BWW Review: Seattle Children's Theatre's BLACK BEAUTY Lacks an Arc
When putting up a show for Children's Theatre, one of the main things you need to concern yourself with is how are the adults doing watching your show. The kids may be having a great time but if there's nothing for the adults who brought the kids to latch onto, then they might not bring the kids back next time. Seattle Children's Theatre usually has that covered with some wonderful performances and artistry. And while their current production of "Black Beauty" certainly looked great with some fantastic puppets from Annett Mateo, the story lacked much of an arc and, at least for this adult, failed to thrill.
James Still's script, based on the book by Anna Sewell, focuses on the titular Black Beauty (played by Richard Sloniker), a horse recounting his life. He's had kind and gentle masters like Little Joe and his Grandfather (Keagan Estes and Conner Neddersen), and not so great owners like the vain and cruel Mistress and her selfish and greedy stable hand Reuben Smith (Hana Lass and Neddersen). But through it all he retains his spirit.
The main problem I had with the show was that was pretty much it. The story was a simple narrative where not much happened and so the show turns into a string of unexciting moments in time. Sure, there's conflict but the way it's presented by the script and director Courtney Sale left much to be desired. Even the moments where they strayed from the narrative like the chase sequences or musical interludes didn't move anything forward with their repetition and just went on too long.
But as I said, the horse puppets are stunning and the underscoring of the scenes by Robertson Witmer set the tone beautifully. And the ensemble cast, led by Sloniker, and filled out with a rotating cast of kids, are top notch. They beautifully tell the story and really get into the heart of the tale. Unfortunately, the way it's laid out there's nowhere for them to take it.
Again, I understand that this is a show for kids and the kid who was with me said she thought it was "pretty good" and that the show was exciting. But for me, I prefer a show with a better journey and this one just kind of lay there. The highs and lows were neither high nor low but presented as a laundry list of events. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Seattle Children's Theatre's world premiere production of "Black Beauty" an uninspired MEH+. A wonderful cast and gorgeous puppets are one thing but give them an arc or we might as well just see pictures.
"Black Beauty" performs at Seattle Children's Theatre through October 27th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Children's Theatre box office at 206-441-3322 or visit them online at www.sct.org.