April 2009 Archives
So today I have a new feature for the blog. I've decided to
write reviews of the children's theatre shows we take Ollie to see. This is a
review of the original musical "The Story" as performed at ACT
ACT Children's theatre is theatre for and performed by children. "The Story" is a full length musical using metatheatricality, literary theory, and outmoded and alarming gender politics. The play is set up with a framing device of a Story Teller, who was written as a man and is played by a rather sarcastic older girl in an unflattering costume. While I get the sense that in a few years she'd be really fun to hang with at a bar, she had no charisma on stage and looked as though she were sneering at the proceedings of the play. But, can you blame her after all of the characters (all sixty of them) sang and danced on stage pointing at her and declaring, "She's the man!" over and over? There's nothing a young teenage girl likes better than to be called mannish.
The Story Teller is tired of telling stories and so takes on an apprentice. An adorable moppet with a lisp and no ability to remember his lines. They begin a story about a Goat Herder named Gus and a woman named Mona Moneybags with a lot of daughters all given money related names (Nickel, Goldie, etc), except for the youngest, Ernestine. At this point in wafts Inspiration, a tall lithe blonde in a Blue Fairyesque floor length dress and minimal make-up. She is perky and upbeat and loves everybody. She calls us "beautiful creatures" throughout. Given the lack of plot to this point, the audience should be happy when Conflict rushes on, alongside her minions including Woe and Discord who are dressed in sort of Spanish Matador costumes. In contrast to the demurely and conventionally attractive Inspiration, Conflict has been decked out as a whore, in an unflattering tight red satin dress that ends above her knee and a truly astonishing amount of blush. The story, as it develops, is that Mona Moneybags first born was Gus the Goat Herder, who was caught in a violent gust of wind and whooshed off to Goat Island. He comes to the city looking for his mother and his fortune with only a locket with her picture in it to guide him.
Mona Moneybags, I should add, was by far the best performer in the show. She managed to project sadness and concern for her children, a gravitas that belies her 12(?) years of life. She had a lovely singing voice. I hope that she keeps performing.
I don't remember the rest of the myriad of plot complications and confusions except for a couple of highlights. One is that there is an entire number built around the notion that every single day Mona's children (as the wealthiest children in the world) get a pair of new shoes and that this occasions a dance number about how all women love shoes more than anything. And at some point Mona's children began sneaking out at night through a conveniently located secret passage and that Gus the Goat Herder saves the day by physically pushing them with his shepherd’s crook back home. A truly disturbing act of male policing of women's freedom and sexuality through physical force.
The highlights of the show were Mona Moneybags, Narrators 1 and 2 (who rebel against the stupidity of their roles and wear awesome hats), and the girl who looked EXACTLY like the kid in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants who dies of cancer. Well, not her so much as figuring out why I thought I must know her.
Ollie watched with rapt attention throughout. However, though I was told on the phone the show would be appropriate for small children, I have no doubt he followed almost none of the plot or story and had no idea what was going on. Luckily the kids sang and danced with enthusiasm, for the most part, and the costumes were colorful and fun (I also particularly admired a very well cut and sewn green dress one of Mona's daughters was wearing. If a mom or dad made that, they did a really good job). He was also very into making sure he followed the cues of the audience. I got the giggles really badly when one of the boys in the show, dressed as a detective, said completely woodenly, "Your daughter does not appear to be here right now." It reminded me of all the parodies of CSI I've seen and I think he needed to whip off his sunglasses for the full effect. After a second Ollie got very upset and declared "That not funny! Stop laughing Mama!" And when I couldn't, he insisted on sitting with Eric, he was just that mad at me.
All in all I would say that the kids did a great job, by and large, with some of course better and more charismatic than others, but all seemed to be having a good time. As I indicate in my review, largely I was caught up in my horror at the script and costuming choices and how unfortunate the depictions of women were.