BWW Review: ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE'S, WE ARE IN A PLAY - Delightfully Brings Beloved Books To Life
ZACH Theatre's production of ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE'S, WE ARE IN A PLAY delightfully brings characters from the popular early reader's book series by Mo Willems to life.
The book series, starring best friends, Gerald the elephant and Piggie the pig was first published in 2007. Since then the books have become wildly popular among the kindergarten and first grade crowd and have grown to 25 books in total. The musical with book and lyrics by Mo Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma made its debut in 2013. Willems brings his characters to the stage in a musical that includes scenes from several of his stories. Gerald (David Peña) and Piggie (Amanda Clifton), along as their friends the Squirrelles (Megan Richards Wright, Jessica O'Brien and Kelly Petlin) tell of the challenges that sometimes come with friendship. Do I wait for my friend so we can share an ice cream cone? What do I do when my friend breaks my new toy? And most importantly, what do I wear to a party? All these questions are answered with adorable songs, outstanding dance numbers and of course, the love the characters have for each other. Children's theatre is sometimes sappy, pedantic and hard for an adult to sit through, but this production is the opposite, it is not only charming and engaging for children it is a pure delight for everyone to watch.
I had the opportunity to attend the show with my 9 year old granddaughter, who is a huge fan of the Elephant and Piggie book series, she read them all in first grade. Her absolute joy in the performance was enough for me to fully endorse it, but I enjoyed every moment and found myself grinning for the entire hour and 15 minutes. Director and choreographer Abe Reybold has assembled a stellar cast and has put the full force of his talent to work making it exceptional from beginning to end. Peña is sweet and endearing as the ever anxious title pachyderm. He infuses Gerald with an awkwardness that is absolutely irresistible. As the title pig, Clifton glows with an inner light that makes the audience fall in love with her on her first entrance. The Greek-like chorus of the show is the Squirrelles; they bring cohesion to the different stories and provide advice as well as a few show stopping songs. Wright, O'Brien and Petlin are perfect in their sync and sass. Costumes designed by Christina Montgomery are downright cute; they are brilliant in their detail and celebrate childhood whimsy. The set designed by Brandon M. Newton is playful and holds a few wonderful surprises in its functionality. Every child in the audience was glued to their seats in rapt attention, a credit to the show and its performers given the age range of those in attendance. In addition the cast was available in the lobby after the show for photos with the kids and a hug or two. The entire production is bright, shiny, well done and evokes that warm fuzzy feeling that children's theatre should achieve but too often doesn't.
I give my highest recommendation to ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE'S, WE ARE IN A PLAY for excellent entertainment for the entire family. My granddaughter gives her enthusiastic recommendation as well, "I got to meet my favorite characters! Best day ever!" I think that says it all.
Photos by Kirk Tuck
ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE'S, WE ARE IN A PLAY
Book and lyrics by Mo Willems
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
ZACH Theatre, Kleberg Theatre
February 17-April 30, 2017
Sensory-Friendly Performance: Saturday, March 4, 2017 @ 2pm
Sign-Interpreted Performance: Saturday, March 4, 2017 @ 2pm
Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.
Tickets: $16 - $21, zachtheatre.org