The Cat in the Hat knows A LOT about… Entertainment!

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We arrived at the beautiful Tempe Center for the Arts on a day much like the day in the story…gloomy! But also like in the story, the rain did not keep our fun away.

We started in the First Things First pre-show area. We made up poems and took pictures before entering the theatre. These two 4th graders and the adults they came with were well versed in the story that was about to be brought to life and ready for fun!

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The set and costumes were a perfect depiction of the book! The kids even noticed. One of them said to me, “I love how they made their clothes look just like they drew it in the book! That was so cool!” The other said about the set, “Wow! It is like the book opened up and we are sitting right in it!” That is big praise from little boys!

We have been to many plays at Childsplay. It is always fun when the play starts and my son gets very excited when he recognizes the actors. “Momma! The Fish is Junie B. Jones! The Cat is from Frog and Toad and he played Templeton in Charlotte’s Web too!” However, within moments, their talents magically transform them to the characters they are currently playing, and the current characters are all that we see before us for the rest of the play.

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The play is about imagination.  The sound effects and set are used in creative ways that make you imagine what is occurring.  Yet, even the youngest audience members understood the nuances of all that was happening.  It was extremely well done.

The story line from The Cat in the Hat was followed fairly literally.  That made it even more exciting for the children, as they were waiting with anticipation for what they knew was going to happen…The Cat was going to show up any moment with Thing 1 and Thing 2 and create hilarious havoc in the house.  What we did not know was HOW they were going to accomplish this.  Their “How” was wonderful!

The Girl (Shannon Phelps) and Boy (Drew Swaine) with their pet Fish (Katie Haas) are bored when stuck inside on a rainy day. They have nothing to do while their mother is out to the store.  Bored, until the Cat (Jon Gentry) entered the scene and showed them that as long as they have their imaginations, life can always be as exciting as they choose to make it. Havoc and hilarity ensued as the Cat brought his pals Thing 1 (Alan Khoutakoun) and Thing 2 (Jenny Hintze) to further spice things up.

A favorite scene incorporated all parts of the play to make it wonderfully memorable.  The set, props, actors, costumes, music, lighting etc. all were used in such a manner that made this scene stand out.  Cat was doing a balancing act – on a ball – with a cup, a cake, 3 books, milk, a toy ship, a rake, FISH and more.  All the characters were helping (or being held hostage) and when Cat ultimately fell down, the S-L-O-W motion fall scene was hilarious!

At the end of each Childsplay performance, the cast members ask questions to the audience members and allow the audience members to ask questions to them.  My son was called on to ask a question and his question was about this scene. He wanted to know how all of those items stayed up on the Cat.  I won’t spoil the answer for you, but it was fascinating to see how everything worked in concert to make that come together.  As always, getting to meet the cast members / characters at the end of the play is always a highlight for the children.

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Any experience that can captivate the attention of two little boys who love to be on electronics is a winner in my book! The boys were leaning in and completely engaged throughout the entire experience. They literally laughed out loud nearly the whole time.  They absolutely loved it and wanted more!

This is the shortest play that we have ever attended at Childsplay.  It is only 45 minutes long.  It is the perfect play to use as a way to introduce young children to the theatrical arts.  The story is one that they know and love.  The pace is quick and highly entertaining for all ages.  I definitely recommend this play for all ages, including young children.

The Cat in the Hat is playing through February 19th at Childsplay at the Tempe Center of the Arts. Tickets are selling fast! You will want to hurry to get yours before they are gone!

~ Kellie Burkhart, Family Blogger

“Wowie Wow Wow” Review of “Junie B. Jones is NOT a Crook” at Childsplay

Kellie1.jpgI arrived at the Tempe Center for the Arts with one very excited 9-year- old boy who LOVES Junie B. Jones. Junie B. is a popular girl in our household. It is because of her that my son, Andrew, started reading chapter books. He wanted no part of leaving the picture books behind…until the slightly naughty and always hysterical Junie B. Jones entered his life (thank you Junie B.!).

We LOVE Childsplay and have been coming to shows whenever possible since he was mature enough to sit through a show. Andrew, was a Kid Reporter for Childsplay last season and was excited for an opportunity to come back (and not have to be the one doing the work this time 🙂 ).  Pairing two of “our favs” – Childsplay and Junie B. – well, it was a recipe for awesomeness! In short, the show did not disappoint!

Being familiar with the two Barbara Park stories that were intertwined in this play – “Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook” and “Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren” – it was so fun to watch the stories be so beautifully blended together. The playwright, Allison Gregory, did magical work of marrying these two stories.  So much so that if you did not know they were two stories, you would think they were meant to be written this way.

I definitely think it would add to the experience of young children if they were familiar with these stories before coming. Both books are on sale in the lobby, so if you come early you can purchase them and read them just before the show. There are other items on sale, including a “Junie B. Jones Activity Book” that your children will enjoy. All purchases made there help support Childsplay’s efforts to bring their plays into the schools for even more children to have access to the arts.

Per usual for Childsplay, the set and costumes were so creative and authentic to the stories! They definitely add to the overall experience. The costumes were so well done that I could literally SEE the stories unfold exactly as we had read them – furry mittens, lightening sneakers and all!  The set was of the school yard and inside the school – and very realistic and beautifully designed.

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The Actors — Wow! They did an AWESOME job! We have seen many of them in other plays and recognized their faces in the program. While in the very beginning of the play we watched them and thought “Oh! He played X in ‘Goodnight Moon’ and “She played Y in ‘Charlotte’s Web’”… within moments we only saw them as Junie B. Jones and her awesome classmates and school personnel. We forgot about what their names are and just enjoyed who they were at that moment…our endearing friends from stories we treasure. (But you can read all about their real life personas in the playbill as well.)
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I highly recommend this show to everyone with young children in your lives.  I also recommend it to ALL who are children at heart – those who find delight in the whimsical and profound lessons of the ups and downs of friendship — from the viewpoint of a spunky young girl, who feels things with her whole hilarious self!

Childsplay’s 40th season is off to a wonderful start with Dwayne Hartford as the new Artistic Direction (pictured here with Andrew).  His significant expertise and experience in all aspects of Childsplay are sure to lead this wonderful theatre company in exciting new directions.  My personal hope is that he will continue to collaborate with Allison Gregory in bringing Junie B. Jones back to delight us with many more charming and boisterous tales from the school yard! Pretty please. 🙂

~ Kellie Burkhart, Family Blogger