Charles Dickens’ holiday tale A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by four ghosts who show him the error of his greedy ways and help him turn over a new leaf. The timeless classic has been adapted countless times, and Long Island is home to a beloved staging every holiday season. Theatre Three’s A Christmas Carol, adapted by Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel, has become a Port Jefferson staple and returns November 17 through December 29.
Sanzel, who portrays Ebenezer Scrooge in the annual production, first began working on A Christmas Carol many years ago. “The year before I came to the theater I was teaching at a private school and did my first Christmas Carol and directed it,” he explains. “In 1993, I started adapting, directing and playing Scrooge exclusively. I’ve studied it constantly. I spend all year working on it, reading up on the history of the story, of Dickens, the Victorian time, and each year I try new things and I’ll even come in with rewrites.”
Sanzel collaborated with the late Ellen Michelmore on an original score for the show, including “Scrooge’s Theme,” and later with William Roslak. “[This year’s production] is a hybrid of Ellen’s work and Will’s work. Will did some new arrangements. Brad Frey is the current musical director. This is his third season. He’s getting his feet wet in it. It’s traditional music of Christmas and of the period, so there are lesser known things in it…Ellen Michelmore reinvented it year after year,” Sanzel reflects. Of playing the iconic Scrooge, Sanzel says, “Scrooge offers everything an actor could want to play. It’s every shade of humanity…this man has a complete arc going from anger to introspection to redemption. It’s a very rewarding role.”
The large cast includes both adults and children, and Sanzel is constantly impressed by the young actors (who are split into the “Holly” and “Ivy” casts for the 56 performances). “The kids are the best of the best,” Sanzel gushes. “In the hundreds of kids we have had, the parents are very much on board. We have a girl coming from Oyster Bay, and her parents think it’s a really great opportunity. The kids are treated as adults. I’ve had kids do this for nine years.”
Some of the children in the cast participate in Port Jefferson’s annual Dickens Festival, dressing up in costume and parading around the village. Sanzel himself dresses as Scrooge and participates in the opening festivities. This year’s Dickens Festival is December 1–2, and Sanzel encourages visitors to see A Christmas Carol after enjoying the festival.
In addition to the children, Theatre Three regulars like Steven Uihlein and Douglas J. Quattrock are part of the cast as the Ghost of Christmas Future and Bob Cratchit, respectively. Quattrock created Theatre Three’s other annual holiday production, Barnaby Saves Christmas, in which Santa’s littlest elf and his reindeer friend set out to save Christmas. Sanzel calls Quattrock’s score for Barnaby Saves Christmas “gorgeous” and encourages anyone with young kids to see it.
See A Christmas Carol at Theatre Three November 17–December 29, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson. For tickets and more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit theatrethree.com.