PROVO — Water Sings Blue, an adaptation by Teresa Dayley Love based on a book by Kate Coombs, was a different experience from my typical theatrical outings. Water Sings Blue tells the story of the characters’ day at the oceans. Characters include a family, a scientist, a teen boy, a pair of elderly beach-combing sisters, and a life guard. It was not fast pace or overly vocal, but instead was seeped in pantomime, poetry, and the calm of the ocean. Geared towards a youth audience, the show wisely uses visual comedy instead of verbal swordplay.
As I prepared for the show to start I quickly took in the set (design by Jennifer Reed). It was very simple, composed of a few woven beach mats and blue, red, and white striped umbrellas. There was an umbrella on the side nearest the entrance that was awkwardly close to the head of the person sitting next to me. Hopefully that gets adjusted for future shows, so it doesn’t distract from the performance. The performers were talking to kids in the audience and inviting them to sit on the beach mats in the performance area. As the show began I learned that a few kids from the audience had been invited to participate in the night’s performance and were backstage getting ready. As a former theatre educator, I appreciated that time was given to teaching the audience about theatre in the round and stage managers. As this show has been produced to go on tour to schools, educating audience members is an important aspect of the performance.
It was nice to watch a show where I didn’t have to focus as much on what was being said verbally, but what was being communicated through facial expressions and body language. Often with pantomime based performances it is easy to become lost while looking away, but this was not the case in Water Sings Blue. There were multiple scenes going on at once and I wanted to watch all of them as they were equally well done. I had to keep bouncing from scene to scene. It was exactly like people watching at the beach. There is something delightful about well done pantomime.
The performers were adept at physically conveying the stories they were trying to tell. I especially enjoyed Danny Brown as Father. He reminded me of the farmer in Shaun the Sheep. I especially loved the scene where he was trying to avoid dancing with Mother (played by Haley Flanders). Flanders did a believable job of interacting with her children, and especially of treating the doll prop (prop design by Scott Jackson) like a real baby. The moment she was dancing with the baby was silly and fun, and as a parent I could relate and see myself in the silliness of the interaction.
One of the most enjoyable parts of this production was the audience participation. Before the show began the audience was instructed on how to play their part as waves, jellyfish, and sound effects. True, sound effects could have been created in other, more reliable ways, but it was more fun to be a part of it. One section of this performance takes place underwater. Lighting effects (designed by Michael G. Handley) helped create an underwater feel, along with performers twirling ribbons and running through with long, wide sections of blue fabric.
I loved the classic French beach-goer theme in Sarah Stewart‘s costume design. Stewart included lots of stripes and sailor vibe bathing suits/wear, and her designs fit perfectly with the pantomiming. There was also a 1950’s theme in the show designs as well. Overall, the costuming, the lighting, and the directing combined to create a bygone day at the beach. If you could step through Bert’s chalk drawing of the seascape in Mary Poppins, it would be similar to my experience at Water Sings Blue.
There is no plot to this show, but it is delightful artistic showcase for all ages. For those who are fans of visual comedy like Shaun The Sheep or Mr. Bean this would be an enjoyable production to go see. To any educators who would like to bring theatre into the lives of their young students Water Sings Blue is a great opportunity to do so. This would also be an appropriate production to facilitate discussions on poetry. Truly, Water Sings Blue is a unique experience for audiences old and young.