By Heidi Sutton
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1837 and has been translated into over 100 languages. Through Aug. 11, Theatre Three in Port Jefferson presents an original musical retelling of the classic fairy tale that is both witty and funny and a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.
The Grand Festival of the Autumn Moon is just around the corner and the Emperor would like a new suit to wear. Not happy with the court tailor’s latest creations, a call is sent out across the land and two con men posing as weavers, Joseph and Jeremiah, answer. They set about creating a new suit of clothes for the Emperor that is so exquisite and delicate that “it cannot be seen by fools.” In the meantime, they tell the emperor of the latest fashions in other kingdoms, which he simply must copy, setting off a series of hilarious costume changes.
Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the eight adult actors never miss a beat in this fast-paced comedy. Frank Gilleece is ideally cast as the vain Emperor and Zoe Dunmire as the Empress and Melanie Acampora as the Princess complement him perfectly. Children’s theater veterans Andrew Gasparini (Jeremiah) and Steven Uihlein (Joseph) are very convincing as the two con men who try to pull off “the tailor scam.” As court tailor, Amanda Geraci effectively displays a variety of emotions from insulted to insecure to jealous as she is replaced by the new “weavers.”
Newcomer Emily Gates gives an outstanding performance in the toothy role of Court Dentist, examining everyone’s mouth and passing out sugar-free gum. Even the audience is under scrutiny. “A dentist’s work is never done!” she exclaims. Gates takes this flossy character and runs with it.
Aria Saltini plays Ann, the girl who befriends Jeremiah and Joseph and becomes an accomplice in their scam. Will she have a change of heart and expose them? Or will the emperor be exposed?
The original score, with choreography by Bobby Montaniz, is the heart of the show with great duets like “Song of Agreement” with Acampora and Saltini and “I Can Work with You” with Geraci and Gates as well as “It’s Time” sung by the whole company. Teresa Matteson’s elaborate costumes, especially the many outfits for the Emperor, are wonderfully on point and live musical accompaniment by Tim Peierls on piano, David B. Goldberg on electric bass and Tessa Peierls on flute and piccolo is a nice touch.
There are always lessons to be learned at Theatre Three’s children’s shows and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is no exception. Here the morals of the story are that it’s not what’s on the outside but the inside that truly matters, to always tell the truth and to floss after every meal! Young children will love this story along with the singing and dancing, and adults will have a terrific time as well, seeing a fresh take on a story they know from their own childhoods.
Up next is the premiere of “The Misadventures of Robin Hood” from Aug. 5 to 13, “Pumpkin Patch Magic!” from Oct. 1 to 29 and a holiday favorite, “Barnaby Saves Christmas” from Nov. 25 to Dec. 30. Tickets are $10 each. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.