Imagination Stage has put together a tasty spread of charming adventures in their musical production of Anatole: Mouse Magnifique. The show has a smorgasbord of delights that consider not only what would be entertaining for the kids in the audience, but also what would satisfy the adults accompanying them.
Anatole is based on the children’s books by Eve Titus, Anatole and Anatole and the Cat. Anatole is a Parisian mouse who makes his living swiping cheese from unsuspecting humans with his best friend Gaston. On an evening cheese run, Anatole hears what the humans really think of mice: that they are vile thieves. Anatole’s conscious is pricked and he vows to regain his honor by figuring out a way to get cheese for his family without stealing. He decides that he can apply his superior cheese-tasting ability to helping the faltering local cheese factory improve their products by writing reviews of them. Desperate to save the factory, the owner Madame Duval takes the anonymous advice and the factory’s sales improve. Through a series of notes, Mme. Duval agrees to exchange cheese for Anatole’s reviews without knowing he’s a mouse. Things look up for Anatole’s new job until Mme. Duval’s cat, Charlemagne, frightens Anatole away from the factory and his entire plan gets thrown into chaos.
Anatole: Mouse Magnifique
closes March 24, 2019
Details and tickets
Playing the titular mouse, Jaysen Wright grounds the cast with his sweet performance, making Anatole both highly likable and believably conscientious. The rest of the ensemble plays multiple roles with high spirits and plenty of fun, seamlessly transitioning between being mice, snooty adult humans, cheese factory workers, members of Super Alpha Strike Force, and the fiendish Charlemagne the cat. The cast sings the musical numbers with energy and joy, making each scene’s activity feel fresh and spontaneous. The playful precision of the choreography and the skill with which it is executed is a pleasure to watch. Throughout the performance, the scenes are peppered with little jokes that easily could have been lost in the sweep of the show’s main action, but the cast makes space for those moments and it pays off with great reactions from the audience each time.
The ingenious set design is multi-story, including a rotating stage and balcony, with a spiral staircase and firefighter pole providing multiple ways of getting around the levels. The set’s golden jungle gym gives the capable cast a place to leap, twirl, and scamper around, and it helps to shape distinct scenes without major alterations to the set beyond a few chairs or wedges of cheese. The costuming, appealing and colorful, lends distinctive looks to each character, making the multiple character changes of the cast easy to follow. The snooty adult party outfits, looking like Cruella de Vil with a dash of Beetlejuice, are particularly funny, deftly caricaturing grown-up affectations.
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Imagination Stage recommends the show for ages 4+, and there were two moments during the performance that seemed a little intense for some of the kids in the audience: a sequence where Anatole dreams all his family and friends have turned into cats and a scene where they trap Charlemagne and try to put a bell on her. That said, judging from the reactions of the young audience members around me, overall, they seemed to be thoroughly captivated by the show. There was also plenty in the show for adults to enjoy, from the impeccable technical production to winking asides by mouse and human characters alike. Anatole: Mouse Magnifique is a positive and buoyant evening of theater for the whole audience, whatever their age.
Anatole: Mouse Magnifique Book and Lyrics by John Maclay and Lee Becker. Music by James Valcq. Directed by Tom Story. Based on the books Anatole and Anatole and the Cat by Eve Titus. Choreographed by Britta Joy Peterson. Music Directed by Deborah Jacobson. Featuring: Jaysen Wright (Anatole), Jessica Lauren Ball (Doucette, Charlemagne), Emily Kester (Duval), Alexandra Palting (Mlle. Bouvier, Dance Captain), David Schlumpf (Gaston), Sophie Schulman (Factory Foreman), Chris Rudy (Steve). Scenic Designer: Andrew Cohen, Costume Designer: Kendra Rai, Lighting Designer: Max Doolittle, Sound Designer: Justin Schmitz, Dialect Coach: Tonya Beckman, Assistant Choreographer: Graciela Rey, Assistant Sound Designer: Tosin Olufolabi, Assistant Stage Manager: Paulina Campbell, Stage Manager: Che Wernsman, Produced by Imagination Stage. Reviewed by Kate Gorman.
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