There are some concepts that simply defy imagination and must be seen to be believed. The prospect of Jerry Whiddon directing Helen Hayes winner Holly Tywford in a musical adaptation of If You Give a Pig a Pancake is one of them. The wait is over, the show is up, and it’s a riot.
As can be expected, Tywford infuses Felicia the “piglet” with a bucket load of character and plays her with an endearing twinkle and rough and tumble charm. She sings, she tap dances, she careens around in joyous glee as she informs Laura, played with effervescent zeal by Branda Locke, of her every wish and desire. The two of them share an infectious energy that fits the text perfectly. Locke demonstrates that she can hold her own from the beginning of the show with a lively make-believe space travel episode while her Dad “works upstairs and is not to be disturbed.” Little does Dad know that the fun has just begun.
Tywford’s first appearance as the piglet in the window sets the course for the cascading adventures. After initial screams of surprise (that go on a bit too long), the characters slowly begin talking to each other with polite gentility, so when Felicia looks longingly as Laura wolfs down her delish pancakes with maple syrup, well, Laura’s impeccable manners require her to do the polite thing and share, unaware of the madcap events that will follow. Because as any school ager knows, if you give a pig a pancake…prepare for an adventure of a lifetime. And that’s just what we get.
At the pace of a screwball comedy, the characters zoom around the well stocked set to handle the obligatory bath to clean up the sticky syrup. Felicia is wistfully reminded of being home on her farm and wants to visit, then she wants to take pictures to send her family, even build a tree house! Felicia urges her new friend to do more and more, and despite Laura’s increasing anxiety about getting in trouble, she grows with each new adventure.
The few songs are well placed, including a cool ditty about spontaneity which will keep a bounce in your step long after you’ve taken your own sticky clean-up bath.
Jerry Whiddon’s direction is fast-paced without feeling manic, and despite hurling props and the actors galloping about at full throttle, relatively safe. The adaptation follows the well known story, and Twyford repeats the unfolding events like a comforting mantra which children enjoy.
Artistic director Michael Bobbitt knows he’s hit a gold mine with Twyford, saying, “She brings a masterful command of the craft. It’s unbelievable the kind of performance she’s pulling off: it’s wacky, wild. Holly brings craft . . . and most of all, boundless creativity.” Yes, that along with the sensational comedic timing between the actors, Lucy and Ethel style, watching how their artistry captivates at any age level. The same can be said for Whiddon who doesn’t talk down to his audience but is true to the text, respectful and fun as all get up.
Casting such heavy hitters cranking out delightful material, Adventure Theater has raised the bar even higher in exploring new territory with this season finale securing its place for family fun and entertainment.
If You Give a Pig a Pancake
Based on the book by Laura Numeroff
Adapted by Marianne Pendino
Directed by Jerry Whiddon
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
If You Give a Pig a Pancake runs thru August 22, 2010.
For details, directions and tickets, click here.
IF YOU GIVE A PIG A PANCAKE