hyper Miss Schwartzandgrubenierre, who has two daddies
(hence the and instead of a hyphenated name); Jenna Kavaler as
sweet Olive, who wishes her parents cared enough to be there;
Bobby Montaniz as Mr. Barfee -- that's Bar-FAY, thank you -- who
spells by writing words with his foot, and Matthew Paredi as
self-doubting Leaf Coneybear.
Tamralynn Dorsa as former
champion and co-referee of the bee introduces each contestant
with quips she's written herself. ("Miss Rosenberg is the reason
her mother drinks.")
James Schultz as the vice principal who
will never be promoted and Kyle Petty as the community-service
bouncer who escorts losers offstage complete the crew of
misfits. Their humor is as infectious as their anthems, from
"The Rules" to "The Champion" -- no spoilers here --
choreographed by Steve McCoy on Randall Parsons' gymnasium set
to crisp accompaniment by Jack Kohl's ensemble. The flexible
script invites contributions. Director Jeffrey Sanzel wisely
allows Hughes to deliver her endorsement of gay marriage --
fitting for a character with co-fathers.
This "Bee" spells
- The Diary of Anne Frank
Three's more realistic 'Anne Frank'
2013 by STEVE PARKSfirstname.lastname@example.org
re-adaptation of "The Diary of Anne Frank" we glimpse a real
adolescent girl instead of a hagiographic idol.
living history," says Jeffrey Sanzel, who is directing "Diary"
for a second time at Theatre Three. The 1955 drama by Frances
Goodrich and Albert Hackett, revised in 1997 by Wendy Kesselman,
The play is based, of course, on the journal
Anne kept while in hiding in Amsterdam with her sister, Margot,
their parents Otto and Edith, and four others. They remained in
the secret annex upstairs from Otto Frank's business for more
than two years -- July 1942 to August 1944. Anne had received as
a gift for her 13th birthday (June 12, 1942) a red-and-white
plaid autograph album that she used as a notebook. Until the
family went into hiding, the diary read like any other young
girl's -- jottings about school, friends and playing pingpong.
Much of the rest of her diary -- the last entry was on Aug. 1,
1944 -- deals with claustrophobic conditions of the annex, as
well as her fears and hopes. Her ambition was to be a famous
author -- a wish she attained with tragic irony.
VERSION That was all we knew of her diary until later editions
were published after her father's death in 1980. Otto Frank, the
family's sole survivor, censored his daughter's entries for the
first publication in 1947. Unexpurgated editions of "The Diary
of a Young Girl," published in 1989 and 1995, include passages
reflecting Anne's emerging sexuality -- from menstruation to her
crush on Peter, one of the eight who shared the annex space. She
also wrote unflatteringly of her mother.
The revised stage
adaptation reflects a side of Anne her father kept private.
"The new version makes her a real person," says Sanzel, who adds
that he auditioned 40 girls to play Anne Frank before casting
Ashley Iadanza, 17, who previously appeared in "The Children's
Hour" at Theatre Three. "Of course she got angry with her mother
at times. What adolescent doesn't?"
HAD SHE LIVED Anne Frank
might be alive today if the Nazis hadn't sent her to
Bergen-Belsen, where she and Margot died in 1945. Anne was 15.
She'd be 83 today.
A cousin, Edith Gordon, born a few months
before Anne, died of cancer in 2008 at age 79. Gordon, a former
Three Village teacher and leading figure with Brookhaven's
League of Women's Voters, once showed me a snapshot of her
playing in a sandbox with Anne in Frankfurt, Germany. The girls
were 3 at the time. Soon thereafter, Edith's father read
Hitler's "Mein Kampf," which so alarmed him that he moved his
family to safety in Milwaukee. Otto Frank moved his to
Amsterdam. The Nazis invaded Holland in 1940.
- Lost in Yonkers
Yonkers' review: Best Neil Simon
January 16, 2013
By STEVE PARKS email@example.com
You'll be forgiven if you mistake Neil Simon's "Lost in
Yonkers" for an Arthur Miller play. It's been 20 years since the
Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning masterpiece by Broadway's
(then) most bankable joke-meister closed. Every theater on Long
Island staged it in the '90s. Except Theatre Three. Now Mary
Powers has directed "Yonkers" with an appreciation of war's
impact on family that we'd forgotten since World War II.
On this homey 1942 set by Randall Parsons, two teenage boys are
left in the care of their grandmother when their widowed father
hits the road to earn enough to pay off funeral debts. To the
boys, played with natural charm by Sean Mannix and Michael
Ruggiero, Grandma (Sue Anne Dennehy) is scarier than Hitler.
Everyone raised by Grandma, including the boys' inexplicably
normal father (Mark Cahill), regards her as a tyrant. Uncle
Louie (Rob Schindlar) compensates by arming himself as a
small-time gangster. Aunt Gert (Rebecca Riley) reflects the
terror of her upbringing through a speech impediment. But no one
suffers more than Bella, who's "not quite right." Marquez
Catherine Stewart takes the role of Bella to levels I'm not sure
even Simon envisioned.
When it opened in 1991, we assumed
it was the temporary orphans who were "Lost in Yonkers." Thanks
to Powers and Stewart's exquisite interpretation, we now see
that Bella lost more than we can ever know. Instead of laugh
lines, Simon's wisecracks become epiphanies.
- Back To Bacharach And David
'BWW Reviews: BACK TO BACHARACH AND DAVID at Theatre Three: An Ode To the 60's
February 27, 2013
By Melissa Giordano
Back to Bacharach and David is a nice little gem of a revue.
I was vaguely familiar with the music, but not familiar with
this particular show prior to seeing it. However, with it being
directed by the fantastic Long Island theatre vet Steve McCoy, I
knew the audience would be in for a treat.
The show, as
the title dictates, features Burt Bacharach and Hal David's
biggest hits of the 1960's. Originally conceived by Steve
Gunderson and Kathy Najimy, it made its off-Broadway debut in
1992 with Mr. Gunderson in the cast. Theatre Three's incarnation
had a wonderful cast comprised of Michael Butera, TracyLynn
Conner, Suzanne Mason, and Jennifer Collester Tully, each using
their own name in the show. Everyone sounded fantastic and they
performed 32 songs from Bacharach/David collection, some in rep.
The premise set at the beginning of the two-act performance
was they are all co-workers at a local bar, closing up for the
night. After a little dialog, the only in the show, they began
the concert-like production with "The Look Of Love". They
included, of course, some of the writing team's biggest songs
like "A House Is Not A Home", "I Say A Little Prayer", and
"Promises, Promises". Also among the audience favorites were
"Always Something There To Remind Me", "Raindrops Keep Fallin'
On My Head", "What The World Needs Now", and a fun rendition of
"Another Night". They even combined several of the songs and
everything flowed very well.
Another highlight was the
set done by Randall Parsons. The long, wooden, rustic bar with
tall chairs took up half the stage. The entrance to the bar and
another table were on the right side of the stage and a large
window hung from above. Additionally, the costumes, done by Mr.
Parsons and Bonnie Vidal, were simple as there were no costume
or scene changes for the entire production. Green tee shirts
were worn by all, but they made them their own. For example,
Jennifer had one shoulder exposed while TracyLynn wore shorts
Indeed, you won't be disappointed if you're a
devoted Bacharach/David fan. The cast is beyond talented and do
the songs justice. Additionally, Theatre Three is on its way to
a beautiful restoration. As it runs through March 30th, don't
"Walk On By" Theatre Three and check out this delightful
Back To Bacharach And David is presented by
Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, Long Island. Music by Burt
Bacharach, Lyrics by Hal David, Directed by Steve McCoy, Musical
Direction by Rick Deangelis, Scenic Design by Randall Parsons,
Costume Design by Bonnie Vidal and Randall Parsons, Lighting
Design by Robert W. Henderson, Jr., Properties by Julie Hoffman,
Technical Direction by Neil Creedon of Avancy, Inc., Production
Stage Manager is Michelle Manda.
- A Christmas Carol
worthy of redemption
Published: November 28,
2012 2:00 PM
By STEVE PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org
this 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth, there could
scarcely be a finer tribute to his legacy than "A Christmas
Carol" at Port Jefferson's Victorian-era Theatre Three.
Jeffrey Sanzel's adaptation, now approaching a quarter-century
in its evolution, has been revised to clarify the tombstone
gravity of Scrooge's as-yet dismal spiritual prospects. Sanzel's
finely honed Ebenezer, all humbug but little harm (except to
himself), is joined in this graveyard revelation by folks whose
lives he might've touched had he let them touch him. The ghost
of his Christmases Yet to Come (James Schultz) follows kindred
Past (Jacqueline Hughes) and Present (Debbie Starker) spirits in
their mission of awakening foretold by the chained specter of
Scrooge's business partner, Jacob Marley (wailing Steve
McCoy).Each spirit is amplified by Ellen Michelmore's
otherworldly sound effects, morphing seamlessly in happier times
remembered -- the Fezziwig Christmas party, for instance, at
which young Scrooge proposes to Belle -- into
19th-century-and-earlier carols. Doug Quattrock as Scrooge's
clerk, Bob Cratchit, endures his boss' wrath with the humility
of a patriarch compelled to submit for his meager wage, while
Joan St. Onge as Scrooge's housekeeper and Shultz, doubling as
his nephew, stoke glimpses into Ebenezer's well-concealed
Randall Parsons' interior/exterior London set
and his costumes with Bonnie Vidal accentuate the period tone,
lit to candle effect by Robert Henderson Jr.It's a positively
- Treasure Island
'Treasure Island' review: Musical gold in Port Jeff
September 17, 2012, by Steve Parks
As Jim and Long John say, the world is made up of "those who
dream and those who dare."
A brash Theatre Three troupe
demonstrates that dreams may be worth the dare. "Treasure
Island: A Musical Adventure" makes an auspicious world premiere,
implanting infectious tunes that hum in our heads as we spill
out onto Main Street -- not Broadway.
Composer Gary William Friedman, who attended Saturday's debut,
and lyricist Will Holt started work on "Treasure Island"
following their 1970 Tony-nominated "The Me Nobody Knows" --
recruiting librettist Sherman Yellen, whose "The Rothschilds"
played across the street. Together, they've pared Robert Louis
Stevenson's novel into a lean, robust musical. In the first
serious literary treatment of pirates, Stevenson wove a
confluence of courage and greed into a boy's rite of passage.
Moral ambivalence is embodied in Long John Silver, whose quest
for buried treasure is as ruthless as the weapon that robbed him
of his leg. As sung by Steve McCoy, "Another Side of Silver"
captures Long John's conundrum, indeed that of all humanity:
"We're none of us one thing or another."
John is both vulnerable and impenetrable. His intimidating voice
covers what he fears most -- that kindness will be exploited by
fellow plunderers. Treating young Jim as the son he'll never
have is part con to secure a map the boy liberated from Billy
Bones (Odell Cureton), who died in hiding at the inn of Jim's
mother (Phyllis March, whose voice doubles as Long John's salty
parrot). Yet Long John's affection may be genuine. Jim,
earnestly played by charismatic Hans Paul Hendrickson, finds
himself torn by emotional loyalty to Silver and fealty to the
ship's captain (John Hudson) and a fatuous squire (Frank Russo).
Ellen Michelmore's six-piece orchestra generates a richer
sound than its number indicates, amplifying three swaggering
songs: "Adventure," "In This Great Big World" and the
irresistible "Pieces of Eight," choreographed by Sari Feldman
(sword-fight choreography, Heath Cohen). Randall Parsons' spare
set transports us from inn to island by way of crow's-nested
ship, ominously lit by Robert Henderson Jr., while Kristy Leigh
Hall's costumes swash many a buckle.
Can a pirate musical
make it on Broadway? "Pirates of the Caribbean's" film franchise
proves there's an audience for family-friendly high-seas
adventure. "Treasure Island," crisply directed by Jeffrey
Sanzel, asserts that the time for this timeless title is now.
- Next to Normal
Normal', a musical that sears
May 22, 2012 by
STEVE PARKS / email@example.com
"Next to Normal,"
making its Long Island premiere at Theatre Three, should come
with a warning label. Experience has taught us that most
musicals -- as opposed to operas -- come with a "feel good"
But when the song is about bipolar disorder,
happy moments are regarded with suspicion. The highs, as anyone
familiar with the manic-depressive state of mind can attest, are
inevitably followed by crashing lows. When the afflicted person
is your wife or mother, highs and lows are the roller coaster of
your life, too.
We meet Diana in what appears to be a
normal domestic setting. A silhouetted dinner table serves as
coda to set designer Randall Parsons' modern bilevel home for
Mom and Dad and teenage daughter. Dinner is served. But then a
cake appears. Whose birthday? The son who died before daughter
Natalie was born.
Gabe, the deceased infant who would be
18 had he lived, hangs over Diana like a shadow on her psyche.
As played by Dylan Whelan, he's a demon, refusing to let his
mother's life go on without him. No amount of denial by husband
Dan, a gradually self-erasing Steve McCoy, can anesthetize
Diana. So she's off again, singing with manic anticipation of
"My Psychopharmacologist and I." It doesn't matter what Dr.
Fine, a buttoned-up Steve Ayle, prescribes. Diana cannot be the
wife or mother her family expects and, indeed, deserves, as long
as she cannot be herself.
We hear and sometimes feel Diana's
anguish, revealed in pitch-perfect disarray by Linda May, as it
accelerates through "Just Another Day" while she makes
sandwiches, assembly-line style, on the floor.
by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey convey the
impact on everyone's life -- not the least, Natalie's, an
astonishingly astute Marissa Girgus. We ache for her. Natalie
feels invisible to her mother, even as she fears turning into
her. Her salvation, if she'd let him, could be Henry, the
wannabe boyfriend played with sweet, stoner sensitivity by Brett
Ellen Michelmore's six-piece orchestra, with
searing strings by Nicole Caglione and Annette Perry-Delihas,
amplify the Tony-winning score in support of the onstage
emotional wreckage that earned the 2010 Pulitzer for drama.
Forsaking a lighter touch, director Jeffrey Sanzel pulls no
punches, spares no tears in realizing the power of the line:
"It's the price we pay to feel."
- Play Dates
Play Dates, the latest by Sam
Wolfson of Jewtopia fame, is a hilariously
adorable play that speaks to everyone about a topic all too
familiar: relationships. Making its Long Island premier at
Theatre Three in Port Jefferson through May 5th, this production
has a wonderful cast that will have you leaving the theatre
Staring Sari Feldman, BrIan Smith, James D.
Schultz, and Lisa Brodsky, each person had multiple roles
throughout the 90-minute three-act show. It kept the audience on
their toes as the cast seamlessly went from character to
character and scene to scene taking us on a journey of the
different stages of relationships.
At the beginning of
the show, Feldman and Smith played kindergarten children. Anyone
could see they had a blast playing five-year-olds in Geranamals
and taking their naps. Both of their comedy was great for their
respective roles as well. Smith then played TV host "Dr. Love"
helping people with their relationships. Over the loud speakers,
the "callers" spoke of typical scenarios you'd find in
relationships as well as other issues like dealing with being
single. The later part of the show finds us with a married
couple (Brodsky and Schultz) trying to get out of a rut after
years of marriage, even suggesting a threesome. The audience
laughed at suggestions they had to get back that spark they once
had, perhaps picturing themselves in a similar situation.
The set was minimal, yet effective. A calico colored
backdrop with a park bench was used for the early years. For the
later years, they set up a bedroom/bathroom combo. Also, they
set up several tables for the restaurant scene. Additionally,
the costumes were modern, typical street clothes, as it is set
in the present.
Currently being shown regionally, it
hilariously reminds us that we forever come across the
challenges of love. From the first childhood crush to keeping
the fire going after many years of marriage to the single years
when you think you're destined to be alone, relationships are
Indeed, it would be a surprise if Play Dates
doesn't hit the Great White Way sometime in the future. There
may have to be some development/expansion in the book - I could
possibly see an older aged couple added, for example- but the
production is certainly a great piece of comedic theater. Its
relevance, realism, and comedic viewpoint make this a show
Sam Wolfson’s Play Dates making its
Long Island premier at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, Long
Island through May 5th. Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel; Scenic
Design by Randall Parsons; Costume Design by Bonnie Vidal and
Randall Parsons; Lighting Design by Evan Philip and Robert
Teich, Sound and Projection Design by Elizabeth Castrogiovanni;
Properties by Julie Hoffman; Technical Direction by Neil Creedon
of Avancy, Inc.; Production Stage Manager is Michelle Manda.