BWW Review: CTC Creates Magic this Midwinter in THE BIGGEST LITTLE HOUSE IN THE FOREST
Riding a bicycle into the theater, similar to a charming pied piper, Autumn Ness, rings a bell to call the tiny tot audience into the Gargill Studio at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. In CTC"S production,The Biggest Little House in the Forest, a play adapted from the picture book by Dijemma Bider, Ness invites her audience in while saying "Winter's outside, but it's spring in the theatre."
Walk inside the theater and leaves hang from the ceiling and surround a small platform envisioned by Scenic Designer Eric J. Van Wyck, who also created the puppet creatures for this production. Ness, as performer and storyteller, delights audiences as she as she relates the play adapted from by playwright Rosanna Staffa and directed by Peter Brosius. The young crowd surrounds Autumn in a half circle, on bench seats, when she pulls Bernice the Butterfly from her apron pocket. Bernice then flutters and discovers an enchanted little house underneath some overgrown brush. While the house rotates from inside to outside, the audience can peek into what Bernice does as she makes the house her very own from several perspectives.
Low and behold, several other forest creatures find their way to Bernice's house in the forest. Millie the Mouse helps Bernice plan a garden. Fred the Monkey mixes pancakes for their breakfast. Rickie the Rabbit and Rudy the Rooster stop by, too--they all want to share in Bernice's good fortune and warm house.
Together they experience a bedtime pillow fight, where feathers fly into the audience. Or bubbles where the tiny ones in the audience stretch to reach the translucent globes while the forest creatures discover life together in the little house keeps them comfortable and happy. Until Bartholomew the Bear tries to warm himself at the top of the house's chimney, which creates a crisis waiting to be solved together.
Ness maneuvers all these puppets and their voices with incredible dexterity and skill. Each character she plays sounds distinct and unique, while she caters to the audience. When Bernice the Butterfly first appears, the children in the audience wonder if she's real. They chase feathers from pillows and clap their hands in glee-and become thoroughly engaged in Ness's performance which conjures pure magic on the small stage.
Programs for the very young encourage appreciation for the theater at a level the pre-schoolers can understand. CTC first commissioned the play in 2013, and enjoy restating this several years later. Adults, too, find the inclusive message to the play heartening and how working in a team might resonate to their own experiences. Everyone needs to learn to work together to accomplish goals.
Know a toddler or two to attend this enchanting show? On the way out the door, view the puppets--Rudy the Rooster has been constructed from a gold loofah. Or study the detail on Bernice the Butterfly. Little ones can carefully touch these clever puppets. CTC"S The Biggest Little House's in the Forest breathes a hint of spring to Minnesota's midwinter in the most entertaining event..
As the audience dances with unbound enthusiasm before the final creatures speak, courtesy of Victor Zupanc composing and directing the play;s music, these children have discovered how extraordinary live theater, a story in three dimensions, can be. While best geared for younger children, adults can delight in this mischievous midwinter magic on stage at Children's Theatre Company.
Children's Theatre Company presents The Biggest Little House in the Forest at the Cargill Theatre through March 10. For information or tickets, please visit: www.childrenstheatre.org.