OREM — This week, I had the opportunity to take my six-year-old son to watch his first theatre production. Before now I had not been able to find a theatre production that I felt he would be interested in and have the attention span to sit through. But when I saw that the SCERA was mounting a musical production of Flat Stanley, based on the book by Jeff Brown, I decided we would give it a try.
The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley with book, music and lyrics by Timothy Allen McDonald, Jonathan K. Waller, David Weinstein, and Stephen Gabriel, follows the adventures of Stanley Lambchop, a boy who had a bulletin board fall and flatten him while he was sleeping one night. Stanley has many adventures, including traveling by mail. My son and I have read several of the Flat Stanley books, and he loves them. On the way to the theater, we discussed which of Stanley’s book adventures we would see and how they might make them happen on stage.
My young son quickly connected and related to Stanley (played by Benjamin Hansen) and his brother, Arthur (played by Koen Greene), thanks to their high energy as they jumped on their bed and battled each other with toy light sabers and wands while staying up past bed time. This early scene hooked him, but the next scene during “Stanley’s Wish” had him focusing on the magic that only theatre tech can create, as the bulletin board (voice by played by Madelyn Thompson) talked and sang to Stanley. In addition to the talking bulletin board, this production had many technical effects — including a smoking volcano and a confetti cannon — that my son is still talking about.
My favorite song was “Surfin’ the Mail.” Savannah Grosses, as Bikini Wahini, was especially enjoyable in this scene, with her Energizer bunny energy throughout the entire fast-paced scene. Director and choreographer Brodee Ripple did well at creating high-energy dance numbers that were fun for kids to watch, yet intricate enough for adults to also enjoy, especially in “Talent” and “Surfin’ the Mail.” The overall energy of this production was very high, which is ideal for the target audience of kids. I was impressed that with only a cast of six performers that the stage, even when it was fairly bare of props and set pieces, never felt empty, due to Ripple’s smart direction.
This cast had their work cut out for them, with five of the actors playing multiple roles. But each character felt different from each other. I enjoyed the museum scene, though during this scene it felt like the Sneak Thief (played by Savannah Grossen), Napoleon (played by Steven Grossen) and Mona Lisa (played by Madelyn Thompson) wanted audience participation as the Sneak Thief debated which painting to steal, but they did not quite get it. If audience participation was the intent of that moment, more encouragement from the cast would have been helpful. Additionally, the actors playing the Lambchop family sometimes struggled with their pitches while singing. But this issue did not occur when the same actors were playing other roles. The pitch issues did not distract greatly from the overall enjoyment of the production, though. Likely, as the production continues its run that these issues will get completely resolved.
Costume designer Deborah Bowman had the challenge of trying to make a three-dimensional person in to a two dimensional being. This was something my son continually asked me about as we traveled to the show, “How are they going to make Stanley Flat?” Bowman’s design helped create that illusion by blacking out the backside of Stanley, along with creating a black outline. This effect was especially convincing when Stanley was stuck in a tree. The effects was furthered by several of the stances and movements in Hansen’s performance of Stanley.
The SCERA’s production of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley was the perfect first production for my son to attend. The characters were relatable, the pace never dragged, and there were some fun magical technical effects. This is a great production to take a chance on, especially for any child loves the Flat Stanley books.