Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
In what appears to be a growing tradition, Clio Cast and Crew opened their Spring children’s show Friday night to a houseful of appreciative parents and at least one patron we met who seemed to just love kid’s shows. This year it’s Astrid Lindgren’s popular story about the very independent Pippi Longstocking, adapted to the stage and set to music by Thomas W. Olson and Roberta Carlson.
Set in Sweden, the stage design sends signals right off the bat. A small house looks normal, even quaint, except for the horse looking out the half door! Then when the sole resident, an outspoken little floppy braided redhead, appears on the roof it’s clear that things will take some unusual turns.
Pippi, it seems, showed up alone at this little house with neither a parent in sight. She proceeds to bamboozle most of the adults who try to harness her including two corny cops, Klang (Duane Dunckel) and Larsson (Johnny Rak), a couple of kooky crooks, Thunder (Mikayla Maier) and Bloom (Rochelle Dula), the prim Norwegian school teacher (Toni Henry), and the child welfare worker Mrs. Prysselius (Dana Usealman).
Constantly resisting the charge that she’s an orphan, Pippi reveals that her mother has gone to heaven, but her father Captain Longstocking (Mark Gerics) still sails the seas as a pirate and will return for her at any moment. Pippi has been on the move most of her short life, but may find staying in one spot with friends is not so bad after all.
Directors Lori Fournier and Cindy Hubbard had their hands full with a huge cast of 40 performers. While pretty evenly split between adults and children that still left a whole passel of kids to corral. And corral they did with a great little chorus performing as school children.
But the most outstanding performer in Friday’s show was Abbey Messing in the title role. This youngster’s energy seemed to know no bounds and her characterization of this wacky whirlwind was impeccable. Plus, she has a powerful voice that shone mightily Friday as she sang the very nice “Mama and Papa and I”.
We can honestly say that it is rare to see kids this age (probably 8 to 12ish) exude the kind of concentration and performance panache we saw Friday. Talent spills out all over the stage here. It’s pretty wild and often raw-edged and not totally polished, but the sheer numbers are impressive.
Still, the play is choppy. It runs well when the scenes are in gear, except for a couple slow musical starts that left actors standing and waiting. It’s the in between that drags things down. Leaving an audience in the dark during slow scene changes can dilute the overall exuberance.
Overall, this Pippi Longstocking is a nice little show with a load of talented kids on stage, and that is always great fun to see. It continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd, Clio 48420 through March 29. Evening shows begin at 7:30 and Sunday matinees are at 2:00. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or find them online at www.cliocastandcrew.com