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: Into the Woods

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 8, 2017
  • directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
  • music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I have a checkered history with Sondheim’s Into the Woods. I came to the show very late. I listened to the recording and was not overly impressed. I saw an amateur production and left even less enthralled. Then I saw the 2014 Disney movie and was blown away. I saw the story for what it was (and could be), and I fell in love.

And my kids? Even more so. At 4 and 6, they absolutely adored the film, and we went to see it multiple times in the theater. And when she was 5, my daughter had the opportunity to solo Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now,” so the show has become a family favorite.

Obviously, it was with much excitement that we went to the Kennedy Center to check out Fiasco Theater’s “experimental” production of the musical, which had an acclaimed Broadway run and is in town for the holidays.

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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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OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist

Oliverio

OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through February 21, 2016
  • directed by Juliette Carrillo
  • book and lyrics by Karen Zacarías
  • music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
  • Roar Score: 4/5

My 6-year-old daughter is suddenly a huge fan of musical theater. She’s constantly asking us to play the cast recordings for Wicked, Matilda, and Les Miserables, and she recently came home raving about a local performance of Oliver! It was therefore with great interest that we learned of the Kennedy Center’s newest offering in their Theater for Young Audiences series: a musical retelling of Charles Dickens’s Oliver set in Brazil.

Our excitement only amplified when we learned that the music was by Deborah Wicks La Puma, the woman responsible for the music in the charming Elephant & Piggie’s We Are In a Play!

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Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

Elephant

Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 3, 2016
  • directed by Jerry Whiddon
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We are huge fans of Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie books in this house. If you’re not already familiar with these characters, do yourself a favor and go correct that oversight immediately – especially if you have kids who love fun and being silly. I mean, there are 24 of them now; you really have no excuse.

Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie are best friends and have somewhat opposite personalities. Gerald is careful and quiet. Piggie is spirited and energetic. But they’re the bestest of best friends, and each book is a shining example of how children’s books can tackle themes such as friendship, cooperation, fear, and forgiveness with playfulness and charm.

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