SALT LAKE CITY — As a parent I am a connoisseur of the books of Mo Willems. I secretly love reading his books to my kids because they are fun for both kids and adults. So, Salt Lake Acting Company’s new production, Elephant and Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!” (with a script by Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma) seemed like the perfect choice for me to take my four-year-old to her first theatre production. I had high hopes for the production because of my positive experiences attending previous SLAC theatre for young audience productions directed by Penelope Caywood. I wanted my daughter to have a positive experience in a theater, and I could not have taken her to a better production for her first show.

Show closes December 30, 2023.

Erik Reichert‘s set was simple, like the book illustrations. But it had enough visual appeal to occupy our attention while we waited for the show to begin, and my daughter and I had fun pointing out many things that could be found in the Elephant and Piggie books, such as callout bubbles and ice cream cones. My daughter was thrilled when she spotted the iconic pigeon, that is hidden in Willem’s books, hiding on the set. It was only the first of many delighted giggles and excited whispers from her during the night.

Wendy Joseph really managed to capture the enthusiasm and joy of Piggie. She was a delightful innocent pig, but I loved the contrast when Piggie gets mad at Gerald for breaking her new toy. Another great moments was during “Don’t Go,” Joseph was great at portraying the need to go potty, while still managing to do the choreography. It was definitely the most epic “Potty” dance this experienced mother has ever seen.

Wendy Joseph as Piggie.

Bryce Romleski, as the Elephant Gerald, was a nice contrast to Joseph’s Piggie. He was adorably anxious, but when Gerald has confidence about something, he is all-in. The best moment was when he goes from feeling horribly self-conscious about his lack of dancing, to being admired for his “moves.” I have never such a great performance of purposefully bad dancing. The person sitting next to me was in stitches, and my daughter was giggling nonstop.

The remaining cast members were the Squirrelles, played by Hannah Keating, Sofia Paredes-Kenrick, Niki Rahimi, and Matthew Tripp. This group was especially fun to watch during “Ice Cream Hero” and “Toy Breaker.” Tripp was extra busy playing the stage manager bat, the Delivery Dog, and the Ice Cream Penguin. And the cast was amazing at getting the audience to participate during “We Are In A Play.”

Bryce Romleski as Elephant Gerald.

This play definitely hits all of the fun special effects for kids. My daughter had spotted the disco ball before the show started and was certain that there was going to be a dance party at some point; she was on the edge of her seat waiting for it to happen and was thrilled when it did. The fun was scattered throughout the night with clouds of bubbles, ribbons flying out from actors hands, and a special surprise when that cord with a bright yellow caution sign was pulled at the end. The effects were not just mere tricks to excite the kids, but they felt like important components of the fun from Elephant and Piggie. Another fun element was the stage manager’s script with pop up pages (prop design by Erick Reichert). I also loved the use of Mo Willems illustrations in the projections, along with speak bubbles (light design by Jesse Portillo).

There is more to theatre for young audiences than merely entertaining the kiddies. It should also be an education experience for them. I loved that SLAC started off their production by explaining a couple of theatre terms and going over the job of the actors and the audience. For many, this was not new information, but for my daughter, it was important. After the show ended that cast did a quick Q&A with the audience, which allowed audience members to learn more about the theatre experience.

Wendy Joseph as Piggie and Bryce Romleski as Elephant Gerald.

I truly could not have asked for a better production for my daughter’s first theatre experience than Elephant and Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” at Salt Lake Acting Company. Early the next morning, she recounted all of her favorite moments from the play. It is the perfect introduction to live theatre, and parents looking for that perfect show to take their young child to should snatch tickets. Salt Lake Acting Company’s production of Elephant and Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!” is a the perfect play for young audience members and the adults in their lives — especially if they already love Mo Willems’s books and characters.

Elephant and Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” plays Saturdays and Sundays at noon and 3 PM through December 30, with evening performances at 7 PM on Fridays. Additional performances at noon and 3 PM on December 21 and 22 at the Salt Lake Acting Company (168 West 500 North, Salt Lake City). Tickets are $17-27. For more information, visit

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.