Adventure Theatre’s Spot’s Birthday Party is a loving reminder of why kids love birthday parties, and this is the best one ever. The fun-filled production engages the audience in the festivities from the very beginning, looking for Spot, singing along, enjoying the party games, even helping to blow out the candles on the cake. With non-stop creativity, the cast works wonders with the simple premise—a birthday party—turning everyday songs, basic storylines and familiar plots into an enjoyable event for the entire family.
There’s definitely something for everyone at Spot’s party where attention to detail is evident at every turn. The chunky drawings in the familiar children’s story reflect a wholesomeness that is nicely captured in this skillfully crafted production, down to the art design. For example, each character is dressed in a dominant color in whimsical costumes designed by Katie Touart, which match the colorful doors in Hannah J. Crowell’s playful set. Even the stars by the actors’ names in the program match their designated color for a well-rounded effect.
That same attention to detail can be seen in the “spot-on”casting where the actors create appealing characters with enjoyable and energetic group dynamics. John Robert Keena portrays Spot with a perfect blend of wondrous joy, inquisitiveness and charm as he enjoys the day while including his friends in the fun. Matt Dewberry and Ayanna Hardy play his attentive parents, with Hardy rendering particularly lovely vocals along the way. Danny Pushin who was simply marvelous in The Red Balloon is equally effective here as Marco the Magician, pulling comical routines, slap stick, and even speech pattern inflections straight out of the Catskills. Joshua Dick, Mary Beth Luckenbaugh and Kirstin Riegler play Spot’s buds—a crocodile, a hippo, and a monkey—all are seasoned actors performing throughout the metro area, and each is fully engaged in the zany routines.
That’s what brings the story alive—creating the feeling that we’re at a birthday party in real time, even from the beginning when the characters arrive while we’re in a drum roll anticipation looking for the birthday pup. The songs are as simple as, well, the Happy Birthday song, and just as satisfying, and so is the music by David Wood who uses repetition in a lulling and comforting manner. The show-stealing choreography by Kurt Boehm has all the characters strut their stuff and jam in a variety of musical styles, invoking 1960’s disco complete with strobe lights, contemporary funk, and even New Orleans style jazzy riffs, while trickster Magician Marco tells jokes and performs goofy magic tricks throughout.
Director Joe Banno has tapped into his inner child keeping the performers in character, showing how they all relate to and care for each other while keeping the pace lively and moments fresh. The retelling of Cinderella with all the playmates performing the roles defies description and is a treasure.
So whether you’re having a birthday or would rather forget them as they roll by, Spot’s Birthday Party is an enjoyable reminder of why at one point, we couldn’t get enough of them.
Spot’s Birthday Party
Based on the books by Eric Hill . Adapted by David Wood
Music and Lyrics by David Wood
Directed by Joe Banno
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie M. Jackson
Spot’s Birthday Party runs thru Nov 2, 2010 at Aventure Theatre, Glen Echo Park, MD
For details, directions and tickets, click here.