Kristy Reviews “The Boy Who Loved Monsters & the Girl Who Loved Peas”

Excited to be returning with my oldest son to the theatre for our fourth time, I was particularly thrilled this time around to also be bringing my husband and 3 year old twins, who were attending for their first time.  In contrast with all of the other performances I have seen at Childsplay (which were all adaptations from some of my favorite books), I did not know the complete storyline of this play prior to attending.  With a show geared for ages 3 and up, that upon first read of the description looked to be an entertaining one, I was eager to see what was in store for us.  This performance was definitely full of fun and creativity; my boys certainly enjoyed it, and although this was not my favorite storyline ever, it was unarguably well executed, as always.

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This play is an original story, inspired by playwright Jonathan Graham, centered around a “typical” family who seems to have lost a bit of their connection with each other, somewhere between the dull routine of everyday life and their never ending need to be plugged in to the devices they are constantly carrying.  The parent’s preoccupation with their technology leaves them oblivious to what is happening around them, as the last pea on the plate that 8 year old Evan is struggling to stomach literally grows before his eyes into the monster he was wishing for.  Evan and younger sister Sue, who soon discovers his secret, are delighted to have this new monster Pea as their playmate, and find themselves enjoying time together pretending, being silly, and having all kinds of fun.  Pea not only brings the two siblings together, but in the end, manages to unplug and unite the entire family with the power of play.

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My favorite element of this show was definitely its humor.  Not only is Pea a very funny monster who has the kids in the audience cracking up, but there is a ton of satire and comical comments thrown in to keep the adults in the audience chuckling as well.  Also, I think the storyline certainly holds relatable elements for kids everywhere – being forced to eat their vegetables, having to deal with annoying younger siblings, and wishing their parents could devote more time and attention to playing with them.  Evan depicts his parents as pretty unexciting, noting that parents everywhere tend to be a little boring; they enjoy gross stuff like coffee and feta cheese, and spend their free time watching boring movies or sitting around talking about boring stuff.  The adults in the audience are left laughing as we see ourselves portrayed from our kids’ points of view, but also hits on a note of truth for many of us as we watch the loving, yet sometimes disengaged parents struggle to disconnect from the digital world and find time to just play.

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I have mixed feelings on the age recommendations given for this show.  This performance is approximately 60 minutes (with no intermission), which is a fairly good chunk of time for young kiddos to sit calmly and quietly.  My very active 3 year old boys did pretty well for the duration, getting only a little antsy towards the end.  For the most part, they were actually quite engaged, watching all the imaginative play and silly antics coming from Evan, Sue, and Pea.  I was a little surprised with a 3+ age recommendation to hear the word “stupid” in the script, and to have Evan pretend to “suck out the brains” of one of the stuffed animals in one of the numerous creative play scenes with Pea and his sister.  I’m not sure that my youngsters really took much notice, but it certainly caught my attention!

This show is presented in the Studio, which is especially nice for a younger audience to be in a smaller and more up-close setting.  The set and costumes were very colorful and wacky, immediately catching your eye, promising fun and drawing the audience in.  And of course, the cast was amazing – have they ever not been?!  Katie McFadzen really brought the monster Pea to life with her wild expressions and crazy actions.  The kids were fixated, and couldn’t help but watch to see what she would do next!

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Childsplay again offers opportunities to extend and enhance your experience at the theatre.  There are several thought provoking activities with opportunities to teach, predict and discuss, including suggestions of things to think about, talk about, and watch for during your time at the theater and even afterwards.  My boys all enjoyed making their own monster hands prior to the show.  I would suggest arriving about 20-30 minutes early to allow enough time to make those and hit upon a few of the suggested discussion points with your kids before show time.

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Overall, The Boy Who Loved Monsters and The Girl Who Loved Peas is an entertaining show that leaves the audience with a warm ending, and a great take home message about the importance of playing and spending time together as a family, as well as a challenge from the cast to try to do just that!

Kristy 
Mom Blogger

Kristy’s “Junie B. Jones” Review

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First off, I feel as though I should start by acknowledging that I am probably coming to the table with a bit of bias with regard to this play.  I am a big fan of the Junie B. collection of books (and own a good majority of them)!  For any who may not know, this series of books is about a spunky and outspoken young girl named Junie B. Jones who is not afraid to say what she thinks and how she feels.  The stories are told through Junie’s voice as she journeys through the typical childhood joys and struggles and experiences that most 5 and 6 year olds do.  The settings of these books bounce back and forth between school and home, detailing her interactions with her family, as well as her friends and of course, her rival, blabbermouth May.  As a former 1st Grade teacher, I used to read these books aloud to my students (and now my son), and they have never failed to entertain and delight their young audience.

The play Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (an adaptation of the book) follows Junie and her class as they prepare for their holiday performance and classroom celebration, which is to include a secret Santa gift exchange.  This show is a nice treat for the holiday season – with a heartwarming ending that delivers a great moral lesson as Junie struggles with the meaning of “good will” and trying to “be a giver and not a shellfish”.

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To say that “I loved it” feels like an understatement!  This performance was excellent!!  I attended this play with my 7 year old son and my mom…and I’m honestly not sure who enjoyed the play most!  Children and adults alike will appreciate the laugh out loud comedy in this show, both in the narrative and the actions of the characters.  It was hilarious – and we were not the only ones who thought so, judging from the amount of laughter also coming from the other members of the audience!  The characters were really brought to life, and could not have been more like I imagined them from having read the books.  They were perfectly casted!  Although my son is familiar with the Junie B. books and characters from reading some of them, he and my mom (who previously knew nothing about Junie B.) went into this show without knowing this particular storyline.  My son (a current 1st grader like Junie) had a huge smile that remained constant on his face through the entire show, and was only broken by his frequent laughter.  He was extremely involved by the end, trying to predict what Junie would do about her secret Santa gift, and how the show would conclude.  The story is easy to follow, even for those who are unfamiliar with the book or the characters.  The set and costumes were simple, but perfect to enhance each characters persona and complement each scene nicely.

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I do think Childsplay was accurate with their age recommendation of 5 and up.  The actors are very active and engaging, and the set changes keep things moving, but there is a lot of dialogue (told from the viewpoint of a 1st grader).  So attention span and ability to comprehend the storyline need to be factored in when considering what age children to bring to the show. But I think any elementary school aged child would have a great experience!

I love the extended activities that Childsplay has created – they really enhance the experience, and of course, appealed to my educator side!  There are several thought provoking activities with opportunities to teach, predict and discuss, including suggestions of things to think about, talk about, and watch for during your time at the theater and even afterwards.  Be sure to check out the tables in the lobby for making your very own Junie B. glasses, and using the Junie B. Jinglizer to create your own version of Jingle Bells!  We arrived about 15 minutes early, but could easily have used more time for the activities.  (My son used the intermission to run back out to the lobby to create another pair of Junie B glasses to give to me!)

Kristy

All in all, I’d say this was another homerun for Childsplay – they knocked it out of the park!!

Kristy
Mom Blogger