This favorable review of Sierra Madre’s Playhouse’s latest “field trip series” show, Charlotte’s Web, comes with a warning from me: while it’s the usual excellent production from this theatre, of a famous children’s story, I do not think that the subject matter is appropriate for children, (unless they’re not bothered by learning of the “Circle of Life” at that age.) So, no matter how good I’m about to say the show is, proceed at your own risk. And do not ever say that I did not warn you. [Note: Again, I’m lauding this production of it; I just can’t, in good conscience, not also give you my feelings on the story itself.]

One of the interesting displays in the lobby for this show.  Photo by Karen Salkin.

One of the interesting displays in the lobby for this show. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Just like that I grew-up in New York and never went to the top of the Empire State Building, I taught Pre-K through third grade, but never taught (nor even read) Charlotte’s Web. And now I know why!

Even though it’s a true classic, written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, I would have seriously wound-up in a mental institution if I had read the book as a kid! There’s too much talk of death and eating animals for my taste. Even with my 147IQ, I never thought about where burgers come from until I was in my thirties! And I wish I still wasn’t aware of that situation.

But vegans will love this show. Their children will never, ever desire animal products after seeing it. [Note: I was finally going to eat some bacon the next day, after half a year without it because of health concerns, but this show ruined that for me. There was no way I was going to eat Wilbur’s family and friends!]

George Clooney and his pet pig.  Really!

George Clooney and his pet pig. Really!

I saw this show with a grown-up vegetarian, and she couldn’t handle it. She started tearing-up right near the beginning, when the farmer brandished an axe to kill the pig. George Clooney must have had this book as the reason behind his keeping a pet pig for eighteen years.

But all that is my review of the story, and not this version of it, in particular. While I can’t understand ever subjecting children (or adults, either,) to a sad show like this, I’m sure I’m in the minority. Charlotte’s Web is considered to be one of the best children’s books of all-time, so I guess that the masses can handle death better than I. [Note: I know it’s supposed to be a tale of friendship, but I can’t get past the death aspect of it.]

Charlotte and her actual web. Photo by Tanya Apuya, as is the main one at the top.

Charlotte and her actual web. Photo by Tanya Apuya, as is the main one at the top.

So, now to the Sierra Madre Playhouse production, which is quite good. The actors I saw (it’s double-cast) give it their all, with the body of them playing multiple characters. (Wilbur, the pig, and Charlotte, the spider, stay the same all the way through, tough.) There was a lot of energy on that stage, let me tell you. I’m sure the children in the audience will love it when the characters walk amongst them for one reason or another.

My favorite actor, by far, is Ryland Dodge. He plays mainly Templeton, the rat, (which he does perfectly,) but all of his other lesser characters are spot-on, as well. He first appeared on-stage as the father, and I thought he was an older gent. A few seconds later, he was a farmhand, with a one hundred percent different demeanor altogether. I had to look twice to make sure it was the same guy! And none of it is overacted; all of his portrayals are charming, nuanced, and engaging, so major props go to him. (Whoever thought I’d enjoy a rat?!)

Photo by Karen Salkin.

Photo by Karen Salkin.

And as always with this theatre, I’m a fan of the colorful, utilitarian set, designed this time by Keiko Moreno. I think I’m not the only one who kept having the urge to jump up there and climb around. (I just may be the only grown-up who felt that way, though. So, what else is new?)

And I especially loved the closing line “It’s not everyone who comes along who’s a good friend and a good writer.” I wish that all my friends would realize that, and start appreciating me more!

Photo by Karen Salkin.

Photo by Karen Salkin.

As an adjunct to the show, the Playhouse has some fun children’s activities in the lobby, pre-show. And please check-put their website, below, to find-out about all the special events they have planned before the Sunday shows, including on Easter. (Just don’t plan on serving ham for dinner that day!)

Charlotte’s Web running through April 17, 2016
Sierra Madre Playhouse 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd. Sierra Madre  626-355-4318


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