OREM — Children’s literature translates in vibrant style to UVU’s Noorda Stage in their most recent production, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, directed by John Newman. Lilly is a mouse with headstrong personality, loud and audacious, with an endearing tendency to proclaim herself as” Queen of the World.” She nudges herself into friendships, defends the weak from bullies, and is seemingly indomitable—until a baby brother comes along that seems to threaten her very happiness. However, when Grandma Mouse buys Lilly a new purple plastic purse that plays music (as well as a stunning new set of movie-star sunglasses and throws in three shiny quarters), Lilly seems on the path to secure her own happiness once more. But when that bold, “look-at-me” attitude causes her to get in trouble at school, and her beloved teacher Mr. Slinger confiscates her new things, Lilly’s mood grows quite ornery. She learns that difficult days can happen, but that tomorrows can be better too. Based on the books by Kevin Henkes and adapted by Kevin Kling, by the end of the story Lilly learns to love her little brother, to show respect to others in class, all the while maintaining her special flare.
This was a fun production that held value for audience members, both young and old. I enjoyed the transformation of the space, vastly different from other pieces I’ve seen within the Noorda. Stephen Purdy‘s set design included steps made to look like wrapped pieces of chewing gum and giant books forming the platform, which emphasized the tiny mice that the actors played. Integration of screen and storybook drawings on a clever iPad helped to change location and maintain the quintessential children’s tale feel. I appreciated the costuming (Kristi Lambson) and the whimsical animation expressed in the little details. Mouse-tails and ears, makeup (Ann Thomas) and darling costumes created a mouse-world that was fun to look for details in. I (and my little brother) enjoyed, the mouse ears provided to every young theater-goer; it really added a fun element to the production. Cohesion in concept remained prevalent through the different facets of production, and it was clear to see in the bright color scheme, in the over-the-top acting method that made storyline clear to young theater goers.
The acting style remained high energy and almost caricatured for the duration of the show. It was fun to see the actors’ commitments to mouse imagery, integrating their tails into movement, and expressing variance in personality between their differed characters. While most characters remained fairly one-note, it suited the nature of the play; my 9-year-old brother was able to differentiate between characters and their roles in the play more easily. The stand-out of the performance was Kailey Azure Green’s performance of Julius. Her physicality was strong, and there was a certain charm and energy that elevated the performance every time she was on stage. Briana Lindsay‘s Lilly also was a lot of fun to watch, and I was impressed with the constant energy she brought to her performance. (And holy cow, I imagine that role would require a whole lot of energy.) My brother and I also liked Alex Rettle as Chester, Ryan Hopkins as Wilson, and Dallin Major as Mr. Slinger.
Blocking, in general, worked to great effect. I liked that children were invited towards the front, and made a focus of the audience. (And could join in a little dance party at the end!) I could see everything clearly, and my much shorter companion for the night didn’t have any complaints or moments of straining to see. He did question (as did I) some of the nightmare scenes, only because clear differentiation of “real” versus “imagined by Lilly” didn’t happen until the very end of these scenes. Also a little distracting for me were some of the more blunt sound cues and lighting transitions—whether these were intentional or first night kinks, I’m not sure. The sound design was by Alex Rettie, and the lighting design was by Lawson Bendall.
All in all, it was a fun production well-suited to an audience of younger ages. The general reaction of kids in the audience seemed to reaffirm the appropriateness of the show, and I found things to appreciate in it as well. I’ve been consistently impressed by the quality of work happening at UVU, and the technical elements of this show absolutely support that. Go check it out if you get the chance. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is a great introduction piece for a first-time theater goer, and with a short running time, made for a fun night at the theater with my little brother.