BWW Review: THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW at Dallas Children's Theater
Dallas audiences are among the first to experience the world of 75 larger-than-life puppets in the critically acclaimed production of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW. Within 55 minutes you'll explore the beautiful worlds of author Eric Carle's books The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Under the direction of Douglass Burks, founding member and Master Puppeteer with Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts, four talented actors bring to life characters previously admired only as Carle's iconic collage and watercolor illustrations.
The sold-out matinee performance I attended had an energy that only children can muster. "Generations of children have grown up enjoying these stories, and now being able to see them come to life in a compelling way on stage through puppetry is such an honor," explained Doug Burks, director. Burks' direction propelled the show with such fluidity and motion that every moment was new and captivating. It was puppeteering at it's finest!
Props and puppets traded hands so frequently that it became a marvel to watch the actors interact and move in sync. No part of the stage was ever untouched by scenery or actor, which always kept you wondering what would appear next. Every prop seemed to have been taken and magnified straight out of Carle's storybooks. The consistency in color and attention to detail by Josh Smith was not only aesthetically pleasing but also reminded of the first time I turned the pages of Carle's books.
Through the duration of the show, the ensemble of actors wore all white t-shirts and overalls that magnified each color the puppets brought to the stage. The brilliant choice of simple, uniform costuming, made by Samantha Porter, proved that the storytelling lay within the movement of the actors and puppets. Charli Armstrong, Dustin Curry, Steph Garrett and Teddy Warren energetically engaged every audience member throughout the entire show. Warren riled up audience participation during The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse in a way that only magicians seem to; he expertly crafted each new color and creature across the stage that made the audience ooh and ahh in delight. Dustin Curry lovingly played Mister Seahorse as he came across all the fish in the sea. Any time Curry was onstage it was impossible to miss his facial expressions - with each new puppet he became a new creature. Charli Armstrong desperately searched for her fellow fireflies as The Very Lonely Firefly. Her search introduced the hustle and bustle of the suburbs as she carried on to find her light. Armstrong's calm and commanding presence had the audience enveloped in her search. Steph Garrett rounded out the show as The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Garrett wiggled and wormed her way across the stage never missing a single beat. During the performance, she had children in the audience so enthralled that they were verbally responding to her story and with a giggle and nod she responded.
The set design was simple and festive: four large textured panels were bathed in colorful polka dotted light which were later revealed to become a beautiful white canvas for the show to unfold in front of. Three storybooks sat in a well-lit tableau as a welcoming invitation to story time. Josh Smith, Scenic and Props Designer, set the perfect background for Carle's stories to come alive. With the enhancement of lighting Aaron Johansen, Lighting Designer, made it seem as if actor Teddy Warren was painting the stage as he narrated The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse. Children and adults were in awe of the brush strokes that made a whole zoo of animals appear! Johansen's wash lighting of the 'canvas' set made the audience feel as if they were choosing the colors for the Artist. Throughout the show, the lighting assisted in setting the tone of each new story and the full moon in The Very Lonely Firefly was a stunning lighting addition.
During the entire run of the show, you're invited to celebrate these great bedtime stories by wearing your favorite pajamas to the theatre. Arrive one hour before the show to create your own Eric Carle-inspired artistic masterpiece and pose in front of the most beautiful butterfly wings you've ever seen! Kids bring your adults to this dazzling production of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, which runs at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts through February 25. On Sunday, January 28 at 4:30 pm there will be an ASL performance and on February 17 at 1:30 pm there will be a sensory-friendly performance. For more information please visit dct.org