If You Give a Pig a Party
nytheatre.com review by Rohana Elias-Reyes
March 7, 2009
If you take a tot to the theater, Manhattan Children's Theatre's current production If You Give a Pig a Party directed by Chris Alonzo that is, he'll probably talk a lot during the performance, and if he talks a lot he'll probably ask questions, and if he asks questions that probably means he's really engaged and is laughing and enjoying the show, and chances are if he's laughing and enjoying the show, he's going to ask that you bring him back to Manhattan Children's Theater...and that's exactly what my kids did.
Nancy Schaeffer's adaptation of If You Give a Pig A Party sticks closely to the plot of Laura Numeroff's book of the same name, with a number of fun additions like B. Wolf's musical numbers, more action for Pig's friends, and some very funny elaborations on where Pig gets her favorite party dress, treats for dinner, and a great game of hide-and-seek. Cully Long's clothes for Girl and Pig's party dresses give a nod to Felicia Bond (long-time illustrator of Numeroff's books), but the rest of the costume design is all her own. I especially like Moose dressed like one of those whimsical wooden moose sold to Vermont tourists.
Annie Arthur's set and prop design is full of the kind of surprises kids (and parents) love: a roller-coaster that pops up from the floor, a fold-out bubble bath, and multi-colored paper lanterns that bring the design and party atmosphere out over the heads of the audience members. There are others, but I don't want to give everything away.
Rather than opting for animal imitations, Alonzo has asked the cast to create broad comic characters that behave like Numeroff's well-known fun-loving and distractible critters. Not surprisingly the star of the show is Pig, and Elaine Moran gives a wonderful performance that is anything but predictable. She is self-centered, messy, and seriously afflicted with attention deficit disorder, but always so funny, generous, and enthusiastic, that it's no wonder Girl just can't say "no" to any of her demands. Think a little more the gals from Ab Fab than Wilbur and you'll get an idea. The ensemble playing the other animals is equally adept, and Stephanie Wortel's long-suffering Girl enables them in all their high jinks (as well as adding some lovely harmonizing with Moran). The only misfire is the choice to play Snake as a hand-puppet. While a really great idea, the puppet isn't integrated into the action. It ends up hampering Christopher Goodwin's (Dog/Snake) movement without adding anything. I would also have liked to see greater use of the shadow puppets, another really great idea. [Note: the show is performed by different casts on weekdays and weekends.]
Manhattan Children's Theatre's press release states that Numeroff, author of If You Give a Pig Party, "knows a kid or a critter or two" and apparently so do the folks at MCT. If you have kids eight-year-olds or younger, take 'em to Manhattan Children's Theater—but be forewarned, if you take a kid to Manhattan Children's Theater, he's probably going to....