Can you believe that a worm worries? That a fly has super-sized ambitions? Or that a spider gets all in a knot about shedding its skin?
A preview audience for “Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly” at the Rose Theater — the youngest of them 4 year-old preschoolers — definitely believed that insects are a lot like people. The audience also believed the insects go to school, deal with homework and get time-outs from parents.
The play — adapted from the “Diary of a Worm” series of books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss, with book, music and lyrics by Joan Cushing — reeled in its audience of about 150 students from Liberty Elementary during a Thursday morning preview.
The reactions were just what director and cast must had hoped to see. The children laughed. They bobbed their heads to the music. And they clapped to the rhythmic beat of the songs, 14 in all, with three recurring later in the show. All of the characters brought strong voices and decisive movements, making the characters clearly understandable.
“With children's theater, it's not alive until you see it through kids' eyes,” said director Rob Urbinati.
“Diary” is a cleverly told tale of how tough being a bug can be. It is set against a backdrop of oversized pieces of trash (to make the human-size insects look more in scale with their surroundings).
It's up to the audience's imagination to envision an overgrown spot littered with things you might find around a school yard: tab-top cans, paperclips, combs with missing teeth, an open milk carton and an errant baseball.
As the schoolchildren filed into their seats, most seemed to be aware of more than the stage, but also the sounds, a realistic mix of birds and insects chirps, dog barks and children's yells on a playground.
By the time the house lights dimmed, the audience was prepped for a story that would hold their interest for a full hour without an intermission.
An energetic cast of critters wiggled, buzzed and bounced across the stage. The exception was Worm (Austin Learned), who felt self-conscious that he can't walk or run because he has no legs. Instead, he waddles and watches what his insect friends can do.
And show him they do. There's weight-lifting, load-carrying Ant (Walter Shatley) who tries but can't quite shoulder an entire chocolate chip cookie. And a Mexico-bound butterfly (Lauren Krupski) who insists that flying just takes practice.
Great web-weaving skills are Spider's (Brandon Shostak) goals. But he painfully discovers he needs to shed his skin to get better.
Fly (Rochelle Pickett) tries to be a superhero but needs her friends' help to rescue an “auntie” who gets trapped between a window screen and a window.
Not to give anything away, but Worm eventually realizes his importance, with the help of his friends and teacher, Ms. Bee (Sue Gillespie Booton).
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