THE BASICS: Suitable for ages 4+ (and that + definitely includes adults, yaaaay!) this five actor (but ten character) musical directed by Michael Walline continues at the Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen Street, 14201 weekends only through May 22, Saturdays at 10 & 2, Sundays at 2, skipping Memorial Day weekend, with final performances Saturday, June 4 at 10 and 2. There is no intermission. Run time is 75 minutes, but budget extra time afterward for a kid-friendly Q&A as well as individual photo-ops with the cast.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Based on the 1989 children’s book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, but considerably fleshed-out by Robert Kauzleric, Paul Gilvary and William Rush, this “courtroom drama” presents the famous “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down” story from the wolf’s point of view. The wolf is on trial and we in the audience are empaneled as the jury. At the end we get to vote as to the guilt or innocence of the wolf. On opening day, the wolf happened to be acquitted, but that was just one performance.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Without a doubt, this is one of the most high-energy, funniest entertainments this season. Theatre of Youth performances are always in-motion, but this production really doesn’t miss a beat. Director and Choreographer Michael Walline is known for very physical dance numbers and he doesn’t disappoint.
Jacob Albarella, most recently seen as both Nikki and Trekkie Monster in Musicalfare’s revival of AVENUE Q at 710 Main, is deliciously lupine and yet sympathetic as the moment requires. And you’d think that being the central character he might draw all of the attention, but the other actors are equally strong.
Relative newcomer Jennel Pruneda, a Niagara University grad, plays Magill, the reporter so involved in the story that she ends up handling cross-examination for the defense. Nice energy there.
Special applause goes to Sarah Mullen who portrays a variety of characters – Pig #3/Rocky the bailiff/Dr. Shears/Martha/ and Maxwell – providing each one with a unique look and voice. What a talent.
Sarah Blewett as Julia, the prosecutor who has never lost a case, is the equal of the wolf, alternating between “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth” sweetness and ruthless cunning to win at all costs. With a bevy of faces, including one of the best evil stares ever, and a unique pig-walk that can’t be described in words, she is a hoot.
Veteran Buffalo actor Kerrykate Abel keeps a firm hand or foot on the proceedings, often encouraging the other players to sing their testimony.
But special applause goes to Sarah Mullen who portrays a variety of characters – Pig #3/Rocky the bailiff/Dr. Shears/Martha/ and Maxwell – providing each one with a unique look and voice. What a talent.
Kenneth Shaw’s Set Design, Costumes, and Properties deserve a mention as does Orchestration and Sound Design (great SFX) by Chester Popiolkowski.
Definitely go. Obviously, if you have younger children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren this is a “must see.” But if the older kids tag along, they will be entertained as well. Even if you don’t have kids in your life, go anyway. And a message to adults: It’s okay to laugh out loud in front of your kids.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!