Bud, Not Buddy Review - A Jazzy Childhood Quest

Bud, Not Buddy is the second play performed by the Chicago Children’s Theatre in their new home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.  Based on Christopher Paul Curtis’ award winning book of the same title, Bud, Not Buddy follows young Bud’s journey through depression era Michigan in his search for his father.  With little to go on except a few monogramed rocks and some Jazz flyers, Bud slowly but surely zeroes in on the not so paternal band leader Herman Calloway (played by Cedric Young). 

Travis Turner as Bud

Bud, not Buddy has a lot going for it.  Foremost amongst its strengths is the story which contains enough heartfelt sentiment to draw the audience in as well as enough humor to keep that same audience interested.  Director Derrick Sanders makes good use of the material here and also adds a few flourishes to the story such as having several characters narrate what is essentially a first person narrative.  The acting here is good too with Travis Turner putting in a genuine and nuanced performance as Bud (although I think in a perfect world the part would go to a child actor).  Standout performances also include Cedric Young as the easily irritable Herman Calloway whom his band members play off of and Brian Grey in a variety of roles.  Scenic design (Courtney O’Neill) and lighting (William C. Kirkham) are also done well with the very elongated stage and the carefully placed silhouettes helping to accent Bud’s journey.

Kamal Angelo Bolden (Doug the Thug), Travis Turner (Bud) and Brian Grey

My only disappointment in the play is the lack of live Jazz within.  To me this play screamed out for a live band and at least one big vocal number (the stage bill indicates that actress Genevieve VenJohnson once sang with a Jazz band, but all she gets to do here is a few scat chords).  There is nothing exactly wrong with the canned music, but the high school Jazz band that performed prior to the show’s beginning really whet my appetite for more.  The pacing of the story could have also been better as the story did not really seem to begin until after Bud meets his possible father (which occurred toward the midpoint of the story).

Travis Turner and McKenzie Chinn

None of that mattered to my nine year old daughter who loved the play.  Throughout the performance I kept glancing her way and catching her watching the show with both hands under her chin and an open mouth.  I cannot think of a better recommendation.

Cedric Young (Herman Calloway) and Genevieve VenJohnson (Miss Thomas)

Bottom Line:  Bud, Not Buddy is recommended for children eight and over, although I am not sure parents will enjoy the play as much as their children will.  There is one slightly scary scene that might frighten the youngest of children, but otherwise this is a very family friendly play.  Bud, Not Buddy is performing through February 24th at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (1016 N. Dearborn St, Chicago).  For ticket information, click here http://chicagochildrenstheatre.org/ For more information related to this performance as well as for other theater information, click here:  theaterinchicago.com 

Tracey N. Bonner (Momma), Travis Turner (Bud), and McKenzie Chinn (Young Momma)

Bud, Not Buddy

Photos by:  Charles Osgood

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