Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Emerald City)

     
     

Sanitized Wonka underestimates child’s intellect

     
     

Willie Wonka in Emerald City's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the Apollo Theatre Chicago

  
Emerald City Theatre presents
  
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  
Written by Richard R. George
From fantasy by
Roald Dahl
Directed by
Ernie Nolan
at
Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
through May 8  |  tickets: $13-$16  |  more info

Reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I get it. This is children’s theater, and for the 3-and-up group at that. However, the Emerald City adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory seems derived from much more recent sources such as ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘The Jersey Shore’. The timeless story from Roald Dahl has held the imaginations of a few generations. It’s about adventure and getting past the bad times with the help of family values. Dahl’s fantasy has a grim undertone that has now been given the cleaned up Grimm treatment.

Violet and Willy Wonka in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' by Emerald City Theatre Chicago.Some blame Walt Disney, but at least his Big Bad Wolf had dripping fangs. This “Charlie” felt like it was put together without much creativity. Let’s start with the characterizations.

Willy Wonka is portrayed as a Rip Taylor rip-off. (Google him) This Wonka didn’t throw confetti but his manic mugging and preening doesn’t get the overwhelmingly under-five crowd revved up at all. (Perhaps he should have run through the audience like Taylor, throwing confetti or copped the punk wig style.) The character of Willy Wonka is more mysterious and even sinister when played by either Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp. Some may say ‘don’t frighten the children’ – but we all survived the green-faced evil queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”.

The character of Augustus Gloop becomes a derivative of the SNL Schwarzennegger spoof called ‘Hans and Franz’. The tots didn’t get it and the parents were too busy trying to get them to watch this drivel to connect with the joke either. Veruca Salt is a cell phone-toting brat with a dog in her purse. Calling Paris Hilton! The Character of Mike Teavee is portrayed as an insolent youth obsessed with video games. It was more ripped from the headlines of spree crimes than an updated portrayal. Violet B. is a weird incarnation of the insufferable ‘Snooki’ zeitgeist from reality television.

As a parent and an aunt I was disappointed in the adaptation. This has either the aroma of someone who says, “I don’t watch television” or it’s just lazy writing. I include in the lazy category the sets and the Oompa Loompas. They were portrayed by finger puppets on a stick and then hinge jawed Muppet look-alikes (fyi: the hinge-jawed things were the most inspired part of this show.)

I have seen better at Emerald City with the productions of Pinkalicious (our review ★★★½) and Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus! (review ★★½). These shows used the well-known tagline ‘Discover a World of Pure Imagination’, but the creative team didn’t really put much of that slogan into this show.

I suspect that children are smarter and more imaginative than this. Generations have survived fairy tales from Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson without lingering damage. This antiseptic approach to a similarly dark fantasy is doing a disservice to the tot set. I graduated from the illustration heavy tot books when my mom took me to see “Peter Pan” some 47 years ago. An imaginative production at a children’s theater made me want to read more or have it read to me and, yes, it tweaked my imagination.

  
  
Rating: ★★
  
  

Charlie's father, Willie Wonka and Charlie in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' at Emerald City Theatre Chicago.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory runs about one hour without intermission. The show run is through August 15th of 2011. Go to www.emeraldcitytheatre.com for times and dates. With the long run, EC might make some improvements (or at least build some more Oompa Loompas). In the meantime, I suggest reading the Roald Dahl book (even abridged and illustration heavy!) to your children first and then ask what they have to say.

  
  

REVIEW: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Emerald City)

  
  

Having fun while learning the importance of responsibility

  
  

From left to right: Daiva Bhandari as Duckling, Bret Beaudry as Bus Driver, and James Zoccoli as Pigeon.

  
Emerald City Theatre presents
   
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  
From the books by Mo Willems
Adapted by
Ernie Nolan 
Directed by
Jacqueline Stone
at
Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
thru April 10  |  tickets: $13-$16   |  more info

To be clear, I am way past the age of three and above which is the recommended age for Emerald City Theatre’s Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!. However, there are always lessons to be learned about sharing, responsibility, and respect no matter one’s age. Ernie Nolan adapts this production from the popular ‘Pigeon’ books by Mo Willems. They include: “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog”, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late”, “Pigeon Wants a Puppy”, as well as “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!”

It is a colorful and stimulating hour or so of entertainment for children. The set is a beautiful rendering of a city park that looks just like a children’s book. The music consists of fun lyrics set to familiar tunes like the “Can-Can” and Bizet’s Carmen.

"Can I PLEASE drive the Bus?" From left to right: Daiva Bhandari as Duckling, James Zoccoli as Pigeon, and Bret Beaudry as Bus Driver.Bret Beaudry plays the role of Bus Driver. His character is the moral consciousness and adult figure in the play. Beaudry lights up in this role. He is adept at playing for laughs and not condescending to the kids. Beaudry has a wonderful energy, especially in the game show segment when he dons a sparkly jacket and obnoxious bow tie.

Bus Driver is a well-drawn caricature and plays well off of the character of Duckling, played by Daiva Bhandari. Duckling is anthropomorphized as a human/animal hybrid but quite believable. Ms. Bhandari is delightful in a hyper-real yellow bob and tutu. Her character represents the good kid and great example.

It’s fun and educational to see Duckling win the game show by being prepared and responsible. The lesson was given without the hammer fist of good kid vs. bad kid.

James Anthony Zoccoli plays the role of Pigeon, and his character is the classic kid with ADHD. Pigeon is all over the place, wanting his way and pouting about never getting his way (insert wah-wah music here). Zoccoli is costumed in everyday baggy khakis, hoodie, and a baseball cap. I’m not sure why Pigeon wasn’t more outrageously attired or given more colorful accessories. Might it be that the costumer was making a statement about how common pigeons are in an urban setting-therefore the hip-hop attire?  It felt like Pigeon didn’t have some class privileges and was excluded. Whatever the reason, I found Pigeon more difficult to relate to from my inner child’s vision. Mr. Zoccoli is funny and good at relating the need for better behavior to kids but didn’t embody the same childlike zany energy coming from him. It was as if an adult had been dropped into the scene that had carte blanche to act like a kid.

Jacqueline Stone is the director for Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!. She does a good job of matching the pace with a child’s attention span. The different vignettes are reminiscent of a day in Pee-Wee Herman’s Playhouse: the scene of the giant puppy is a funny lesson in being careful what you ask for, as surely you will get it; the hot dog story was a great lesson in sharing. A general motif is created whereby the pigeon is basically manipulated or tricked into doing the right thing. I would have liked to see Pigeon happy about a lesson learned versus being miffed.

James Zoccoli as Pigeon is not so sure he wants a puppy anymore.

In paying attention to the kid’s reactions in the audience, it’s obvious that kids are very observant; it’s not easy to put something over on them. Kids will call you out on obvious stuff like it’s Duckling under the giant puppy head. It’s odd – kids will suspend reality for a human duck hybrid, but then spot the barely-visible bright yellow costume in a dual role as puppy.

Keep in mind that some children will be afraid having story books come to life. One little girl behind me was freaked out for most of the first half hour. She was crying to get out of there and I understood. I was the kid who had nightmares about Garfield Goose taking me away in a shopping cart. You never really know what is in a child’s mind.

Emerald City always has fun activities and props for the kids. Duckling was on hand before the show to put ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions (sticker dots) on paper hot dogs. The characters are available for pictures and autographs after the show as well. I recommend this show for kids 3 and up who have read the “Pigeon” series. It’s a fun and smart way to introduce theater to very young children. (It was also a great way to resolve my Garfield Goose issues!)

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus! runs through April 10th, 2011 at the Apollo Theater located at 2540 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Go to emeraldcitytheatre.com for more information on Emerald City and the wonderful programs for early childhood education through theatre. The playbill has some fun stuff in it for parents and children to share as well.

From left to right: Bret Beaudry as Bus Driver, James Zoccoli as Pigeon, and Daiva Bhandari as Duckling.

Extra Credit

  
  

REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz (Emerald City Theatre)

     
     

Learning to love the things you’ve had all along

     
     

Wizard of Oz - Emerald City Theatre

   
Emerald City Theatre presents
   
The Wizard of Oz
   
Written by L. Frank Baum, Adapted by John Kane
Music/Lyrics by
Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg
Directed by
Ernie Nolan
at
Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
Through Jan 2  |  tickets: $13-$16  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

I love children’s theater because the audience’s limited attention span forces wild, fearless performances from the actors as they try to hold the concentration of both children and parents. Emerald City Theatre is one of the city’s premier children’s theater companies, and their holiday production of The Wizard of Oz incorporates audience interaction and puppetry to create a visually exciting production that understands the actor/child dynamic. The actors give unbridled performances that keep the momentum moving briskly, and while they might not be the strongest in term of technique, they make up for it by having so much fun in their characters.

Molly Tower as Glinda the Good Witch - Emerald City TheatreEmerald City’s production High School Musical­-izes Arlen and Harburg’s score with a rhythm section and guitars, but the songs never lose their classic appeal. Karle’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is a rousing number that captures Dorothy’s desire to find a world outside the dreariness of the Kansas countryside, and the actress’s effortless belt gets the show off to a great start. In Oz, Dorothy is greeted by Glinda’s (a hilariously irreverent Molly Tower) angelic soprano, accompanied by the denizens of Munchkinland.

As she makes her way to the Emerald City, Dorothy encounters new faces, including Scarecrow (Bret Beaudry), who serves as a major source of physical comedy throughout the show. Tinman (James Nedrud) is cleverly portrayed as an Elvis-like crooner and carries a guitar for an axe, appropriate for the Million Dollar Quartet housing Apollo Theater, and Nedrud has a smooth vocal quality that is perfect for the character. The only one of Dorothy’s new friends that struggles is Lion (Shea Coffman), and the difficulty of the character’s music isn’t helped by the ornaments Coffman adds to almost every sustained note.

Using puppets for the munchkins is hilarious and efficient, and the low-budget shortcuts that Emerald City takes contribute to much of the show’s charm. Kevin Beltz’s economical set unfolds Dorothy’s house to reveal walls with turning panels to signify location, all located in the walls of Dorothy’s home that unfolds during the storm. It’s a great effect that also saves a lot of money on scenery. Despite not being the most technically astounding or polished production, the show’s simplicity and dedicated ensemble make Dorothy’s journey through Oz easy for kids to enjoy while still entertaining for adults.

If I only had a heart by Emerald City Theatre Company Find Her! - The Wicked Witch by Emerald City Theatre Company
If I only had a brain! by Emerald City Theatre Company The Wicked Witch of the West by Emerald City Theatre Company When I am king of the forest by Emerald City Theatre Company

It is surprising how well Baum’s classic story works in a holiday setting, as the storm that whisks Dorothy away, in this production, occurs just before Christmas. Maybe it’s the combination of red and green that comes from ruby slippers – adorably reimagined as glistening ankle-boots – and the Emerald City. More likely, the connection comes from how well Baum taps into the holiday spirit of giving thanks, and taking pleasure in the company of people that will always be there for you. The important part of the holidays isn’t the presents you get, but learning to love the things you’ve had all along.

   
  
Rating: ★★★
   
  

Off to see the Wizard

        
        

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REVIEW: Pinkalicious (Emerald City Theatre)

Think Pink!

 

 Pinkalicious 9.18.2010 1

   
Emerald City Theatre presents
 
Pinkalicious   
  
Book/lyrics by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann
Music & additional lyrics by
John Gregor
Directed by
Ernie Nolan
at
Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
through January 3  |  tickets: $13-$16  |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Sometimes there is such a thing as too much of a good thing – as Pinkalicious Pinkterton learns in the Midwest premiere of Pinkalicious, the musical story of a young girl who gets Pinktitis from eating one too many pink cupcakes.

Emerald City Theatre’s production of Pinkalicious, based on the popular children’s book by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, brings children’s fantasy to life with its set design by Ernie Nolan. The stage is full of bright, vivid colors in hues of pinks, lime Pinkalicious 9.18.2010 2 greens, baby blues and yellows. The kid-friendly set boasts over the top scenery with giant pink glittery flowers, background houses decorated in musical scores and cupcakes everywhere. It’s certainly attention-grabbing, and the children in the audience were fascinated as they explored the set before the show began.

Pinkalicious opens on the Pinkerton family. Each cast member is automatically outgoing and bursting with energy. Pinkalicious (Lara Mainier) makes pink cupcakes with her mom, Mrs. Pinketeron (Rachel Klippel) and her brother, Peter (Shea Coffman). She wants to eat more and more but her mom and dad (Patrick Byrnes) says no, explaining why in the song “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset.” Mainier is bright and bubbly with a wonderful childlike demeanor. When she breaks out in to song, however, it seems as though some of the music is out of her vocal range and she loses the strength in her singing voice. Coffman’s Peter is a strong presence on stage and he’s a riot to watch.

The next morning Pinkalicious wakes up to discover she has turned pink from head to toe. Not know what else to do, her parents rush her to see Dr. Wink (Julia P. Gordon) who diagnoses the problem as Pinktitis. Pinkalicious is overjoyed at her condition but her parents worry. Dr. Wink informs them that the only cure is eating green foods, explained in the catchy song dance number, “Pinktitis.” Where the singing tends fall flat, the dancing shines. Highly entertaining dance numbers are well choreographed by Nolan and it’s hard not to smile while watching. The singing, on the other hand, is sometimes compromised for characterization and movement, and a little stronger diction could help audience members understand the lyrics.

John Gregor’s music throughout Pinkalicious varies in styles like pop, jazz and blues, but all the numbers are upbeat and amusing. Peter sings a bluesy number, “Pink Blues,” that allows Coffman to really show off his vocal talent. It’s clear he’s the strongest signing voice in the cast as he makes this number his own.

Pinkalicious 9.18.2010 3 Pinkalicious 9.18.2010 5

Pinkalicious at first refuses to eat anything green, but after her condition worsens and she turns from pink to red she decides it’s time to be brave and sings “Green Food,” an adorable song about eating her greens. Pinkalicious is not only an entertaining show, but it also sends a good message to the children in the audience about the importance of eating healthy.

The whole cast offers quality, fully-embraced characterization that they push far enough out to create exaggerated, engaging characters that keep the children’s attention for the entire one-hour show time. Pinkalicious even allows for the children to interact with the performers, answering questions and allowing them to become a part of the magic. The show flows along well and never drags because they cast keeps their energy levels high throughout.

Pinkalicious proves to be a whirlwind of fun and fantasy that’s perfect for kids (and kids at heart) of all ages. It’s impossible not to leave with a smile on your face and your step – if not pinker – then just a little bit lighter.

   
 
Rating: ★★★½   
   
   

Pinkalicious plays at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., through December 31. Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for children and can be purchased through Emerald City’s Web site or by calling 773-935-6100.

Pinkalicious 9.18.2010 4

     
     

Emerald City Theatre announces 2010-11 season

Emerald City 15th Anniversary Logo

Emerald City marks 15th Anniversary

with exciting new season

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

 

Emerald City Theatre Artistic and Executive Director Karen Cardarelli has announced the company’s 2010-2011 season lineup of family theater, which marks the organization’s 15th anniversary season and includes two beloved classic productions and two Chicago premieres.

The season commences with the Midwest premiere of Pinkalicious, direct from a sold out run Off Broadway

Emerald City celebrates the holiday season with a new take on an old favorite-a rocked out version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.

2011 begins with a bang as Emerald City Theatre presents the world premiere of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, based on the Caldecott Award-winning books by Mo Willems. This brand new adaptation by Associate Artistic Director Ernie Nolan marks the company’s 28th world premiere production and continues the work of The PlayGround, formed in 2008 and dedicated to the development of world-class scripts for early learners.  Since its inception, Emerald City original scripts have been produced at 17 theatre companies nationwide. Most recently, Co-Founder and Artistic Associate Alyn Cardarelli‘s hit How I Became a Pirate was produced at Imagination Stage in Washington D.C, Dallas Children’s Theatre, and Stages Theatre in Minneapolis.

The 2011 Season ends on a delicious note with Roald Dahl’s beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Ernie Nolan. 


 

September 18 – December 31, 2010

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Pinkalicious

Book: Elizabeth Kann & Victoria Kann
Music/Lyrics: John Gregor
Lyrics: Elizabeth Kann & Victoria Kann

Based on the book "Pinkalicious" by Victoria & Elizabeth Kann
Directed by Ernie Nolan

The season commences with the Midwest premiere of Pinkalicious, direct from a sold out run Off Broadway.

When Pinkalicious Pinkerton eats one too many pink cupcakes, she catches a serious case of Pinkititis and turns pink from head to toe!  To cure her condition, Pinkalicious’ organic-eating parents and broccoli-loving little brother must teach her the importance of a balanced diet. A Midwest premier, directed by Associate Artistic Director Ernie Nolan, this heartwarming musical’s Gateway Theme of healthy eating is sure to strike a chord among parents and picky eaters alike. Families are invited to hear the original story, make pink crafts and enjoy pink treats at Pinkalicious’ Cupcake Tea Parties, special events beginning in late September.     Recommended for ages 3+.


November 18, 2010 – January 2, 2011

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryThe Wizard of Oz

 

By L. Frank Baum
Music/Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg
Adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company by by John Kane
Directed/Choreographed by Ernie Nolan.

When Dorothy Gale and her beloved dog Toto are swept away to a land somewhere over the rainbow, they discover the true meaning of home. In this rocked out version of the classic story, you’ll hear favorites like "If I Only Had a Brain" and "Follow the Yellow Brick Road." Bring your munchkins to Oz this holiday season for one of the most memorable stories ever created Recommended for ages 3+

 


 

January 15, 2011 – April 10, 2011

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

World Premiere!

From the Books by Mo Willems
Adapted by Ernie Nolan
Directed by Jacqueline Stone

Based on Mo Willems’ Caldecott-winning favorite, this highly interactive play puts the audience in the driver’s seat as everybody’s favorite pigeon asks to drive the bus, eat a hot dog, have a puppy, and stay up late.  It’s up to you to decide what he can do.  You’ve never met a pigeon like this before!  Recommended for ages 3+

 

 


 

February 12, 2011 – May 8, 2011

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Richard R. George
From the fantasy by Roald Dahl
Directed by Ernie Nolan

Mysterious Willy Wonka is opening the gates to his coveted and curious chocolate factory- and only five children will be let inside! When good-hearted dreamer Charlie Bucket unwraps his lucky golden ticket, he and his grandfather are whisked away into a world of pure imagination. A tasty treat for the entire family!  Recommended for ages 3+

 

 

 


About the PlayGround

The PlayGround is Emerald City’s formal new works process, created in 2008 and lead by Associate Artistic Director Ernie Nolan. The PlayGround manages the selection of concepts for adaptation, organizes the internal creative input and produces table and staged readings. Additionally, it researches the needs of young audiences and how those needs can be supported through theater.

"Emerald City Theatre has become one of Chicago’s largest Gateways to the Arts for young children," says Associate Artistic Director Ernie Nolan. "Understanding the difference between how a 4-year old learns from a play and how a 10-year old learns takes a lot of time and research. The PlayGround frames the work we have been doing to combine the understanding of our audience with the work our artists are creating."

       
         

Emerald City 15th Anniversary Logo

         
         

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REVIEW: Peter Pan (Emerald City Theatre)

Tinkerbell’s pixie-dust works its magic on rollicking production

 peterpan01

Emerald City Theatre presents:

Peter Pan

Based on the character created by J.M. Barrie
Book and lyrics by Alyn Cardarelli
Music by Steve Goers
Directed by Matthew Gunnels
Thru July 22nd at
Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln (more info)

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Disney, Depp, Dustin, Duncan, the legend of Peter Pan has been retold and reimagined on stage and screen for over a century. This time its Emerald City Theatre’s adaptation as they present the world premiere of Peter Pan. Based on the character created by J.M. Barrie, Emerald City has created an energetic and colorful musical of the infamous boy who didn’t want to grow up. This version focuses on Wendy’s rite of passage. Mr. and Mrs. Darling want Wendy to move out of her childhood nursery and put on a big girl’s dress. Wendy wants to play! Cue the Pan. Peter arrives to whisk her away. He takes her to Neverland, a magical island where lost boys, pirates, Indians and a crocodile duel it out daily in the ultimate never ending game. Emerald City’s Peter Pan is a fun family pleaser with comedy and sentimentality that reaches the child in all of us.

In my Peter Pan encounters, I’ve never rooted for the pirates. Until now! Aside from trying to stab and poison people, Captain Hook (Michael Kingston) and Smee (Zev Steinberg ) are likable guys. Steve Goer‘s “Pirates with a Plan” song is a standout number with Kingston and Steinberg’s comedic antics. In particular, Steinberg is acrobatic in his movement throughout the play. His fight with Jamila Turner (Tiger Lilly) has a thrilling physicality. And Turner shifts gears perfectly in her dual roles as a strong, independent princess warrior and the empathetic maternal Mrs. Darling. Michael Rieman (Tootles) and Caleb Probst (Slightly) are hilarious as the lost boys and later in drag as the mermaids. Allison Lind (Wendy) is wonderful playing a girl playing a mother in a pretend world. With a permanent angelic smile, Ryotaro Shigeta (Peter) exudes a youthful arrogance and sense of fun. He is definitely “The Pan.”

Sprinkling the pixie dust on his talented ensemble, Matthew Gunnels directs a briskly paced sixty minute adventure. The choreography (Ernie Nolan ) is bursts of activity in the lively chases and fighting. The costumes (Branimira Ivanova ) are childlike fun. Peter and the lost boys wear lively patchwork outfits that fit a child’s imaginative style; the mermaids are in vibrant wigs and tails swimming on rollers. This Peter Pan production is all about special touches that add to its entertainment value. Special props to the prop master (Jenny Pinson). Hook has multiple versions of his prosthetic hand, including a toothbrush. One of my favorite moments is the glasses, umbrella and teddy bear used in the very satisfying ending. It was a nod out to the Disney version of “Peter Pan” which made me a little misty for my own childhood bedroom. Emerald City’s Peter Pan magically transports you back to Neverland. Whether it’s for the first-time or a return visit, the voyage is a fun trip!

Rating: ★★★½

Running time: Sixty minutes with no intermission. Parking lot available for earlier arrivals. This play is suitable for families with children ages 3 to 12 years .

EXTRA CREDIT:

REVIEW: The True Story of the 3 Pigs (Emerald City Theatre)

Hamming it up for the over 5 set!

3pigs

Emerald City Theatre presents:

The True Story of the Three Pigs

By Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Adapted by Alyn Cardarelli
Directed by Ernie Nolan
Thru March 25th (ticket info)

By Katy Walsh

Joe Goldammer (little pig) with Ruby Aufmann The media investigates a double ham-icide. Emerald City Theatre presents The True Story of the Three Pigs. The play starts where the three pigs fairytale ends. Two pigs are dead. The wolf is in jail. Random Adjective, a reporter, has been assigned to examine the evidence. The audience is invited to accompany her as greenhorn reporters. Her investigation leads to interviews with the surviving pig, Red Riding Hood, and the wolf. The True Story of the Three Pigs is an interactive play that teaches children that there are many sides to a story and to always cover your mouth when you sneeze.

Joe Goldammer uses distinctive voices to play multiple roles: a high pitch squeak for the surviving pig, garble growls for nana wolf, and portrays Red Riding Hood as a German research expert on wolves. Although entertaining for adults, Goldammer’s best comedic moments may be lost on the little ones. Samantha Nicodemus plays Random Adjective as a fast talking reporter from the 1940’s. Nicodemus does a great job of keeping the kids connected to what’s happening by reviewing the evidence after each interview. Matt Olson is the Big Bad Wolf or Alexander T. Wolf. In two of the crime reenactments, Olson is the stereotyped Big Bad Wolf. However, when Alexander T. Wolf gets to tell his version of the story, he is a vulnerable, misunderstood wolf with allergies. Ernie Nolan  directs the action and keeps the cast animated with exaggerated gestures to elicit giggles.

pigs2It’s obvious upon entering the Apollo Theatre that Emerald City Theatre loves kids! They keep the 60-minute show interactive. Kids volunteer to come up on stage to verify huff puff results or model reporter moxie. After each interview, the audience members (i.e., greenhorn reporters) are invited to ask questions and assess the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, when, where, why and how). The repetitive nature of the reenactments help the younger audience members follow the story. Emerald City also adds to the children’s theatrical experience by providing coordinating gifts and games, pre-show pig-snout-making activity and post-show autographs with the cast. The kids even decide one of three endings. Applause determines what the newspaper headline will be. (for the opening performance the greenhorn reporters voted that the wolf was actually innocent)

The show promotes its target audience as 3-8 years old. Observing the children in the audience, a 5 years-or-over rating seems more realistic. Newspaper reporter, ham on a platter, German scientist – the story has some complicated elements to follow. Although the cast has colorful costumes (Ernie Nolan), the minimal scenery isn’t visually exciting. Unable to follow the story and without colorful stimulation, the pre-schoolers may become victim to the paparazzi. They don’t care about the truth! They want the three pigs fairytale.

Rating: ★★★

Helpful links:

3LittlePigs-Emerald

Matt Olson as the Big Bad Wolf (aka Alexander T. Wolf) greets greenhorn reporters Max and Ruby after the performance.


Creative team includes: Nic Jones (lighting), Joe Court (sound), Jenny Pinson (props), Joshua Lansing (technical director) and Scott Deter (stage manager)