I laughed, I cried and was blown away by the creativity and talent that Childsplay was able to showcase in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
We had spent the last two weeks reading the book with my three younger children while my oldest had read it years before. We had been discussing how they would portray each scene, how many actors there would be and especially how they would portray Edward himself. We were split half and half on if he would be a real person or a doll with a voice from beyond.
We arrived and spent time enjoying the 360 learning about Hobos, costuming, how the play was written, and other interesting facts that related to the story. Then saw the craft table with the shadow puppets. Immediately I said “What does that have to do with the story?” To which my 8 year old replied “remember the witch and the princess and the warthog story.” They started to make them just to do something as we had time. Nobody was super enthusiastic, but hey, we had time.
Then we entered the theater and started to look at the Playbill. Needless to to say we were surprised to see that there would be only 4 actors and that the scenery was very simple. The last thing that was said was, “I wonder who will sit in the 5th chair if there are only four actors” as the music started and the actors took the stage.
From that point forward there were smiles, sad faces, laughs and worried looks all the way up to intermission. One of the many highlights was how they used the shadow puppets to retell the story that Pelligrina tells Abilene. All I can say is that it made my kids head straight to the lobby at intermission and begin cutting away. It made my 11 year old say, “Now I get the story.” I would have to say that would be true not only for that part of the play, but for the whole story.
When my oldest was 6, we read the book and went to a “book club”. He was able to tell what happened in the story, but was not able to understand the depth of most parts. My youngest is now the same age and I think had the same thing fro just reading the book. But after seeing the emotion in the actors faces and hearing the words brought to life, I venture to say he understands it.
After the intermission the action continues and the intermission did not effect the emotion that you felt as Edward meets up with his beloved Abilene in the doll shop. First you could hear a woman cry a bit, and as I looked saw many kids and adults with tears in their eyes, then as I looked on stage and Katie McFadden delivered the last line you could see that same emotion in her face. It is that that makes this whole play one of the best I have seen by Childsplay. The entire time I felt that the actors were in the moment and so was I. The set and costumes are simple yet so perfectly done.
As we discussed all the play and what we liked, I decided that for me, that the way it was done allows us to keep in tact the vivid pictures that Kate DiCamillo created in our minds while reading the book, yet strongly left the emotion of the book imprinted on you in a way will never forget.
Childsplay recommends this for 7 and up. I would agree for the most part that in order to understand and appreciate all the parts that would be right on. Having said that, my almost six year old enjoyed it and I fully expect to see him and his two sisters reenacting parts of the play tomorrow in our toy room as they generally do when they have seen a play that they enjoy!