Dallas Children's Theater
Directed by K. Doug Miller
Scene Design – Bart McGeehon
Lighting Design – Jason Lynch
Costume Design – Laurie Land
Properties Design – Anna Klawitter
Sound Design – Marco Salinas
Mr. Little/Ensemble – Nathaniel P. Reid
George/Snowbell/Ensemble – Justin Duncan
Mrs. Little/Ensemble – Kathryn Taylor Rose
Margalo/Ensemble – Jad Saxton
Angie/ Mrs. Morrison/Ensemble – Sky Williams
Stuart Little – Randall Scott Carpenter
Reviewed Performance 6/14/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Come and follow along on the misadventures of a most unusual mouse. In E.B. White’s classic children’s novel, Stuart Little, Stuart, a two inch mouse, tells the story of a series of adventures as he learns to survive in his super-sized world of humans. Through his adventures he discovers the true meaning of life, loyalty, friendship, but most importantly, that great things can come in small packages.
Playwright Joseph Robinette has adapted the book into the style of Story Theater. Story Theater uses narrative to link various episodes together. The cast, other than Stuart, assume multiple new characters and change locations with the help of scenery, props and numerous costume pieces.
Before the show even began, the patrons, who were full of energy, were playfully trying to win at the trivia contest about mice being presented on side projections as it looped between information upcoming for the DCT. The excitement grew in the theater in anticipation for Stuart Little’s arrival as the trivia played on.
Bart McGeehon’s set design perfectly captured the larger than life world of Stuart Little. All four pieces of the moving set were made up of enlarged children’s building and letter blocks. It was easy to see the set geometrically and was impressive that the pieces got flipped and moved around to set the stage differently for each new adventure. The building blocks seemed solid and I could easily see my son wanting to play and build with them. The letter blocks were painted on the border and were lettered just like my children’s are in their playroom.
Properties Design by Anna Klawitter only enhanced the sets by Bart McGeehon. Each and every prop element of was done two-fold, one for the humans and one for Stuart. This was seen most clearly when George, the brother, is playing ping pong and Stuart has to retrieve it. Rolling across stage is a white work-out sized ball, and then out pops George with a ping pong paddle and normal-sized ball. This continues with a wedding ring, matchstick, canoe, and so many more. Klawitter outdid herself in this two-sized world.
Jason Lynch’s lighting design was superb. Through the art of Story Theater, the use of spotlights helped distinguish the narrator from the characters. Lynch also used colored lights to help set the mood. When Stuart has a nightmare, it was the red lighting that showed his terror, the same with blue lights that represented the storm Stuart gets caught in. Each and every lighting change made the show better.
Sound Design by Marco Salinas was thoughtful and effective. At the beginning of the play, the use of a soundtrack to mimic the din and cacophony of the world heightened the sense of the world Stuart lives in. The choice in musical selection set the mood and scene. Rushed scores helped the characters scurry a little faster across the stage, while cheerful scores reflected the adventures of Stuart Little. Added to that were sound effects when Stuart is jumping across stage or clicking his feet together. While the design of sound was well thought out, the execution was a completely different matter. There was a clear disconnect between the sound effects and character movements. This was amplified by the microphones not being turned on before the characters started speaking. While it was quickly fixed, it happened multiple times throughout the play.
Laurie Land’s costume design was spectacular. While each member of the cast, minus Stuart, executed multiple characters, it was the costumes that helped distinguish all of them. The use of fur cuffs and hats allowed each actor to become a cat or dog, with accessories to portray their attitude. Snowball’s sunglasses and Margalo’s yellow scarf enhanced this as well. Costumes for the family were all business casual which led to them having a most formal air. Randall Scott Carpenter, as Stuart Little, was all high energy and perfect for the role. His high-pitched voice led the squeaky voice associated with a mouse and was well executed. Carpenter’s wide smile and gentle nods of his head only furthered Stuart’s happy demeanor. Yet Stuart does get sad and pouts, which Carpenter laid out in a full- on, silent temper tantrum with crossed arms and lowered head. Carpenter continued portrayal with out-of-breath voice and fast-paced movements only enhanced his role.
All of the rest of the cast played multiple characters including splitting the role of narrator.
Mr. Little, played by Nathaniel Reid, was spot-on in his role as the dad. His calm demeanor was seen through hands in his pockets and solid stance. Reid then played the plethora of male roles which were easily distinguished based on his accent. Reid especially excelled in his portrayal of the classroom student. With clasped hands, head down, and youthful voice, he was easily seen as a young child.
Justin Duncan was energetic and completely different in each of his main roles of George and Snowbell. George, Stuart’s older brother, was portrayed well with Duncan’s wide grins, head shaking, and eager to please personality. Snowbell, on the other hand, is the family cat. Duncan’s use of hip swaying and finger pointing reminded me of Elvis on stage. He was confident, his use of a deeper voice adding to this.
Margalo, the family’s pet bird and Stuart’s best friend, is played by Jad Saxton. Her body language and expressive eyes played well to the audience as did her sweet disposition. Her dance scene as Margalo flies away is beautiful and breathtaking. Her narrator voice was strong and confident, while Margalo’s was whimsical and airy. Her accent and voice changed in becoming the narrator versus playing Margalo. Saxton then played the role of the charming daughter of one of the towns that Stuart arrives in. Saxton accomplished this all with her doe eyes and flirtatious spirit towards Stuart.
Sky Williams played Angie and Mrs. Morrison, amongst others. Williams had a strong stage presence and body language, and convincing New York accent. With her confident stance and swagger she dominated her roles. Her evil grin as another cat in the neighborhood illustrated Angie’s desire to eat Margalo. Williams also portrayed the school child with the simple grace of playing with her skirt, fluttering eyelashes at Stuart, and slightly blushing when she hugs Stuart. Williams, however, exceled in her role as a solid narrator.
Kathryn Taylor Rose played Mrs. Little, the worrisome mother of Stuart. Rose’s constant playing with her hands, shrill voice and worried frown portrayed the struggles that Stuart has in this human sized world. In the next instant though, Rose changed her character’s demeanor to happy, easily heard through her sing-song voice. Rose also altered her voice and accent as she played the sanitation worker that put Stuart aboard a garbage ship. She too led the narration with a solid voice that held the authority needed, so different from her motherly role.
Dallas Children’s Theater has outdone themselves with Stuart Little. While the ending is open-ended, it is only a beginning to the next story the audience gets to write. The childrens’ imaginations running wild, they quickly exited the auditorium to get Stuart’s autograph, and hopefully also to come away with the reminder that no matter your size you can change the world.
Dallas Children’s Theater – National Touring Production
Rosewood Center for Family Arts
5938 Skillman Street, Dallas, TX 75231
Runs through July 13th
Performances are on Friday at 7:30 pm. Saturday and Sunday both at 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm. No performances July 4th – 6th for Independence Day.
ASL interpretation performance is on June 29th at 4:30 pm.
***DCT is pleased to offer its second sensory-friendly performance, giving children with autism and others who need adaptations the opportunity to comfortably experience live theater with their families. This performance is on Saturday, July 12th at 4:30 pm.
Tickets are $5.00 each and interested patrons should call 214-740-0051 for tickets.
Regular ticket prices range from $13.00 to $26.00.
For tickets and information, go to www.dct.org or call the Box Office at 214-740-0051.