BWW Review: ATMTC Thrills with BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL
Fats Domino once sang, "I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill." He might have been channeling little Sal, the central character in Robert McCloskey's 1948 picture book, Blueberries for Sal. The book which in its almost 70 year existence, has been cited in many best of lists and was an award a Caldecott Honor in 1949. And finally, Adventure Theatre MTC has turned it into a delightful stage adaptation which is now playing through October 21, 2018 at Glen Echo Park.
The script, by Sandra Eskin and ATMTC Artistic Director, Michael Bobbitt, is a delightful tale of a mother and daughter out for the day picking blueberries before the fall hits, while a mama bear and her cub are also out picking blueberries in preparation for their winter hibernation. As usual with these type of shows, the children get separated from their parents and learn a little bit about themselves and being on their own. The original score by William Yanesh is a refreshing break from the usual children's theater fare and the intricate opening number has some nice elements and the whole score is reminiscent of Broadway's go-to songwriters, Pasek & Paul.
Starring as the titular Sal, Sophie Schulman is brilliant as the almost six year precious girl who eats more than she picks. Ms. Schulman's physical performance is perfect embodying the young girl without making her too much of a caricature. In addition, Alex De Bard is equally as superb in her performance as the cub who seems confident on her own, but fusses over a stick in her paw. As the mothers (and others), Sarah Corey and Karen Vincent are both strong performers who get to show a wide range of characters and both get to sing the most challenging music.
Directed by Jess Jung, the show is just pure delight. Ms. Jung has assembled a piece that makes creative use of both the space (designed gorgeously by Jessica Cancino) and the lighting elements (superbly lit by Alberto Segarra). Ms. Jung left the DC area for North Dakota a few years ago, so seeing her back with this show fills a void we missed when she left us and major kudos to Mr. Bobbitt and the ATMTC staff for bringing her in.
The blueberries that are picked in the show was brilliantly created and executed. Without giving away the gimmick, whether it was from the brains of the authors, Ms. Jung, or the designers, it was unexpected and perfect. And of course I would be remiss if I did not point out Andrea "Dre" Moore's usual perfection level props and puppets. Seeing a 2-person moose puppet (hysterically costumed by Jeannette Christensen) enter the stage is worth the price of admission alone.
Fats Domino was right when he sang that he "found his thrill on blueberry hill." Just like little Sal, the young ones in the audience (as well as those of young at heart) definitely found a thrill in ATMTC's latest successful production.
Blueberries for Sal plays through October 21, 2018 at Adventure Theatre MTC in Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, MD 20812.
Box Office: (301) 634-2270 or online.
Photo Credits: Michael Horan & Bruce Douglas