Adventure Theatre: Ella Enchanted

  • playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
  • dates: now through March 19, 2017
  • directed by Mary Hall Surface
  • book by Karen Zacarias
  • music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
  • Roar Score: 4/5

It’s been a while since we caught a show at Adventure Theatre. When the kids were younger, shows there were one of our reliable standbys. Unclaimed weekend? Odds are, we found our way to Glen Echo Park for a show at either Adventure Theatre or its neighbor, The Puppet Co.

So it was with some excitement that we recently attended the opening of Adventure Theatre’s newest show: Ella Enchanted.

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Kennedy Center: Bud, Not Buddy

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 15, 2017
  • directed by Clarke Peters
  • script by Kirsten Greenidge
  • music by Terence Blanchard
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel Bud, Not Buddy first slipped onto my radar in 2012. Yes, the book was published in 1999, and it won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000. But it was in 2012 that I saw Curtis speak and read from his book in Chicago at the International Reading Association’s annual conference (now the International Literacy Association).

I was blown away.

So I was incredibly excited to catch the stage adaptation of the book this week at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. With a couple familiar faces in the cast and a full jazz band on stage, the show didn’t disappoint.

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Kennedy Center: Where Words Once Were

wherewordsoncewere

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through November 27, 2016
  • directed by Colin Hovde
  • written by Finegan Kruckemeyer
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We’ve long been fans of “children’s theater,” which is really an unfortunate and unfair category since so many shows that fall under this umbrella are truly phenomenal plays that deserve a wider audience than just children or families with young kids. One of the benefits of living in the DC region is that there’s no shortage of wonderful plays and theaters targeting young audiences.

And the Kennedy Center certainly never fails to deliver. Case in point: the latest production in their Theater for Young Audiences series (which also happens to be a world-premiere Kennedy Center commission), Where Words Once Were.

The show conjures an overcrowded, dystopian city that houses what is presumably the last of humanity after the sea levels rise and cover the world in water. The City, ruled by an authoritarian government straight out of 1984 or Brave New World, has learned to weaponize language.

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Disney’s The Little Mermaid

LittleMermaid

Disney’s The Little Mermaid

  • playing at Olney Theatre Centre (Olney, MD)
  • dates: now through December 28, 2014
  • directed by Mark Waldrop
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Can you believe Disney’s The Little Mermaid is having its 25th anniversary this year? Hard to believe, I know. Ariel is all grown up.

Timed to coincide with this anniversary and capitalize on the perennial appeal of that red-headed mermaid, Olney Theatre Center in Olney, MD (about 45 minutes from both DC and Baltimore) recently launched its performance of the stage version.

Is it ok to use the word splashtastic? Probably not, but I will anyway. This production is very, very good.

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Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol

TinyTim

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol

  • playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
  • dates: now through January 1, 2015
  • directed by Jerry Whiddon
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Christmas is coming. This invariably means performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol are (or soon will be) everywhere. Children’s theater is no exception. I’ll admit that we went into Adventure Theatre’s production of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol expecting it to be a scaled-down, “family-friendly” version of Dickens’s classic story.

Thankfully, we were wrong.

This show is funny—refreshingly, surprisingly funny. It’s not something you really expect out of A Christmas Carol, but the sharp script and fantastic acting combine to present the funniest version of the story you’re likely to see outside of Bill Murray’s Scrooged.

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The Night Fairy

NightFairy_playbill

The Night Fairy

  • playing at Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD)
  • dates: now through October 26, 2014
  • directed by Jeremy Skidmore
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Flory is a Night Fairy who is attacked by a bat. When her wings are damaged in the struggle, she is forced to learn how to survive in the daylight among the other birds and animals in a typical backyard. During her adventures, Flory makes new friends and eventually reconciles with her foe. By the time her wings begin to sprout back, Flory has discovered a renewed sense of creativity, diplomacy, and resilience that she never knew she had.

It’s no secret that we love Imagination Stage. We’ve been to nearly every show since Zoey was old enough to sit still, and her favorite play ever was an Imagination Stage production (Anime Momotaro–which also happens to be the best children’s theater performance I’ve ever seen).

Upon first seeing The Night Fairy poster at a performance of The BFG, Zoey was hooked. She had to see it.

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The BFG

The BFG

The BFG

  • playing at Imagination Stage (Bethesda, MD)
  • dates: now through August 10
  • directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer & Eric J. Van Wyk
  • Roar Score: 5/5

“Words’, he said, ‘is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life. So you must simply try to be patient and stop squibbling. As I am telling you before, I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiff-squiddled around.”

Since my kids were very young, we’ve been fans of children’s theater. Indeed, many of the earliest plays and puppet shows we’ve attended are already out of their memory. With several fantastic theaters in the area, Zoey’s been to more plays in her five years than many people will ever see.

Imagination Stage in Bethesda, MD, consistently puts on some of the best children’s theater in the region. Some of their performances are among the best I’ve ever seen. Their production of Anime Momotaro in 2013 ranks not only as the finest piece of children’s theater I’ve ever seen but also among the best theater I’ve ever seen. Period. (And I’ve seen a lot of Broadway shows.)

Their current show is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, and they’ve got another certifiable winner. Blending traditional theater with larger-than-life puppets is nothing new (even for Imagination Stage, which utilized the approach for Aslan in their production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe), but the giants here are simply captivating.

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