January 25, 2007
Thursday, January 25, 2007
"Seussical the Musical"
Where else can you see an irritable kangaroo with an absolutely stunning voice demand "R-E-S-P-E-C-T," a compassionate elephant do nest duty for a pretty bird with wanderlust, and really, really big hair, all in the same place? The Emerald City Theater Company at the Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park, that's where. This time the folks at Emerald City, Chicago's largest professional theater devoted entirely to families, are celebrating The Cat in the Hat's 50th birthday with "Seussical the Musical," directed by Ernie Nolan.Ridiculous rhymes, belly laughs and tender ballads fill this 60 minute kid-friendly version of the hit show by Eric Idle, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. But, as The Cat in the Hat warns in the opening score, "I hope you're prepared 'cause this ain't Mother Goose." As if on-cue, the wailing of a wee one in the audience early in the first number emphasized that the littlest Whos might find the show's whimsy a bit on the wild side. Kids from 3 to 93 will enjoy revisiting their favorite Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, JoJo, Yertle the Turtle, The Sour Kangaroo, Gertrude McFuzz and Mayzie LaBird, who are all drafted from author-illustrator Theodor Geisel's (aka Dr. Seuss) most popular books for a storyline about JoJo and the other inhabitants of Whoville, the tiniest planet in the sky. The Whos are lost on a speck of dust in a field of clover, and deeply sensitive Horton is determined to find and protect them, in spite of the wiles of sultry and irresponsible Mayzie LaBird, for whom he agrees to egg-sit. A more demure Gertrude McFuzz saves the day in the end, with her pining for Horton finally paying off. The Cat in the Hat narrates the action, delivering witty and sometimes sarcastic one-liners that nearly steal the show. While his amusing jabs at celebrities and Chicago references work to feed the adults in the audience with a few laughs, a couple of his fun-poking comments come close to diverting attention from the production's main themes of kindness, loyalty, imagination, the value of relationship, sensitivity to the needs of the littlest creatures and the idea that what may be most essential may be invisible to the eye. One of the show's best songs, however, "Oh The Thinks You Can Think," features the Cat and his young friend JoJo, one of the tiny Whos of Whoville, who eventually realizes that "anything's possible." Seussical's catchy tunes, fabulous costumes, vibrant and clever but simple prop and set designs and truly engaging performances are satisfying and worth a visit to this terrific theater. Jennifer DuBose "Seussical the Musical" runs through March 30, at the Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for kids 12 and under and parking is available for $6. For more information or tickets call the Apollo box office at (773) 935-6100, or visit Emerald City online at emeraldcitytheater.com. Information is also available online about Emerald City's Celebrate Reading 2007 initiative, in honor of The Cat in the Hat's 50th. For every handmade birthday card (template available on the Web site) submitted, Random House Children's Books will donate one new book to an Illinois child in need via First Book, a non-profit organization that provides children from low-income families with the opportunity to read.
"Disney on Ice: Princess Wishes"
Winter doldrums don't stand a chance when Disney hits the scene ... even if it does happen to hit out on the ice. My family and I felt as though we'd been transported to a show smack dab in the middle of Orlando during "Disney on Ice: Princess Wishes," playing at the Allstate Arena through Jan. 30, and Jan. 30 to Feb. 11 at the United Center. It was a treat for both kids and parents to watch this high-quality and highly entertaining show.I worried that boredom might be an issue since the show lasts over two hours. No worries. The time flew thanks to thoughtful stories, decent skating, colorful costumes and unexpected breaks from the predictable princess/prince love connections. You don't need to be familiar with the original Disney stories to go, but my kids probably enjoyed the show more by knowing the characters and songs ahead of time. There were seven princess vignettes, and the props and backdrops change to transport you to each princess's domain. The most memorable included the busy market where Jasmine and Aladdin meet, with the hustle of camels, ninjas and swords and the underwater oasis where Ariel dances with octopuses, fish and lobsters. The costumes made all the skaters come to life in a way that was genuine, beautiful and believable. Most of all, my kids appreciated the breaks away from the love scenes (aka skating couples, all of whom are incredibly skilled). The Seven Dwarfs, Genie, Sebastian the crab and Tinker Bell received claps, and Mickey, Minnie and Goofy received hoots from my three. Despite the name of the show and a definite pink slant to the audience, both the princesses - and princes - in your life will enjoy it. My boys were in awe of the enormous fire-breathing dragon that left in its aftermath a trail of melted ice. Ninjas swaggered with swords and sailors descended from ropes and performed aerobatics, all of which allowed my sons to leave the show with their testosterone intact. Kids of all ages were present in the audience; if your kids love or just like Disney movies, this will be a winner. Note that little ones might be scared of the Snow White witch and Ursula, both of whom are still mean, and the fire from the dragon. My three were freaked by the unexpected fireworks at the end. If you can swing the cost, sitting near the rink is thrilling. If you're high above you'll still see plenty, though, and the less-than-precise lip-synching by the skaters will be less noticeable. If you tend to cave at the concession stand be sure to pack plenty of $20s for T-shirts and electric glow sticks. (Remember, it's Disney.) Jill S. Browning
"Disney on Ice: Princess Wishes" $13-$70. Kids ages 2 and younger sit on laps for free. Through Jan. 28 at the Allstate Arena, Rosemont. Jan. 30-Feb. 11 at the United Center, Chicago. (312) 559-1212. Check www.disneyonice.com for show times and tickets.
Nick Jr.'s latest offering for the preschool set brings our favorite puppy, Blue, to life as a puppet who talks directly to the kids. The formula appears to work. "They are talking to me, Mommy," 4-year-old Zoe happily announced just as the "Blue's Farm Playdate" screening began. She quickly got caught up in the play, helping Blue and her baby brother, Sprinkles, tick off the chores to do on Old McDonald's Farm before Old McDonald (Joe) returns to the farm after running a few errands. Just as in "Blue's Clues," kids are asked to answer questions, but this show takes it a bit closer to having a discussion with the puppets. From counting out a dozen eggs in the henhouse (this part really moves too slowly), to milking a cow and feeding corn to the pig and carrots to the horse, the show kept Zoe involved and an active participant. For kids who aren't familiar with farms, the show has an added benefit of showing where eggs and milk come from. Show creators say "Blue's Room" will promote early literacy skills through talking, reading, writing, pretending and playing. Zoe, who was exposed to "Blue's Clues" early, said she thinks kids like her would really enjoy the new show. And parents won't mind watching the fun, either. Tamara L. O'Shaughnessy "Blue's Room" debuts 9 a.m., Friday, Jan. 26, with "Blue's Farm Playdate." The Blue's Clues spin-off features 10 half-hour episodes in a live-action playroom featuring Blue and her baby brother Sprinkles.
"Open Season" DVD
When I popped the preview of the movie "Open Season" into my DVD player, I had high hopes that I'd see something different than the many other animated animal flicks that have hit the streets this past year. But when my 8-year-old, who normally loves all movies, said she was bored after 10 minutes, I knew this movie had little new to offer."Open Season" features Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence), a domesticated grizzly bear, who finds himself stranded in the woods right before hunting season. He is befriended, in a rather half-hearted way, by Elliot, a mule deer (voiced by Ashton Kutcher) and the two animals learn together to survive open season. Unfortunately, the movie was so boring that my kids and I really couldn't get too worked up about whether or not Boog survived the hunting season. The jokes were dull, the plot was the same regurgitated plot from "Over the Hedge" and similar movies, and the characters voices were so uninspiring that I couldn't wait for this movie to be over. My kids and I recommend you take a pass on this movie unless you're looking for something to help you fall asleep-this flick could bore you into a great night's sleep. Liz DeCarlo "Open Season" hits the streets Jan. 30. The film is PG-rated and is selling for $28.95