Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Theater review: Pinkalicious The Musical speaks to the inner child
DALLAS I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dallas Children’s Theater has mastered the art of making every visit feel like a homecoming. If you don’t feel welcome and special and included the moment you walk through the front door, it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the theater. My 9-year old Junior Associate Theatre Critic and I have reviewed several shows at DCT and, regardless of the show, we always come away feeling like we’ve been pampered a little bit. In the case of Pinklalicious The Musical, this pampering came by way of a stunning set, strong performances, and a fluid theme that transitioned beautifully from lobby to stage.
Instead of rolling out the red carpet for their 100% VIP audience, DCT rolled out the pink carpet just inside the front door of the facility. There we were greeted by a DCT volunteer sporting a pink shirt, and a stolen glance toward the ceiling melted any doubts I had about the subject matter of the show we were about to see: The lobby was absolutely doused in pink! The ceiling fixtures were wrapped in various sheer pink fabrics, and craft-made pink hearts and stars dangled down from the spaces in between the light fixtures. There were pink T-shirts for sale along with matching tiaras and wands, and I lost count of the number of precious little girls running around in pink tulle skirts. DCT also cleverly tied intermission into the theme of the show by offering pink Sprinkles cupcakes for sale. Cupcakes are never a bad idea.
Upon entering the actual theater, I was first struck by a blaze of hot pink lights. Designed by Aaron Johansen, the pre-show lights were focused on the house and cast a “pinktastic” glow among the audience. The lighting scheme for the actual show was similar in its pinkness and it beautifully supported the action on the stage.
Randel Wright’s set design was magical and obviously inspired from the Pinkalicious book series. The main stage was framed with a series of taut fabric screens that were cut out and painted to resemble different shapes and types of traditional doilies. A giant heart, the perimeter of which lit up during one scene, hung in the center stage space between the screens. The effect was clean and visually balanced. Most of the action took place upstage in the Pinkerton’s kitchen which was hysterically overstated both in color and in architecture. What a fun place to take meals! Similarly, Abram Rankin’s props – especially the culprit pink cupcakes – were overly large and very fun to watch.
Wright also designed the video program that complemented the set by projecting images of singing cupcakes (and other pertinent material) on the main stage as well as on the smaller left and right stages. Rather than detracting from the stationary set pieces, the video projections served to augment the songs and other action on the stage.
Lyle Huchton’s costumes were so expertly matched to the story and to the characters that they were almost set pieces in themselves. The bold blues and yellows and greens were perfectly incorporated and balanced with the star color, pink. Of particular note were Peter’s blue overalls and matching shirt, hat, and shoes, as well as the green bespangled choir robes and millinery pieces during “Green Food.”
Director/Choreographer Nancy Shaeffer and Music Director Vonda K. Bowling did a marvelous job working with their two ensemble casts (this review speaks to the “magenta” youth ensemble) to promote some very talented young ladies. The ensemble consisted of seven beautiful bees, birds, and butterflies that buzzed and bounced around the stage in harmonious movement and sound. It’s always exciting to watch DCT’s commitment to teaching come alive in the form of their students and their performances.
The adult performances weren’t too shabby either. Though her character didn’t spend nearly enough time on stage, Mary McElree’s portrayal of Pinkalicious’ friend Alison was charming and humorous. She emulated a child very well with her swinging ponytail, her bobby socks, and her vocal inflection. Similarly, Grace Neeley’s immense talent was lost in the character of Dr. Wink. Luckily we were graced with Neeley’s lovely singing voice during “Pinkititis,” but I’d hoped to hear more from her throughout the show.
Brandon Wilhelm, in his DCT debut, was a perfect choice to play Pinkalicious’ brother, Peter. He shared what seemed to be a very naturally antagonistic brother/sister dynamic with Pinkalicious, though he maintained a general sweetness that prevented his character from being annoying. I won’t spoil it for you here, but Peter has a secret that’s gradually revealed throughout the show which endears him to the audience even further.
Natalie Weaver’s performance as Mrs. Pinkerton was a nice mix between Donna Reed and the more modern mom from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie series. She utilized a very specific vocal inflection that reminded me of many classic television mamas, though her bright blue leggings, matching shoes and her natural, modern hairstyle helped her to maintain relevance in this show. Weaver’s take on the character was a nice combination of many elements.
Mr. Pinkerton was played by DCT veteran Seth Magill. His approach to the character was very paternal and authoritarian, which played nicely with his stage wife’s character. With the goal of working less and having more fun with his family, Mr. Pinkerton loosens up and reveals quite a secret of his own. Magill had a nice singing voice though the material in the finale seemed slightly out of his vocal comfort zone.
The playbill noted an award for Emily Lockhart for her role as Junie B. Jones in a previous DCT production. Combined with her portrayal of this show’s title character, suffice it to say that Lockhart was experienced and comfortable playing children. As Pinkalicious, she charmed with a precocious and youthful exuberance that she maintained throughout the performance. To say Lockhart was high-energy would be a gross understatement, but that energy was perfectly suited to her character.
All in all it was a “pinkeriffic” day at the theater. The costumes, scenic ,and lighting design set the bar for a delightful cast to tell their story. As ever, I was impressed with the overall production value and professionalism at Dallas Children’s Theater. Oh, and did I mention they served cupcakes at intermission?
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