For the past few years, Northwest Children’s Theater has collaborated with Anita Menon’s Anjali School of Dance to create beautiful works of theater and dance. Anjali’s School of Dance focuses on traditional South Indian dance and her students are amazingly talented. Their collaboration has resulted in numerous awards and full theater audiences. Their show last year, Chitra, was gorgeous and we were really looking forward to seeing what they came up with this year.
This year it was Tenali, the story of a minister to the king who wreaks havoc by not doing his job; in this case he fails to protect the king’s favorite crown. The show begins with an impressive procession of dancers leading the king to his place on the stage. Beautiful dancing ensues before introducing us to the characters and the plot. There is a lot of humor, and Chicken was definitely amused.
While Tenali was the title character and the actor has a great stage presence, it was three other ministers who stole the show. The minister of spies, a bumbling police officer type, is played by one of our favorite NWCT actors and brings his trademark humor and fun to the role. The minister of art has boundless energy, does some pretty impressive acrobatics, and fills the stage with his smile and enthusiasm. The royal accountant, armed with his trusty abacus, manages to get all of his calculations wrong despite his best and most earnest efforts. I feel his pain.
This production uses an extended stage, and we love it every time they make this choice. In this case, it was amazing to see the individuals playing the music and I was astonished to see a single woman do the majority of singing to such a perfect degree I initially thought it was pre-recorded music.
The show itself is colorful, fast-paced, energetic, and action packed. The long dance number at the end which incorporates a bit of audience participation is something the behold. The costumes are stunning and the dancing really is incredible. This style of dancing is so articulated, from the intricate and specific placement of fingers to the intentional use of eye gaze. It is all so precise and yet graceful and dynamic. The years of training, dedication, and passion clearly comes through.
As always, the cast members were fantastic with the kids during the meet and greet after the show. And as always, Nugget refused to talk to any of the girls. One actually tried to get his attention and talk to him and he put his hand to his neck and whispered “I have a sore throat” and continued on his merry way. Still working on that one. But the cast members he did talk to answered all of his random questions, from “what is the paint on your head for?” to “why did you do a flip?,” and my favorite, “what is your favorite kind of cheese?” Because that is important to know about a person. They were beyond gracious as he began organizing his own photo shoots, gathering his favorite characters and suggesting they do serious faces or silly faces. To his credit, they really did turn out to be my favorite pictures of the day! Because the hand movements are so specific during the dancing, Nugget apparently interpreted this as sign language and proudly showed off his minimal knowledge of signing. The cast members were lovely and played right along.
What it is: Relatively short (70ish minutes), making it perfect for a younger child, colorful, full of amazing dancing, funny, a bit of a convoluted story that may be a bit confusing for young children to follow, a bit of audience involvement at the end, inclusive of beautiful music children can intuitively find the beat of, family friendly, based on a real person (who knew?!?) who continues to be present in Indian popular culture
What it’s not: A story familiar to most children not exposed to East Indian stories
Do we recommend it? Yeperoozers! And definitely take advantage of the meet and greet!
The show is running through May 12th. You can find more information and buy tickets here: https://nwcts.org/
And if you can’t make it to this show, this amazing collaboration with bring the return of The Jungle Book next season!