Today I bake, tomorrow I sew,
And then off to Annapolis we will go
What for? To see the delightful production of Rumple Who? That’s what for! Bay Theatre has brought this cute family theater production to Annapolis where it is sure to entertain. Unlike pure children’s theater, Rumple Who? adds several “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge” asides for the adults chaperoning the younger audience members to make for an enjoyable hour for all.
Based on the classic fairy tale, the plot has been distilled down to its basic story and music and movement added to make it quite riveting for the wee ones.
The Queen (Rena Cherry Brown) is quite besotted with gold. She decides to enter the local dance contest to try to win the prize of a bag of gold. She and her son, the momma’s boy, King Henry (Judson Davis), enlist the aid of Rumplestiltskin (Ryan P. Brown) posing as a dance teacher.
They lose but the Queen hears rumor that a miller’s daughter (Amy Kellett) can spin straw into gold. She sends Rumplestiltskin off to search for the miller’s daughter, bring her to the castle and lock her in the tower to spin for the crown. Rumplestiltskin does find the girl and brings her to the castle, and the queen threatens to have the girl killed if she cannot spin straw into gold by morning.
During the night, a disguised Rumplestiltskin creeps into the tower and offers to save the girl in return for her first-born child. Having no options, the girl agrees. In the morning, there are buckets of gold for the princess to give to the queen. The young King Henry is enchanted by the young woman and marries her, they have a child and the disguised Rumplestiltskin returns to claim the child unless the family learns his name. I think you can guess the ending.
The talented cast definitely have the right attitude for family theater. They were sufficiently over-the-top and melodramatic to keep both young and old in stitches. Rena Cherry Brown continues to impress at Bay Theatre. After playing the savvy retiree in Gin Game and the backwater boarding house mistress in The Foreigner, she shows yet another side as the crabby avaricious queen. She plays her character to the hilt, down to the wicked laugh and cackle. She even dealt well with an unexpected response from a young audience member.
The tall, dark and handsome Judson Davis was an excellent choice to play King Henry. He was able to convey the vapid, childlike boy-king, yet was funny and his pleasant baritone was well suited to the music and his role.
Amy Hallett was a delightful breath of fresh air as the miller’s daughter. She was reminiscent of a young Disneyesque leading lady and the children in the audience seemed to really take to her. I especially loved her cross-eyed look while under Rumplestiltskin’s spell.
Rounding out the cast was Ryan P. Brown as Rumplestiltskin. Brown was clearly cast for his verbal and physical comedy skills. His acrobatic entrance drew big applause and the children loved his presence and his humor. It should be noted that two swing perfomers play some performances: Beth Terranova as the Queen and Bret Warner Hurt as either Rumplestiltskin or the Miller’s Daughter.
Director Jim Chance should be credited for keeping the action lively and interesting – the characters regularly spoke directly to the audience and his addition of extensive bathroom humor was clearly appealing to the younger set. His set was simple and effective, including curtains for fast scene changes and a quaint mountain mural in the far corner. Colorful, suitable costumes rounded out the visual appeal.
Pianist Eun Nichols’ energetic performance kept the show moving along. The only slight issue was that Will Bartlett’s book and score could use fewer ballads and more uptempo numbers. While the adults in the audience enjoyed the ballads (especially when sung by the vocally gifted David and Kellett), they didn’t have as strong an impact on the younger set whose attention tended to drift during those numbers.
These days it can be hard to find good clean family fun that isn’t rated PG-13 or higher. So, take advantage of this production and take a hop and skip down to Annapolis with your kids for a great family show.
By Will Bartlett
Directed by Jim Chance
Produced by Bay Theatre
Reviewed by Ted Ying
Running Time 1 hour — no intermission