BWW Review: THE LEGEND OF ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS Wins at First Stage
Kooky musical numbers, shiny spandex, a smooshed peach, trail mix puppets, a tap dancing tape dispenser -- it's all here in the loony adventure that is The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The show, a musical world premiere co-commissioned by First Stage and Oregon Children's Theatre, is based on the book of the same name by author Drew Daywalt. Each bookly battle is recreated on stage, dialed up to 11 on the scale of theatricality.
The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors is geared at kiddos aged 4-10. On Sunday afternoon, I was lucky enough to see the show with a pair of kids smack-dab in the target demographic. They were psyched from the get-go as each one (Elsie, age 4, and Alex, age 7) had heard the story of Rock, Paper, Scissors at school. Elsie went into the show with her favorite already decided: scissors.
As anyone who's played the schoolyard game might guess, the story is one of a battle royale. A three-way duel to demise -- or so it seems. In Daywalt's story, Rock hails from the Kingdom of Backyard, Paper from the Empire of Mom's Home Office, and Scissors from the Kitchen Realm in the tiny village of Junk Drawer. Each one is the fiercest warrior in their respective land, but the three feel unfulfilled despite their glory. All they want is to meet their match.
And so they set out on lonesome journeys to find worthy opponents. Rock battles a peach ("fuzzy little butt") and a clothespin brandishing The Giant's Underwear. Paper takes down the office printer and a tribe of half-eaten trail mix. Scissors goes up against a roll of tape and a gang of frozen dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
In the stage production, under the direction of Kelly Doherty, each of these heroes and opponents is given even more larger-than-life personality than in the pages of Daywalt's picture book, and it's fantastically fun for kids and adults alike. In the Trail Mix Cast, young performer Max Larson nails the role of Announcer, full of star power and contagious energy. I remember Larson's unforgettable Bruce Bogtrotter from last season's Matilda. It's awesome to see such undeniable talent evolve year after year. So stick with it, Larson -- this reviewer thinks you're one to watch!
As for the titular three, Rock isn't just any old Rock. He's a heavy metal-style rockstar, played to hilarious effect by the ever-funny Rick Pendzich. His interactions with the Announcer are particularly laugh-aloud for the adults as he gets called out for "rocksplaining" showing-vs-telling and unleashes some well-timed dad jokes. Pendzich has a knack for humor, his delivery elevating the role of a purple spandex-clad, bulbous rock-creature, to be sure. His first battle is with Peach, played by youth cast member Daisha Lafford of the Trail Mix Cast. Lafford lends ample spunk and sass to this fuzzy fruit, challenging Rock to a country line dance-off.
First Stage alum Karen Estrada is the glorious Scissors. On stage, her character is a mambo-stepping latina queen, to which Estrada easily brings the requisite panache. Called out as not just any old scissors, but a fabric scissors, the character is a bit soapily melodramatic and mighty delightful and determined. One of Estrada's best bits is a tap dance battle against "Roll of Tape in Plastic Dispenser" whose accent and attire just happen to be Scotch (get it?). The off-brand Tape is played by Sydney Kirkegaard whose dynamic with Estrada is a laugh riot. Kirkegaard's comedic instincts are sharp as can be, a muscle she also gets to flex playing a disco-dancing Clothespin and cartoonish Printer.
Rounding out the adult cast is Lamar Jefferson as Paper. Smooth and studly, Paper boasts a three-hole punch cape, wide-ruled stripes, bell bottoms, and platform kicks -- a costume suited to enhancing his swagger. Jefferson's part in the story straddles intermission, giving him the honor of delivering a charming sudden request to pause the show in favor of a snack break. Get this man a cookie and a juice box in the lobby! Jefferson's performance is a treat.
Paper's nearly-worthy opponent is a Bag of Half-Eaten Trail Mix, a character that is at once singular and many. The character of Trail Mix is the first chance for the youth cast to really shine beyond the ensemble. In their bluesy musical number, four young performers each work two hand puppets that include Muppet-y cashews, M&Ms, and a smattering of dried fruit. The character the kids bring to the puppets is impressive. Later, other ensemble members step into the roles of Dino-Shaped Chicken Nuggets. It's all absurd in the best way.In the end, would it be successful children's theater if it were all fun and games and no moral? You can find one here -- one of bravery, friendship, and rising to challenges. But really, take the little ones to see this show for the laughs, the silliness, and the kind of theater for which we only have the kids to thank. Without their willingness for turning the ordinary into something wildly imaginative, plays like The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors would likely remain just picture books.
Photo credit: Paul Ruffolo