Monday, February 3, 2014

Goodnight Moon—NW Children’s Theatre—NW Portland

The Living Room

This young person’s, sign-interpreted, musical is based on the book by Margaret Wise Brown and adapted for the stage by Chad Henry.  Direction is by Melody Bridges, musical direction by Corbin Wescott and choreography by Sarah Jane Hardy (NWCT’s Artistic Director).  It will be playing at its location at 1819 NW Everett St. through March 2nd.  For more information contact them at or call 503-222-4480.

The Great Green Room from the stories is truly alive.  The bed and its cover, the clock, the playhouse, the flame in the fireplace, the cushy phone, the clock, the red balloon, the light, toys, et. al. are wondrously animated in Bunny’s (Henry Martin) bedroom.  Although it may be slight on story, it is bursting with imagination.  And the set (Jeff Seats) and costumes (Mary Rochon) are super!  They should be considered part of the cast, as they all have personalities of their own.

The story concerns Bunny and one night in his bedroom before going to sleep.  (Or is this all a dream of his, simply coming to life?)  In his world, his mother (Annie Willis), attempts to sing a lullaby to get her son to sleep.  But his active imagination seems to be at odds with that idea (as it usually is with young children).  Even his friend, Mouse (Annika Cutler), is unable to help, so instead, joins in the fun.

He loses a tooth, so is visited by the Tooth Fairy (Sam Burns), who sounds eerily like someone out of a gangster movie.  He also is visited by three bears (Sophie MacKay, Conner Reed and Lindsay Spear), who comes across like remnants from a disheveled circus.  And there is also the problem of Clarabelle, the Cow (again, Sam Burns), attempting to jump over the moon, without success.  Add to this concoction, some star-makers make a visit, and show him how stars are made, which suspiciously looked like blowing soap bubbles (but I can’t complain, as I actually caught one, which quickly burst, of course).

The story does report how important a child’s imagination is in growing up.  It also supports having a positive attitude in life.  “If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.”  It even visits the idea of owning up to mistakes, as opposed to saying that when something was amiss, Nobody did it.  And, especially, stresses the importance of friendship in one’s young years.  It is wonderful, too, that the storyteller onstage (Darya Wasserman), was a sign language performer, which made the show accessible for all audiences.

My favorite songs were Mr. Nobody, Tooth Fairy and Bears With Chairs.  And, as mentioned, the set and costumes were absolutely extraordinary!  NWCT always excels in these aspects of a show.  But, as always, the outstanding part of their musicals is Hardy’s choreography.  She is a wonder with young people, especially in conceiving the dances.  The tap dance number with the bears was a show-stopper!  May Ms. Hardy live long and prosper.  And Bridges’ direction kept the show moving at a brisk pace.  She cast it well and seems to have a clear vision of what it takes to keep the audience entertained.

Sam Burns was outstanding, performing the dual roles of the Tooth Fairy and the Cow.  His Clarabelle had a semblance to a Dana Carvey character, and his “wise guy,” Tooth Fairy, could have come straight off a Sopranos episode.  He’s a wonder!  Willis has a lovely voice as Ma Bunny.  Martin was very animated as her young son, Bunny.  Cutler’s Mouse has a sweet voice.  The trio of the Bears and Star-Makers (MacKay, Reed & Spear) were spot on as the mischievous imps.  And Wasserman, as the Narrator and sign language performer, was a delight, as she was easily incorporated into the story.

A side note, this show was on the “SuperB Owl” Sunday (as some comedians would say) so the audience was small.  This is no reflection on the show, which I recommend.  But wouldn’t it be nice if the Arts were given as much attention from the Media as Sports.  It would probably make a world of difference in audiences and funding.  Just a thought….  If you do go to see this show, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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