By Heidi Sutton
When Theatre Three announces the return of a perennial favorite, “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit,” everyone knows that spring is just around the corner. Even more fitting, this year marks 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter, who created all of the wonderful characters in the production, from Mrs. Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail to Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and the McGregors. Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, the show mimics Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” closely with a kinder, softer story line. Sanzel directs a talented cast of eight adult actors to bring us this delightful musical that has become a wonderful tradition for families all over the Island.
The story follows a mischievous Peter Rabbit who, because of his insatiable appetite for parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans and lettuce, is constantly drawn to Mr. McGregor’s garden despite his mother’s wishes. Many trips to the garden patch with his cousin, Benjamin Bunny, eventually wear down the farmer’s patience, ending in a great chase scene through the theater, which is reenacted in slow motion later on.
The show opens with a sweet rendition of “Morning” by Mrs. Rabbit, played by Amanda Geraci, and never loses its momentum. Marquéz Catherine Stewart, Jenna Kavaler and Melanie Acampora are the good little bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, respectively, who spend most of the show trying to find their “wayward brother” Peter, played with unbounded energy by Hans Paul Hendrickson. Dana Bush returns as a patient Mrs. McGregor after a few year’s absence and Andrew Gasparini tackles the role of Mr. McGregor for the very first time, playing the stingy and cranky farmer perfectly, sans the desire to eat the rabbits. Steven Uihlein, who plays the role of cousin Benjamin Bunny, rounds out the cast and does a terrific job.
Imagination plays a big part in the show, as the set design is sparse, utilizing a trapdoor on stage as a rabbit hole and constructing a makeshift scarecrow. Costumes, designed by Teresa Matteson, are on point, from Mr. McGregor’s overalls to the little white tails on the rabbits. Kudos to Michelle Manda for a terrific job on the lighting, especially during a Mission Impossible scene when Peter and Benjamin attempt to retrieve Peter’s clothes from the scarecrow.
The musical numbers, written by Kevin F. Story and accompanied on piano by Steve McCoy, are all showstoppers, especially “One More Time Around,” “Beware! Mr. McGregor!” and “Peter’s Socks,” which Stewart, also the choreographer, has converted to a fun hip-hop piece. All of the songs are incorporated into the finale, a perfect ending to a Theatre Three classic.
Souvenir bunnies in various colors are up for sale during intermission, and the entire cast is in the lobby after the show for a meet-and-greet.
Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through March 26. Children’s theater will continue on the Mainstage with “Cinderella” from April 16 to June 11, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” from July 8 to Aug. 5 and “The Misadventures of Robin Hood” from Aug. 5 to 13. All seats are $10. For more information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.