BWW Review: ODD SQUAD: LIVE! in Stamford
Odd Squad: LIVE! made of its first of 60 plus stops on its 2016-2017 national tour in Stamford at The Palace Theatre on October 6. The musical production is an exciting supplement to the Emmy Award-winning PBS Kids series, which premiered in 2014.
It helps enormously to be familiar with the television show to better understand the stage show. (An Odd Squad movie was aired on PBS Kids last year to offer another dimension of the show.) Here is the précis: A kid-run organization operates as a detective agency to solve problems using math (shapes, patterns, coding, strategy, etc.). And almost every character's name begins with the letter O.
Here are some ways that Odd Squad: LIVE! differ from the show and movie. There are only two agents - Oleanna and Orion - who are turned into adults and are fighting three new villains: Lady Terrible, The Gardner, and Father Time. The stage production, written by the Emmy-winning television series writers Tim McKeon, Adam Peltzman and Mark De Angelis, also features original music by Paul Buckley as well as lots and lots of gadgets. Most significantly, the show is interactive, with performers walking in the aisles and working the audience. It's Ms. O of Odd Squad: LIVE! getting kids in the audience to come up on stage and help solve the problem.
Give it an A+ for the concept, but only an B+ for execution. The Palace Theatre is a small enough to be an intimate venue, but most of the audience members were picked from the rather narrow side sections instead of more evenly from all sections of the first level. The series is supposed to be for children aged four through eight, but entire families, even with toddlers, came to see Odd Squad: LIVE! As a mother of two boys aged nearly five and nine and a half, I don't think the show is for younger kids, although it could be with some changes because math is a big feature of preschool. (Really. Two, three, and four-year-old toddlers not only count, but learn shapes, patterns, and sequencing so they can learn math concepts such as integers, arrays, and Venn diagrams by the third grade. (This critic never heard of these until after high school.) Merchandising is a big part of many shows, especially ones for kids. Few parents can say no to their children when it comes to buying things for their kids at a show, museum, or amusement park. But shame on the person who designed the Odd Squad badge in ceramic because guess what? They break once they're dropped onto a tile floor. Didn't that person ever hear about plastic? Finally, there were changes to the show before the program was printed, but it would have been nice to include an insert with the current cast and crew. The final suggestion is for theatres to try to arrange for performances during school hours and encouraging field trips. It gives many kids a great introduction to the theatre and this show, in particular, is as engaging a math lesson as there will probably ever be. Just sayin'.
On a side note, it is particularly fitting that Odd Squad: LIVE! should make an early stop in Stamford. As everyone knows Common Core State Standards, which focus on STEM skills, kicked in across the nation's schools shortly before Odd Squad made its television debut. Stamford Public Schools former superintendent, Joshua Starr, standardized the city's schools' curriculum years before Common Core started.
Visit www.oddsquadlive.com to find out tour dates in a city near you.