If you haven’t yet seen a show at the Children’s Theatre Company, then I must advise you to do so immediately. Sure, you’re an adult, and you want to do adult things; however, you have the rest of your life to do adult things, so wouldn’t it be nice to take an hour or so out of your busy adult life to enjoy some good old wonder and magic?
I hadn’t been to the Children’s Theatre myself until the opening performance of Barrio Grrrl!, but now that I have experienced the joy of sitting in a room full of kids who are laughing, I wish I had visited CTC sooner. The theater is very spacious, and is bursting with a wonderful energy. This energy stems, no doubt, from the so many kids having had a great time there.
About my review of Barrio Grrrl!, there’s one key piece of information you should know: I’m from Philadelphia, which is where the play is set. I didn’t know this fact going in, but once I noticed that the songs were including tidbits about the Phillies, jimmies, the SEPTA trolley, and the Philadelphia Zoo, I felt right at home. The play is set in the El Barrio section of North Philadelphia, where Latino immigrants began to settle in the 1950s, and which still houses the largest concentration of Latin Americans in Philadelphia. I’m not saying that my love of Philadelphia is going to affect my review of the play, but my history with the city may have heightened my enjoyment of the play.
|barrio grrrl!, presented at the children’s theatre company through march 27. for tickets and information, see childrenstheatre.org.|
Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes, Barrio Grrrl! tells the story, through songs written by the Grammy and Tony-award-winning powerhouse Bill Sherman and dances choreographed by Devanand Janki, of 9-year-old Ana’s world on Waterloo Street. “Barrio Grrrl” is 9-year-old Ana’s alter ego, a heroic persona she created with the help of her certified imaginary friend, The Amazing Voice, who helps her when she is sad, and shadows her movements when Ana is feeling strong. As Barrio Grrrl, Ana has the power to help her friends overcome summer boredom through the perpetual search for ice cream, and gains the strength to be brave in the face of her mother’s absence while on a tour of duty in Iraq. Through lovely songs with unexpected lyrics, and some very inventive fantasy sequences, Ana and her friends—both real and imaginary—grow up, just a little.
The amazing actors of the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences have been travelling with the play for months. Having just finished a stint in New Mexico, they are planning on staying Minneapolis for a three-week run of shows—their longest tour stop yet. Despite the long trip away from home, there is so much energy radiating from the actors on stage. Though every character had merits, my favorite by far was The Amazing Voice, played by Michelle Lie Coughlin. She was so wonderful to watch on stage, shadowing Ana (played by Desireé Rodriguez), jumping around, and bursting with energy. If I needed an imaginary friend, I would definitely call on The Amazing Voice.
Touching on some fairly weighty topics—absent parents, poverty, whether or not imagination can solve adult problems, why kids need imaginary friends—Barrio Grrrl! kept me (and the kids in the audience) interested and laughing throughout the whole show. Although I was able, through the perspective on youth that comes with age, to understand what lessons the show was trying to pass on, I was also able to forget the lessons through the characters that hadn’t learned them yet, and just enjoy the fun.