Chicago Theatre Review
Favorite Stories Come to Life
Another Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter & Friends – Chicago Childrens Theatre
Any young child, for whom books have been an important part of growing up, will no doubt be familiar with the charming stories by Beatrix Potter. This smart, multitalented Victorian Englishwoman was unusual for her time. She was a natural scientist and a conservationist, as well as an accomplished illustrator and a gifted writer. Residing in England’s Lake District, Ms. Potter, whose imagination was sparked by the classic fairy tales and fables that were so popular at that time, drew her own stories from observing the animals and plant life that surrounded her farm. During her lifetime, Beatrix Potter wrote, illustrated and published over two dozen stories, most of which were aimed at young children.
Originally presented last season, this theatre company has revived their popular production once again for children, ages 2-6. It’s an enchanting, half-hour performance of three Potter fantasies, enacted by a trio of skilled storytellers who incorporate the contents of a stageful of wrapped packages into their show. These boxes magically reveal themselves to hide mechanical-operated puppets, stage settings and props, all used to tell the stories. The performance is followed by an additional half-hour of hands-on activities, allowing children and their parents the opportunity to join the actors onstage to play with the puppets and turn the cranks and levers that move the stories along. Children are even given a Beatrix Potter coloring book to take home and enjoy.
Performing artist Will Bishop has devised this captivating theatre for toddlers, combining puppetry, music and imaginative gadgets and gears with Potter’s own artwork. Actor/musicians Lara Carling, Kay Kron and Ray Rehberg bring these tales to life with loving care, theatricality and musical skill; but it’s Beatrix Potter’s stories that are the real stars of this production. The program opens with Ms. Potter’s first and most beloved story, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit;” it then continues with “The Tale of Gloucester” and the delightful “Tale of Jeremy Fisher.”
Children will be thrilled to discover their favorite stories coming to life before their eyes. The puppets sometimes even seem to grow larger, often breaking the fourth wall and joining the audience for some interactive fun. It’s all enjoyable and artfully performed. But more than that, this production will inspire young readers to patronize their libraries and bookstores in order to experience Beatrix Potter’s irresistable stories for themselves.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented November 5-20 by Chicago Children’s Theatre at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago.
Tickets are available at the door, by calling 872-222-9555 or by going to www.chicagochildrenstheatre.org.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.