‘The Golden Goose’ at VA Rep’s Children’s Theatre is old fashioned fun for the kiddies
Read More: Austin Taylor Smith, Brandon J. Johns, Chase Kniffen, Donna Marie Miller, Ed Hughes, Ford Flannagan, K Strong, Maddie Gunter, Michael Strong, P.J. Freeborn, Rachel Marrs, Ruth Hedberg, Sandy Dacus, Sara Burks, The Golden Goose, Virginia Repertory Theatre, William A. Anderson, Willow Lawn Children’s Theatre
Let’s not fool ourselves. LGBT men and women take children to the theatre. They are fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts. We need to know what’s good out there and what’s not.
Virginia Rep’s production of The Golden Goose at their Willow Lawn Children’s Theatre is delightful.
To judge whether a children’s play is effective, watch the children. Watch the two-year-olds. If they sit still, you have a hit. Watch the four and five year olds. If they are smiling and laughing and pay rapt attention, then you have a classic.
The children were mesmerized by “The Golden Goose.”
It’s not hard to say why this show works. It has a simple, straightforward story, presented in a cheery, colorful setting with actors who have the skill to play the piece at the right temperature. Not too hot and not too cold. Just right.
Acting for children requires a level of playing slightly higher than realism. Fantasy playing is written in bigger brushstrokes, but not so big as to scare the babies.
The Golden Goose was written by local talent. The playwright and Director is Ford Flannagan. The songs are by Michael Strong, K Strong and Mr. Flannagan.
We are in a magical Queendom (the King is nowhere to be seen). The ill-tempered Court Jester has stolen the magic wand from the local Magician and made everyone in the Queendom sad. The Queen decides to hold a contest to try to make the sad, beautiful princess laugh and decides the prize would be the Princess’ hand in marriage.
The Jester convinces her that the entry fee should be 3 gold pieces (which he will “collect.”). Many suitors try and fail to make her laugh. They are given household appliances as consolation prizes.
A mother has three sons, Cleat, Spike and Simpleton. Cleat and Spike are lazy, selfish whiners but Simpleton is good and noble, if a bit slow and clumsy. Mom asks each of them to go chop firewood but the magician, using his last ounce of magic, puts a spell on the trees so that only a good, generous person can chop them down.
Mom sends the two selfish sons who, when asked, refuse to share their lunch with the Magician. They are whacked by the trees when they try to chop and go home whining and empty handed. Simpleton is finally sent and he offers his lunch to the magician, who grants him the right to chop down the trees. Behind the thicket of trees is a magical Golden Goose.
Simpleton, having heard of the contest, had wanted to enter but hadn’t the three gold pieces for the entry fee. With the Goose offering her feathers as the fee, Simpleton is able to try his luck and, as you may guess, finds a way to break the spell.
Along the way there are songs and dancing.
Virginia Rep has the best designers in Richmond. The sets and costumes are beautiful. Chase Kniffen’s simple geometrical green set is fun without overpowering the senses. Ruth Hedberg’s costumes are spot on. Her creations for the magician and the forest monsters are imaginative without being too scary. Her Golden Goose is, well, golden. The choreography by Sara Burks is fun and energetic using the very large space inventively.
The players, as a whole, are pitch perfect for this type of show. They are talented singers, dancers and actors. Austin Taylor Smith shines as a simpleton so lovable you want to take him home. Donna Marie Miller does double diligent duty as the Queen/Mom, exhibiting both beauty and regality. William A. Anderson and Brandon J. Johns are the oafish brothers you just want to slap silly. Ed Hughes nails the friendly magician and P.J. Freeborn holds the whole show together as the contemptible but strangely likable Court Jester.
Maddie Gunter as the Princess and Rachel Marrs as Goldie the Goose are less vibrant. They are given less animation in the script and haven’t yet found a way to overcome that deficit.
This is not a sophisticated show. The songs are not memorable but they are performed with great skill under the masterful hand of Sandy Dacus. The piece, as a whole, has some age on it, but in this day of Snapchat and children growing up too fast, I, as a parent, am delighted that Virginia Rep has the social conscience to produce theatre that is appropriate and healthy for children to start their theatre going lives.
Take the crumb-snatchers and have a magical time!
It more largely illuminates how hard it can be to forge both a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life in an era that seems to demand superhuman achievement from everyone.September 19, 2016
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