The Three Little Pigs is a long-loved fable, a delightful bedtime story, and now hitting the stage at Westlake Elementary School. Printed versions of the tale date back to the 1840s, but it is thought to be much older. First grade teacher and Director Lindsay Lawton reimagines the story with multiple narrators, a recorder-heavy score, whimsical nature-themed costumes (by long-time parent volunteers Tracy Shen and Deborah Peretti), and restrained backdrop scenery art (by parent volunteer Timmy’s Dad). All of the elements are there to create a successful show, like the Disney’s Lion King I saw last weekend – now Broadway’s fifth-longest running show. One would imagine that a show so similar – everything from the eccentric animal costumes, musical elements, and relatively simple set design – would have the same impact, but these first graders just missed the punch.
The 25-minute performance follows a quest structure (similar to that of J.R.R. Tolkein’s and Pixar’s work), and began ten minutes late, waiting for straggling parents and young family members of the cast to fill the nicely holiday-decorated Westlake Multi-Purpose Room. Westlake Elementary School’s cast of 22 first graders proved to be camera ready at yesterday’s school assembly, but not quite stage ready.
Any great performance usually is usually in thanks to great directing. However, Ms. Lawton may not have a clear vision of the production. Audience members seemed to enjoy the musical interludes between scenes (musically directed by choral and recorder teacher Zina), but created confusion whether the show was a drama, comedy, or a musical.
And then there is the similarly crucial element of good old story telling. Perhaps these fresh, young actors would have had more success with more rehearsals and memorizing their lines instead of reading ineligible cue cards held by Ms. Lawton (which blocked the view of the stage for some audience members and created some real drama during the show). Some cast members did stand out, however, like Narrator #2 (played by the adorable, talented, effortlessly fluid, dream-daughter Marigold Harrison) had a strong presence on the stage and clearly practiced at home, and the Big Bad Wolf (played by school custodian Jose Felipé) had polished comedic timing and received the most applause.
I hope to see this production return next year with more forceful direction and conviction from the current kindergarteners. This zany interpretation of the tale was certainly not boring, with stand-out moments like nose-picking day-dreamers on stage and cast members going temporarily blind from the flashes from the ubiquitous Apple products in the room. There were polished acts and talents yesterday, but it still needs vigorous soul-searching.
‘The Three Little Pigs’ runs again today at 10am at the Westlake Multi-Purpose Room. Admission is free.