The Beggars’ Strike

Rated 4.0 The Beggars’ Strike is a quiet and handsome new direction for the Children’s Theatre of California, which features adult actors in shows primarily designed for families. At nearly two hours, The Beggars’ Strike is slightly longer than its predecessors. The cast has 11 members, double the number in a typical show at the B Street Theatre, the Children’s Theatre’s sibling.

The Beggars’ Strike is set in Africa, with a largely black cast. (It’s Black History Month, after all.) The show also offers a gentle sidelight on Islam, with dawn prayers and bowing toward Mecca. And it’s a musical, with singing and dancing. However, the music by Noah Agruss is largely mood-inducing, almost trance-like. It’s far more abstract than the pushy sing-a-longs on Barney & Friends, but the music is a solid contribution nonetheless.

As the title suggests, the play is about beggars. It indicates that when you give honestly to the poor, they carry your message to God. It’s not a concept you’d think youngsters could quickly grasp, but by intermission on opening night, the kids were bopping in their seats. (The music? The message?)

The cast features Mujahid Abdul-Rashid as an ambitious government functionary (Sacramento appeal) who learns life lessons. Gloria Stingily plays his wife, with Danielle Moné Thrower as their daughter. (Thrower is fresh from a fine performance in And the Dream Goes On!) Lico Whitfield is funny as the eager police chief. James Wheatley, a local treasure, is a fine beggar/holy man. Anthony D’Juan is his blind antagonist. Dave Pierini does a silly, paunchy “happy Buddha” cameo, and Ashlyn Kei, a rising local actress, catches your eye as Jili.