Gone to Australia
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Alexander’s having a bad day. There are bullies on the playground, and the teacher doesn’t like him. At noon, he discovers that Mom forgot to put dessert in his lunchbox. And when he visits Dad’s office, the copy machine that Alexander’s not supposed to touch is just too tempting. It’s just not fair.
We’ve all had days like this, as kids and as adults. In this show, the unhappy day unfolds through the work of an ensemble cast featuring six professional actors. There is also a batch of colorful costumes, including an orange kangaroo, by Nancy Pipkin (who’s designing for so many shows, you wonder when she sleeps). Noah Agruss offers another tasty set of musical arrangements; his work has graced multiple Children’s Theatre productions this year.
At the center is actor Paul Wyatt, who plays Alexander with a boyish gleam in his eye and a natural smile that helps him bounce back from the day’s setbacks. Wyatt’s credits include a production of the musical Big River. We can only assume he played Huck Finn, because he’s got the look for that part—a beguiling mix of audacity and vulnerability that carries over into his role as Alexander.
Backing up Wyatt is a reliable stable of Children’s Theatre/B Street regulars: Rick Kleber, Dave Pierini, John Lamb, Anthony D’Juan, and Danielle Moné Thrower (who also choreographed). Director Buck Busfield adds clever little flourishes, like the kneeling actor whose extended arms become a bathroom sink when Alexander brushes his teeth.
Yet, somehow, Alexander didn’t grab us quite as much as our favorite Children’s Theatre shows have. Maybe it’s because this story is highly episodic, and the happy ending just happens, bringing little sense of completion. Maybe Shelly Markham’s songs don’t linger in one’s memory like the music in the Children’s Theatre’s A Year with Frog and Toad. Maybe it’s because Alexander is geared primarily toward younger kids—and doesn’t exert as much carryover appeal for adults. Or maybe it’s because this jaded critic tends to prefer shows dealing with imaginary adventures in exotic places, featuring talking animals and choices involving right and wrong, as compared with comedy set in classrooms and domestic settings.
But even if this writer is less than 100-percent enthused, Alexander is a well-crafted show that is likely to tickle the fancy of kids in kindergarten through fourth grade, who will find many aspects of their lives embodied onstage in this production.