Monday March 25 11:55 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

"Barney the Elf" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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Mrs. Claus (Maggie Cain) serves as the narrator of "Barney the Elf," relaying the story from the North Pole while reading from an over-sized picture book. It seems that Santa has passed away, leaving the responsibilities of toy production and delivery to their younger son, Santa Junior (Jaron Bellar), who is a narrow-minded and tyrannical leader. Hard to ignore the political parallels at work here. The best elf, named Barney (the charming Roy Samra) is immensely loved by his fellow elves because of his strong work ethic and consistently cheery disposition. When Mrs. Claus entrusts Barney with a package to be picked up by a hunky deliveryman named Drew (the adorable Christopher Sylvie), Barney becomes sexually aroused and aware that he is gay. When Santa Junior gets wind of this news, he banishes Barney from the North Pole forever. A sympathetic Mrs. Claus advises Barney to relocate to her hometown, Chicago, and sends him off with a magical snowglobe talisman, a canister of mace and a wad of cash to be used only in case of emergency (she really wants him to use it to purchase tickets for her to see "Hamilton").

Once in Chicago, Barney quickly learns how different and cruel the world is outside of the North Pole. He lands a job at the drag bar H2O as a maintenance worker and is quickly befriended by the establishment's star performer, Zooey (the sensational Dixie Lynn Cartwright). It should be noted that Cartwright will appear in the role of Zooey on Thursday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees. Alternating in the role will be Danika Bone't, who will perform on Wednesday and Friday evenings and Saturday matinees.

With Barney no longer able to help out at Santa's workshop, the elves have become stressed out and overworked. Santa Junior, on his maiden voyage, crashes his sleigh in Millennium Park. Once Barney hears this news he is torn between his former loyalties to Mrs. Claus and his fellow elves and the strong lessons of acceptance and courage that have been taught to him by Zooey. Our smart diminutive Barney does end up doing the right thing, saving Christmas for children worldwide as well as journeying through his own "elf-discovery."

Renaud and Schmidt have taken well-known popular songs and written substantially zany lyrics to all of them. Some melodies are standard Christmas favorites from the likes of George Michael and Mariah Carey. Others are show tunes from mega-hit Broadway musicals ("Hairspray," "Chicago" and "Les Miserables"). They even incorporate a classic disco era anthem.

Paul Sottnik is the Musical Director and director Michael D. Graham keeps the action pretty well paced, although the show does drag a bit at the beginning (no pun intended) until Cartwright makes her stunning entrance. The hard working elves, who all sing and dance energetically (choreography by Claire Hart) and also play additional roles as the many denizens of Chicago include Thomas Tong, Joseph Beal, Maggie Ward, Alisha Fabbi, Brooke Emmerich, Larry Trice and Nico Joshua. Shawn Quinlan has designed some fantastically festive costumes, particularly for those elves.

All of the cast and crew of "Barney the Elf" as well as the staff of the Pride Arts Center have imbued this production with so much love and honesty and heart that you are guaranteed a Happy "Holigays!"
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"Barney the Elf" runs through January 6, 2019
The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 North Broadway, Chicago
Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 PM
Premium reserved seats are $30, general admission seats are $20, student/senior/military $15.
Tickets available by phone at 866-811-4111 or 773-857-0222 or online at www.pridefilmsandplays.com
"Barney the Elf" runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.