With its glitz and glam of downtown theatre, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place is an excursion beyond excursions for the fanciest members of your family. What better production, then, for those fancy theatergoers to attend, than the wildly popular tale of Fancy Nancy herself?
If you go
Fancy Nancy the Musical at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place
175 E. Chestnut St.
Through August 23, 2015
The staging of Emerald City Theatre’s “Fancy Nancy the Musical” (directed by Artistic Director Ernie Nolan with book and lyrics by Susan DiLallo and music and lyrics by Danny Abosch) arrives at the Broadway Playhouse hot on the heels of its successful run at Chicago’s Apollo Theater.
The plot is simple – and utterly familiar to fans of the book series by Jane O’Connor (illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser). Nancy, her best friend Bree, identical twins Rhonda and Wanda, and token dude Lionel are ecstatic (which is a fancy word for happier than happy) to discover that there will be a ballet recital tout de suite. Even better? It has an underwater theme, and someone, oh someone, might end up being a mermaid. As fate (and the general unfairness of elementary school) would have it, Nancy doesn’t score the coveted part. In fact, she’s cast as a tree (that bastion of underwater importance). Can she figure out a way to make lemonade fizzies out of lemons and, more importantly, be genuinely happy for her best friend? You bet your last sparkly headband she can.
Emerald City favorite Katrina Kiss bubbles as the fancy heroine herself, with enthusiasm to spare. Claire Kaiser, previously seen as Mama Bear in the hilarious and adorable “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” is patient and game – after all, can you imagine the reserves you’d require to parent a perpetually “fancy” kid like Nancy? Micah Kronlokken as Lionel offers a much-needed boyish energy to the group, sure, but he really shines as rapping shark in the play-within-a-play. The twins, as played by Hayley Reynolds and Samantha Mitchell, stand as a pivotal reminder that girls can be, at the same time, fiercely athletic and still get their fancy on when the need arises. Angela Alise, as Bree, is a charmingly refreshing foil to Nancy’s whirlwind and – according to my daughters – gets to wear the best costume in the whole show.
Scenes are snappy and fun and the effects in the “underwater” scenes are positively magical. Utilizing clear umbrellas with tiny lights and streamers for twirling jellyfish, for example, was an inspired choice. But here’s the true testament to the show’s level of commitment: the morning that we saw “Fancy Nancy,” there was a brief but jarring scene where the music cut out entirely (Pretty severe for a musical!). The performers never skipped a beat, instead singing and harmonizing flawlessly until the technical difficulties were worked out. And guess what? It still rocked.
Worried about attention spans for the newer theater-lovers in your life? You needn’t be. With a run time of under an hour, easily digestible themes of gettin’ what you get (and not gettin’ upset), and beautifully crafted balletic interludes, your kiddos will be stunned.
Which is really just a fancy of way of saying they’ll enjoy every second.