By Heidi Sutton
In 2003 Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel sat down and wrote an adorable holiday story for children about a little elf and a tiny reindeer who show us that “Christmas lies within our hearts.” Celebrating its 13th anniversary this year, Theatre Three’s production of “Barnaby Saves Christmas” has become a beloved tradition in Port Jefferson and one that is looked forward to each December.
Under the direction of Sanzel, nine adult actors whisk the audience away to the North Pole and into the home of Santa and Mrs. Claus. It’s the night before Christmas and Santa, his elves and reindeer are on their way to deliver presents to all the children. When the littlest elf Barnaby realizes that Santa has left behind a little stuffed bear, he convinces the tiniest reindeer Franklynne to find Santa and “save Christmas.” Along the way they bump into an evil villain named S. B. Dombulbury who, with his partner in crime Irmagarde, is trying to ruin Christmas for everyone, and meet a Jewish family and learn all about the Festival of Lights.
Newcomer Eric Hughes tackles the role of Barnaby with boundless energy and a couple of back flips too! Accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics, Hughes’ solo, “Still With a Ribbon on Top” is terrific as is his performance in “My Big Shot” in the second act. Sari Feldman, who also choreographs the numbers, returns as Franklynne, the little reindeer who is afraid of flying, specifically the landing part. The scene where Barnaby helps Franklynne perfect her landing skills, “I’m Gonna Fly Now,” is the highlight of the show.
Jason Furnari, who originated the role of Barnaby 13 years ago, and Phyllis March play the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus this year and also double as the Jewish aunt Sarah and nephew Andrew, who seems to have very selective hearing. Furnari’s solo ”Within Our Hearts” is heartfelt and March’s rendition of “Miracles” is beautiful.
Emily Gates plays Sam the head elf who is trying to stay on schedule and keep track of elves Crystal (Jessica Contino) and Blizzard (Dylan Robert Poulos). Their interactions are the funniest moments in the show.
Steven Uihlein plays S.B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury, the antagonist in the show. “I’m just misunderstood,” he laments as he and Irmagarde (Dana Bush) stuff the chimneys with coal so he can steal all the presents. When his plan is uncovered, the cast chases him through the audience, much to the delight of the children. Will Barnaby and Franklynne stop S.B. Dombulbury from “stealing Christmas”? Will they learn the true meaning of Christmas?
If you haven’t already done so, make “Barnaby Saves Christmas” a holiday tradition with your family. You’ll be glad you did. Souvenir elves and reindeer will be available for purchase during intermission. Stay after the show for a photo with Santa Claus on stage if you wish — the $5 fee goes to support the theater’s scholarship fund — and meet the rest of the cast in the lobby.
Theatre Three, located at 412 Main Street in Port Jefferson, will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” on Dec. 10, 17, 28, 29 and 30 with a special Christmas Eve performance on Dec. 24. All performances begin at 11 a.m. Running time is 1½ hours. Recommended for ages 3 and up. Up next is a production of “The Three Little Pigs” from Jan. 21 to Feb. 25 and “Raggedy Ann & Andy” from March 4 to 25. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.