Sunday, April 16, 2006

Charlotte's Web (Cleveland Play House)

Berko boys give thumbs up to ‘Charlotte’s Web’ at CPH

E. B. White’s ‘CHARLOTTE’S WEB’ is one of the most beloved children’s stories. It has been made into an animated movie which is also a favorite. My grandson’s Alex, Noah and Ian accompanied me to the Cleveland Play House’s staged version of the show so I could present a view of the production from the intended audience--kids.

Alex, age 10 and Noah, 8 (“nine next week!” he reminded me) gave the show an 8 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being superb! Ian, age 6, didn’t contribute a number but said, “I really liked it.” Considering that Ian consistently falls asleep at plays, and that he stayed awake during the entire production and even went on stage to help with the finale, says a whole lot of positive about the happenings.

Alex was impressed that, “the actors sounded exactly like the film performers which allowed me to easily identify with the characters.” Noah “really liked Lelund Durond Thompson who played the lovable and gentle Wilbur, the pig who is saved from being killed by Charlotte, the caring spider who gives her life for the sake of others.” All of the boys thought Jason Miller, who used a Paul Lynde voice to portray the self centered, food-driven rat Templeton, was “hysterical.”

The play’s morals, “practice random acts of kindness every day” and “a good life is more important than a long life,” were repeated by the trio when I asked what the play’s message was.

So, with all the positives, why the 8? The older boys agreed that some of the scenes from the book were left out. These, they felt, were “necessary to completely develop the story.” (Smart kids!)

Their grandfather, who I guess isn’t as critical, gave the production a 10. I was impressed by Mark Alan Gordon’s pacing of the show. He knows what kids want and need and got right to the point, kept the action moving right along, and handled Charlotte’s death scene with great tact. The cast was universally excellent...not a weak thread in the web. The audience talk-back, including the audience in the production, and the fine costumes (James Strunk), scenic design (Reynard Pope), sounds (James Swonger) and lighting (Maureen Patterson) all added to the positive effect of the 50 minute show.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: The Cleveland Play House’s ‘CHARLOTTE’S WEB’ was a delight.