January 26, 2006


 “Charlotte’s Web”

I am sure I read Charlotte’s Web when I was 10 years old, but I had forgotten it was essentially a sad story. So as I was sitting watching the play with two 5-year-olds, I was worried they would be bored by the tone or unnerved by the talk of turning a cute pig into bacon and the demise of a kind spider, who just laid eggs. What I had forgotten, and often don’t take into account, is that young children are very interested in serious subjects, such the death of a loved one. Plays, movies and books can offer ways to understand and deal with topics that can be complicated and confusing.

The result? The boys were actually engaged through most of Emerald City’s production of “Charlotte’s Web.” After, the kids didn’t talk too much about the serious parts, but during they paid attention.

The animals are brought to life through some great casting and costumes. The boys and I agree on our favorites—the limping sheep wearing a fedora and the curly-haired Wilbur, clad in pink, including pink Converse sneakers. We also like the way Charlotte spun her web with white, glow-in-the-dark sheets. Another nice element is the actors didn’t ignore the audience, but instead included them in the banter, asking questions and confiding in them.

My only problem was that at times, the play lacked energy. Charlotte was a bit too glum, Wilbur seemed to lose the tickled excitement I expect in a little pig, and the rat’s wiliness seemed a little lackluster. During some of the dialogue, the children in the audience were antsy and talkative—a clear sign the actors had lost them. Still, the play runs only an hour, a good length for kids. And for the most part, the show held their attention.  Sarah Karp

“Charlotte’s Web.” Apollo Theatre. Through April 1. See Web site for showtimes. Recommended for ages 5 and up. $12, $9 kids 11 and under. 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6100, www.emeraldcitytheatre.com

 “Little Women”

The March sisters—ladylike Meg, rambunctious Jo, angelic Beth and bratty Amy—and  their serene mom, Marmee, are and have always been a joy to read about. And now, as they arrive on stage, part of the national touring company of the musical “Little Women,” they are a joy to see as well.

The marquee name is singer Maureen McGovern as Marmee. You may remember her 1972 hit, “The Morning After,” from the “Poseidon Adventure.” She is also an accomplished stage actress. But Kate Fisher as Jo is the show’s highlight. Her energy and incredible voice fuel nearly every scene. Not to be missed is when Jo, the aspiring writer, recites her stories while actors mimic every word and action in the background.

This musical, based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel about four sisters and their mom surviving the Civil War years, is told through the eyes of Jo, the sister who longs to see the world and become a famous writer—a goal she realizes only after she gives up writing “blood and guts” stories and writes about the four sisters, their friends and family and the love that binds them. 

We adults loved this musical and the two girls with us, ages 8 and 9, liked it a lot. They graded it an A- because they thought it was a little too long at two hours and 40 minutes (especially on a school night) and a little too mushy (which it is, but we didn’t care). But bring the tissues. You’ll need them.

This is a terrific evening at the theater, a perfect mother-daughter outing. (Neither of the moms who went could coax their sons to join them.) Cindy Richards

“Little Women.” Cadillac Palace Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 2 p.m. matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Through Feb. 5. $15.50-$77.50. 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. (312) 902-1400, www.broadwayinchicago.com.

“Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” Head’s up: The first time I was exposed to the mysteries of ancient Egypt was through a story on King Tut in my parents’ National Geographic magazine. I was instantly hooked. Now, my son—and your kids—will be able to experience ancient Egypt first hand. Beginning May 26, the Field Museum will host a new Egypt exhibit: “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.” The exhibit runs through Jan. 1, 2007.

So why am I telling you about it now? Because tickets went on sale this week, and they are expected to go fast. The tickets ($25, $22 seniors and students, $16 kids 4-11, including museum admission) are most easily purchased online at www.fieldmuseum.org/tut, but can also be purchased by calling (866) 343-5303 or visiting the museum box office, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago. The tickets are sold for specific dates and times—and weekends sell out first—so be sure to plan ahead.

Look for a review of the exhibit in the May 25 edition of the Chicago Parent E-News Update. Mike Phillips


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