Sunday, April 8, 2012

Your Kids Will Love The Hare and the Tortoise

By James E. Trainor III
Photo by Sean McCall

Old Creamery - Kicking off this season's Theatre for Young Audiences is The Hare and the Tortoise by Gene Mackey with music by Cheryl Benge. This fun show based on Aesop's fable is directed by Sean McCall, with an energetic cast and wonderful costumes which combine to create a great afternoon of theatre for children.

The show takes place during a party in the forest - the animals are celebrating their Independence Day. The set design and the warmth of the cast do a great job of transporting the audience to a picnic on a bright summer day. The animals have all sorts of festivities planned, but Hurry U.P. Hare (Eddie Skaggs) wants to skip straight to the footrace. The Hare pokes and prods Ponderous Plod (Nicholas Hodge) until he agrees to the challenge, and by that time the other animals are so fed up with the arrogant hare that they want to help the humble tortoise any way they can. The result is a fun, light-hearted children's show, with music, audience interaction, and lots of physical comedy.

The cast is very solid and the kids in the opening audience responded extremely well to them. There are many moments throughout the play where the kids get to be involved, helping foil the hare or even showing the tortoise how to ride a tricycle. There are lots of laughs on the way as the performers share this endearing story with their audience.

Eddie Skaggs is a blast as Hurry U.P. Hare. He jumps around the stage, teasing the other animals, extremely pleased with himself, and he makes a great antagonist for this sort of story: not quite a bully, but definitely someone who needs to be put in his place. Nicholas Hodge is a great scene partner here. His plodding patience counters Skaggs' restless energy as he responds to his incessant chatter with grumpy dismissiveness or snippets of tortoisely wisdom. His facial work is particularly effective; Hodge looks and talks like a talking turtle would, and the kids just love him.

Rinky T. Raccoon (Ian Zahren), Beautific B. Yond (Jackie McCall), and Priscilla P.U. Skunk (Amber Snyder) complement the main characters in this play, and Old Creamery's cast, under Sean McCall's direction, provides wonderful comic action. There's some really fun character work in this piece, and with the help of some very colorful costumes by Deborah Kennedy, and a simple yet effective set by Tom Milligan, the production immerses children in an exciting and entertaining world.

I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who wants to expose young children to theatre. This is warm and engaging material that has a good moral, executed with quality comic performances by professional actors. The best part is that it gets the kids involved without talking down to them at all. Go check it out, and bring your little ones!

The Hare and the Tortoise runs April 14 and 21 at 1:00 (also at 10:00am on the 21st) at the Old Creamery mainstage. Tickets are $8.

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