By Heidi Sutton
Each time I go to review a children’s show at Theatre Three I am amazed at what I witness; from the performance of an original musical, to the audience reaction, to the lessons that are learned, to meeting the cast at the end of the show. Last Saturday’s production of The House That Jack Built was no exception.
Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Douglas J. Quattrock, the play features seven stories inspired by the Brothers Grimm and Aesop’s Fables. It originally opened in 2007 but has been revamped with a brand new score and dazzling lighting design. The end result is pure entertainment.
Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, and starring Sean Amato, Samantha Fierro, Jason Furnari, Kaitlyn Jehle, Danielle Pafundi and Steven Uihlein, the show opens where six friends are hanging out in a beach cottage on a rainy day. Bored, they decide to have some fun and after reciting the timeless nursery rhyme, The House That Jack Built, they invite the audience to visit “some special places to see some special faces.” They proceed to act out The Lion and the Mouse That Returned a Favor, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Town Mouse and Country Mouse, Henny Penny, Stubborn as a Mule, The Tortoise and the Hare and The Bremen Town Musicians.
While all of the stories are wonderful, one of the best is The Fisherman and His Wife where the fisherman (Jason Furnari) catches a magical fish (played to the hilt by Steven Uihlein) who agrees to grant him a wish if he is released back into the ocean. After wishing for a beautiful home, his wife (Danielle Pafundi) gets greedy and sends the fisherman back to ask for a castle, to be king and then to become the Lord of the Sun and the Moon. But it all ends with one too many wishes.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse is almost too adorable for words. The Town Mouse (Steven Uihlein with a Brooklyn accent) visits his cousin (Samantha Fierro in a Southern accent) in the country but finds it very boring. Before leaving, he invites her to visit him in the city. Shortly after arriving, the Country Mouse is bombarded with sensory overload and dangers lurking at every turn. Oh, did I mention this story is acted out entirely in rhyme?
But the audience favorite hands down is the hilarious rendition of The Tortoise and the Hare. Bullied by the Hare (Sean Amato) “You have two speeds; slow and stop,” the Tortoise (Jason Furnari) challenges the Hare to a race. Sprinting through the theater, the Hare decides to take a nap in one of the seats. As much as they try, the audience cannot wake him and the tortoise, cheered on by the kids, meanders through the aisles and back on stage with a big grin to cross the finish line in slow motion. Great stuff.
The actors take turns narrating the stories while the remaining cast quickly changes costumes and act out the parts. A nice touch is the audience participation — helping to be waves in the ocean in A Fisherman and His Wife, and raising their index finger every time the actors say ‘I have an idea’ in The Bremen Town Musicians — which keep the young audience captivated at the edge of their seats.
Utilizing the mainstage set of The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, superb lighting design by Steven Uihlein, original rap songs arranged by Ryan Alvarado, expert piano accompaniment by Douglas J. Quattrock and the cute costumes by Jason Allyn tie everything together.
Funny, clever , brilliant and beautifully executed, The House That Jack Built is not to be missed. Your children are guaranteed to love it.
Theatre Three, 412 Main St. Port Jefferson presents The House That Jack Built through Feb. 4. Running time is one hour and 20 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. Children’s theater continues with Dorothy’s Adventures in Oz from Feb. 22 to March 18, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit from April 5 to 29 and the classic fairytale Cinderella from May 27 to June 17. All seats are $10. To order, call 928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.