Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review of The Elephant and the Whale at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show, and it was called The Elephant and the Whale.  It was about a whale (Becky Poole) and an elephant (Kasey Foster ) who were best friends.  But the whale lived in the water and the elephant lived on land.  So it was hard for them to get to know each other until the whale, when they were baling out water to give to Quigley (Kurt Brocker) for his mermaid show, got in with the rest of the water.  He needed 1000 gallons of water.  That's a lot of water!  And there used to be this very nice family who all of them were in the circus: there was ma (Becky Poole), the narrator (David Caitlin), and the Elephant and the gorilla.  At one point in the show, they said they had been performing for 49 years.  That means they would have to be 60 or 70 years old because they couldn't have started it when they were born!  They are too old and want to retire, but then Quigley comes along and says sell me that Elephant!  They have to because they only have 1 dollar and some cents.  This show is trying to say be kind to animals--not cruel like Quigley is.  It is trying to say, be kind and make new friends.

When I go to this theater they always give me giant program, which I think is really cool; I can understand why they are so big.  There is like an entire activity book in there.  That means you'll remember this experience even more; when you save the program, you'll see what you did with the activities.  When I went, there was a school group there.  So, if you are with a school group, remember that the school group is just happy to be out of school and they just want to be kind of noisy.  This is supposed to be an audience-participation show, but they kind of audience-participated too much sometimes.  I think the actors handled this kind of behavior by just going along with it.  I think that is a good idea because then people won't feel bad.

In the opening scene they put money in a machine, and the music comes on, and they start bouncing at the same time because they are having fun.  And then they start telling the story about who they are.  One of my favorite props in the show was a four-seated bike.  There was one in the front, and the narrator threw off the other guy so he had to sit in the back.  I have only seen a three-seated bike.  There are some pictures in the middle that tell the story by pictures scrolling across this kind of screen. I thought that it was a cool idea to have those pictures scrolling, and it was pedal operated.  I thought that was really cool.

In this play there are a bunch of puppets.  I think they could have done it without puppets, but puppets make it seem more realistic because they can't just have somebody grow a trunk suddenly or grow fifty feet tall.  The puppets look more like an elephant than a human wearing a trunk and ears and a blue suit and a tail would.  They could show the feelings of these characters with these puppets because they had slides of different kinds of eyes.  The movement can show the feelings too: by Ella putting down her head, by the whale flipping up its tail.

The projections I thought were really really cool because you can do a giant sperm whale going through downtown Chicago on a projection but not as well on a stage.  I thought some of the projections were funny like when Ella is running so fast and so stompily that it actually made Quigley go back and forth on his bike and he couldn't jump this ditch.  And then when they showed a close-up of him, his eyes were rolling around like so fast.  I thought that the hot dog cart was really funny because you saw it in a previous scene and then you just saw it floating underwater.

I reviewed a few Redmoon shows in my life--that is how I recognized that the projections and the puppets were by Redmoon.  Just so you know,  I have not tricked you or anything.  It is Chicago Children's Theatre and Redmoon doing a show together.  You know you are looking at a Redmoon production when you see the projection having a lot to do with the plot and not just being there for no particular reason.  They like to use lots of different kinds of puppets, but mostly they like to use giant flat puppets.

I thought that the music was really awesome.  The music was by Kevin O'Donnell.  I liked the music because at the beginning they all began bouncing up and down and the music was like bump-ah bump-ah bump-ah bah.  It was like a circus theme, and it made me feel like I was in a circus.  One of my favorite songs was where the elephant and the whale were singing together.  At the beginning the elephant was saying la la la la la la .  And it was just las and you couldn't understand what she was saying, but a little bit later they changed it so you could.  Once they translate the elephant you can understand what the whale is saying because she is repeating back what he is saying.  They use a saw to make the sound of the whale.  I know that sounds weird; they aren't going to just wave the saw in the air.  That would make a clang.  They have to make it sound like just murmurs.  They do that with a saw and a violin bow.  So they put the violin bow on the saw and they cut off the sharp part of the saw.  By bending the metal of the saw, they make different kinds of notes.  And it did sound a lot like a whale, and I thought them using a saw was a really great idea.  I have seen Becky Poole play the saw before, and she is really good.

People who would like this show are people who like circuses, family, and whale language. I think this show should be for ages 1 and up because I think that babies would really enjoy the humor and the audience participation and would be really happy.   I really want to take my baby cousin Zoe to the show because I think that she would like being squirted by the whale which happens in the show.  It is real water!  People should go see this show because it is funny, great for the whole family, and for some kids they learn something new about some animals.

Photos: Charles Osgood

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