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A Brown Bear, A Moon, and A Caterpillar Review - The Magic of Eric Carle Brought to Stage

By Noel Schecter

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Once again the Chicago Children’s Theatre brings to the stage intelligent and creative family entertainment.  This time the treat is for younger family members.  Directed by Jim Morrow and performed by the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, Brown Bear, A Moon and A Caterpillar:  Treasured Stories By Eric Carle is a visual treat that incorporates puppetry, music, and set design in order to tell three of  Eric Carle’s most beloved stories (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Hungry Caterpillar,  and Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me). 

From Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me

Set designs here are colorful and larger than life.  Often in movement, they suggest well the beauty of an Eric Carle landscape.  The puppetry is equally gorgeous and includes such thrilling touches as bright red birds swooping onto stage and delicately leaping frogs.   Especially entertaining are the subtle effects and careful choreography accomplished by puppeteers Dan Bates and Sarah Jean Begin.  Together with the assistance of stage manager Christine Oakley, they accomplish a type of illusion on stage usually reserved for magicians.   The pre-taped narration by veteran actors Richard Donat and Andrea Norwood provide steady and comforting voices that well complement  the action on stage

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Of the three stories presented by the Mermaid Theatre, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was the favorite of my daughter (age 8) and her four year old cousin.  They laughed loudly as assorted fruit and other food was slowly eaten up and then kicked with a flourish off stage.  The hero of the tale was also given an expressive face which helped to elicit sympathy for him as he gingerly munched on a leaf for digestive relief.  This all helped to make his dramatic transformation into a butterfly all the more impressive.   

From Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Brown Bear, Brown Bear was noteworthy for the pages coming to life on stage with dancing bears, swimming gold fish, and a crowd of children (voiced by students in Nova Scotia).  And in Eric Carle’s lesser known Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me, a father, at the request of his daughter, reaches for the moon with the aid of a very long ladder.  Of all the special effects seen on stage, the audience seemed most amazed by the deliberate shrinking moon within the story.

From Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me

Along with the typical family friendly touches such as pre-show coloring opportunities, the theatre also stressed a strict “no shushing zone” policy that encouraged children to loudly ooh and aw throughout the performance.  Immediately following the performance was a question and answer session focused on how special effects were accomplished.  Having ones favorite puppets brought back on stage in order to better see their secrets was not unlike having a magician explaining how a favorite trick is performed.  Like everything else associated with this production it was both sweet and very cool to see. 

White Dog and Purple Cat

Bottom line:  Brown Bear, A Moon, and A Caterpillar is highly recommended for families.  Although meant primarily for younger children, my eight year old daughter loved the performance.  For that matter, so did I.  Validated parking ($6) is available at Children’s Memorial Hospital.  For more information or to purchase tickets, click here:  http://victorygardens.org/onstage/brownbear.php.  Also for more information on other shows, visit Theatre In Chicago

Eric Carle's Classic Childrens Book

All photos provided by Chicago Children’s Theatre 


Published on May 05, 2012

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