BWW Reviews: PETITE ROUGE: Cajun Little Red Brings Fun, Gumbo to All Ages
Between ABC's "Once Upon a Time" and Disney's recent rash of reimagined fairy tale movies, the Aurora and Synchronicity Theatres co-production of the New Orleans-based Little Red Riding Hood musical "Petite Rouge," seems as current as any other children's show playing in Atlanta this spring. However, the hour-long musical, playing through April 21st at the Horizon Theatre, plays more like the cartoon comedies "Shrek" and "Hoodwinked!" than the darker Disney dramas. With an exceptionally talented cast and sharp direction and choreography by Justin Anderson and Lori Werner respectively, "Petite Rouge" is an appealing way for a family with young children to spend an afternoon or evening (To read the Broadway World Atlanta feature with the "Petite Rouge" director and members of the cast discussing the show, click here).
This show, now in its third incarnation with Synchornicity, is based on the children's book of the same name by Mike Artell and Jim Harris. With book, music, and lyrics by Joan Cushing, "Petite Rouge" is a rapid-fire musical that will leave even the most hyperactive youngster exhausted. Dialogue is delivered with break-neck speed by an extremely talented cast.
Renita James plays Petite Rouge, a young duckling yearning to explore beyond her overprotective mother's reach. When Petite's Grand-mère falls ill with a nasty case of the flu, the precocious duck convinces her mother to let her take Grand-mère a batch of the extra hot gumbo (and cornbread) that she loves. Petite's mother concedes, but only if the cautious cat TeJean (Alex B. West) will accompany her and make sure that they don't stray from the path. Needless to say, they do eventually stray. However, as the pair explores the bayou, they don't run into a big, bad wolf, but instead meet Claude, the Gator (Brian Harrison), a chef to rival even Emeril Lagasse, who happens to have a craving for duck.
While even the youngest of audience members knows where this story is bound to go, much of the show's best moments come along the way in watching the ensemble of three multi-talented actors bounce between different characters along Petite's path. Taryn Janelle plays Mother Duck, amongst others; Jessica DeMaria shines as Grand-mère, et. al.; and Michael Stiggers sings and dances up a storm as Frog and countless more. The trio sings and speaks with numerous accents, dances nearly non-stop, and has more quick changes than you could count.
Despite the familiar fairy tale fun, there are moments that aren't as sharp as the show's choreography. At times Harrison's Cajun dialect made him hard to understand and unfortunately sections of dialogue and singing were either a little too loud or fast to comprehend. The Cajun-inspired songs come early and often, and while they are up-beat, catchy, and incredibly well-sung, discerning musical theatre fans might not be able to differentiate one from another. However, each song is slickly produced, often with slapstick stylized movement.
At the performance I attended, the audience was made up of a multi-cultural mix of young and old alike; and based on the reaction of the children (and some adults) when given the chance to interact with the cast after the show, age didn't play a factor in the audience's level of enjoyment.
To get your tickets to the Aurora and Synchronicity co-production of "Petite Rouge" playing at the Horizon Theatre through April 21st, call 404-484-8636 or visit their website.