It’s the tale of a nerdy mouse that embraces the fact he is different from others even when those others unmercifully taunt him. He doesn’t let that fact stop him from undertaking a brave adventure to the moon in a quest to obtain cheese. He shares the cheese with the bully rats back on earth and in the end his generosity changes how the other mice treat him and he becomes not just an accepted member of the group but also its superstar.
Sounds like another same-old kid’s story featuring a moral lesson leading to a feel good moment?
Well, sort of. But then again, nope, this show goes way past that.
Indeed, Friday night’s play, “Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey,” playing at 7:30 p.m. in the Atwood Concert Hall in the downtown Performing Arts Center does contain a moral lesson regarding looking past an individual’s eccentric traits to discover the cool persona.
But the play chock full of bright neon lighting on the actor’s costumes and imaginative backdrops is far from same old.
Produced by Lightwire Theater of Dallas and presented by Anchorage’s Alaska Junior Theatre, this colorful play is way kid appropriate along with way engaging for their adult companions.
This writer went on a school field trip Wednesday morning with the neighbor’s second grader. Granted, I tend to dig this kind of stuff; granted, I am easily entertained. Granted, I cheered and giggled just as much as the kiddos I was chaperoning.
However, all short-lived journeys back to childhood aside, if you, as an adult seek weekend entertainment you can enjoy with your children and can enjoy just as much as your kiddos do and you are ready for a change from drinks at the bar or a violent movie, this play is your ticket.
It is super cute.
And I do mean, super cute.
Did I write that it is super cute?
Indeed, this play rocked.
As the lights in the Atwood went dim, the hundreds of Anchorage school children wiggly in their seats began to verbally “ouh” and “awe.” Within a few more seconds when the house lights were completely black, a thunderous roar of anticipation and approval was heard giving the adults in the audience a clue that attending the play was indeed a grand way to spend a Wednesday morning.
The play began with a solid black back drop.
Soon the earth appeared in the bottom third of the backdrop.
Then, the moon made its presence known with a bright and glowing display in the top third of the backdrop.
Another round of rousing cheers and shouts from the audience followed.
Soon we see the play’s lead character, “Marvin the Mouse” as his animated alarm clock wakes him from a sound sleep.
The joyful antics of the alarm clock dancing across the stage certainly encourage wakefulness as Marvin rises from his bed outlined in lights.
Marvin and the alarm clock jostle around with each other a bit as I hear the two boys in the row behind me discussing just how the alarm clock is actually moving.
One boy says, “Oh, I see someone behind it.”
The secret is out: The actors and actresses portraying the cast are all dressed in black. For some, their black attire is adorned with the lights that create their character. For others, such as the alarm clock, the human dressed in black moves the color-lit character.
The students are enthralled.
Soon I hear a repeating trio of voices stating, “Oh, I see the person too.”
From my seat in the second row, I too can see what the students are talking about. But only after being alerted by them of it all – knowing that humans are making the movement versus animatronics or something else leads me to even greater appreciation of the stage action.
Something tells me that if the actors could hear the kids in the audience, they might not mind. After all, this was an educational field trip. Probably kinda cool that learning a bit about how this sort of thing really works is way acceptable.
Of course, just as everyone else has this need in the morning, Marvin too must go relieve himself.
He walks toward the back of the stage and his lighting goes dark and moments later we hear a sound we all recognize: The flushing of a toilet.
The crowd erupts with laughter.
Kids are enthralled with the bathroom and its business.
It’s a guaranteed laugh.
It revives their attention ensuring they will stick with the play as it moves on to what is a more challenging scene.
Marvin is off to school. A large “RHS” is on the left side of the black backdrop. There are lockers lit up by green lights.
Marvin is carrying three books – yes, largest (massive old-style dictionary or encyclopedia size) on the bottom with two more of decreasing – yes still incredibly nerdy looking – sized-books that make him a target the football players cannot miss.
Turns out the football players are actually rats and their behavior toward Marvin is just as despicable and dirty as humans ascribe to the rodent.
The rats push Marvin and his books spill on to the hall floor.
They make fun of him and leave him struggling to find his glass that have dislodged from face.
It is a truly sad scene.
The audience is somber. I heard a sniffle and looked around to see if there was an upset kiddo needing comforting.
Marvin picks up his books and soon we see him back home retiring to his bed.
In his dreams, Marvin uses a snipping tool on his computer to remove Thor’s head from his muscled body and replace the blonde-haired skull with his mouse face.
Giggling returns to the audience as Marvin’s dream continues with his head and face being featured on a line-up of super heroes including Iron Man and Super Man. By the time Marvin gets back to Thor and has the infamous hammer in his grasp, the kiddo audience is roaring with laughter.
Unfortunately, the next day at school features a repeat of Marvin being tormented.
But he hears an important news flash announcing that the moon is indeed made of cheese.
Here is where I got a bit lost – probably because I was suggesting to a few kids that were jumping around just a bit too much that they perhaps find a way for their hinnies to stay in direct contact with the seat.
So, I am not sure if Marvin dreamed this or if he actually did do it. Yah, I know, I could have spent some time on the Internet digging up the script for accuracy, but hey, now for sure you have to go see the play just to discover the truth for yourself.
Anyway, the next scenes show Marvin creating a rocket and figuring out how to power it to get to the moon.
He needs the help of that alarm clock. It ends up on the front of his rocket.
Of course, now the play needs to keep the adults engaged ... time for the obvious choice: Elton John’s “Rocket Man” as the musical back drop.
Must admit – that rocket ship was cool – especially when it was flying around on the stage. I so want one.
Anyway, the lights go out on the rocket ship and the audience’s viewing of the play continues in a context of larger space as we watch smaller versions of the rocket ship go back and forth the black back drop ascending to the top where the moon is once again in view.
Lighting that forms the outlines of moon rocks is now on stage and out of nowhere the rocket ship with Marvin lights back up and we watch him land on the moon.
There are shrieks of joy from the audience followed by vocal shivers of, “oh, no,” as moon creatures show up on the opposite side of the stage.
Are they friend or foe? Are they just curious or are they themselves scared because they don’t know what Marvin’s deal is?
I hear an, “oh, be careful.”
Clearly the moon creatures are unsure what Marvin’s deal is.
They and Marvin dance around the stage checking each other out.
Eventually, they hide, but not from Marvin.
Another moon monster approaches. This one is at least twice their size and is menacing.
Marvin hides as well.
There’s a scene at a cantina in which Marvin and the smaller moon creatures become buddies and perform a dance routine with moves that attest to the skills of the actors and actresses inside those costumes.
It’s energizing. The kids in the audience are bouncing around in their seats; their feet are shuffling on the floor.
Again, I don’t quite remember how it happened because again I think I was distracted with suggesting again that it was time to chill out as audience members, however, cheese did appear on the stage. The moon creatures present Marvin with cheese.
Oh, yah, this is exciting stuff.
The students are beyond abuzz because hey, everyone knows that mice like cheese.
The notion that the cheese could gain Marvin some well-deserved respect from the rats back at his high school hangs in the air.
But alas, that big, mean moon monster shows up again.
What’s Marvin to do?
He tosses the cheese to one of the smaller moon monsters for them to secure as he approaches the mega-sized menace.
I can hear children taking in a deep gasp of air and holding their breath.
Turns out that the mean moon monster really isn’t mean: He simply cannot see.
He needs glasses as well.
Marvin puts a pair of glasses that are lit with dazzling color on the big moon monster and as it looks through the lens, its whole demeanor changes.
Not only does Marvin find cheese for the bullies back home – he also changes the social context on the moon because the smaller creatures don’t have to be afraid of the big one anymore.
Marvin gets in his rocket and the scene of him disappearing and the small rocket going back and forth across the black back drop repeats itself before Marvin lands in a flash back on earth at his high school.
He presents cheese to the jerk rats.
Here’s where my mind departs from following this story along like a sheep lead to a nice happy ending.
It is super great of Marvin to share the cheese with those that taunted him. Rock on.
But shouldn’t those bullies have changed their ways without a reward?
Then, I am like, well, Amy, you are a second grade field trip after all. Maybe that concept is saved for upper elementary or junior high.
Anyway. The students in the audience are eating it up as the characters all dance around the stage and their lights go on and off for the next ten minutes.
The football-playing rats toss the pigskin back and forth with Marvin as an indication that he is now accepted in to their social circle.
Marvin still is nerdy. He still wears way-too-big glasses – no tape in the middle though. And he still carries too many books.
But none of that takes away from the fact that he brought back the cheese.
Reach Amy Armstrong via email at: email@example.com
Learn more about Lightwire Theater at its website: www.lightwiretheater.com.
Purchase tickets for Friday night’s performance at: tickets.centertix.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=1955