News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
YOUNG LIFE: PLAY WITH ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE
For the first time, two of the best-loved characters of young readers will be appearing live onstage as Elephant and Piggie—the unlikely pair of BFFs who star in Mo Willems’ award-winning book series—make their début at the Kennedy Center this month.
“Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play,” has a vaudevillian flavor, featuring rapid-fire scenarios of stories that will be familiar to children who have been introduced to Willems’ books for new readers. In simple vignettes, the production presents the ebullience and pathos that is a part of friendships of all ages.
Moments of joyous abandon are interspersed with quandaries that deal with sharing, disappointment and forgiveness, as well as thoughtful consideration of what one should wear to a fancy pool costume party. In one scene, a moment of unaddressed conflict between the pals is presented in a number dubbed, appropriately, “Elephant in the Room.” Yet, by the end of that song, all is resolved and the duo rediscover their friendship and end up having a great time dancing and playing games together.
At one point, there is even a moment of “existential awareness,” as the dynamic duo realizes that there is an audience out there and that they are in a play—their response to which, of course, is to invite the viewers to become a part of the action, including doing their own renditions of the “Flippy Floppy Floory” dance.
“Elephant & Piggie” was personally honed by Willems and the show’s composer, Deborah Wicks La Puma. Both worked closely with Lauren Williams (Piggie) and Evan Casey (Gerald the Elephant) in conveying their characters with minimal sets and costuming just as the books’ simple line drawings manage to convincingly connote a broad spectrum of emotions and attitudes.
The fast-paced action and humor that permeates the production receives an added boost from the four-piece band of Dr. Cat and the Bear-a-tones, accompanied by the backup singers of the Squirrelles.
Williams, the mom of an 18-month-old daughter and accustomed to nonstop activity, says the role of Piggie is physically challenging as much as it is a delight to perform.
“Piggie is a firecracker character and so energetic,” said the actress, who has performed at Signature and Ford’s Theatre over the years. “In the hour and a half of the show, I am bouncing all over the stage. It’s an exciting character to play but I definitely have to eat my Wheaties!”
Having fallen in love with the theater as a child, Williams notes the value of live performance for young audiences.
“There’s really nothing like it. It’s so exciting when the lights come up and you hear the music,” she said. “You get a sense that anything can happen. There’s that special energy between the performers and the audience and it will be so exciting for children who were brought up with these books to actually see Piggie and Gerald.”
What: “Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!”
Where: The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C.
When: Through Dec. 31. Sensory-friendly performance: Dec. 28, 11 a.m.
Note: Appropriate for ages 4 and older.
Tickets and info: 202/467-4600; kennedy-center.org
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.