Put Lulu on the list of indelible child characters who are loud, proud and unbowed. Lulu joins grumpy and much put-upon Alexander in author Judith Viorst’s pantheon of kids who act like stinkpots once in a while. Her 2010 book Lulu and the Brontosaurus gives the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day a rival in the churlish children department.
Like Alexander’s two stints at the Kennedy Center, Lulu has been brought to the musical stage—this time at Bethesda’s Imagination Stage. As played with exuberant chutzpah by Casie Platt, Lulu is like sheer will tied up in a taffeta bow. While you may think this kid is crying for a time out and you are glad you’re not her parents, children are captivated by Lulu’s “by any means necessary” credo and whoops-a-daisy disregard for rules and conventions.
Miss Viorst wrote the wily book and lyrics for this musical adaptation, with Shelly Markham providing the spirited score and Milagros Ponce de Leon contributing an emerald green, jungle set speckled with ferns and tropical flowers. The show begins with a glimpse of home life, as Lulu steamrolls her parents (Doug Wilder and Tracey Stephens) into giving her, well, everything—a cellphone, TV, whatever her wee heart desires. “Are you telling me no?” she thunders when her folks have the audacity to suggest that these purchases may not be appropriate for a girl her age.
She hates to be told no or to wait and throws an operatic fit that would make Maria Callas seem like a zen master in comparison. Her zesty snit tango “I Want What I Want ‘Cause I Want It” reminds you of “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees minus the sexual smolder, of course. When she hears “yes” Lulu changes her tune—to a sweet lilt.
Lulu is a pain in the butt, the Narrator (Lauren Du Pree) helpfully points out before gleefully running down all the names for that body part. Lulu’s willfulness reaches a crescendo on her birthday when she asks for a pet brontosaurus—not giving a hoot that they are extinct or taking into consideration their gi-normous size.
Lulu and the Brontosaurus
Closes October 27, 2013
4908 Auburn Avenue
1 hour, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $12 – $22
While her parents snooze in the rare peace afforded by her absence, Lulu meets a vain Tiger (a diva-like Miss Stephens, sporting cat’s eye glasses, naturally), who is miffed that the rowdy Lulu interrupted her precious beauty sleep, a law-Snake (Vaughn Irving, speaking and singing with a sibilant slither) who is a stickler for rules and a Bear (Mr. Wilder) who enjoys the music of the buzzing and humming insects until Lulu busts in wielding cans of bug spray. His song “Get Out of My Face!” features a rock-and-roll growl and a bluesy beat.
When wild animals think you’re a rude beast, you know things are bad. But Lulu meets her match when she chances upon Mr. B—a chartreuse brontosaurus with doleful, puppy-dog eyes and a soft English accent (the massive puppet is manipulated and voiced by Mr. Irving with a bit too much of Kermit the Frog distinction).
He’s as persistent as she is and wants Lulu for his pet. Before long, Mr. B has—gently—drilled some manners into Lulu and awakens her to the importance of respecting others. After singing a Sondheim-y duet about regret and not belonging together, Lulu gets a big green thunder lizard for a forever friend.
As much as Lulu’s cheek is endearing and Mr. B is a dignified dino, the show moves at a pace that may be too leisurely for some little ones and a series of endings drags things out even more. But you gotta love Lulu—long may her brass-plated brio prevail.
Lulu and the Brontosaurus . Based on the book by Judith Viorst . Book and lyrics by Judith Viorst . Music by Shelly Markham . Directed by Janet Stanford . Produced by Imagination Stage . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.