Coney Island Christmas
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By Donald Margulies
SHOW TIMES: Thursday, December 13th -
Sunday, December 23rd

Evening shows 7:30pm
Matinees 2:00pm

CONEY ISLAND CHRISTMAS introduces us to Shirley Abramowitz, a young Jewish girl who (much to her immigrant parents’ exasperation) is cast as Jesus in the school’s Christmas pageant. As Shirley, now much older, recounts the memorable story to her great-granddaughter, the play captures a timeless and universal tale of what it means to be an American during the holidays.

By Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies this is a holiday show for people of all ages and all faiths.

The dates and times of Coney Island Christmas performances:
Friday, December 14th – 7:30pm
Saturday, December 15th – 2:00pm
Saturday, December 15th – 7:30pm
Sunday, December 16th – 2:00pm

Wednesday, December 19th – 2:00pm
Thursday, December 20th – 7:30pm
Friday, December 21st – 7:30pm
Saturday, December 22nd – 2:00pm
Saturday, December 22nd – 7:30pm
Sunday, December 23rd – 2:00pm

Prices are:

$35 adult; $32 senior; $20 student; $15 child

Groups over ten price is $30 and actor half price tickets (and Tix@Six) are $18










Amy Buckley (Mrs. Abramowitz) is thrilled to return to the Ivoryton Playhouse this season after recently performing the role of Miss Lynch this summer in Grease. Playhouse credits: The Hundred Dresses (Cecile), Man of La Mancha (Antonia), I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Sandy) and The Bully (Coach/Ms. Roosevelt). Regional roles: The Music Man (Marian Paroo) and Mary Poppins (Mrs. Banks). Amy received her BA from UConn, where her study afforded her the opportunity to train at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. She then went on to receive a MM from The Juilliard School. When not performing, Amy serves as the Vocal Music Leader of SUUS in Madison and is on the faculty of the Community Music School in Centerbrook. Amy resides in Westbrook where she has a private voice studio and plays her favorite role of Mom to daughter Viviana. Gratitude and thanks to Jacqui, Dan, Sasha and all who make up the IPH community. Love to my ‘understudies’ at home; Guia, Dad and Cristian. Have a Happy, Safe and Healthy Holiday!


Cory Candelet (Mr. Hilton) is so excited to be back at Ivoryton for the 4th time this year. You may remember him as “The Mute” in The Fantasticks, “Eugene” in Grease, or as “Don” in A Chorus Line. Cory is a recent recipient of a CT Critics Circle award for his work in The Fantasticks earlier this year and also traveled the world performing and doing community service with Up With People in places like Mexico, Germany, and more. He would like to thank Jacqui, Dan and the whole family at the Playhouse for always welcoming him back with open arms, his family and friends, and the cast for being so amazing throughout this process! Instagram: @ccandelet


Mark Gilchrist (Mr. Abramowitz) is delighted to be returning to the Ivoryton Playhouse, having previously appeared as Larry in I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Other local credits include: Harvey (Elwood P. Dowd), Barefoot in the Park (Victor Velasco), Noises Off (Frederick Fellowes), Once upon a Mattress (Minstrel), The Music Man (Harold Hill), The Producers (Max Bialystock), Carousel: A Concert (Bascombe/Starkeeper/Dr. Seldon), Mary Poppins (George Banks), The Sound of Music (Captain Von Trapp) and Annie (Daddy Warbucks). Regional credits include: West Side Story; Shenandoah; Play It Again, Sam; Godspell; The Fantasticks; and On Shiloh Hill at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Many thanks to Jacqui and Dan for this opportunity and to his family for their love and support.


Jordan Godburn (Iris Pushkov) is so excited to be making her Ivoryton Playhouse debut! Previous experience includes All Shook Up and The Little Mermaid Jr (Adella) with East Lyme Regional Theater, The Wizard Of Oz with Colchester Community Theater, and Maniac Manor (Alex Scott) and Soapy Smith’s Winter Wish (Old Timer/Soapy Smith) with the Tyl Middle School Drama Troupe. Jordan is a freshman at Montville High School and sings in her school’s choir. She’d like to thank her family for their continued support and the cast and crew for all their hard work. Enjoy the show!



Avital Goldberg-Curran (Young Shirley) is so excited to be returning to the Ivoryton Playhouse! Her performances with the Ivoryton playhouse include Ngana in South Pacific, and Avital in I’ll be Home for Christmas. She would like to thank everyone at the Ivoryton Playhouse for this wonderful opportunity. Some favorite past credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Evita under the direction of Bryan Perri, Daniel C. Levine and Katie Diamondat ACT of Connecticut, and Oliver! at the Goodspeed Opera House. Some local performances include, Bird Girl Seussical The Musical at the Chestnut Street Playhouse, Rapunzel in Rapunzel, Dragonin Shrek, a Broadway Revue at The Granite Theater and Nautical Nightmares and Lantern Light tours at the Mystic Seaport. Avital has been playing the violin since she was 5 years old. She would like to thank her incredible family and friends for their continued love and support.


Lenore Grunko (Shirley) is thrilled to be involved with this lovely production recreating the semi-fictional memory of her Aunt Harriet who spent much of her life on Neptune Avenue, blocks from Coney Island. Favorite roles include Golda (Fiddler on the Roof), the Stepmother (Cinderella), Madame Kolenkova (You Can’t Take It With You), Aida (Over the River and Through the Woods). A favorite recent accomplishment was co-writing/producing and directing A Dystrumpian Christmas Carol mounted in Hartford’s Carriage House Theater last year to sold out houses. Theater dominates her life which also includes the lovely opportunity to work with young people as Drama Club Advisor and Director for Old Saybrook High School and Adjunct Theater Faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University. Other recent directing venues include Chester Meeting House Players and ECSU. She thanks the overwhelming support from her family and friends and Ivoryton for this splendid opportunity.


Dorian Hayes (Ensemble) is thrilled to be making his Ivoryton Playhouse debut. Prior to his roles as Angel Gabiel in A Coney Island Christmas, he acted in Walsh Intermediate School plays, The Wizard of Oz (Zeke and Lollipop Guild Singer), James and the Giant Peach (Centipede) and Branford High School Shrek (Peter Pan), as well as in Shoreline Theater productions of Hairspray (Fender) and Artful Living’s The Music Man (Ensemble) When not on stage, Dorian is a high school choir member, and enjoys soccer and playing the saxophone.


Antonia (Nia) Marchese (Clara) is thrilled to perform again with the Ivoryton Playhouse in Coney Island Christmas. Nia, who is 10 years old (but will be 11, December 21st), performed last year in It’s a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play! Directed by Sasha Brätt here at the Ivoryton Playhouse. She has also performed in Cinderella the Musical with the Madhatters Theatre Company and the Snow Angel with Connecticut Children’s Theater, Inc. with Patty Carver. When not on stage at the Playhouse you can find Nia, baking at home, singing in church or playing basketball, soccer, or softball. Nia feels very fortunate to be a member of this great production with an awesome cast!


Gaby Onorati (Evie Slotnick) is excited to make her Ivoryton Playhouse debut! Recent credits include Barrington Stage Company’s James & The Giant Peach (Ladybug); Hands On Stage: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (Lucy Pevensie) and The Sound of Music (Marta) and WISP’s Bah, Humbug! (Ghost of Christmas Present). Earlier this year, Gaby performed in a staged reading of Just One Sip, A Caffeinated Musical, an original show which she co-wrote. Gaby would like to thank the Ivoryton Playhouse for this wonderful opportunity and her family for their unflagging support. Special thanks to the incredible cast and crew of Coney Island Christmas!


Moira O’Sullivan (Miss Glace) is returning to Ivoryton after being seen in Biloxi Blues and It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Favorite theatre credits include: Beneath The Gavel (Off-Broadway, 59E59), Oleanna (Playhouse on Park) and A Mamet F***ing Christmas (Atlantic Stage 2). TV credits include: Deadline Crime with Tamron HallI, Witness and The Cobblestone Corridor.  She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is an Upright Citizens Brigade trained improvisor.


Amelie Parczany (Ensemble) is thrilled to make her Ivoryton Playhouse debut! Some past performances include; Hairspray (Lou Anne) with Shoreline Theatre Co., Shrek the Musical (blind mouse) at Branford High School, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Katrina Van Tassel), The Music Man, and Beauty and the Beast with Artfulliving CT. Amelie has also been dancing for 10 years and is currently attending Branford High School as a sophomore. She’d like to thank her friends and family for the continuous love and support as well as the Ivoryton Playhouse for this incredible opportunity!


Bella Rarick (Ensemble) is delighted to be making her Ivoryton Playhouse debut! She has recently played Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Spider in James and the Giant Peach at Walsh Intermediate School. Other recent credits include Hairspray (Nicest Kid) with Shoreline Theatre Co. and Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid (Allana), Music Man, and Beauty and the Beast with Artful Living Productions. Bella is a freshman at Branford High School and has enjoyed dancing for 12 years with Studio One Dance Center! She would like to thank her family and friends for their love and support, and the amazing cast and crew for this wonderful experience!


M.E. Rich (Mrs. Kornblum) is a Deep River resident, made her professional acting debut at the Goodspeed Opera House, studied at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theater School, and acted with diverse companies in NYC including La MaMa, Bogie’s Mystery Tours, The Thomas Davis Irish Players & The ATW. She can be found in her spare time playing Mrs. Claus on the Essex Steam Train.



Christian Roche (Ensemble) is a very active, agile young man that loves God, parkour, music, dancing, playing the piano, baseball, martial arts, nature, science, and Latin. He is home schooled along with two of his siblings. His oldest sister is in college. Christian loves playing with his three dogs. His goal is to attend the University of Dallas upon graduation. Christian is proud to be a member of the Ivoryton Playhouse cast and wishes you a Happy Holiday. Enjoy The Show!!


Angelina Roche (Ensemble) has loved to sing, act, and dance since she was a little girl. She has enjoyed all of her experiences , especially her trip to Spain to sing with the boy’s choir at Escorial Monastery. Angelina loves to read and is homeschooled. She has one sister, two brothers, three dogs, and two great Grandpa’s. Angelina loves to spend time with kids and caring for the elderly. She is excited to performing at The Ivoryton Playhouse and hopes you enjoy the Show!


Niko Roche (Ensemble) loves to sing, act, play piano, and spend time with family and friends. Niko has three siblings and three dogs. Niko has a big heart and is always ready to help his neighbor. He wishes all of you a Happy Holiday and hopes that you enjoy the show!




Norm Rutty (Hawker) is, once again, delighted to be part of the holiday cast at the Playhouse. Prior appearances include Scrooge in Scrooge the Musical, Uncle Willy in the Philadelphia Story, Norm in the Bells of Dublin 1,2 and 3, The Prime Minister in The King and I, The Duke in Big River and others. Thanks to a great cast and dedicated crew plus the tireless staff of the Ivoryton Playhouse.



Ben Stone-Zelman (Jackie Sauerfeld) is very excited to be performing on the Ivoryton stage this holiday season! Regional credits: Will Rogers Follies (Will Jr.), Bye Bye Birdie (Randolph) and A Wonderful Life (Tommy Bailey) at Goodspeed Musicals; A Christmas Carol (Boy Scrooge, Fred’s Son) at Hartford Stage. Additional credits include To Kill A Mockingbird (Dill), Mary Poppins (Michael Banks), Little Mermaid (Flounder) at Thomaston Opera House; The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (Edmund) with Pearwater Productions; Ragtime (Little Boy) and The Christmas Schooner (Young Karl) with Connecticut Theatre Company. Voiceover/Television credits: Nickelodeon’s Becca’s Bunch (Pedro); Gen-Z podcast Ghost of Jessica Majors (Luke Majors).


Director: Sasha Brätt

Assistant Director: Jim Clark

Stage Manager: Holly Price

Assistant Stage Manager: Kayla Gardner

Musical Director: Hillyn Natter

Scenic Designer: Dan Nischan

Lighting Designer: Marcus Abbott

Sound Designer and Technical Director: Tate Burmeister

Costume Designer: Lisa Bebey

* member of Actors Equity




Celebrate the holidays family style!

Coney Island Christmas
by Donald Margulies
at the Ivoryton Playhouse

Ivoryton: The Ivoryton Playhouse Holiday show opens on December 13th and runs until December 23rd. Coney Island Christmas by Donald Margulies is a heartwarming story with a lot to say about how life could be better through understanding and tolerance for one another. An instant holiday classic and a new family tradition.

Shirley Abramowitz, now a grandmother visiting her family in California, tells her granddaughter the story of when she was a little girl in Coney Island and was cast as Jesus in the school pageant. Suddenly we are transported back to Coney Island in 1935 with all the nostalgia of post war America. The story is a familiar tale of immigrant parents worried that they will lose their identity if they give up their traditions and immigrant children embracing the idea of being American and part of the new world.

Coney Island Christmas captures the message of Christmas in a different way yet it feels so familiar and nostalgic at the same time. Coney Island Christmas is about community and about what makes Christmas in this country so special. It is about accepting and embracing our differences and coming together to find joy in our shared human experience.

Commissioned by the late Gilbert Cates, Coney Island Christmas premiered at the Geffen Playhouse in 2012. This community production in Ivoryton is directed by Sasha Bratt, who also directed Biloxi Blues last season. Musical direction is by Frank Natter. Set design is by Dan Nischan, lighting design by Marcus Abbott, costume design by Lisa Bebey and sound design by Tate Burmeister.

Bursting with feel good holiday spirit, Coney Island Christmas is traditional, family friendly entertainment for all ages:  an antidote to cynicism and a love letter to good old fashioned holiday fun. The cast includes actors young and old – many Playhouse favorites and some new faces – Amy Buckley, Cory Candelet, Mark Gilchrist, Jordan Godburn, Avital Goldberg Curran, Lenore Grunko, Nia Marchese, Gaby Onorati, M.E.Rich, Norm Rutty, Moira O’Sullivan, Ben Stone Zelman.

Make the Playhouse part of your family holiday tradition this year.  Come and visit the village of Ivoryton, decorated with over 500,000 Christmas lights – have dinner and take in a great show at the Playhouse.

Coney Island Christmas opens on Thursday, December 13th and runs thru December 23rd   for 2 weeks. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm, Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm.There is also a Wednesday matinee on December 19th. Tickets are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.


ct-logo-2012_for_largeLooking for something to do? Ivoryton Playhouse has been voted best place to see live theatre by readers of The Shoreline Times for three years in a row. Come to Essex and visit our historic, professional theatre – a Connecticut treasure!



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Did You

A giant elephant hotel-turned-brothel once called Coney Island home! Built in 1885, a seven-story elephant-shaped building stood on Surf Ave and West 12th St. Inside the Elephant Colossus, pictured below, was said to be a concert hall, museum, cigar store, and spiral staircases (the legs) leading up to rooms and telescopes (the eyes). Its designer, James Lafferty, even referred to it as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." But as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever, and what started as a 31-room hotel eventually ended up as a brothel. The whole thing burned down in September 1896, but there’s no doubt it lived a legendary life while it lasted.