SEVEN IN ONE BLOW or THE BRAVE LITTLE KIDby Randy Sharp & Axis Company
Director - Robin Armstrong
Stage Manager - Sarahi Salazar
Set Design - Clare Floyd DeVries
Lighting Design - John Leach
Costume Design - Robin Armstrong
Properties Design - John Harvey
Dance Choreography - Sherry Hopkins
Frankie - Eric Dobbins
The Witch - Sherry Hopkins
December - Michael James
The Ogre - Jim Johnson
A Pea - Amy Elizabeth Jones
The QK - Kevin Scott Keating
The Kid - Mikaela Krantz
Princess Fartina - Hannah McKinney
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Brad Stephens
Mack - Shane Strawbridge
Reviewed Performance: 11/19/2011
Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Circle Theatre's production of Seven in One Blow is an enchanting, rollicking, and joyously hip alternative to DFW's holiday themed theatre-going season already underway. The nimble actors of a well-rounded ensemble are impeccably cast by director Robin Armstrong, creating an experience that all members of the family will enjoy.
The story follows a "Kid" who is adorned with a gold belt buckle that marks the Kid's accomplishment of swatting seven flies "? in one blow". The Kid travels freely amongst the discovery of characters that have popped out of Brothers Grimm fairytales, both faithful and irreverent, as an Ogre, a Princess, and other literary characters such as the Scarlett Pimpernel. Each character The Kid encounters interprets the buckle as something heroic, so gallant challenges are dared upon to the young kid.
This voyage is told through the storytelling device of the theatrical art form called the "panto", Great Britain's version of the pantomime, only it is the exact opposite of silence and performed with a heavy flourish of Commedia del' Arte. In a panto the audience is relied upon frequently to be a willing participant in the story.
The high audience participation factor can be disastrous for any theatre company as there is an easy temptation for actors of a children's play to overcompensate with their energy level. That is simply not the case here as each of the performers uses a deft hand when transitioning from scene work to audience interaction within seconds. There's no stitching to be seen as it all feels very organic, and through it all the material never plays down or condescends to its core audience. Much of the credit for this belongs to Shane Strawbridge and Eric Dobbins who play Frankie and Mack, two bumbling, homeless guys who open the show and immediately put the audience to work as Mack tells Frankie of this wonderful adventure.
The production is not a musical, yet there are musical numbers in it; in fact, only three numbers are written for the show, but two original tunes are added by cast member Shane Strawbridge, which are very welcome as every song is a delight. I tip my hat off to Jim Johnson who gives a credible rap performance as the Ogre. Mikaela Krantz as The Kid is also very effective in her one solo number that is presented as an ode of longing for the child's mom and dad. It was not until this moment that I fully appreciated the full range of Ms. Krantz's skill, as well as her demanding, physical commitment to the role.
All the design elements cohesively meld together to create a visual and aural experience that is pleasing both to the eyes and ears. The set design by Clare Floyd DeVries is refreshingly open, taking place in an alleyway behind a loading dock. The lighting design by John Leach and the costume design by Robin Armstrong are complementary of each other.
Ms. Armstrong's choice of colors is rich in palette but never too bright. Many of the costumes, thankfully, are creative in simple and suggestive ways. The perfect example is her design concept behind A Pea, played by Amy Elizabeth. Having the actress sport a pregnancy pouch in green layers is an inspired choice.
Properties Designer John Harvey, Sound Designer David H.M. Lambert, and Dance Choreographer Sherry Hopkins deserve a special round of applause for their collaboration in pulling off the nifty centerpiece of The Kid's plight with a swarm of flies, set to the music of Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee. The effect of this effort is nothing short of magical and so is this production.
Given the reactions that I saw from kids ages 4-12 in the theatre, opting to see Seven in One Blow versus a 3-D animated family entertainment, such as Happy Feet 2, would be a wise investment in your child's imagination. You don't even need special glasses to be a part of the action.
Circle Theatre, 230 West 4th Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Runs through December 17th
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm
Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, $12.50 for children. All tickets purchased online have a $3 service fee.
For information and tickets, go to www.circletheatre.com or call 817-877-3040