Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review of Chicago Children's Theatre's The Hundred Dresses

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Hundred Dresses. It was adapted by Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills from the book by Eleanor Estes. It was directed by Sean Graney. It was about a girl named Wanda Petronski (Emily Berman) who moved to the States from Poland with her father (Matt Kahler). Her classmates, led by the queen bee Peggy (Erin O'Shea), taunt her and make fun of her accent, her name, and her hundred dresses that she says she has, even though she only seems to have one. Maddie (Christine Bunuan) thinks making fun of her is wrong, but she doesn't want to become a loser, so she makes fun of her too. It is about bullying, the value of kindness, and second chances.

I really liked how they had a live band and beautiful costumes (by Samantha C. Jones). Different characters would go into the band section and they would play the songs that they weren't in, and then they would run back and continue the play. But they would also sometimes play in the scenes. I found it very Hypocritical--like The Mikado or Pirates of Penzance--that is Hypocritical in the best way possible. That might be because it has the same director! I think how much you can be immersed in it by being able to sit on the stage and see the live band is an experience that is great for to kids to have. The costumes are also beautifully designed, and each of the dresses was unique. I kind of wanted to wear all of them. It shows you that the bullies value beauty a lot more than kindness. I don't value beauty more than kindness, but they sure were nice dresses. In the end, Wanda connects with them the only way she knows how and that is through dresses.

My favorite song was one that Peggy sang and it was about the drawing contest at her school. She hoped she was going to win and she knew she was going to win. But if you have ever read the story, she should have knocked on wood. I thought that it was super catchy and even though it wasn't a good message, Peggy can sure belt out a tune and so can Maddie. It is important to the show because it shows how winning is so important to Peggy. And eventually, when she doesn't get everything she wants, you understand better how she is crushed. And in this song you also see Maddie try to confess that she thinks what Peggy is doing is wrong, but then of course she gets scared and it shows you how hard it is for her. This is actually a pretty deep kids' play.

One of my favorite characters, Ms. Mason (Danielle Davis), reminded me of me if I were a teacher: a pretty good teacher until somebody really gets on her nerves. Ms. Mason had one moment where Peggy was being snotty and she kind of snapped, but still with a smile on her face, which was really funny. I really liked Maddie. I thought she was a really well-developed character. Even though she had her flaws, I still loved her. I also really liked Wanda. She was the victim here, which is not always an insanely interesting character, but she still made a really good decision at the end: to be generous even though people had been mean to her. That gives her more power. Being mean will just make bullies want to be meaner, so that will never stop. It could just not work to be nice, but it is good to try to be nice first because you could convince them to stop being mean to you. She was not just nice though. She gave them the thing that she was being bullied about, which is a pretty great comeback. It helps the bullies see their errors and helps her move on.

People who would like this show are people who like live bands, drawing contests, and agitated teachers. I thought this was a really fun show. I think kids and parents should go see it. It is a very powerful kids' show and I really liked it.

Photos: Charles Osgood

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