Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review of The Selfish Giant produced by Blair Thomas & Co. at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Selfish Giant. It was created by Blair Thomas and Michael Smith based on the story by Oscar Wilde. The puppet designer was Jesse Mooney-Bullock and the puppeteer is Sam Deutsch. Michael Smith also did the music, wrote it and played it. It was about a Giant who lived in a garden and a bunch of children had wandered into his garden while he was gone and he got very angry. It is about sharing, kindness, and how not to judge a book by its cover. I think that this is a very fun show because it uses a bunch of elements of theater that are some of my favorites: music, puppets, and adaptations of books that don't leave much out. I really really liked this show. I think it is fun for adults and for the whole family. And for kids who have never seen many plays before, it introduces them to a bunch of genres of plays all in this one play; it is a musical, a comedy, a puppet show, and it has a very bittersweet ending.

I really liked the music. I thought it was childlike but still adults could like it and it would get stuck in their head. One of my favorite songs was the one about Old Man Winter. He sort of reminded me of the Polar Vortex, like he stayed for way too long in the Giant's garden. I liked the song because it was very catchy and it was kind of a chilly blues song. There was a line that went something like, "I'll come on down to the Giant's garden and freeze it all up with snow" because there were no children there. So, I guess he had kind of a kind heart because he didn't just want to freeze up children's homes, but still they were sad because they had no place to play. Another song that I got stuck in my head is one the Giant sings about "Why should I share? I'm a giant, I can do whatever I want." He says, "What? Share? Who? Me?" and he sort of had a little bit of a squeak that made the Giant's voice distinct from the others and it made it funny! I think it was cool how the person who did all the music also did all the voices and the puppeteer was kind of like Harold Lloyd in a silent movie; he communicated with motions and facial expressions.

The puppets I thought were amazing looking. They looked like actual people. Like the Giant had wrinkles on his face and the children had almost completely smooth faces and yarny and all-done-up hair. I think that the Giant was really awesome because he was basically like a Big-Bird type puppet where someone gets into the puppet and moves around in it so they look like something that they are not-- like a puppet Halloween costume. My favorite thing about the huge puppet was how realistic his hands and his face looked. Old Man Winter was very cool and also the three other seasons. Old Man Winter had a very pointy, evil-looking beard. The other seasons basically looked like Greek gods and goddesses and had an element from each season on their heads or their outfits. Fall reminded me of Hephaestus because of his outfit and how he seemed like a hardworking man who could do blacksmithing everyday. One puppeteer managed to make the three season puppets move their mouths at the time they were supposed to be talking. He probably had to memorize the order because sometimes they were basically arguing with each other very very quickly.

The adaptation of this was very cool and fun because they didn't leave anything super important out and they didn't add anything in that didn't have to do with the story. I liked all the references to Chicago and those weren't in the original, but still it was a very fun reference to have. It made the story feel all the more personal. The puppets reminded me of how they described the characters in the story. The story was not very funny, but they made it funny because Oscar Wilde was famous for writing funny plays. And I thought that that wasn't just changing the story. I thought it was paying Oscar Wilde homage. Another thing I liked about the show was the use of the bird song. In the book they talk a lot about birds, but they never really have the birds have a say in anything. In the show the birds have a bird song with these beautiful bird puppets.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome puppets, catchy music, and giants. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is such a beautiful, artistic piece, and I really loved it!

Photos: Joe Mazza

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