Friday, October 24, 2014

Review of Frederick at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Frederick. It was adapted from the book by Leo Lionni by Suzanne Miller and directed by Stuart Carden. The songs were by Sarah Durkee and Paul Jacobs. It was about a mouse named Frederick (Richard Juarez) and he had friends who he lived with named Sunny (Emily Casey), Nellie (Sophia Grimm), Ernest (Shawn Pfautsch) and Baby (Christine Bunuan). Winter was coming and they had to get their supplies together for winter. But then winter came early, so they were in big trouble. And Frederick sees everything a different way than everybody else because he sees every single thing is beautiful and he appreciates nature and art. And the mice learn that he is not being lazy and selfish, that he is actually collecting memories and beautiful things he sees for the darkest hours. I thought this was an amazing production and I had a lot of fun. It is even fun for adults. And I think a little kid would also have fun at this. It is for all ages.

I thought that Baby was an amazing character. She was funny and the actress made her seem like a baby but didn't make fun of small children. I liked it when she woke up and then she kept trying to go back to sleep and then they played a loud note and she jumped up and started playing tambourine on her toes. It was just really adorable. I also liked how when Baby was listening to everyone's stories (they became super sad and never turned out well) she just started crying and then the next person would try and nobody's story worked except for Frederick's. I loved how Baby's face went from really happy to super super sad when the story changed. I also loved the storytellers and how they seemed like they wanted to tell this super sweet story, but then they never could.

I thought that the scenes with Ernest were super funny because he made everything into an equation basically. And my favorite of those scenes was when he was presenting his giant machine. Then the machine started moving and I just thought that was amazing. I'd never seen something that elaborate in a children's show. I thought that the song "Bells & Whistles" was really fun. It was different in that it was way more up-tempo than most of the other songs. It made it seem like there was hope. It was about something that could save them from starvation, so that was hopeful. I found the song very uplifting. And when everything started moving you just felt so amazed.

Sunny and Nellie were the optimist and the pessimist. Nellie was the pessimist and Sunny was the optimist; she made it seem like everything would be sunny. I liked the song, "No One Feels Like Chatting"; it was bluesy and you usually don't hear blues-like songs in a kids' show. Nellie sang it and it was about how they've been together so long they don't have anything to talk about. I liked that in that song she said, "we've run out of joy" because the next song was basically about how there's no such thing as running out of joy. And Frederick and all of the mice sing that. It shows that Nellie starts out being the pessimistic mouse but then she realizes that you can run out of food, you can run out of water, but you can never run out of joy. Sunny is like the perfect mouse because she has always liked Frederick and has always thought he was collecting stuff that was valuable. Sunny brings all the peace and she is also a strong and hearty worker.

Frederick is the hero of the story because he is the one who is most artistic and he is misunderstood by almost everyone because they think he is lazing around while everybody else does all the work. This character shows us how everyone should be accepted in the community for the work do and doing it well, even if it is not the same kind of work that you do. I think the playwright and Leo Leonni understood what it was like to be Frederick, to have your closest friends and family not realize what you were doing when you were doing your own artistic work. When the other mice were coming to rescue him and then when they find him, he is shivering, but he is shivering like a mouse, with his hands down trying to warm his tail. I thought that showed the work they'd done acting like mice, but not acting like mice too much.

I thought it was cool to have the music director, Nicholas Davio, on stage playing guitar and piano and all these different instruments in the background. Then he would puppet butterflies and bees and you could see him and it was kind of like a mouse who made the world beautiful by putting wonderful creatures and music in it.

I really liked the set (designed by John Musial) because the background looked exactly like it looks in the book. And it could be any sort of place. It could be inside or outside. I loved the flower because it looked just like the flower in the book. I loved the huge corn. I thought it looked very realistic and like it would be very hard to carry for a mouse. And the puppets I thought were amazing. (Props and puppets were by Meredith Miller.) I loved the giant butterfly and I thought the scene with the bee was really funny. I thought all the costumes (by Rachel Healy) looked like mice, but still had the person aspect to it. They had tails but they didn't have giant ears. It was a good idea because it didn't make the actors look too much like mice, like in a mouse mask. My favorite costume piece was the hat with little ear-holes on top for the baby's ear-buns.

People who would like this show are people who like poetry, awesome machines, and baby mice playing tambourines. I think that people should definitely go and see this show. It is super funny, the music is great, and the acting is awesome.

Photos: Charles Osgood

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