Friday, February 2, 2024

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show


The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, adapted for stage from the book by Eric Carle, incorporating characters from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, and  The Very Bust Spider. Produced by Rockefeller Productions (NY).

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, February 1-3, 2024.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Feb 2

The Creatives
Created by Jonathan Rockefeller
Based on the books by Eric Carle
Composer: Nate Edmondson
Set Design: Tyler Schank
Puppets by Rockefeller Studios

Jessica Marie Lorence and Peter Brown

With (Australian Tour): Abbie Knoshaug; Atticus Stevenson; Genna Beth Davidson
Janet Castel; Kaden Woodward; Lindsay Cavallo; Maria Medina
Mariette Ostrom; Nate Hernandez; Robyn Coffey; Samantha Martino
Skylar Peak; Toria Sterling; Tyler Quick; William Ward; or William Galameau

Never perform with children or animals is a standard theatrical dictum  Don’t worry, these performers are wonderful with their puppet animals (including Teacher!), and with the children, from babies up to the occasional octogenerian reviewer.

In the past I have often been disappointed by blockbuster children’s shows because they have been too slick and lacking a sense of personal connection with the audience – showing at rather than showing for and with.  Today’s performers were in contact as much with humorous facial expressions and dance-like movement as with words, letting the story reveal itself to us – no pushing or hurrying – in a quiet mood without engineered excitement.

They didn’t need to tell the kids to count to ten, or name the animals (though perhaps ‘flamingo’ was a bit of a surprise – and a terrific puppet), or name the days of the week.  You could hear the kids and their parents just naturally joining in.

Quite fascinating was when a section of the story ended, like famous arias in opera, the kids, without parents needing to take the lead, just felt it was right to applaud.

This production is quality theatre – meaning that the children are learning that live performance is way better than anything on a screen.  And, in addition, the players begin by showing the books, opening the book of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and so the children realise that there are wonderful stories to be read in books.

Then, finally – after the very hungry caterpillar has learned that eating leaves is much better for them than filling up on ice creams and cup cakes – the Teacher takes up the Book, shows it open to all, and neatly ends the show by closing the book.

What a satisfying experience in living theatre for littlies and oldies alike.  Highly recommended.

The Canberra Cast in action