There’s a moose on the loose in Glen Echo and he’s mad for muffins.
No need to call animal control, just make your way to Adventure Theatre and prepare to be bowled over by the funniest, most engaging thing on four hooves—the Moose (Michael Russotto) who rings the doorbell at 10-year-old Donald’s (Parker Drown) house one chore-filled day and turns his world daftly topsy-turvy.
The Moose, dressed in a summer suit and carrying a basket, says he’s from the “No Excuses, Save the Mooses Society” and requests that Donald’s Mom sign his petition. Mom is otherwise engaged, but Moose is only too happy to wait. Crossing his legs to reveal resplendently hairy hooves, Moose makes himself comfortable.
Following the snowballing storyline of Laura Numeroff’s children’s book, adapted for the stage by Steve Garfinkel, the Moose smells homemade muffins and asks Donald for one. Just one. But anybody who has read If You Give a Moose a Muffin and other books in the series, such as If You Give a Pig a Pancake or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, knows that this simple gesture of hospitality opens a big old can of worms.
The muffin leads to some jam, inciting Mr. Russotto to get his Shakespeare on and proclaim “Danish, thou never wert!” as he gobbles the goodies while bathed in blackberry-colored light. Pretty soon, two pans of muffins are gone, the jam is history, the Moose is wearing one of Mom’s cardigans while plotting a sock puppet extravaganza that turns the living room into one hot mess. Mr. Garfinkel nicely expands the kiddie lit for the stage, having Moose and Donald perform “The Three Little Pigs” in King Arthur’s time and also sets the story in the Wild West with spray bottles serving as pistols.
The adaptation hews close enough to the book for tots to be happy, while throwing in some pop culture references to keep the grown-ups amused. There’s also a couple of life lessons about saving the environment—so moose have a place to hang and don’t have to go around ringing doorbells—and about the importance of teamwork and creativity.
Director Jeremy Skidmore keeps the mayhem dizzy and daffy, with the Moose leading the audience in song and comically staggering around in a ghostly white sheet and Donald literally running around in circles and trying to control his panicked thoughts that his mother is going to walk in any minute.
The two actors are an inspired pair—with Mr. Russotto both commanding and cuddly as the Moose and Mr. Drown, an antic charmer as the addled Donald. His moose-like rumbles for sympathy sounded quite authentic to these urban ears.
For a short burst of sheer, silly entertainment, you can’t go wrong with this Moose.
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
Based on the book by Laura Numeroff
Adapted for the stage by Steve Garfinkel
Directed by Jeremy Skidmore
Produced by Adventure Theatre Musical Theater Center
Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard
Running time: Approximately 45 minutes with no intermission