Adaptation Of 'Alexander' Brings The Book To Life

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BOSTON — It’s super tough when nothing goes according to plan and everything you try do goes horribly awry. Nobody knows that feeling better than Alexander, who will be having a "Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" April 18 and 20 at the Boston Center for the Arts, courtesy of the Boston Children's Theatre. (It's playing in repertory this weekend with "School House Rock Live," which opens Friday.)

But Alexander isn’t the only one having a bad day. Almost immediately, the young cast shares with us in song the myriad of things that have been all wrong in their young lives, from missing gerbils to younger sisters with boundary issues. They launch into an opening number that details all of the ways life would be different if they were in charge of the world. Chocolate sundaes would be considered vegetables and hamsters would be healthier with a longer life expectancy. The kids around me, dressed up for their first time at the theater, perked up upon hearing a line abolishing dress clothes.

Suddenly it is morning, and Alexander has overslept. The entire story that we know and love is here, from waking up with gum in his hair to the worst dentist visit ever. The original author, Judith Viorst, also penned the lyrics and book for the musical, keeping it true to the story. I heard murmurs as the young audience said their favorite lines as they were said onstage, and I had to stop myself as Alexander shouts one of my favorite literary quotes of all time at his ex-best-friend “I hope the next time you get a strawberry double-decker ice cream cone, the strawberry part falls off the cone part and lands in Australia!”

The entire story that we know and love is here, from waking up with gum in his hair to the worst dentist visit ever.

The story may be familiar, but this production carries with it a few unexpected nuggets. There’s nothing recognizable about a dancing kangaroo in a fanny pack in a group dance number about moving to Australia. Equally astonishing is the show-stopping number in the shoe store, where a salesman in gleaming white shoes, a rousing performance by Damien LaCount, kick-ball-changes his way through his inventory of sneakers, pumps, and loafers. Director Ryan Began and choreographer Stephen Chan have staged a playful and charming confection that captures the exuberance of the young cast.

Kelly Jade Rother’s costumes are bright and colorful. The set, designed by Anne Sherer, is a fun playground, which incorporates some of the familiar illustrations from the book, enhanced by Erik Fox’s lighting design. A three-piece band plays from above the action with excellent direction from Matthew Stern.

Each member of the ensemble of 9 and 10 year olds captures your heart, each character is so familiar. They are supported by four impressive young adults who play all the grown-ups in their world. Dad, played by Zach Winston, had my sympathy when his entire family came to pick him up from work. After cleaning up after another of Alexander’s mishaps, it was clear that Dad was definitely having as bad a day as Alexander. However, it was Mom, sweetly played by Channing Shippen, who tugged on our heartstrings as she tucked Alexander into bed with a sweet bedtime song wishing Alexander “the sweetest of nights, and the finest of days.”

Robin Allen LaPlante is a local arts administrator who is skilled in the mystical arts of social media, ballet, and arts marketing. When not writing, she is baking delicious goodies, camping with her family, or playing with the crazy theater-makers at New Exhibition Room.

This program aired on April 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.