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/

 

 

Adventure Box, Holiday, Theater

Wizard of Oz- Portland Panto Players

Portland Panto Players. Oh my! This was one of the first “tickets” the kiddos found in their new Christmas Mailbox. Portland Panto Players is a group that formed in 2017 to perform panto plays around the holidays. If you are new to pantos, like me, here is the scoop. (Thank you, Google!) Apparently Brits have developed this style of theater and it is a typical holiday family outing. A traditional panto takes a well known story, in this case Wizard of Oz, and tweaks it. Like, a lot. Every panto has a villian, a dame (an older female character played by a man), and incorporates modern music, pop culture references, adds new characters, and takes liberties with the story line.

In this case, Auntie was played by a man with a beard parted into pigtails. Beardtails? I don’t know. The flying monkeys rapped Ice, Ice, Baby. For reals. Glenda sang Popular (yay!), and Dorothy’s sister Hannah sang a line from Book of Mormon when knocking on the Wicked Witch’s door. We Are Family and The Lion Sleeps Tonight also made enthusiastic appearances. The Tin Man was still in search of his heart, but had been gifted a pair of silver balls on a string that he was told was his dingaling. Which resulted in the cast singing about how they want to play with My Dingaling. Yes, you read that right.

There is a lot more audience interaction than is typical of theater, which was a lot of fun. Characters spoke directly to audience members and incorporated the comments little kids couldn’t keep inside. You are encouraged to boo the villain (which Nugget did with gusto) and shout out warnings to the cast when the bad guys are approaching. Humor was over the top and very heavy on the puns. The set was simple but effective, and a video screen with prerecorded pieces was used when certain staging couldn’t be accomplished. The cast was clearly having fun and were decent singers and actors, although not necessarily professional caliber. Most of it was family friendly even if the humor went over the kids’ heads a lot of the time. There was plenty of funny in there for them, too. Depending on your sense of humor and propriety, the whole Dingaling song could have crossed a line for some. Chicken and Nugget knew they were missing out on something critical and spent a good bit of time this afternoon discussing what exactly it could be referring to.

I can honestly say I have never been to anything quite like it. Did I like it? I have no idea. I want to say no, but I laughed out loud multiple times so I must have, right?

Chicken loved it and said she would go to every single one they ever do. Nugget was a bit gobsmacked. I’m not sure he knows what just happened to him. I am pretty much in his camp.

Portland Panto Players indicated they are aiming to make this a yearly tradition and they are planning on putting on a 2019 show. Will we be there? Maybe. We will see how the mood strikes us and what else we have going on.

Tickets ran $8 to $12. More information on their shows and panto in general can be found here: https://portlandpantoplayers.com/

Theater

Ella Enchanted (Oregon Children’s Theater)

So this weekend was Ella Enchanted at OCT.  Nugget was in a cranky mood and said he in no way wanted to go watch a show about princesses.  I told him this was an un-princess story and to get his little tushy in the car (and be nice about it).  With a frown on his face, he got in the car and buckled up.  He even found a pair of headphones in the car and put them on so he wouldn’t have to be tortured with all the princessness.  I ignored him and acted as if everything was fine.  So it was one of those mornings.  Yay.

Ella Enchanted is the story of a princess who is given the gift/curse of obedience.  She has to do anything anyone tells her to, which has some obvious down sides.  Ella is a likeable young girl who strives to find her independence. She has a an endearing mother, a wicked step family, and a clueless step father who make her plight all the more difficult.  All the trappings of a classic fairy tale.

We got there and found our seats to be in the first balcony.  We had never had seats there before and they were pretty good!  Nugget kept on his cranky pants- and the headphones.  But he did subtly lift them up during the good parts and had a list of things he liked once the play was over.

Chicken did a lot of giggling and smiling.  The evil step sisters were a hit, and she loved the concept of the play.  She was able to draw parallels between Ella and other well known fairy tales.  She was even pleased to find the word “obey” on a vocabulary test at school a few days later!  Who says theater isn’t educational?

Overall, the talent was fantastic and the staging was beautiful.  There were a few parts that could have been cut out and I don’t think any of us would have missed them.  But even those parts were pleasant enough.

What it is: sweet, funny, with a positive female lead, and un-princess fairy tale, well produced,  and enjoyable.

What it is not: super fast paced, Nugget’s favorite

Would we recommend it:  Chicken and I would, Nugget not so much

 

Theater, Upcoming

Beaverton Civic Theater 2019 Season

BCT just announced it’s upcoming season and it sounds like a fun season for families!

They have two mainstage productions that have the potential to be family friendly depending on the age of your children- Diary of Anne Frank and Clue: the Musical.  These productions are typically $15 for adults and $5 for children.

They are also having a few productions targeting children and families through their Young Audiences program.  These productions are typically $5.

They are doing Knuffle Bunny again this year.  We saw it at least twice when they did it a couple of years ago and it is worth the $5.  Be prepared for a lot of dramatic wailing on the part of Trixie, but that’s kind of what she does for the whole book, too.

Another show we are excited about is Charlotte’s Web!  We haven’t gotten to see this production as a family and we are all looking forward to it!  They are also doing a concert version of Beauty and the Beast.  I’m a little disappointed it isn’t a fully staged production because it is one of our absolute favorites, but it makes sense given their space limitations.  And since we are all suckers for all things Beauty and the Beast, we will be there with Belles (hee hee) on.

BCT also announced a new program we are excited about.  It is called Troupe BCT.  Children ages 8 and up will be able to audition to be part of the training intensive program, which will culminate in a public production of Seussical the Musical.  Another family favorite!  Chicken will be auditioning, but we will be at the show regardless of whether or not she is lucky enough to be selected.  I love that BCT is increasing their theater outreach for youth.  Yay BCT!