I had been really looking forward to taking my six-year-old the Last Stop on Market Street at Children’s Theatre Company. We both enjoy reading the book together. Unfortunately, I reserved Friday night tickets and when the day came, he was just too tired out from a full week of school to do an evening outing, so my eight-year-old stepped in. As it turns out, we were all happiest with this arrangement. My eight-year-old LOVED this musical – big praise from someone who I have trouble tearing away from Minecraft.
Last Stop on Market Street
CTC’s Last Stop on Market Street is a musical based on the award winning book by Matt de la Pena. The book has won the the Caldecott, the Newberry and the Corretta Scott King awards. It’s on one of those sweet books that grown ups probably like better than kids. The books is recommended as a read-aloud for grades Pre-K through 2, but its written at a 4th grade reading level. My first grader and I enjoy reading the book together, my third grader thought the book was “okay”. This is why I had planned on taking my first-grader to this musical.
However, the musical is NOT the book. While CTC recommends the musical for 5 years and up, 8 years was really the perfect age to enjoy this musical. The music in this production was phenomenal and geared toward kids who have moved out of nursery rhymes. As I watched, I wished that I could buy the soundtrack. I would totally add this to my family Spotify list if I could. Without a doubt the music made this production.
The story, like the music, was a mature adaptation of the book best understood by mid-grade school and up. In the book, CJ is around six (I don’t think they actually say, but if you have small boys, you can guess). In the musical, he was supposed to be seven, but acted closer to ten. He had multiple electronics, was addicted to YouTube Vines and had a pre-teen attitude.
On the bus ride home my son talked non-stop and I was delighted to find out that he loved this play. Having the ride home together gave him an opportunity to ask a lot of deep questions that came out of this story and gave me time to give him thoughtful answers. I really recommend scheduling some one-on-one time for afterwards. If you don’t ride the bus, take a walk through the MIA or stop at a sit-down restaurant.
The Play versus the Book
Some of the things I really loved about the book were edited out and, as is necessary whenever a picture book is turned into a play, there were added scenes. The book is just about the bus ride and its destination while the play gives some backstory and builds up a few minor characters from the book.
In the book, it is obvious that CJ either lives with or near his grandmother. They have a Sunday tradition of going to church together and then hopping the the bus to the last stop on market street. I loved this about the book. So many kids are being raised (or helped to be raised) by their grandparents that it is a nice to see a multi-generational family in a kids book. In the musical, CJ is just visiting and needs to renew his relationship with his grandmother. This is probably closer to how my children relate to their own grandmothers, who they get to see less than we would like, so my son related to this theme.
Also in the book CJ knows where he is going. The CJ in the book is not a brat, just a young child who can’t help but compare his own circumstances to others who appear to have it better. His grandmother is really good at redirecting his thoughts to how much he DOES have. The CJ of the musical is an over-privileged brat who has no respect for his grandmother and the revelation of how much more he has than others is more of a pinnacle moment as opposed to the book, which makes you feel like it is part of the parenting journey. While I’d like to believe my kids are more like the CJ of the book, they probably identify better with the CJ of the musical.
Last Stop on Market Street trailer clip
About Last Stop on Market Street
Seven-year-old CJ is (reluctantly) staying with his (extremely over-the-top) Nana, in a world considerably different from the one he’s used to (his phone and tablet). The disagreeable (and, let’s just admit it, whiny) child is dragged on a bus ride that’s loud and gritty and weird. Guided by his veritable force-of-nature Nana, CJ travels a little closer to his roots and sees that things are not always what they seem. This is one wild and crazy, hip-hop, eclectic, heart-thumpin’, toe-tappin’ joy ride.
Runs September 15 through October 21, 2018
- Based on the Newbery Award-winning book written by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
- Adapted for the stage by Cheryl L. West
- Music and lyrics by Lamont Dozier and Paris Ray Dozier
- Directed by Henry Godinez
- Co-commissioned with the Chicago Children’s Theatre
Parental Guidance for Last Stop on Market Street
CTC recommends this musical for ages: 5 years and up. This may be based on the book, which would definitely appeal to younger children. I think 5-year-old children will miss a lot of the deep themes in the musical. I’d recommend this production for ages 8 to 13.
Final Thoughts on Last Stop on Market Street
As a mom who really loved this book, it took me a bit to get past the fact that the musical strayed so far from the book. However, it would be difficult to find a six-year-old actor gifted enough for stage and adding some maturity to the character made Alejandro Vega believable in his role.
I walked away with the feeling that the playwright only skimmed the book, didn’t know little boys, and did not know Catholic culture. Again, the CJ of the play should have been aged nine or ten, but they kept referring to him as seven. I couldn’t buy that. The grandmother, was supposed to be Catholic, but there were little off things that, as a Catholic, I knew just didn’t fit. These little inconsistencies pulled me out of the story but probably wouldn’t be noticed by someone who wasn’t in the midst of little boys and Catholic culture.