By Heidi Sutton
Excitement was in the air as Theatre Three celebrated its reopening on July 10 with The Adventures of Peter Rabbit. Addressing the audience, director Jeffrey Sanzel said, “This is our very first theater performance since March 15 of last year. This is also our favorite children’s show of all time and I know you’re going to like it.”
Well, that was an understatement.
For the next hour and 20 minutes the young theatergoers were treated to the mischievous adventures of Peter Rabbit and his cousin Benjamin Bunny … and loved every minute of it.
Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, the original musical 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. The eight adult cast members know their target audience well and keep them well entertained.
Peter Rabbit: Eric J. Hughes
Benjamin Bunny: Steven Uihlein
Mrs. Rabbit: Elizabeth Ladd
Flopsy: Meg Bush
Mopsy: Alyssa Montes
Cotton-Tail: Heather Rose Kuhn
Mr. McGregor: Darren Clayton
Mrs. Mcgregor: Linda May
The audience is whisked away to the countryside home of Mrs. Rabbit and her four bunnies who live next to Mr. and Mrs. McGregor. While Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail listen to their mother by staying inside and doing their chores, Peter and Benjamin spend the day sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden to satisfy their insatiable appetite for lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and string beans. The many trips to the garden patch eventually wear down the farmer’s patience, resulting in a great chase with a narrow escape.
The show is adorable on so many levels. Like two peas in a pod, Peter and Benjamin produce the most laughs with their antics and Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail spend most of their time looking for their wayward brother. And for some strange reason, the audience will walk away with a craving for bread and milk and blackberries.
The show is also a lesson in ingenuity. Trapdoors on stage become rabbit holes used by Peter and Benjamin to hide. An attempt to reclaim Peter’s socks and shoes and jacket and hat from a scarecrow in the garden turns into a scene from Mission Impossible complete with perilous stunts and spotlights. And when Peter retells the great chase to his family, the entire scene is reenacted in slow motion — a most spectacular feat.
Audience interaction is a big part of the show as the actors spend as much time in the aisles of the theater as on stage. When searching for Peter and Benjamin, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail run around asking the children if they’ve seen them (“They’re right behind you!”). When Benjamin Bunny tried to jump onto the stage over and over again during last Saturday’s performance, the children called out words of encouragement (“You can do it Benjamin!). He took the stairs.
With excellent choreography by Nicole Bianco, the musical numbers, accompanied on piano by Doug Quattrock, are catchy and fun, with special mention to “One More Time Around,” “Run, Peter, Run!” and the hip hop number, “Peter’s Socks.” The final number incorporates all of the songs in a super mega-mix extravaganza.
Best suited for ages 3 to 8, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit is the perfect choice to celebrate Theatre Three’s reopening and the return of live theater. Your kids will love it.
Souvenir bunnies in various colors will be sold before the show and during intermission for $5 (proceeds will help maintain the historic building) and the entire cast is in the lobby after the show for a meet-and-greet.
Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Adventures of Peter Rabbit on Saturdays at 11 a.m. through Aug. 14. Children’s theater continues with A Kooky Spooky Halloween from Oct. 9 to 30 and Barnaby Saves Christmas from Nov. 20 to Dec. 26. All seats are $10. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.