Theater

Mean Girls- Broadway Across America

On Wednesdays we wear pink! Or at least on Saturday afternoons when we have tickets to the musical. This was our first time back in a theater since March of 2020, and we were so ready!

Overall, it was a fun show. The sets were interesting and engaging, the actors were talented, and it was quickly paced. Most of the songs were good and fit nicely with the show, although there were a couple I could have done without (I’m looking at you, Whose House Is This?). It follows the movie pretty closely, although there are changes. The core themes and conflicts remain the same, and the changes didn’t vere that far from the original. We get a bit more context and backstory for Gretchen and Regina’s mom, which I actually appreciated.

This show is definitely not geared toward younger kids. While some of language and name calling from the movie is taken out, it is replaced by other moments that could be problematic. There is still inappropriate language, sexual innuendo (both subtle and over the top), and some of the jokes are not little kid friendly. However, if you have a tween or teen, it’s probably not that different from what they hear at school on a regular basis.

My daughter loved the girl power song Janis sings at the end, and it has been on repeat at our house for a while now. The show does include a virtual bus hitting a very unrealistic looking Regina, who goes flying in the air. My son shouted “yaaas!!” and clapped loudly at that moment, which was equal parts amusing and concerning.

Overall, it wasn’t my favorite show, but we all had a good time. And it was nice just to be back!

Soo..

What it’s not: appropriate for young kids, exactly the same as the movie

What it is: entertaining, fun music, pretty close to the movie

Do we recommend it? Yes? If it’s the only show you are ever going to see, I would probably pass and choose something else. But if you are just looking for a fun night out or are a huge fan of the movie, you’ll have a great time!

Theater

Matilda- Lakewood Center for the Arts

We recently had the opportunity to see one of our favorite people, as well as some other familiar faces, perform in Matilda at Lakewood Center for the Arts. Based on my absolute favorite Roald Dahl novel, Matilda is the story of a brilliant little girl who lives in the world of books.  Her parents to not recognize her specialness, or if they do, it is only to resent it.  Matilda develops some unique abilities, which she uses to help her teacher, Miss Honey, with whom she develops a loving and nurturing relationship.

We had actually never been to Lakewood, which is nestled in the city of Lake Oswego.  The property is quite pretty, so we took advantage of the grassy areas to stretch our legs and smell the flowers (literally) as we waited for friends to arrive.

I had taken Chicken to the Broadway national tour a couple of years ago, and I have to say, it wasn’t my favorite.  There were some really cool parts, but overall it was a bit shouty and angry for my taste, especially compared to the sweetness of the book.  Luckily, we had a completely different experience with this production.  The kids were fantastic, the singing was great, and it had a completely different feel than the previous version we had seen.  The script and songs were the same, but it was much lighter and much more enjoyable.  The sets and costumes were simple, but got the job done.  There was some interesting lighting and use of digital media, which was nice to see.

The entire cast was very talented.  We alway really enjoy performances where young kids blow you away with their singing abilities, and this definitely fit the bill.  The stand out was Danielle Valentine, who played the father, Mr. Wormwood.  She embraced the gender bending role and played it to perfection.  After intermission, she came out and engaged in some audience interaction before launching into a mostly solo song about all the benefits of television (the son helps out with a periodic strum of the ukulele and joined in each time the father says ‘telly’).  Whether planned or not, the entire audience was laughing after Mr. Wormwood talks about all the dangers of reading only to call upon a woman who said “I’m with SMART”(Start Making a Reader Today).  The ensuing interaction was perfect.

Overall, I found this production of Matilda to be much more kid-friendly than the national tour version we saw.  Chicken and Nugget both enjoyed it and we listen to the Revolting Children song on repeat the whole way home.  None of us can nail Bruce’s trademark note in that song, but we sure had fun trying.  I am sad to report that Nugget has also been trying to master Bruce’s burp.  You win some, you lose some.

If your child is a fan of the book, they will likely enjoy the play.  Just be aware the story does deviate some from the book and there are some darker themes.

If you are interested in seeing the show, you can find tickets here:

https://www.lakewood-center.org/pages/lakewood-plays

2019-07-21_13-45-09_693

Theater

Tenali- Northwest Children’s Theater

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.

So….

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!

Spring and Summer Activities, Theater

Aladdin- the Broadway Musical- updated April 8, 2019

Aladdin is coming to town!!  Yay!!  Aladdin the Broadway musical is on a national tour for at least the second you in a row.  If your kiddos are fans of the movie, it is a must see.

The show was in Seattle last year, and we took a day trip up there just in case it wasn’t going to make it to our area.  And this year we will be seeing it here as well!

The musical follows the story of the Disney movie pretty closely.  All your favorite songs are included, complete with bright, glittering sets.  Aladdin is a bit more angsty, and has a couple solos about how he hopes his parents are proud of him.  Um, he’s a thief.  But a sweet and adorable thief.

And Disney must not have been able to find incredibly well trained animals who they could guarantee wouldn’t “let it go” on the middle of the stage.  Abu is turned into two of Aladdin’s human friends who provide quite a bit of levity.  Raja becomes Jasmine’s girlfriends, and honestly I didn’t feel like they added much.  Iago also becomes a man- although somehow Nugget walked away with the impression he was Jafar’s wife.  His mind must have taken some interesting detours.

We saw the show when Adam Jacobs was in the title role- he originated Aladdin on Broadway.  It was pretty cool to see the original actor and recognize the voice from the soundtrack we had been listening to.  He is no longer playing Aladdin, but I’m sure the new actor will be fantastic, too.

The costumes in this show are gorgeous and colorful.  There is so much to look at and be amazed by.  The cave of wonders is very well done, and the stage is covered in golden treasure.  The dancing is fantastic and the whole show is so high energy.  It’s kind of like a multicolored singing glitter bomb going off on stage for 2 plus hours.  In a good way.

The kids both loved it. Although Nugget was very concerned that we saw so much of Jasmine’s belly button.  He didn’t feel like that was appropriate.  Or the kissing.  Chicken reveled in following him around saying “belly button, belly button, kiss, kiss, kiss” for several week.  Actually, she still does it sometimes and he still curls up into the fetal position.  So there’s that.  But he was entranced by the flying carpet.  He knows there should be ropes holding it up, but since we couldn’t see them he is sure there must be some actual magic involved.  Chicken still occasionally bursts into “High Adventure”- one of the new songs that was one of our favorite parts of the play.

I wouldn’t say this is one of the meatier or best acted Broadway tours.  But it sure is fun.  If you are looking for an afternoon of color, dance, humor, and Disney joy, this show is definitely for you.  Run and get your tickets now!

If you are interested in going to Aladdin while it is in town this March and April, you can find them at https://portland.broadway.com/

And yes- Frozen is coming!  Eek!

 

UPDATE:  We saw this show in Portland for the second time on April 6, 2019.  It was even better than last time!  Even accounting for the fact that we didn’t have to drive three hours each way, we enjoyed the show even more.  Three actors are now portraying Genie, and we lucked out by seeing Major Attaway in the role, who has previously played Genie on Broadway.  He was out of this world!  We also preferred this year’s Aladdin and Jasmine- they had better chemistry and Jasmine was just a touch sassier in a way we loved.  I think Aladdin’s three friends were perhaps a bit stronger last year, but these actors were also fantastic.

We had slightly better seats this time and it really made a difference in how much we noticed the sparkle that is all over the stage and costumes, as well as all the small details that are part of the set.  Chicken and Nugget both giggled more this time and overall we had a fantastic time.

So, my assertion still stands- if Aladdin comes on tour to your area and you have little fans at home, it it totally worth a family date night!

Theater

The Starlings Present Dinosaurs! (Northwest Children’s Theater)

This weekend I braced myself and took the kids downtown to see puppets teach us about dinosaurs.  It wouldn’t be fair to say I was dreading it, but I wasn’t as excited as I often am about shows.  So I bribed myself with meeting some of our favorite people there and planning lunch afterwards.  That’s allowed, right?

So, the Starlings.  NWCT got a grant to study puppetry and develop a “flock” of bird puppets.  They have now starred in 3 shows- Sleeping Beauty (we didn’t see that one), Amelia Earhart, and now Dinosaurs.  The two Starlings shows we have seen were written by NWCT with original songs and choreography.  They focus on teaching kids about a topic in fun and creative ways.

One thing I do love about the Starlings shows is the level of interaction with the audience.  They bring the puppets (in character) into the lobby before the show and interact with the kids.  They also go into the seating area before the show and take pictures with kids, talk to kids, and generally wreak havoc.  And I will say that all of that is really fun.  It creates a high energy, fun atmosphere and gets the kids ready to go.  The kids love getting to touch the puppets and talk to the birds as if they were real.  Nugget, of course, had to take another path.  He told one that it wasn’t a real bird because it was too colorful and birds are black. Clearly we need to go somewhere tropical!  He recognized a puppeteer as the person who had played his favorite pirate, and spent quite a bit of time calling him Smee and trying to get the person to admit he wasn’t really a bird.

The show itself is fast moving, creative, silly, and educational.  A couple of the songs are pretty catchy.  And there are tap dancing t-rexes, so there’s that.  The show teaches how dinosaurs are named and then gives the audience a chance to name their own dinosaurs.  They even come into the audience and let some kiddos announce their dinosaur names.  My littles eat that stuff up. The Starlings shows tend to target a younger audience, and the 75 minute run time is just about right for the age range that tends to go.

The good: it’s a short, fun, fast paced, interactive, colorful show

The not great: the shows always seem a bit chaotic to me.  But I think it’s a reflection of the inner workings of the little kid brain- which is who they are trying to entertain

 

Do we recommend it?  They are not my favorite shows and I find them a bit overwhelming.  But Chicken and Nugget cannot get enough and the kids in the audience seem enthralled as well.  And since it is a children’s theater, I would say they hit their mark.

Tickets can be found at:  https://nwcts.org/