“Children’s theatre is not a soft option,” said David Wood, Magic Finger playwright and longtime creator of children’s theatre during its opening night at Imagination Stage. The opening was also the world premiere of the work, and the anticipation was huge.
When a dog was let loose at the beginning of the play, free to dash through the audience as his feckless owner attempted to catch him, the children gasped with delight, arms in the air, on the literal edges of their seats. Mr. Wood is right, children’s theatre is essential.
The Magic Finger is an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story of the same title about a young girl named Lucy (Megan Graves) who is in possession of a mysterious gift (and like all gifts, it can sometimes be a curse).
When Lucy is cruelly scolded by her teacher, her magic finger casts a spell which attracts the attention of classmate William Gregg (Matthew Schleigh). Brought to his home in the country, Lucy is introduced to the beauty of nature, and taken aback when Williams’s parents (Eric Messner, Leigh Jameson) bring William out to hunt ducks for sport. Beside herself with sorrow, Lucy casts a spell which forces the Gregg family to walk in the ducks shoes, or rather, fly with the ducks’ wings.
The family wakes to find that they have shrunken into birds, and the birds have been super-sized into adult duck-human hybrids (Phillip Reid, Lauren Du Pree, Joe Brack). The two sets of species explore their new worlds, in silly and heartfelt ways. When Lucy finds she is unable to willfully reverse the spell, the group must come together to decide if and how this situation can be resolved.
Scenic Designer Milagros Ponce de Leon’s set is both magical and earthy, brewed with deep and rich colors. The Gregg’s world is a lively dollhouse that walks the careful line between imagination and reality (in fact, I couldn’t help but think how the 8-year-old version of me would be delighted to run through this life-size dream world). Cory Ryan Frank’s fantastical lighting scheme is a solid match.
The piece is filled with thoughtful and articulate touches – the work of Beethoven orchestrates the piece, woven in and out of the scenes geared more towards open-ended choreography than dialogue.
The puppets, also a standout element of the production, are engaging and delightful, as are Kendra Rai’s costumes.
The Magic Finger dreams big in every sense of the word, as children should.
The Magic Finger
Closes June 2, 2013
4908 Auburn Avenue
1 hour, 15 minutes without intermission
Tickets: $15 – $25
Saturdays and Sundays
It asks children questions and hopes that they’ll answer with their hearts. And as a frequent attendee of theatre aimed at a generally different age group, it was refreshing to hear them answer loudly, excitedly, the way adults have been taught to no longer do.
Before the play began, Mr. Wood also spoke lightly of a party he’d recently attended, during which an acquaintance asked him if he’d one day like to “move up,” and write “real” plays one day. At this, Mr. Wood laughed, noting that one would never ask a pediatrician if he or she hoped to one day be promoted to treating adults. Watching the children watch Mr. Wood’s work, a work which spoke of kindness and nature and respect, the proof of his craft was all over their faces, and through the space filled with shouts, gasps, and laughter.
For children ages 5 – 10
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl. Adapted for the stage by David Wood . Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer . Produced by Imagination Stage . Reviewed by Sarah Ameigh.