By RJ Johnson
Sometimes, lessons we learn as children are the same we need to reminded of the most as adults. ‘Stinky Kids: The Musical’, written by Sammy Buck, composed by Dan Acquisto, based on the books by Britt Menzies, and directed by Warren Weinstein has plenty of both. While the material is most assuredly aimed at children, the adults in the audience will be sure to see some of their own issues playing out on stage as well.
Britt loves making everyone happy, but this girl who never gets in trouble is in a sticky situation. She woke up with a massive wad of gum stuck in her hair! All of Britt’s friends are depending on her parents to take them to Captain Happy’s Jumpy-Fun-Super-Bouncy- Indoor Place, so Britt can’t let them down. Britt joins her friends on an adventure across the neighborhood to solve her problem before her parents find out and possibly cancel the trip. Mischief, hilarity, and hijinks ensue.
The set is clever in that it mimics the simple drawings of a child, or directly lifted from the pages of a children’s book, which this script is. The bright colors and simple shapes will make sense to younger viewers. It is also clever in the build of the set, designed by Marcia Varady, makes for easy scene transitions that help keep the story moving right along without long pauses, a very important quality in a show meant to keep younger audience members engaged. Bill Heym surely had a hand in this as the scenic builder. Costumes are also bright and fun and the look is very much that of children that had gotten themselves dressed in the morning wearing their favorite ensemble. Krista Edge captured the look of children, especially children that are being portrayed by young adults.
The show opens with a high energy dance number choreographed by Kristin Vierthaler. While the moves may seem simple, throughout the production I noticed how complex the moves were, while still being big enough to entertain and delight. Vierthaler is one of the best names in dance in this town, and this show proves once again why that is true.
Brianne Valdez takes on the role of Britt, who is the closest thing that this ensemble piece has to a lead, and she is wonderful in the role. Cheerful and positive, Valdez’s Britt is charming and is the perfect example of a happy-go-lucky child. Her best friends Jen and Hannah are brought to life by Autumn Levy and Grace Goodyear, respectively. The dynamic between the three girls is fun to watch, even when the trio is lightly arguing about who is closer to whom in the group, such as in one of my favorite songs “Spearnana Mintberry Winternapple” which had to be a challenge to pull off at every level.
The three boys aren’t on stage for that particular song, but get plenty of time in the spotlight. Chester Mainot is a favorite in this production, and as the science minded Billy he commanded some of the biggest laughs in the one-hour production. Jeremy Guant as Johnny and Mark Skrade as Max were equally as serious about being silly and getting the audience to giggle. A great job was done by every member of the cast and I believe they were absolutely the right choices for the roles. For an adult actor to successfully play a child, and to perform for children has to be fearless and fully commit to every action and choice. These actors have all done exactly that, and whether they were interacting with each other, or breaking the famous fourth wall and involving the audience, each movement and line was engaging and fun.
Fans of the books will find that the script for this show has pieces of each story that made them so popular among children in the first place. The youngest members of the audience were lightly talking about the situations happening on stage, and answering questions that the characters were asking, which was adorable.
Director Warren Weinstein has done a wonderful job with this production, adding in some very cute moments that kept my friend and me giggling and smiling the entire time. Running jokes about ice cream and the aforementioned Captain Happy’s Jumpy-Fun-Super-Bouncy- Indoor Place, were great. Sound design from Seth Eggleston and lighting design from Frank Hardy helped sell those two jokes, in particular, as well as set the tone for the rest of the show. Weinstein seemed to find all the right moments to amp it up for the maximum enjoyment of children, but also helped slide in the more adult jokes with a wink and a nod.
Cyrano’s Theatre Company has done a great job in choosing this show as their annual holiday family musical, sponsored by ConocoPhillips. In the patron lounge before the show parents have the opportunity to read some of the Stinky Kids books to their children before the show to introduce the characters to their family. After the show is over, there is a space on the back of each program for those audience members to make their way back to the lounge, now appropriately called the ‘Sparkle Lounge’ to meet the actors and get autographs from the folks they just saw on stage. While the show is not a script that is holiday themed, it is a great way for families to spend some time together, and isn’t that really what this season is about?
Stinky Kids: The Musical play through December 22. For more information please visit www.centertix.com