Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The One and Only Ivan. The original book was by Katherine Applegate and it was adapted by James E. Grote. It was directed by Dorothy Milne. I really think that this was a great adaptation and The One and Only Ivan is one of my favorite books, so I'm glad they didn't mess it up! The story is about this gorilla named Ivan (Christian Castro) who is put in a shopping mall for visitors to come and look at. But then he didn't have any other gorillas to be friends with and he just lived in a cage. There is an elephant named Stella (Allison Cain) who is a very learned old elephant and she wants Ivan to be happy. Ivan also has a friend who is a dog named Bob (Rick Smith) who was a stray and didn't work in the shopping mall and who is the comic relief. And there is a baby elephant named Ruby (Tiffany Oglesby) who was sent there and she doesn't really know anything and she is scared. So Stella asks Ivan to promise her that he will help Ruby get to a better place. The rest of the story is all about Ivan trying to get Ruby to a better place. I think that it is good to have a show for kids that faces actual problems that are happening in the world right now instead of just making it all happy happy fun time. This show is funny, sad, and bittersweet.
I think that Ivan is an amazing character. He is so sweet and adorable, but then he is a good protector, so you shouldn't mess with him. I really loved how the actor used his body (movement consultant, Kristina Fluty) to make himself look like a gorilla. But he wasn't making fun of how gorillas move because that would have thrown off the whole tone of the story. I loved when he got angry and jumped down to help Ruby. You got to know Ivan very well throughout the course of the show, and I loved the first chapter of the book, how it starts, and I'm glad they kept that in. When you watch him saying "I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It is not as easy as it looks" it makes it even more sad, especially if you read the book, because you know what is coming. But it is not only sad because it is kind of funny because there is a gorilla who is trying to write a book or, in the play, there is a gorilla who is trying to narrate a big story. One of my favorite Ivan moments was when he was painting and how he made a bunch of pictures of bananas. And then he is like, "I shall paint…another banana" like he is just the most dignified artist ever. I thought that was great and hilarious. I think that he really is an artist. I think that what makes an artist is if somebody makes art and shows it to other people, then that is an artist.
I thought it was awesome how Bob was played by the same person who played Mac because even though they are such different characters they still have some things in common. Like they both have a hard life and they both love Ivan. And they both love eating food, I think! You don't hate Mac, even though he abuses the animals, because he thinks he is doing the right thing. But he can never make me think that by hitting a animal you are doing the right thing. George (Tom Jansson) and Julia (Oglesby) are father and daughter. They both love the animals a lot and they are a great case of humans who love animals. Julia reminds me a lot of me because I love art and I would like to have a gorilla for a friend! And I would name a dog Bob, too! I think that their father-daughter relationship is very strong. I really liked how George would do anything for his daughter, even though they have a hard life. Even when he thinks he might lose his job for doing the right thing, he still does it for Julia.
People who would like this show are people who like gorilla best friends, elephants with human spirits, and adorable Bob dogs. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is best for kids 4 and up because they can understand the issues. And I think adults would also like this because it is not all about kids' stuff. I thought it was very touching but also very funny. I absolutely loved it!
Photos: Suzanne Plunkett