Sometimes growing up is a pain. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what we are good at. Sometimes people tell us that we are never going to achieve our dreams. All these things aren’t as difficult when we have some good friends with us to encourage us and help us see what makes us special. In the world of bugs, things aren’t so different, and these topics are explored in ‘Diary of a Worm, A Spider, and A Fly’, directed by Teresa K. Pond, and written by Joan Cushing, which opened at Cyrano’s Theatre Company last week. Presented by ConocoPhillips Alaska and based on the popular children’s book series by Doreen Cronin, this musical coming-of-age tale will ring true for the young, and the young at heart.
It’s the first day of school and all young bugs are excited, but each has a few worries on their mind as well. Spider is ready to grow up and is looking forward to getting too big for his skin. Fly has dreams of becoming a superhero; she already has the abilities. Worm just wants to figure out what makes him special, and maybe stop eating everything. Along with their friends Ant and Butterfly, and their helpful teacher Mrs. McBee, the gang will have adventures, dances, and probably even learn some lessons along the way.
In this ensemble show, each performer had their moments to shine, and they did. Some of my favorite moments came from Chester Mainot as Worm. His character was instantly likeable, and the moments of embarrassment he had, somehow made him more relatable. Even more impressive is how much he was able to convey with the restricted movement that a worm costume provides. Brianne Valdez as the bilingual Butterfly was also a lot of fun to watch, as she overdramatized everything and fluttered her beautiful wings all over stage.
The choice of actors for a children’s show is important, and sometimes difficult. Director Pond has done it correctly in this instance. Each performer kept up their energy and charm through the ninety-minute performance, and kept the kids engaged the entire time. Also, casting older actors that still seem young enough for kids to identify with was a smart choice. There are several moments where the cast on stage began to interact with the children in the audience. A touching moment occurs when the characters were having a conversation about fear and began a quick dialogue with the kids about how to handle it when they are afraid. With this performance so closely following last weeks earthquake, it seemed to put the audience’s mind at ease, and we all relaxed. Assistant Director Warren Weinstein told me that those moments are not scripted and will be different for each audience that sees the show.
Lynette Harple took on musical direction for this show, and combined with choreography from Kristen Vierthaler, the energy and fun was at its peak for the entire performance. While some of the songs may seem cheesy for the adult audience, the kids were really enjoying it all, as evidenced by the fact that by the end of the show younger kids were dancing in their seats, and a couple even jumped out of their chairs to try and join the party on stage.
With scenic design by Matthew Allar and property design by Patsy Hernandez, this show truly does seem to be a page from a children’s story book come to life. The choice of mostly bright, primary colors, as well as a white fabric backdrop, give the illusion that you have stepped on to the page, and you are joining the characters during a story already in progress.
This is most definitely a children’s show, but there are a few jokes that only the grown ups will get. There were even a couple moments that seemed dark for kids’ fare, and I enjoyed them immensely. For adults who decide to attend this with children pay attention for the lessons that are being learned and have a conversation with those kids about them later. Whether it is the messages of self-acceptance and friendship, or just the scientific facts about the insect and spider world, this play could be the jumping off point for some great conversations. CTC has made the Family Holiday Musical an annual tradition that includes a chance to meet the cast and get autographs, enter to win prizes, and take pictures in front of a fun backdrop, in the Patron Lounge. This show is appropriate for all ages.
Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly runs through December 23rd, with 12:30 and 3pm performances on Saturdays and Sundays. www.cyranos.org