BWW Review: THREE PIGS at Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre
On Saturday, January 11, I had the pleasure of seeing THREE PIGS at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT. This was an excellent start to a new decade of theatrical experiences! The stellar cast brings their A game to this Chris Gensur adaptation of this classic children's tale.
Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre stage star Andrea Pane who is consistently phenomenal on stage furthermore excels as the director of this show, as well as in his acting performance as the Big Bad Wolf. This is one of Andrea Pane's finest roles ever, truly becoming this very different character from those he has previously played, furthermore showing his stellar acting versatility. Between the costuming and the way he makes his voice gruffer for this show, there are times when I even forgot that it was Andrea Pane playing the role. I can reassure parents who might be concerned that the Big Bad Wolf can be a scary character for their young ones, that they need not fear about this singing and dancing wolf who deliberately comes across as very human and entertaining. When the Big Bad Wolf breaks the fourth wall from the stage, and when he makes an entrance through the audience, none of the children seemed scared. Furthermore, the fact that young children were happy to get their pictures taken with him, after the show, proves that he will not terrify your children the way certain traditional cartoon adaptations of this character might.
Kaylin Weller who has now become a regular star of the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre continues to shine in this show, as a first-rate actress, singer, and choreographer. With every leading role she performs, Kaylin Weller continues to emerge as one of the absolute best stage actresses I have seen in the far over one hundred shows that I have reviewed. Her role in this show is the central protagonist, Jenna, the kind-hearted, free-thinking, vegetarian daughter of the Big Bad Wolf. Kaylin Weller brings enthusiasm and feeling to this role of Jenna, a character unique to this adaptation. Her stage chemistry with Andrea Pane is very strong, helping both cast members sell their roles and the dynamics between them. Her singing is highlighted both by her leading vocals on parts of the ensemble number, Little Richard's "Keep A' Knockin'," and also on an amazing performance of a song called, "Freak the Freak Out," which I must admit I did not previously know, but researched that it is originally by someone named Victoria Justice. After listening online to that Victoria Justice original, in my opinion, Kaylin Weller sings it better, giving it more of a 1980s vibe. We also see Kaylin Weller's strong ability to show a deliberate lack of enthusiasm, consistent with her character's attitude during Andrea Pane's excellent performance of "Food Glorious Food," from Oliver!
Kaylin Weller also shows strong stage chemistry with Myles Lee, another first-rate actor who we can consistently depend on for great performances. He plays the role of Bacon, the youngest of the three pigs, the one who builds his house out of sticks. Bacon looks up to his two older brothers, and wants to be just like both of them, even though they are both completely different from each other. This is a well written and well performed character, providing plenty of comic relief, as well as a heart-warming sensitivity towards the feelings of those who may feel constantly berated, undermined, or dehumanized over what others perceive as "special" needs, showing how there truly is no politically correct or morally correct way to perceive, describe, or treat anyone as being in any way less than a full-fledged human being of inherently equal value and dignity, a very important and well-delivered message. When Bacon first encounters Jenna, he is afraid of her on the grounds that she is a wolf, he is a pig, and wolves eat pigs. Jenna reassures Bacon, however, that she is a vegetarian and that "You've Got a Friend in Me," a nice duet, originally from Toy Story. This also sends the very positive message that just because someone is (insert physical, biological, or cultural description here), he or she is not therefore automatically (insert negative personality-based stereotype here). That is a message that many adults need to hear, so it is wonderful to see it being communicated to children.
Zach Fontanez sells every line and expression in his role of the entertaining character Porky, the slothful pig who builds his house out of straw. He shows great stage chemistry with Jason Parry who brings a fine performance to the role of Hammie, the scientific experimenting pig who builds his house of bricks. The Mama of the pigs is performed by Karen Hanley who gives a convincing performance in this role that is also unique to this adaptation.
"Wild Wild Life" by the Talking Heads is included among the songs, as well as instrumental references to Sergei Prokofiev's "The Wolf," from Peter and the Wolf and the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home." Peter Rabbit is also referenced in the dialogue.
In addition to the aforementioned positive messages of perceiving, describing, and treating all people with inherently equal human dignity, and not thinking in negative stereotypes, several other morally and socially positive messages are conveyed through this show. This show can help inspire children to realize that they do not need to repeat, conform to, or let their lives revolve around the poor choices that their parents and further ancestors may have made. Children who are born into cultures of abuse, addiction, womanizing, theft, or murder can be inspired to have the courage to think freely and break that destructive cycle, demonstrated in this show by Jenna's courage in standing up to the Big Bad Wolf, insisting that she doesn't have to be a pig eater like him and his ancestors. Another positive message sent, which runs deeper than the surface message of eating vegetables, is that being open-minded enough to try something positive (food or otherwise) that you automatically previously decided to reject, without just cause, can actually lead to a wonderful new discovery. Finally, the message of forgiveness is extolled, showing love and kindness even to one's enemies, in a way that helps transform their hearts, but not in a way that enables them to victimize you.
I highly recommend THREE PIGS, which is scheduled to continue to run at the Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre in Bridgeport, CT (same location as the mainstage theatre), through Sunday, February 9, 2020. For times and tickets, please go to https://dtcab.com/show/three-pigs/ and remember to eat your greens!