You can’t always get rid of a bad day, but you can always get through it. This helpful reminder for both kids and adults is the fabric of the Northbrook Theatre for Young Audiences’ “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” an engaging musical adaptation of the popular children’s book that assures kids: bad days happen to us all.
If you go
3323 Walters Ave.
Runs every Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. through Nov. 21
Directed by Northbrook Theatre veteran Peter Vamvakas, the story follows Alexander––played by the wonderfully engaging Aaron M. Davidson––who wakes up with gum in his hair before tripping on his skateboard…before he even makes it out of bed.
So begins a day full of mishaps. At school, he feels excluded from his friends and unfairly singled out by his teacher. At home, he’s the lone sibling to incur a cavity during a family trip to the dentist, followed by a shoe-store stop that treats his siblings to the exact pairs they want––but Alexander has to settle for a boring white pair, the only shoes the store carries in his size.
For many parents (of younger kids in particular), Davidson’s spot-on, childlike mannerisms will seem familiar. He pulls off the spectrum with ease, from hot-tempered outbursts of “that’s so unfair!” to the calm and naive realization that sometimes, yes, life is unfair. (Side note: The kids in the audience, mine included, seemed to particularly enjoy Alexander’s more exasperated moments.)
One aspect of the production I especially liked was that from scene to scene, many of the actors flexed from one character to another, and seamlessly. Emily Jewell plays Alexander’s mother (kind yet firm) in some scenes, his teacher (scholastic and authoritative) in others. Ryan Dooley, Hayley Reynolds and Jenna Payne play Alexander’s competitive, annoying siblings, as well as his boisterous schoolyard friends. Joe Lehman adeptly plays Alexander’s father, one part buttoned-up businessman and one part playful, loving dad.
The final scene surprised me with a subtle parenting lesson: sometimes when kids feel down, they’re not just whining for whining’s sake. As Alexander’s mother puts him to bed, she realizes his frustration wasn’t unjustified––he’d had an unfortunate 12 hours! With her beautiful voice, she sings Alexander to sleep…and toward a brand new day.