Writer: Mat Fraser
Choreographer: Randy Luna
Director: Julie Atlas Muz
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz’s ONEOFUS returns to Abrons Arts Center, following up their acclaimed Beauty and the Beast with a family-friendly holiday show – Jack and the Beanstalk. The company’s first foray into children’s theatre is a true Lower East Side community production, featuring performers from myriad disciplines and backgrounds, as well as a company of children. (Full disclosure: This reviewer has friends in the cast.)
Jack and the Beanstalk utilizes the classic children’s story as a scaffold around which community jokes, New York City references, political satire, and popular music cohere into a cheerful, irreverent, and energetic romp. Children in the audience are encouraged (and at the December 8 performance were very excited) to boo villain Dastardly Dick (played by Hawthorn Albatross III), to greet Simple Simon (Matt Roper), and to interact with the performance by helping characters find things onstage or in the house. The cast is bright and talented, featuring stellar vocals and high camp panto with fantastic timing. The sparkling sets by Steven Hammel and stunning costumes by David Quinn are a feast for the eyes, and puppetry designed by Basil Twist create a world that is simultaneously a fairy tale fantasy and an homage to the Lower East Side.
For children’s theatre, this production is on the longer side at just under two hours (with intermission), but remains engaging throughout. There is flash, charm, and interaction for the younger audience, and cleverly crafted entendre to keep an older audience entertained. Musical numbers are made of pop music covers and adaptations, familiar enough to all demographics to bridge the generational gap. Most importantly for a family show, the diversity onstage – performers of different sizes, abilities, ethnicities, ages, gender identities, etc. – expresses the spirit of the community in which the play is produced. Every person on stage is suited to the role they play, and audiences experience a fantasy world that resembles the one they live in when they leave the theatre. Though Jack and the Beanstalk may be lengthy for younger viewers, its spirit and panache, as well as its reflection of and impact upon its community, reach tremendous heights.
Runs until 23 December 2017 | Image: Norman Blake