My third-grade daughter and I were lucky enough to get to see the Children’s Theatre Opening of The Scarecrow and His Servant. This play is based on the children’s chapter book by Philip Pullman of the same name. (The book is available at The Red Balloon Bookshop for $7.99). Both the play and book are recommended for ages 8 and up. I believe this is an accurate recommendation for both. If you do choose to take a younger child, they will certainly enjoy the physical comedy. Other parts may be kind of scary.
As always, Children’s Theatre has created a production worthy of the most discerning adult theatre patron. Dean Holt – who played Scarecrow said that the moment he started as the scarecrow, he wore stilts. He has to constantly adjust his weight to keep his balance. When you see it, you will realize what an amazing feat this is, because he’s always moving — always doing more than one thing at a time. Throughout the play, he loses and replaces limbs, so the bottoms of his stilts change sizes several times. His stilts are hinged and flexible so his ankles can pivot up and down.
The supporting characters all play multiple roles, but I’m not sure I would have noticed this had I not noticed that they all wore the same red under-suit (and read the playbill).
I found this play more sophisticated and challenging than any play I’ve seen at the Children’s Theatre in the past. Some parts of this play were a little disturbing and I left wondering why Jack couldn’t have just eaten the coconut. On the drive home, I answered a lot of questions about war and peace and doing the right thing. Despite the fact that it dealt with subjects of war and environment and social responsibility, in general, I felt the play was done in a very non-preachy manner. It’s the kind of play that a child might walk out of without realizing there were lessons, but reflect upon later.
The Children’s Theatre has always seemed a little outside of our budget, but right now they are offering the best deal of the year for the coming season. A six play package for my family of 5 would cost about the same as we pay for six months of our cable television. If we actually used cable, maybe that wouldn’t be such a great deal, but we only watch Netflix anyways. Everyone has their own entertainment priorities and I’m not suggesting this would be a good move for everyone, but I mention this because before looking at the numbers, I never would have believed we could afford season tickets.
The Scarecrow and His ServantChildren’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404 Now through April 6, 2014
Children’s Theatre Company donated the tickets for this review, but opinions are my own.