Adventure Theater takes the classic story by Ezra Jack Keats to a new fun-filled level in this world premiere musical The Snowy Day. From the opening moments when the mistress of Snow surreptitiously creates a winter wonderland spritzing snowflakes all about, to the finale where all the characters rejoice over the wonders of a new snowy day, the production exudes enough warmth and charm to toast the chilliest toes.
The story is carried along by cool jazzy tunes and bouncy lyrics by Darius Smith with enough pizzazz for the characters to bust some terrific moves, choreography by Kurt Boehm. The script by playwright actor David Emerson Toney playfully twists and turns in the loving hands of director Jessica Burgess and does justice to the 50th anniversary of the first mass produced children’s book featuring an African American character.
When six year old Peter toggles out of bed at his Mom’s urgings, he looks out the window at mounds of perfectly white snow for the first time. The songs and lyrics relay his sense of wonder at the beauty of a fresh new day for fun and play, and he bounces outside in his new red snowsuit perfectly made to match the memorable drawings of the classic picture book, (costumes by Deb Sivigny. ) In his excitement, he shouts to any and all to come out and have fun in the snow and tries to convince an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Krinkle, and an asthmatic proned buddy to join him. That they are both hand puppets looking out the window adds to the charm, and their dialog interchange is off the charts funny.
Peter, played winningly by Alan Wiggins, plays in the snow having fun with his footprints before meeting a wary snowman, Harold, played by Calvin McCullough who yearns to get to the North Pole to prevent his eventual melting demise. Peter assures his assistance, based on his persona of Peter the Great. The first task is to help Harold the Snowman walk, which he does with some creative visualization of making legs, assisted by Sivigny’s innovative design. After a nifty song and dance routine, the two enjoy the snowy day as best buds, assisting a bird played with joyful zeal by Lauren Dupree, stuck under snow along the way.
Director Burgess gets the tone just right throughout, mixing the story’s adventure with a sense of care and wonder where even the snowflakes talk and sing. How will Peter help Harold get to the North Pole if he’s forbidden to cross the street? Wiggins delivers the threatening and warning line about getting no desserts forever with adorable sincerity. A natural song and dance guy, Wiggins expresses the absolute joy of Peter’s initial foray into snow, romping and stomping and singing up a storm. He and all the rest of the cast give their all to make it happen.
Giselle LeBeau-Gant plays triple duty as Ma, Snow Queen and Pirate, and a brief stint at the end as Mother Sun who blasts heat like a stingray. Finally, the creative set design by Timothy J. Jones goes from Peter’s cozy bedroom to the expansive snow covered streets, with ice covered tree limbs and a huge mound of ice to climb and slide.
This important new work does justice to the historical legacy that it represents—plus it’s loads of fun and showcases the incredible local artists here in the DC metro area. As evidenced by the nearly sold out run, the word is already out that Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Bobbitt has done it again and taken family theater to new heights of fun, relevance, and incredible artistic expression. Inspired by the show, I’m betting that more than the usual number of snow angels, including big ones, will grace the grounds on our next batch of snowy days.
The Snowy Day
Based on the book by Ezra Jack Keats
Book by David Emerson Toney
Music and Lyrics by Darius Smith
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running time: One hour, No intermission
- Kathleen Molloy . OurKids
- Jane Horwitz . Washingtonian
- Celia Wren . Washington Post
- Monica Sakala . WiredMom
- Topher Forhecz . Gazette.net
- Julia Exline . MDTheatreGuide