In this version, Ferdinand, the peace-loving, flower-smelling bull, has a friend, Cochina the pig played by Sara Beth Pfeifer, who convinces him to go to Madrid and participate in a bullfight. Ferdy reluctantly agrees. He is scheduled to fight Danilo, (Andrew Boza), an equally peace-loving boy who wants to be a dancer and only gives in to please his controlling father, the Duque Dodo, (Michael John Casey). A confrontation is inevitable as two the reluctant fighters meet in the ring.
The particular charm of this show is the infusion of all things Spanish: the stunning sets and costumes inspired by the work of Spanish artist Joan Miro, the mood-setting guitar-playing by Michael Perez, and the flamenco dancing/castanet playing by Renee Lamont. Rapt by the castanets, and not believing Lamont could make such sounds, one kid said, “It’s a tape, right?” Spanish words and accented English also abound. So much so, it’s hard to understand some of the lines. But don’t worry if you miss a joke. This show is full of puns and clever plays on words.
The music (Deborah Wicks La Puma) fits nicely with the Spanish theme. It’s a pleasure to listen to Andrew Boza’s ballad, “Danny’s Song.” And Sara Beth Pfeifer shows off her feisty pig character in “Bully is What a Bull Should Do.”
Take a minute to read through the program with its background on The Story of Ferdinand’s author, Munro Leaf, and Spanish artist Joan Miro. I am always impressed by the effort Imagination Stage takes with informative extras that enrich the show.
And pay attention when this theater posts the age recommendation. Kids under four are more likely to squirm in their seats, while older kids will better appreciate Danilo’s dilemma.
Consistent with the characters of Ferdinand and Danilo, this story as a whole has a quiet way about it. There are no really big scenes – except the wonderful climactic fight/dance at the end – but the show is entertaining nonetheless. It’s a classy production offering a cultural lesson on the arts of Spain and a moral lesson on being true to oneself.
Note: Bring an extra sweater as the theater gets quite cold.
Ferdinand the Bull
Based on the book by Munro Leaf
Book and Lyrics by Karen Zacarias|
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer
Produced by Imagination Stage
Reviewed by Miriam Chernick
- Celia Wren . The Post
- Jayne Blanchard . The Times