Ramona Quimby a delight for Chicago families

On a snowy Saturday afternoon in Chicago, my daughters and I were thrilled to be in the audience for the opening performance of “Ramona Quimby” at the Emerald City Theatre.

Adapted from the wonderful books of Beverly Cleary, “Ramona Quimby” shares the story of Ramona and her family during the course of a year. They are faced with normal challenges that families face: out of work parents, learning to budget money and a beloved relative getting married and moving away. Ramona learns that with a supportive family around her, she can find new ways to cope with her ever-changing world and get through the difficult times.

The show was warm and engaging, funny and serious all rolled together. The production is designed to have the cast come into the audience as part of the show, which was a real treat for the kids. The show is approximately 60 minutes – with no intermissions, which is a perfect length for kids ages five to 10.

“Ramona Quimby” achieves the wonderful balance of entertaining and connecting with the adults in the audience, as well as the children. The dialogue doesn’t talk down to anyone, which is a major accomplishment given that they are adapting a children’s book. The storyline is relatable for parents and children alike, and the simple sets and decorations along with the creative way they showed the season changes, kept everyone’s attention and imagination brewing.

There is a portion of the play that deals with Ramona’s dad trying to quit smoking. In telling the story, there is a prop electronic cigarette that is on the stage that produces an odorless water vapor that looks like smoke. The actor does appear to be smoking and it was confusing for my girls for just a moment until I explained to them that it was, indeed, a prop, and there was nothing for them to be fearful about.

Founded in 1996, Emerald City Theatre “creates theatre experiences that inspire early learners through play.” You can tell they are all about the family experience, which I can really appreciate and admire. There was an activity before the show – a “make your own journal” page that allowed kids to color a picture and then write down ways they liked to help their family members.

They provide the standard play programs, but then print a “kid size” program that is perfect for little hands. In addition, they had some of the favorite Beverly Cleary books in the lobby for sale. My girls were able to get a book signed from the entire cast after the show.

Despite living in the western suburbs, Emerald City Theatre is definitely a place that we will be returning to for their next production! I urge you to take a weekend before May 18 and go visit Ramona Quimby and Emerald City Theatre. Tell them the Evers girls say “Hi!”

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