Friday, April 9, 2010

Children's Environmental musical at DuPont Theatre

Ah, but from the mouths of babes, the knowledge one can acquire. Jamie Kleman, a Landenberg, Pa., resident and author of several books for children, asked her then 5-year-old son, Will, what he thought it meant by “going green,” environmentally speaking.

Will, as with many children, associated the phrase with witches, toothsome crocodiles, hissing snakes and your (green) garden variety fearsome monsters.

The seed of a play, thought Kleman...and better yet...a children's musical, “It's Not Mean To Be Green.” The adaptation for the stage was aided by Richard Gaw, an award-winning local playwright and past special sections editor at Community News.

The music was written by Chris Cotter of Pocopson, Pa., Bill Kleman of Landenberg, Pa., and Colin McGetrick, also of West Chester.

“It’s important for parents and teachers to realize that children may not understand the meaning behind what we think are common expressions,” says Kleman, the mother of two. “It’s equally important to teach children at a young age how to care for the environment so they can become responsible stewards in the future—and to do that in a fun, entertaining way.”

The production is rooted in this region, starring child and adult performers and will be staged at The DuPont Theatre April 18-20. Earth Day is April 22. This important national date is a catalyst for discussion on why it's NOT mean to be green, in fact just the opposite.

Aisle Say had an opportunity to see a rehearsal this past week.

The plot revolves around the McDurth family, all save one of whom are active environmentalists. The holdout, son Michael, is the theatrical doppelganger of Will Klerman's 'green' fears. (Christopher Cooke of Wilmington, a fifth grader at Wilmington Montessori School, plays Michael.)

In fact, when Michael's sister Issie (sixth-grader Abby Cocco) announces at the dinner table that she is 'going green,” Michael has bedtime dreams of vampires with apple green complexions and fire-breathing green dragons. Original over-sized puppets were made by a puppet maker in New York especially for this production.

Michael's fears are assuaged through both dance and song by his mother (Donnie Hammond) and father (Tom Wang). Wang is also the director of the production and is a professional actor that has appeared nationally.

Stephen Blahut as The Narrator with a penchant for iambic pentameter rounds out the cast.

The musical’s contributions to the community are not limited to the stage.

The original music from the show is available on CD. Partial proceeds from the song “Pass it On,” available as a download, will go to Project Night-Night (, which provides books, bags and blankets to homeless children.

Thanks to funding from Bank of America, 250 tickets to the show are designated for Title I students.

The 15-foot-by-30-foot backdrop was created by Art Therapy Express (, which serves children with intellectual, physical and emotional disabilities.
Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts get $1 off the $10 ticket price on April 18 at 3 pm., and they earn a patch just for attending the show.

Performances in Delaware elementary schools and in Pennsylvania and Maryland will follow.

Walnut Street Theatre's FALLEN ANGELS

The talent of the actors outweigh the writing and story of the play in Walnut Street Theatre's “Fallen Angels” written by Noel Coward, admittedly the quintessential 'umo universale' of the '20's to the '40's.

The author, born in 1899, is an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise"

Coward achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. Many of his works, such as "Hay Fever" (recently performed by UD's REP Ensemble), "Private Lives," and "Design For Living," among others, have remained in the regular theater repertoire.

You may have not heard of “Fallen Angels” prior to this; the primary reason being the excellence of writing and urbanity for which Sir Noel “The Mad Dog Englishman” is known for does not reach the heights in this production.

That is not to say the female leads, Susan Riley Stevens as Julia and Karen Peakes as Jane, do not furiously attack and consume their roles as upper crust matrons in London in the '20's.
Jane and Julia are best friends. They live in the similar, very posh flats and are both married to loving (if slightly inattentive and dull) husbands. “Piff, piff,huff huff and all that, old boy!”

The boys head out for a golfing weekend and they get word that a very dashing and debonair Frenchman - with whom both had affairs before marriage – is arriving in London as the husbands parry forth on the links.

What follows is an extremely funny set of circumstances fueled by not only petty jealousy and misinformation but also champagne, martinis and other alcoholic libations.

Both women have their own style, their proper English accents are superb and they balance their characters with just the right amount of slapstick. They understand the metre and syntax of a laugh line and stretch everything out of a script that asks for some suspension of reality from the audience.

Saunders the maid (Jennie Eisenhower) steals every scene in which she appears. If Coward had known Eisenhower was to play this character, he would have written more for her.

Saunders is the type of maid one would love to employ but would drive you to daily fits of paroxysm. She's precise and excellent in her house duties, but happens to know more facts than you do and is an expert at everything you thought you were excellent at.

Eisenhower, along with the other two women, affect characteristic physical attitudes that bring audience laughter as well. (Eisenhower recently won The Barrymore Award in Philly for “Best Actress in a Musical.” I saw her in that show, “Forbidden Broadway.” She flat out knocked dead her takes on Carol Channing and Liza Minnelli.)

Director Malcolm Black knows that people don't get drunk immediately after the first drink. His leads progressively lose their civility toward each other – and their mounting libidinous desires for the Frenchmen – so slowly, so languidly....just like you and I do it.

Costumes by Ellis Tillman could have been taken from Vogue of the era.
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