One of the best gifts for parents with children this year is the newly formed National Children’s Theatre, a collaboration between Imagination Stage and The National Theatre, which brings full children’s theatre productions downtown to Pennsylvania Avenue.
The National Children’s Theatre has chosen wisely in selecting Imagination Stage’s Helen Hayes award-winning The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) for its inaugural show. It is a vision in that elegant, regal theatre, and one you’ll want to catch quickly.
Based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 novel of the same name, The BFG follows the orphan Sophie (Megan Graves) as she befriends the Big Friendly Giant (James Konicek)—traveling with him to his home cave, Dream Country, and, eventually, Buckingham Palace where, together, they use the power of dreams to convince the Queen (Susan Lynskey) to mount an offensive against the bad, not-so-very-friendly giants (who steal and eat sleeping children!).
Along the way, they capture the ingredients for dreams (for the BFG travels the world blowing good dreams into the windows of sleeping children) and partake in some very foul food and very fun beverages, which keep the show steeped in levity and the kids in the audience in belly-aching laughs.
Perhaps the greatest feat in this show is the use of puppets which bring to life not only the BFG, but also his adversaries: Bloodletter (Joe Carlson), Meatdripper (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), Bonecruncher (Matthew Aldwin McGee), Gizzardgulper (Jon Hudson Odom), and Fleshplumpeater (Matthew Schleigh). They are as wonderfully grotesque in appearance as their names suggest. And silly looking and larger-than-life. The BFG, himself, lumbers on stage at well over 10 feet, demanding the control of at least two people at all times. It’s both frightening and awe-inducing, especially on that grand old stage, and gloriously spectacular to behold.
THE BFG (Big Friendly Giant)
VERY Highly Recommended
July 14 – 25
The National Children’s Theatre
The National Theatre
1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
1 hour, 20 minutes with no intermission
Tuesdays thru Saturdays
Tickets: $14 – $40
Details and Tickets
The production is a moody, magical triumph, given dimension, ambiance, and texture at the hands directors Kathryn Chase Bryer and Eric J. Van Wyk, who also designed the set, puppets, and projections. The music is often haunting but always enchanting while the actors—most double as puppeteers as well—capture the whimsy needed to pull off a play wherein the Queen of England attacks human eating giants with droll sensibility.
Susan Lynskey’s Elizabeth-like doppelganger—who continually perfects her pageant wave—will crack you up as will her two bumbling military commanders (Carlson and McGee again) and anxious maid, Mary (Maggie Wilder).
But it is the tender, trusting relationship between Sophie (Megan Graves) and James Konicek as the BFG (James Konicek) which givse the show its heart. Konicek’s booming voice imbues the gentle giant with brilliant and distinct expressions of emotion.
First-rate and stunning. Every kid should see The BFG. But, I’m just an adult. What do I know? So, take the word of my seven-year-old date. I asked her to rate the show using stars, with 5 being the highest.
Speechless, she held up all 10 fingers. Yep, it’s that kind of wow!
The BFG (Big Friendly Giant . Based on the book by Roald Dahl . Adapted by David Wood . Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer and Eric J. Van Wyk . Featuring: Joe Carlson (Bloodletter/Head of the Air Force/Headmistress); Maboud Ebrahimzadeh (Meatdripper/Sam’s Dad/Queen of Sweden); Maggie Wilder (Rebecca/Mary); Megan Graves (Sophie); Tyler Herman (Puppeteer); Vaughn Irving (Rebecca’s Mother/Puppeteer/ u/s The BFG); James Konicek (The BFG); Susan Lynskey (The Queen/Miss Plumridge/Puppeteer); Matthew Aldwin McGee (Bonecruncher/Head of the Army); Jon Hudson Odom (Gizzardgulper/Sam); Matthew Schleigh (Fleshlumpeater); Tony Strowd (Puppeteer)
Production: Eric J. Van Wyk (Set, Puppets, and Projection Designer) . Jeffrey Stolz (Costume Designer) . Jason Arnold (Lighting Designer) . Christopher Baine (Composer/Sound Designer) .Ben Cunis (Movement Consultant) . Jose Nunez (Props Coordinator) . Niles Ludwig (Projection Animation Assistant) . Elizabeth Coco and Tyler Dubuc (Assistant Lighting Designer) . Produced by The National Children’s Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.