The Alexander story with the extremely long yet fully descriptive title is as engaging as it can be, considering its over wrought premise. The story starts off strong with jubilant promise as Alexander day dreams with his chums about what he’d do if he was in charge of the world.
It’s hard not to like Alexander as he tolerates the “horrible” travails of his very bad day, starting with yucky gum in his tousled carrot top hair. Parker Drown plays the befuddled youngster as a likable sort with good intentions, who just seems caught in a downward spiral of a kid’s equivalent of Murphy’s Law. Everything that could go wrong, does. And who hasn’t had that kind of day?
Director Gail Humphries Mardirosian does what she can to liven up the material, but bad days are hard to brighten up, and that’s unfortunately the case here where disappointments cascade one after another. The director’s ingenuity can be seen when the characters take on the roles of faucet and basin for Alexander’s morning wash-up and tooth brushing bit, and, later on, a copy machine with sparkling creativity.
The story’s sad-sack premise is probably more tolerable on the page with Ray Cruz’s amusing illustrations, but theatrically, the dynamics get stuck; his siblings rough-house and torment him, school buds abandon him, he doesn’t get the cool tennis shoes he wants, and he ends up in “the chair” at the dentist, played with diabolical glee by Benjamin L. Horen who also triples as the Father and shoe salesman. With the un-ending disappointments and unrelenting teasing by his siblings and classmates, Alexander longs to escape as far away as he can fathom, even to Australia, which costumer Andriana Diaz brings to life complete with cute koala bear costumes.
It probably doesn’t help that the two leads, Parker Drown and Broadway actress Sandy Bainum, who portray Alexander and his mother both have the weaker voices that don’t project as much as the other characters. Still, their dramatic portrayals compensate for lack of vocal heft with Bainum shifting easily through her multiple roles—from caring Mom, to consoling teacher. The rest of the cast has vocals to spare, including the always reliable S. Lewis Feemster and energetic Ashleigh King in multiple roles.
The brightly colored set designed by Douglas Clarke starts with a bed prominently rolled onto center stage, complete with downy soft patterned quilt perfect for Alexander to dive under in a last ditch effort to stay in his cozy bed. The set also includes sturdy side bars in wrought iron designs great for climbing and hanging. Even the students’ school chairs have a funnel design to hold costumes and props for quick changes.
Director Mardirosian keeps the production moving at a fun clipped pace through Alexander’s series of unfortunate events.The musical numbers help relay the sentiments while progressing the story, and the audience participation of repeating the title as a refrain throughout engages and entertains.
The book is a favorite because it provides a glimpse of surviving everyday trivial events that can overwhelm like multiple paper cuts. Dog bites and bee stings are about the only unfortunate events that Don’t happen to Alexander. As his mother assures at the end, tomorrow is a bright new day, full of hope and promise, and can’t come soon enough for the beleaguered Alexander—or for us.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Based on the book by Judith Viorst
Book and Lyrics by Judith Viorst . Music by Shelly Markham
Directed by Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running time: 1 hour with no intermission
Celia Wren . Washington Post