Review: THE HUNDRED DRESSES at Kate Goldman Children's Theatre

This show that envelops the audience in more ways than one plays through March 12.

By: Mar. 03, 2023
Review: THE HUNDRED DRESSES at Kate Goldman Children's Theatre
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Our words are powerful; they can tear people down and quickly build people up. This is a lesson that kids of all ages, at times, need to be reminded of. This last weekend, Des Moines Playhouse opened "The Hundred Dresses" as part of the Kate Goldman Children's Series. This production envelops the entire audience in more ways than one.

The first way the audience will find themselves enveloped is with the story. "The Hundred Dresses," tells the story of a young girl named Madeline, who reflects on a story from her childhood. She remembers how her mother would add embellishments to her dresses to appear new to her friends, and they couldn't afford new dresses because her father was unemployed. When a girl named Wanda comes to her school who only wears one dress, she joins her friends in making fun of the girl, who says she has a hundred dresses at home. When the girl and her family leave due to how they are treated, Madeline is left to reflect on the impact she had on the situation. What does Madeline do? That you will have to attend the show to find out.

Walking into the theatre, the audiences get to set the beautiful set designed by Amanda Pichler and Max Shrum. They both did the lighting as well. The multi-level set appeared to be covered in oversized handwritten letters. If you are like me and don't know the story going in, it will have you wondering what the importance is, but by the end, you genuinely appreciate the nod to what happens in the story. The costumes by Jessica Van Essen bring a welcome pop of color to the stage, and the sound by Chris Powell helps set the show's tone for the audience.

Another way the audience finds itself pulled into the production is through the emotions they face throughout the show. Part of this comes from the brilliant direction of David Van Cleave. Over the last few years, I've appreciated seeing how he can take a show and connect it to today's audiences. In this production, he has asked the audience to look at how they look at and treat people who are different from them. This is a very important reflection as we look at how we treat people who immigrate to the US or even how we look at people with different views.

The audience continues to be pulled in by the terrific cast who share this story with the audience. Looking through the program, it was a thrill to see so many young cast members making their debuts at the Playhouse, along with several more seasoned performers returning to the stage. It added a beautiful extra reflection for the audience about how young people look up to the people around them as they figure out how to respond to situations around them. Seeing that kind of partnership on stage is something audiences of all ages will relate to and remember. This can be seen in how Ginnie Padden responds and speaks to the class after a pivotal letter to the story is ready. It can also be seen in how Bianca Elliott and Melissa M. Keller, playing Madeline Reeves and her mother Shelly Reeves, discuss how Madeline responds to what has happened.

Sometimes the best shows allow the audience to come in and fully take in the story. "The Hundred Dresses" allows the audience to do that and more. The designs, directing, and acting, all come together and ask us how we respond to people who are different. I can't think of a more relevant production to share with the kids in our lives, no matter their age. This production continues at Des Moines Playhouse through March 12. To find out more, or to purchase tickets, visit the link below.


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