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Andrew Lenahan

From left, Jessica Contino, Meg Bush, K.D. Guadagno and Nicole Bianco in a scene from 'The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.' Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

In tandem with the release of the new animated film, “Peter Rabbit,” Theatre Three presents its annual live children’s theater production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” now through April 14. The action-packed show is the perfect way for families to enjoy spring break.

From left, Dylan Robert Poulos and Steve Uihlein. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

The original musical, written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, is loosely based on one of the best-selling books of all time, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter and features all of the beloved characters in the story.

Peter Rabbit and his cousin, Benjamin Bunny, are as naughty as ever this year as they sneak into their neighbor Mr. McGregor’s garden time and time again to steal his vegetables. When his patience grows thin, the farmer, who’s “a meanie with a temper like a bear,” sets out to stop the marauders once and for all. When Peter is caught in a trap, his mother must step in to help him. Will the two neighbors be able to come up with a compromise?

Directed by Sanzel, the eight adult cast members embrace the adorable script and run with it. Dylan Robert Poulos reprises his role as Peter with boundless energy and his astounding acrobats steal the show. Steven Uihlein, as Peter’s partner in crime, Benjamin, provides plenty of comic relief, and Jessica Contino is lovely as the calm and even-tempered Mrs. Rabbit.

Mrs. Rabbit with good little bunnies, Cotton-Tail, Flopsy and Mopsy.

When they’re not eating bread and milk and blackberries, Peter’s sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail (the talented trio of Nicole Bianco, K.D. Guadagno and Meg Bush) spend much of the show looking for their brother in the theater, engaging audience members along the way. Andrew Lenahan and Elizabeth Ladd round out the cast as the harmonious duo Mr. and Mrs. McGregor who love their garden.

The familiar musical numbers, written by Kevin F. Story and accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are the heart of the show. Choreography by Nicole Bianco is top notch, especially with “Run, Peter, Run” and the fun hip-hop number, “Peter’s Socks.” Costumes by Teresa Matteson are charming, from the bunnies’ colorful dresses of pink, yellow and blue to their white bunny tails.

About 5 minutes into Sunday morning’s show a little boy in the audience turned to his grandmother and loudly stated “This is so wonderful!!” This reviewer would have to concur. Grab your children or grandchildren and hop over to Theatre Three for an incredibly sweet treat. They’ll love you for it.

Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny have some fun with the McGregors.

Running time is approximately one hour and 10 minutes with one 10-minute intermission. Booster seats are available and souvenir bunnies in various spring colors will be sold before the show and during intermission for $5. Proceeds will help maintain the historic building. Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on March 17 and 24 and April 4, 5, 6, 7 and 14 at 11 a.m.

Children’s theater will continue on the Mainstage with “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” from April 21 to May 5; “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9 and a brand new original play, “The Princess Who Saved a Dragon,” from July 6 to Aug. 9. All seats are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From left, Aria, age 4, of Rocky Point and Cara, age 6, of Port Jefferson Station pose with the cast of ‘Rapunzel: The Untold Story!’ after last Saturday’s opening performance. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

The Brothers Grimm have left behind a tremendous legacy with their wonderful fairy tales including “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella” and “Rapunzel,” just to name a few. The latter is the subject of Theatre Three’s latest children’s musical, albeit with a clever twist. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Kevin F. Story, “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” turns the original fairy tale of a damsel trapped in a tower on its head and provides for a hilarious and magical afternoon.

The show is narrated by The Barker, enthusiastically played by Dylan Robert Poulos, who guides the story from the corner of the stage. “How will you be spending the hour? By watching a girl in a tower,” he quips.

Meg Bush, Jessica Contino and Dylan Robert Poulos in a scene from ‘Rapunzel: The Untold Story!’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

When a husband (Steven Uihlein) is asked by his pregnant wife (Melanie Acampora) to steal some vegetables from the witch’s garden next door, he reluctantly agrees. (Happy wife, happy life, right?) After being caught red-handed for the third time, he asks the witch (Meg Bush) if she will turn him into a frog? Take his first-born child? “No,” she replies, “Just … don’t do it again.” Turns out she is a good, sweet and kind witch and therein lies the twist. When the couple’s child is born, the witch decides to send over a vegetable basket to congratulate them and sprinkles it with a slow-releasing happiness potion.

As Rapunzel (Jessica Contino) enters her teenage years, she becomes increasingly ill-tempered, something many parents can relate to, and makes everyone’s life miserable. She refuses to cut her hair and is always in a rotten mood. The situation is so bad that her parents beg the witch to take her off their hands and lock her away in a tower. It is then that the witch realizes that she accidently mixed up the happy potion with a rotten potion — “I made a goof and the girl is proof” — and sets out to find a handsome prince (Andrew Lenahan) to break the spell. Will this version of “Rapunzel” have a happy ending?

Directed by Sanzel, the six adult cast members take the cleverly written script and run with it. They know their target audience well and do an excellent job conveying the story. A nice touch is the constant interaction with the audience. Whenever a problem arises, The Barker gestures for the lights to go up and asks the audience for encouragement, revealing the moral of the story — that the real magic in the world is friendship.

Accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, the original song and dance numbers, with choreography by Sari Feldman, are fun and engaging and the costumes by Teresa Matteson are spot on. Utilizing the gorgeous set from the current Mainstage production of “I Hate Hamlet,” with its Gothic castle interior and a balcony resembling a tower, is just the icing on the cake.

Snacks and beverages are available for purchase during intermission, booster seats are available and costumes are encouraged. Also, make sure to stop by and say hello to the cast in the lobby after the show. The actors welcome questions (“Is that your real hair?”) and readily pose for photos.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” through Feb. 24. Children’s theater continues with “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” from March 10 to April 14, “Stand Up! Stand Out! The Bullying Project” from April 21 to May 5 and “Goldilocks — Is That You?” from May 26 to June 9. All seats are $10. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

The holiday season is finally here and nowhere on the North Shore is that more evident than Port Jefferson. This weekend the quaint village will magically transform into the Dickensian era as it hosts the 22nd annual Charles Dickens Festival.

Among the many festivities will be Theatre Three’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” which was the inspiration for the first Dickens Festival, and the original children’s musical “Barnaby Saves Christmas.”

The latter is celebrating its 14th anniversary this year, a testament to the caliber of its script by Douglas Quattrock and Jeffrey Sanzel and its music and lyrics by Quattrock. This wonderful show, which features several appearances by Santa himself, has become an annual tradition for many.

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa, his elves and reindeer have just left the North Pole to deliver presents to all the children. Realizing Santa has left behind one of the presents, “a little stuffed bear with dark blue pants, buckles on his shoes and a bright yellow vest,” the littlest elf Barnaby convinces the tiniest 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 named S. B. Dombulbury who, with his partner in crime Irmagarde, stuff chimneys with coal in order to steal all the presents.

Eric Hughes reprises his role as Barnaby, the little elf who just wants to fit in, and Sari Feldman returns as Franklynne, the flying reindeer who is afraid to fly, especially the landing part. The scene where Barnaby helps Franklynne perfect her landing is a personal favorite. The pair have the audience rooting for them to succeed from the very beginning.

Steven Uihlein is back as S.B. (Spoiled Brat) Dombulbury, channeling a bit of Dr. Evil with his muhaha laugh. Uihlein is terrific as he goes around hypnotizing everyone so they will do his bidding. His unwitting partner in crime, Irmagarde, is played to perfection by Dana Bush. The only original cast member in the show, Bush is an audience favorite. Andrew Lenahan and Phyllis March are wonderul in the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus and double as the Jewish aunt and nephew characters, Sarah and Andrew. Dylan Robert Poulos tackles the role of Sam, the head elf who is desperately trying to stay on schedule and keep track of elves Blizzard (Meg Bush) and Crystal (Jessica Contino). Their interactions are the funniest moments in the show and draw much laughter from the children in the audience.

Choreography by Sari Feldman is classic and fun, while the costumes, from the pointy elf shoes to Santa’s red velvet suit, are top notch. The entire score, accompanied on piano by Quattrock, is incredibly endearing and you’ll be humming the tunes for days to come. Go see “Barnaby Saves Christmas” and experience an afternoon of pure holiday joy.

Souvenir elf and reindeer dolls 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, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “Barnaby Saves Christmas” through Dec. 30. All shows begin at 11 a.m. Booster seats are available. Running time is approximately one hour and 15 minutes with one intermission. Recommended for ages 3 and up. Up next is a production of “Rapunzel: The Untold Story!” from Jan. 20 to Feb. 24 and “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit from March 10 to April 14. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

By Heidi Sutton

The entire company. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Spring has finally arrived to the Village of Port Jefferson — the tulips, the daffodils, even the Bradford pear trees are in full bloom. Spring in the village also signals the arrival of another perennial favorite, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit,” at Theatre Three. Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson and suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this adorable children’s musical has become an annual tradition for many families in the area.

Directed by Sanzel, the story follows the mischievous adventures of Peter Rabbit, played by Dylan Robert Poulos, and his cousin Benjamin Bunny, played by Steven Uihlein, as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden again and again to steal his vegetables.

Caitlin Nofi, Beth Whitford and Melanie Acampora play good little bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail who spend most of their time searching for their wayward brother Peter. Jessica Contino is terrific as Mrs. Rabbit, playing the role with just the right amount of strictness.

Andrew Lenahan, last seen in “Raggedy Ann & Andy,” tackles the role of Mr. McGregor and does a fine job while Emily Gates shines as Mrs. McGregor. The two draw the most laughs from the parents when Gates says “We’re friends, aren’t we?” and Lenahan answers, “Are we? I thought we were married.”

A scene from ‘The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

The set is sparse, with a few props including a scarecrow, a few signs, a table and a trap door for a rabbit hole but let your imagination fly and you will see a mouthwatering garden full of parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and lettuce that can be very tempting for a little rabbit. The costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are on point, from the farmer’s overalls to the little white tails on the rabbits with brand new dresses for Flopsy, Mopsy ad Cotton-Tail in soft shades of yellow, pink and purple.

With fresh choreography by Sari Feldman, the musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are all fun and hip, especially “One More Time Around,” “Run, Peter, Run!” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

The show is action-packed with several chase scenes through the aisles, a Mission-Impossible-inspired heist to retrieve Peter’s socks and shoes and vest and jacket and hat from a scarecrow erected by Mr. McGregor, acrobatics (courtesy of Poulos) and audience participation. Throw in some singing and dancing and Theatre Three has a bona fide hit. So gather up all your good little bunnies and hop over to Theatre Three for a real spring treat.

Souvenir bunnies in various colors are sold during intermission, and booster seats are available. Meet the entire cast in the lobby after the show for photos.

Theatre Three, located at 412 Main St., in Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through May 6 with a sensory-friendly performance on April 23. Children’s Theater will continue with “The Princess & the Pea” from May 27 to June 10, “Aladdin & the Lamp” from July 7 to Aug. 10 and “The Frog Prince” from Aug. 4 to 12. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.