Think Fringe isn’t family friendly? It is! Exhibit A: Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley – LaGoDi Foundation for the Arts’ musical storybook romp. Geared towards toddlers, Barry Beaver is like a live-action Sprout network cartoon. But this isn’t the kind of children’s theatre that has something for the parents. If you’re date is over the age of five, this show probably isn’t for them.
The energetic and optimistic Barry Beaver inhabits Happy Valley with his sister Sherry Beaver and friends honey-lover Bruce Bear and Hootie Owl, the town gossip with a prodigious vocabulary. Every morning Barry wakes up, gets dressed (by clipping on his tail, naturally) eats his favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, and faces the day’s adventures. Through a series of five short acts, each a standalone story, he encounters new friends, mishaps and learns a little something, too.
Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley is based on children’s stories written by Peter Frost (adapted for the stage by Anne Laffoon and Patrick DiBattista). Fittingly, watching the show is like getting tucked in with a bedtime story. Granddad (Frost) reads narration from his big book of tales. The set, costumes and props are bright and cleverly rendered, like illustrations. The stories are cute and simple with clear morals such as don’t judge a book by its cover and friendship is more important than material things.
Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley
Written bt Anne Laffoon and Patrick di Battista
Details and tickets
Keeping the attention of preschoolers for an hour is no easy task, but the folks behind Barry Beaver do their best by asking the kids to participate in making sound effects, answering questions and singing and dancing with denizens of Happy Valley. Composer Laffoon makes following along easy with the kind of rhythmic, repetitive music and choreography that appeals to little ones (think “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes”).
Since this show clearly wasn’t written with adults in mind, I spent a lot of time watching the response of the children in the audience. It was decidedly mixed. Though Barry Beaver has many charms, the performance I attended was tentative. The cast was uncertain and so were the kids, sponges that they are. The oldest ones were the least engaged. LaGoDi says the show is for 3-8 year-olds, but 2-5 is probably a more accurate range. It’s hard for me to picture my Minecraft and Star Wars-loving 8-year-old nephew being interested in the Busy Bee song. But, based on the number of littler ones clamoring for photos with the cast after the show, Barry and his friends won over some new fans.
Barry Beaver’s Adventures in Happy Valley presented by LaGoDi Foundation for the Arts. Written by: Pete Frost. Adapted for Stage by: Anne Laffoon and Patrick DiBattista. Music by: Anne Lafoon. Directed by: Patrick DiBattista. Executive Producer: Alfredo Gomez. Costume Design by: Anne Lafoon. Sound by: Austin Badger. Set Design by: Frostline Design. Choreography by: Sophie DeLeo. Lighting by: Robert Harris. Featuring: Joshua Kiggins (Barry Beaver), Michael Brassfield (Bruce Bear), Sophia Deleo (Sally Skunk, Sammy Squirrel), Melanie Zehner (Sherry Beaver), Bettina Stap (Hootie Owl), Pete Frost (Granddad), Patrick DiBattista (Cloud). Reviewed by: Amy Couchoud.