Tuesday, January 27, 2015

REVIEW: The Selfish Giant at Chicago Children's Theatre

As I mentioned in a previous post, this past week was a busy theatrical week.  One of the shows we had the opportunity to see was the Blair Thomas & Co. production of The Selfish Giant as part of the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival. Although the festival has ended, The Selfish Giant will be continuing on through February 22 at the Chicago Children's Theatre.

Sam Deutsch as the puppeteer. photo by Joe Mazza
The show is, in a word, delightful.  It's a re-telling of a classic Oscar Wilde story about a Giant who closes his garden to the children of the town, and when the children sneak in anyway, he then re-discovers the importance of sharing, and the power of love.  (It's more complicated and more oblique than that.  It's a Victorian fairy tale after all. You can read the original text here if you so inclined.)

This is a re-staging of a production done in 2008, with Blair Thomas (the creator and director) performing the show.  This time he's passed the baton to a young but very accomplished puppeteer Sam Deutsch who does Thomas's work justice.  His movements and animation are wonderful, and border at times on the lyrical.

The score is created and provided by celebrated local musician Michael Smith.  On guitar and mandolin, Smith provides all of the vocal and music of the show, as well a bit of a running commentary about the happenings of the show.  Smith's lyrics and voice have a bit of Woody Guthrie running through them-- simple catchy folk songs with wry comments and sly little jokes.  He's got a lot of charm, and it shows through.

The puppets are beautiful, (designed by Jesse Mooney-Bullock), a combination of hand puppets, marionettes, and the giant himself is a large mask perfectly proportioned.  There's a couple of magical moments of puppet wizardry, and lots of moments of beauty.  I especially liked the performer engaging with kids in the audience to help plant the flowers in the garden.  It was simple but quite well done.

This is a show that kids of all ages will really like.  There's not a lot of action to it-- the show is a wonderful mood piece, with a contemplative and lyrical feeling, but it's entirely engaging.  The hour flew by, and my 6 year old was enthralled, and after the performance he wanted to get up and talk to the performer and touch the puppets (and he's seen a lot of shows, and doesn't always have that interest.)

To find out more about the show and to purchase tickets online, please visit  the Chicago Children's Theatre website.  or call the box office 872-222-9555.

The show will run through Feb 22 at the Ruth Page Center for Arts,
1016 North Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60610

Tickets range from $10-$38.

PLEASE NOTE:  Promotional tickets were provided to the reviewer.  The free-ness of the tickets is not affecting my critical judgement of the show.

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