Monday, June 24, 2013
Theater review: DCT hams it up in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
The production has just returned from its block-busting national tour.
EAST DALLAS It's summertime in Texas, y’all, which means a heap of happenings: The kiddos are out of school, families are traveling, the days are longer, and oh yeah, it’s kind of hot outside. The summer months also typically bring us the brightest and best gems of musical theater.
The local equity houses have poured their hearts and souls (not to mention their budgets) into productions of The Music Man, Singin’ in the Rain, City of Angels, Songs for a New World, and an impressive list of other shows that will keep us cool and entertained during this season of 110% humidity. In like fashion, Dallas Children’s Theater brought home their “slop buster” national tour of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
There is always an extra special buzz on opening night, but Dallas Children’s Theater took this premise to a new level, including free Sprinkles cupcakes after the show. Beforehand the theater lobby was atwitter with various activities such as making your own pig ears and a painted plywood cut out just in case you wanted a photo with your head on the body of one of the three little pigs. Did I mention there were cupcakes after the show?
While waiting for the lights to dim and the bevy of energetic patrons (most between the ages of five and ten) to get comfortable in their seats, the screens on either side of the main stage looped a series of slides that listed facts about the production’s national tour, namely that the seven-month voyage landed in sixty cities in twenty eight states. To put that kind of traveling into perspective, I’ve been to twenty-two states...but it took me forty years. With some houses boasting over 1,000 seats, we’re talking huge exposure for this show and its troupe of actors. What a fantastic experience!
Though music and lyrics were written for the show by its creators, DCT chose to enlist the help of Composer S-Ankh Rasa for the original songs that appear in this particular production.
With the words “Piggsylvanian”, “Cheeseburgers” and “Blame-osity” in the song titles, the music definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The lyrics may be simplistic when compared to other pieces of musical theater, but Mr. Rasa – just like DCT as a whole – kept his audience in mind.
At the beginning of the show, Randel Wright’s set depicted the exterior of the Supreme Pork, the courthouse in which the Big Bad Wolf’s trial is being held. The entrance to the court flipped around shortly after the first scene to become the judge’s bench, while another section of the exterior turned around to reveal the jury panel. The entire structure was painted in bright earth tones of clay, peach and brown, and textured to resemble marble. The effect was impressive as sections of the set were offset at nearly forty-five degree angles. The wonky perspective was interesting to my eye and seemed wholly appropriate for a children’s show (think Alice and her journey down the rabbit hole).
The most festive portion of the set, however, was the area occupied by the show’s stellar ensemble, The Pig Jury. Designed by Mr. Wright and fabricated by Russ Arnett, these twelve petite porky puppets were varying shades of pink and flesh, some female and some male, all with different accessories such as scarves and neck ties.
It was delightful watching them come to life in the background. As with the jury, all of the other puppets used in the show were well fashioned and beautifully animated by their puppeteers (most cast members doubled as puppeteers at one point or another).
Laurie Land’s costumes were imaginative, given the only setting was a courtroom and the actors had…tails. She utilized bright colors to augment otherwise blah wardrobe pieces, which managed to mark the characters firmly in their respective professions but also added a bit of whimsy. For example, the prosecuting swine...I mean, attorney...wore a gray business suit with hot pink accents and shoes.
Both lighting and sound design were on point. The set was placed between center and down stage, so Linda Blase’s upstage lights helped to brighten and transition dialogue, as well as add splashes of blue and green behind the faux marble courtroom façade. The music cues were seamless, and there were no microphone or balancing issues.
Having seen Ivan Jones in several other shows around town, I know his dancing to be top notch. I was disappointed to see his talent was underutilized in this production though he was able to show off his funny bone more so in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs than in some of his previous dance-only work. Regardless, his bright smile and his lanky presence brought life to the character of Rocky, the courtroom bailiff.
Isaac Lee Littlejohn wore several hats and wigs during this show, and the accents and personae he chose for each of his characters were entertaining. I was most impressed with his vocals during “The Pointy, Pointy Maneuver of Blame-Osity” in which he portrays the victims’ elderly neighbor, Martha.
The foregone conclusion of this story lies in our predisposition to believe Alexander T. Wolf guilty without hearing his side of the story. I mean, he huffed and puffed and blew the houses in...right? The assumption of guilt was driven home by Shelley Ohmes’ Julia, the aforementioned prosecutor with the hot pink shoes. Ohmes’ portrayal was very Nancy Grace in its dogged determination to prove the Wolf guilty, as showcased in her song, “The Case for the Prosecution.”
Angela Horn’s depiction of eager beaver journalist Lillian Magill was earnest and lively. Her body language and expressive eyes played well to the audience as most of her discourse happened beyond the fourth wall. Each sentence was punctuated with an affectation, however, that was hard to ignore: Ms. Horn added a little “uh” sound to the last word of each sentence. I can’t say whether it was a direction from K. Doug Miller or an acting choice she believed would emphasize her role as a reporter but it was definitely distracting.
To some degree the same was true with Samantha Parrish’s Judge Prudence. I noted the same slight affectation in her line delivery though only a quarter as often as Ms. Horn and never to the point of distraction. Maybe it just worked with the Judge’s nasal bearing, copper ringlets and cherubic pink cheeks. Ms. Parrish’s musical theater-loving character was a joy to watch and hers was decidedly the most energetic performance on opening night. Her notes were bright and clear as she delivered the tour de pork vocal performance of this production.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs offers two possible endings, both hinged on the audience’s verdict of guilt or innocence for Alexander T. Wolf. Ryan Page hammed up his portrayal of the accused so that both endings were completely plausible.
He wore an unthreatening ensemble of khaki and argyle, replete with a bow tie and spectacles. Our audience bought into his neighborly, professorial demeanor and found him not guilty; I mean, who commits cold-blooded murder whilst sporting argyle?
As ever, DCT delivers a wonderful theater experience for its legion of loyal admirers. Which fate will your audience select for Alexander T. Wolf? Get your tickets now so your voice can be heard.
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