Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Theater review: Diary of a Worm, a Spider, & a Fly at Dallas Children’s Theater
A show every age can thoroughly enjoy.
Either Diary of a Worm, a Spider, & a Fly (presented by Dallas Children's Theater at Rosewood Center through June 3) is not a kids' show, or I'm a kid! (My wife assures me that the latter is true.) What a treat this show is! Opening night welcomed us with creatures from the Dallas Zoo, including a very big snake and a very serious owl. A purple cow wandered the lobby and provided snacks and purple ice cream, topped with "dirt" and gummy worms at intermission.
As we enter the theater, we are immediately engaged by videoed mimes who are presenting insect facts on two large screens. Coming out from the stage are set pieces of leftovers (meals for the insects, I assume) and a large book with more insect facts. From the start, this looks like it will be a learning experience -- but is handled in a delightful way.
Let's start with the book and music. What a wonderfully imaginative handling of a few children's books, weaving them into a single cohesive piece. Educational information sneaks up on you while you are being highly entertained. The songs are up tempo and foot-tapping. And, unlike some children's shows, the production doesn't talk down to its audience. Maybe that's why us adults have such a good time, too. Adam Wright's musical direction and Jeremy Dumont's choreography are treats to our ears and eyes.
A good script in the hands of a fine director is much of the success of any show. Director Bob Hess tackles this one with a caring hand, keeping it zipping along without losing what it's about. And what it is about is differences, tolerance, self acceptance, friendship, and the importance of every individual. But, as with the educational content, the messages sneak up on you. This is not a preachy play. And the style and content are so well handled that the young (and older) audience stay glued to the stage.
This show boasts a stellar cast. Clinton Greenspan's Worm is sure to appeal to those in the audience who will identify with his feelings of being useless and, hopefully, will identify with his epiphany. As Director Hess says, he goes from feeling insignificant to vital. Clinton plays Worm sympathetically without getting bogged down in a pity party. Adam Garst's Spider is impressively athletic as he jumps around on his web. I have to think that at least some of his bounding is the result of good coaching on the part of Stunt Specialist, Fanny Kerwich. But Adam has to do the work. And what a strong performance it is to help us see a spider's "coming of age!" For this reviewer, the stand out performance goes to Lindsay Gee as the Fly. Which of us hasn't imagined ourselves as a super hero? Lindsay belongs up there with The Avengers! When a child plays super hero, he or she isn't pretending – they are the super hero! Lindsay brings that same child-like believability to Fly Girl and we love her and cheer for her!
Every story cast needs all those other characters that "glue" it together and this show has some wonderful supporting characters. Alexandra Valle as the Butterfly who has to get back to Mexico, Akron Watson as the Ant who can lift more than he weighs -- almost, and Amber Nicole Guest as the teacher, Mrs. McBee, all keep the enthusiasm and fun alive. And, of course, BJ Cleveland in a number of roles continues to remind us that he is a delightful one-man band.
Lyle Hutchon's costumes leave me a bit flat. In a show so bright and fun, they seem dull. Randel Wright's scenery looks like it is fun to run around on, but I can't help admiring how fast the cast gets from one level to another from backstage. And what a feat for Garst's Spider to negotiate that gigantic web! Finally, Linda Blase's lighting, mixed with slides and video, adds to the excitement.
Diary of a Worm, a Spider, & a Fly is a show every age can thoroughly enjoy and even come away with facts you didn't know about our insect neighbors.
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