Caps For Sale: The Musical is the first show of the 64th season- yep, folks, 64 years- of Adventure Theatre, a children’s theatre company based in Glen Echo Park, Md. Haven’t been there before? A pity, then- you’ve been missing a treat all these years. After a half century producing professional theatre, they know a few tricks, and they’re all on display in this neatly crafted adaptation of the well known book by Esphyr Slobodkina.
Adapted for the stage by Ann Marie Mulhearn Sayer and Michael J. Bobbitt, Caps is also Adventure Theatre’s entry in the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. After its limited three week run in Glen Echo Park, it then goes on a 19 city tour, culminating in a short off-Broadway run in February, so time is short to see this in our own backyard.
If your childhood occurred anytime between 75 years ago and yesterday, you already know the story: traveling peddler falls asleep under a tree, monkeys steal his caps (which he wears in a long column neatly stacked one upon the other on his head), he gets mad, and in a fit of pique he throws his own cap on the ground. Monkeys copy him, and the caps are returned! Remember it now? Sure you do.
The short narrative above has been elaborated upon, with new characters added, and a requisite crowd of impossibly cute monkeys, played by both puppets and humans.
To begin with, the set itself is darling, like a 3D popup of the original illustrations- you’ll recognize them as soon as you step in the theatre. The thrust stage is small but adequate for the six member cast, and the choreography, while cramped at times, is lively and varied enough from song to song that it doesn’t feel repetitive, as musicals with a small cast can sometimes feel. My particular favorite number was a big sloppy dance with the monkeys, sung in Minions-like gibberish that had us laughing out loud. Is it insulting to the cast to state that they are perfect monkeys? Cuz they are- very silly indeed, with big ridiculous ears and long furry tails. Every kid who sees the show will ask for a monkey costume this Halloween, mark my words.
CAPS FOR SALE
Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival
September 11 – 27
Adventure Theatre MTC
Glen Echo Park
7300 MacArthur Blvd
Glen Echo MD 20812
1 hour, no intermission
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Nostalgia is high here; the opening Sunday afternoon performance I viewed was largely attended by adults, with a few families scattered throughout. Luckily, there are jokes for the grownups here as well as for the kiddies, and a good deal of humor, slapstick and well placed ‘bits’ by director Patrick Pearson. At 1 hour and change, overall it’s nicely paced, but it’s frankly a bit overlong for the teeny-weenies towards the end. No doubt several smaller scenes could be reasonably cut with no loss of narrative.
The music and lyrics by William Yanesh felt, to be honest, like a first effort- not tremendously original or hummable upon leaving the lobby, but certainly professional enough and fun enough to be a good introduction to musical theatre. Sound needs some adjusting- I was seated near the back, and sung lyrics were often overwhelmed by the too-loud sound track. The cast is strong, though two performers merited special notice: Alan Naylor, as the Peddler, has a clear, fresh tenor and grand comedic timing. He’s instantly likable. Rebecca Tucker as Essie chews the scenery with great effect and a natural gift for playing to kids without going too over the top, a difficult balance done well.
Costumes by Kelsey Hunt are creative and well done- great pool noodle wigs there, Kelsey- and the puppets by Andrea “Dre” Moore deserve a special mention for adorableness.
It’s a good show. Bring the kids and the grandparents too!