BWW Review: BABE THE SHEEP PIG is an Adorable Winner
As I walked up to the Rose Theater on opening night I noted the cluster of kids off to the side of the entrance. Twenty minutes until show time. Were they not open yet? Then I saw. Two little pink pigs in a pen. These little porkers were adorable, but not nearly as adorable as Mallory Vallier playing the lead role-y, not-so-poly BABE THE SHEEP PIG. I have seen some cute plays at this opulent children's theatre, but maybe none so cute as this one.
BABE THE SHEEP PIG, based on the 1983 children's book penned by Dick King-Smith, tells the story of a piglet won by Farmer Hogget at a county fair in a guess the weight game. Farmer Hogget takes the piglet home to the delight of his wife who imagines the hams and chops they will enjoy once the piglet is fully grown. Fly, the Hogget's sheep dog, has other plans. She adopts the piglet when her pups are sold off to new owners, and shows "Babe" (her mother called all her piglets "Babe") how to round up the sheep. Just as she teaches Babe farmyard behavior, Babe teaches Fly about manners and kindness and showing friendship to those who don't look like us. After adventures down on the farm, both Fly and Babe find themselves at the Grand Challenge Sheep Dog Trials. Fly is old. Babe is not a sheep dog. Who is Farmer Hogget's contestant?
This story had me laughing with the pure charm of it. Not only is the story delightful, the actors are just plain fun to watch as they cavort around the stage in their best imitation of farm animals. Vallier as Babe is pure innocence in pigs' ears. Her quirky dance moves are endearing. She is the perfect choice for a heroine that will capture the admiration of her youthful audience. Robyn Helwig plays the annoying Mrs. Hogget well. Her rude behavior is offset by her truly 'better half' in Robby Stone's quiet big-hearted farmer Hogget. Miriam Gutierrez is a likeable Fly...she shows canine maturity, a mother's heart for babies -"everyone has to leave his mom"- and earns her reputation as man's best friend (and TV companion.)
The ensemble members are versatile and entertaining. The cockerel (J J Davis) and turkey (Hayley Greenstreet) especially tickled my funny bone with their exaggerated jerky fowl movements. At times the member of the cast act like barnyard animals, and then they break into unexpected graceful ballet or rockin' dance moves or they snap out a rap.
Speaking of rap, the music is fresh and lovely. Adam Sherrerd, wrote, sang, and played original songs for the show on his stringed instruments. The effect is perfect.
Sherri Geerdes' costuming is simple, but creative. Not only did I love the piglet costume, the ducks are hilarious! I think I snorted when they walked out. Who would have thought up those getups?
The sets have continued to get more beautiful with each show at the Rose. This one was bare bones barnyard...rough wood walls and sliding barn doors, bales of hay, and a backdrop of a house that looks as if it had been covered in wallpaper rather than paint. With the lighting, it creates a mood complementary to the beauty of the outdoors. Unique costumes blend with the lighting to make an visually impactful dream scene.
Adding to the uniqueness of this production of BABE THE SHEEP PIG, audience participants are encouraged to sit on stage or play county fair games prior to the show.
There are lessons to be learned from Babe. Kind words trump barking. The person is greater than the appearance. Be more than what people think you are. Even the least of us can be a hero. People can change for the better.
I laughed throughout the one-hour show. But I got teary-eyed as well. This show is one that you will hold close to your heart. Children will love it. Adults will smile and appreciate the layers of meaning, but will also enjoy the sheer frivolity of it all. If I may say so, "ewe" will love this Grand Challenge. It's a winner.
Photo credit: Mallory Vallier and Robby Stone by Alex Myhre