What a sensational stage show for the littlies. There were toddlers and youngsters galore and excited parents and grandparents with them anticipating something special as the proverbial curtain was about to fall at the Athenaeum Theatre. And special is just what they got.
The 45-minute piece is a faithful adaptation of four of author Eric Carle’s stories, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Three talented performers cum puppeteers work the dozens of colourful critters (designed by Rockefeller Productions) that appear on stage to illustrate the yarns.
In the first instance, we are introduced to a range of animals with the line: “What do you see?” We go from a brown bear to a red bird, a yellow duck to a blue horse, before being introduced to a green frog, a purple cat, a white dog, a black sheep and a goldfish. So, in that way the youngsters get a fun lesson in colours and creatures.
Next up comes the rubber duck machine that churns out … you guessed it, yellow rubber ducks. These are packed in lots of 10 and shipped to faraway places. A storm at sea results in one of the boxes being flung overboard. The box opens and the rubber ducks in it are now separated, bobbing around in the ocean, before drifting in different directions. There they encounter sea life in the form of a dolphin, seal, polar bear, flamingo, pelican, turtle, octopus, seagull, whale and a duck with its ducklings. A cute finale to that little story beckons and the life lesson for the kiddies is about directions and more animals.
A tale about a spider spinning a web while being greeted by farmyard animals is next on the agenda. In this case, the busy arthropod is prevailed upon by a horse, cow, sheep, goat, pig, dog, cat, duck, rooster and owl. The spider traps a fly and there ends a very busy day.
The grand finale concerns the name of the show – the very hungry caterpillar. It begins life in an egg on a leaf, breaking through the shell to emerge with a voracious appetite. We move through a week during which it forages for food – one red apple on Monday, two green pears on Tuesday, three purple plums on Wednesday, four red strawberries on Thursday and five oranges on Friday. But the caterpillar remains hungry and Saturday it appears to gorge on anything within sight. No wonder it ends up with a bad tummy. But, as we know, caterpillars metamorphosize, as does this one, into a beautiful butterfly. So, the children present learn about days of the week, colours and the gifts of nature.
Behind it all is soothing and stirring music (music and sound is by Nate Edmonson) and clear, beautifully rounded words by the three artistes, dressed the same in white overalls, white t-shirts and white trainers. I speak of Tina Jackson, Eleanor Stankiewicz and Christopher Vernon, whose pronunciation is exemplary.
The backdrop is three uneven panels with some “trap” doors (the scenic design is by David Goldstein) onto which is shone (initially) a kaleidoscope of colours. Clearly, the production has been carefully crafted by Jonathon Rockefeller with tiny tots in mind and it hits the mark magnificently. Shrieks of joy and laughter abound. Eric Carle’s beloved book The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold in excess of 45 million copies. I dare say after seeing this show (which is a ripper) that number will continue to rise, as well it should.
It is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre at 10am, midday and 3pm on 26th June and tours nationally. For further details, go to https://cdp.com.au/veryhungrycaterpillar.html
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Drummer Queens (Comedy Theatre) – theatre review
- Taming of the Shrew (Queensland Theatre) – Theatre Review
- Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.