Thursday September 21st 2017

“Barney The Elf”

barney-the-elf-8845Recommended *** During the holiday season, as we are very busy with our lives, the “theater scene” in Chicago does NOT die down. In fact, it may be even more hectic than one would expect. For the record, I saw three productions today. Granted they were all less that 90 minutes in length, but all were productions worth talking about , and for many theater-lovers, you may find something that will round out your year as well. I will begin with “Barney the Elf”,. To start with, I must advise you that this production is presented by The other Theatre Company. You might be alerted by the name that this is not your standard artistic company, BUT, one with a mission statement that reads ; “The Other Theatre Company is a collective of artists dedicated to telling stories of those who are “othered” by systems of oppression”. This is sort of “us” versus “them” situation that this company hopes they can irradicate by telling their stories without allowing for any discrimination or oppression!

So, this type of production may not be for everyone. As I watched this re-telling, satirical musical of “Elf” the movie, I found myself being drawn into the way the story was written and told. This spoof is written by Bryan Renaud, who also takes on the lead role of Barney. He also wrote many of the lyrics with Emily Schmidt. Understand that the songs of this show are those using the music from movies, plays and pop music with new lyrics to fit the story. I must say, they did a solid job with this. The use of Les Miz was one of the highlights, as was “All By Myself”. You will recognize the music, but listen closely to the cleverly written lyrics as they do propel the story.barney

Ah, yes! The story! Santa Claus has recently passed away. His wicked son, Junior (Jonathan Parker Jackson) is given the power and declares that changes must take place. There is too much happiness and good cheer on the North Pole. Barney has to change, or leave. Mrs. Claus (Maggie Cain is a delight in this role) who as it turns out was born and raised in Chicago, helps Buddy in his departure, sending him to Chi-town to make a new life and find his way. By the way, in one of the early scenes, we learn that Buddy just might be “gay”.l-to-r-maggie-cain-as-mrs_-claus-and-bryan-renaud-as-barney-300x235

When he arrives in Chicago, he is robbed of the money she gave him to get started in his new life. He does find a job at a Gay Bar where he meets Zooey, a drag queen played to perfection by Dixie Lynn Cartwright, who originated this role in the 2015 edition. Many of the audience members felt that Ms Cartwright may have been the sexiest woman on the stage, with by far the longest legs. I must tell you as an aside, there were two men sitting to my left (men who should never attend live theater, by the way) who did not realize that this was a man, ever!

The story is that the elves who allowed Barney to leave under the leadership of Junior, begin to realize that the spirit of Christmas needed him and his love and jolliness to survive and so they fight to bring him home. Director/choreographer barney2Tommy Rivera-Vega does his magic on the small stage upstairs at The Greenhouse Theater (aka number 4), where every director must work around the support post, a true obstacle. Yet, he does it using very little scenery (Michael Johannsen) and for some reason, there is no credit given to the property master, who did a massive job. The costumes and makeup by Olivia Crary are first class for a small production company and the sound (Ashley Petit) and lighting (Matthew Carney) allowed us to hear and see everything.

Yes, there is some bad language in this show, so do not bring kids thinking that this is like the film version. IT IS NOT! What this is, is a fun-filled, humorous spoof of a film that had funny moments, and so does this. The ensemble is small in size; Mariah Furlow, Nik Kmiecik, Molly LeCaptain, Ben F. Locke, Ethan Warren, Cassandra Nelson and Becca Sheehan, but large in talent. They sing, they dance, they act and all with the energy that a spoof deserves to have. If one is looking for a diversion and some very “camp” comedy, this is the one!

“Barney The Elf” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue thru January 1st with performances as follows:

barney3Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

NO SHOWS 12/24 and 12/25

additional shows on 12/ 20, 12/27 and 12/ 21 at 8 p.m.

Running time is 90 minutes (no intermission)

Tickets are $25 and can be ordered by calling The Greenhouse box office at 773-404-7336

or visit http://www.theothertheatrecompany.com

Parking is street (some metered, some by zone) and there is parking in the garage that used to be part of the Children’s Hospital.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Barney The Elf”

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