Review: Curious George: The Golden Meatball

Gavin Guthrie as Curious George and Justin Larman as Chef Pisghetti   Photo by KO Rinearson

By Larry Laneer
January 28, 2019

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma has come up with the good idea to present shows geared toward younger (and future) theatergoers, in addition to offerings for adults. Thus, they are now putting on a colorful production of Curious George: The Golden Meatball at the Plaza.

Curious George has been done in various media since Margret and H.A. Rey published the first book in 1939, including more books, television, and film. With music by John Kavanaugh and book and lyrics by Jeremy Desmon (both new to me), the Lyric production gives us an entertaining story with moral attached.

Although intended as a show for children, the production has the same high quality as Lyric’s adult shows. Directed and choreographed by the reliable Matthew Sipress, the production bursts with color in scenic, costume, and lighting design. Dawn Drake Toney (scenery), Jeffrey Meek (costumes), and Fabian J. Garcia (lighting) flood the Plaza stage with reds, greens, pinks, yellows, oranges, purples, blues, and more hues beyond description. The Man in the Yellow Hat wears yellow everything, way more than his ten-gallon topper. Same goes for all other characters. Curious George, an adorable monkey prone to a few monkeyshines, is the most toned down in brown overalls, striped shirt, red tennis shoes, and a red kerchief that keeps flying into the stratosphere.

The story line involves Chef Pisghetti (Justin Larman), who inadvertently gets his meatballs entered in The Great Meatball Contest. Various unlikely complications and coincidences precede that. Kavanaugh has composed a jaunty, if unremarkable, score. Desmon’s lyrics run along the lines of “Go, monkey, go, go, go!” and “I’m lucky to have a buddy like you.” “If you’ve got a big heart, who cares if you’re small,” The Man in the Yellow Hat (Greg Gore) and the Chef sing to George. The show does not pretend to be great art or literature, but it should appeal to the target audience.

The big disappointment is the production uses recorded accompaniment. I hope Lyric doesn’t intend to teach young theatergoers that musicals are not performed by live musicians. The orchestration provided by the canned band isn’t an improvement over a two or three-piece live combo.

The young cast are top-notch actors, singers, and dancers. Gavin Guthrie scampers about on all fours in a sweet, athletic performance as George. He does George’s dialog in a squeaky “hoo-hoo, ha-ha.” Well, that’s much like how monkeys really talk. Elvie Ellis, Bailey Maxwell, and Jenna Mazzoccoli play various characters with energy and skill. The production encourages audience participation. Boo the rival chefs’ meatballs! Cheer Pisghetti’s! Not above the latest fad, Sipress includes a little flossing in his unfussy choreography.

After the curtain calls, the actors tell their names, hometowns, and colleges and invite a little Q&A with the audience. This has the potential to be the best part of the show. A youngster asked George if he likes meatballs or bananas better. (George equivocated.) Another lad wanted to know the actors’ ages. (Mostly 20s; Larman admitted to 30). The cast better be prepared for youthful ids.

Running about an hour, the production holds the attention of theatergoers who looked as young as three or four, as well as parents and curmudgeonly theater reviewers of a certain age. It’s a well-done, engaging show that one hopes will make youngsters lifelong enjoyers of live theater. Booster seats provided upon request.

Curious George: The Golden Meatball by John Kavanaugh (music) and Jeremy Desmon (book and lyrics)
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
10:00 a.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Saturdays, 1:00 p.m. and
4:00 p.m. Sundays, through February 17
Plaza Theatre
1725 NW 16th St.
$20-$25
405-524-9312

 

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