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« Long Island ‘Encore’ Theater Award Winners – 2017 | Main | Book Review - SOUL SONGS »
Monday
Nov272017

Theater Review - 'A Christmas Carol'

Theater Review – ‘A Christmas Carol’

Produced by Theatre Three – Port Jefferson

Reviewed by Jeb Ladouceur

by Charles Dickens

Adapted for the stage by 

JEFFREY E. SANZEL

An endearing unforgettable production!

Each year … on December 1st … it is the practice of this critic to present awards for ‘Excellence in Long Island Theater.’ These prizes are bestowed on recipients in ten categories. They are known as the ‘Encore Awards,’ and the performances for which they are given include categories that one properly expects to see recognized … Best Play … Actor … Actress … etcetera.

The most difficult of these honors to determine is that of ‘Best Director,’ and there is an obvious reason for that problem—it is almost impossible to determine a major-domo’s standout consistency from among the several theatrical productions critiqued in the course of a calendar year. All dramas and musicals are different, after all … so, what are the criteria by which an administrator earns the title, ‘Best’?

We do not know what transpires between a Director and his Cast. Nor are we privy to the interplay between Director and Crew. It’s conceivable, therefore, that a given version of ‘Hamlet,’ say, is wholly contrived (for good or ill) by the players themselves, and the helmsman might as well have stayed home. Conceivable, but unlikely.

If only there were some yardstick to measure consistency when evaluating directorial skill. Well, as a matter of fact, there is.

In that regard, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson is currently mounting its 33rd annual production of Director Jeffrey Sanzel’s stage adaptation of, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and this oft-repeated creation of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic provides us with a unique opportunity to evaluate both the show and Sanzel’s stagecraft.

This is so because the Bard of Long Island has managed to give us a top-quality version of the same iconic play … but with a largely different cast … year in, and year out. To illustrate the point: In years past, I had thought that James Schultz (who once played the‘Ghost of Christmas Present’) could not be equaled. But last year the spirited Bobby Martinez matched him. And this year Antoine Jones, every bit as masterful as either of his predecessors, has taken over the vital role, and he delivers his lines with a whole new twist that clearly highlights his special talents. 

The same phenomenon is true of several other expert players in this thirty-member cast, especially Steve Wangner who steps into the protagonist role of Bob Cratchit, (replacing last year’s Douglas Quattrock) with all the sensitivity and charitable nature the counterbalancing part demands … and veteran Steve McCoy who takes over Steven Uihlein’s Jacob Marley of 2016 with aplomb. For these smooth transitions we must, to a large degree, thank Director Sanzel.

Of course, the play revolves around the anticipated epiphany of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, and Sanzel downright owns that role … much as Ray Charles owns his trademark song ‘Georgia’ … or Jack Benny is king when it comes to the comedic ‘pregnant pause’ of burlesque. But short of retiring the ‘Best Actor Encore Award’ in his name, (an entirely worthy prospect) we’ll be labeling Jeffrey Sanzel‘Top Director’ of 2017 for his continued insightful handling of this enchanting show.

That, and nine other ‘Encores’ will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, congratulations once more Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig (George Liberman and Ginger Dalton), for your madcap nonsense … bravo Dylan Robert Poulous for your unnerving performance as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, … bravo, everyone. You have given us an endearing, unforgettable production yet again.

 

Award-winning writer, Jeb Ladouceur is the author of a dozen novels, and his theater and book reviews appear in several major L.I. publications. His recent hit, THE GHOSTWRITERS, explores the bizarre relationship between the late Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Ladouceur’s newest thriller, THE SOUTHWICK INCIDENT, was introduced at the Smithtown Library on May 21st. The book involves a radicalized Yale student and his CIA pursuers. Mr. Ladouceur’s revealing website is www.JebsBooks.com

 

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