The Hundred Dresses Review – Two Views of a Wonderful Play

Briana De Giulio (Wanda), Leslie Ann Sheppard (Maddie), Andrew Keltz (Willie), Natalie Berg (Peggy), Elana Ernst (Cecile), Geoff Rice (Jack) and Nadirah Bost (Miss Mason)


Fela Dogadko, who began her life in Poland, and her granddaughter, Danielle Shapiro, saw The Hundred Dresses,based on Eleanor Estes’ timeless children’s novel, together at the North Shore Centre for the Performing Arts. The play was co-written for stage by musician, Ralph Covert and playwright G. Riley Mills, and is directed  by CCT Artistic Associate Sean Graney. Each of their reviews follow:
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Fela Dogadko:

The story of the play is very simple:  A young girl, recently from Poland, enrolls in school in the U. S.  She is poor and knows very little English.  She owns only one dress, which she wears to school everyday and for which she is mocked and put down.  She can’t compete with the other girls who wear a new dress every day.

Leslie Ann Sheppard (Maddie)


Trying to defend herself the “new girl” reveals that she has a hundred new dresses in her closet at home.  No one believes her and she is mocked even more.  In fact, she does have one hundred dresses, but they are drawings of dresses.
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The story is quite simple, but the message is not.
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In bullying, sticks and stones can break your bones and words can break your spirit and your heart, and it can burn a hole in your stomach.

Leslie Ann Sheppard (Maddie), Natalie Berg (Peggy) and Elana Ernst (Cecile), and (back row) Andrew Keltz (Willie), and Geoff Rice (Jack)


It is very painful to be teased for not knowing the language others speak or for not having a lot of nice clothes.
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I personally was in a position to have to learn a new language five times-in a strange new land and it didn’t feel good being thought of as stupid just because I didn’t understand what was being said.

Elana Ernst (Cecile), Natalie Berg (Peggy), Leslie Ann Sheppard (Maddie), and Geoff Rice (Jack)


Winston Churchill said “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to do nothing.”  This is what the play was telling us.
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I watched and listened to the reaction of the audience with the same awareness as I watched the “goings on” on the stage.  There were many young children and young adults all listening intently and responding appropriately to what was being said in the play.

Natalie Berg (Peggy) and Leslie Ann Sheppard (Maddie)


I found one episode in the play especially touching.  The new girl in school was sitting on a bench, isolated from the other kids.  One of the boys asked each in the group of kids to share their lunch with him.  All refused.  The “new girl”, herself, mocked made an attempt to share her lunch (packed in a simple brown bag) with the boy.  The actresses’ performance in this scene was so low-key and, at the same time, so sensitive that I was very moved.
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I highly recommend The Hundred Dresses to audiences of any age.
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Danielle Shapiro:
(12 years old)
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I really enjoyed this play presented by the Chicago Children's Theatre.  The songs were well written ( Ralph Covert is a well-known songwriter for kids music), and performed.  The actors were very professional, and kept it interesting for all ages (not just kids).  My grandma, who was born in Eastern Europe, had a similar situation - she had one dress, which was red, but faded.  She used to draw dresses that she would have liked to own.  I highly recommend this play, because it's an awesome opportunity for young children to learn about setting aside differences and being nice to others.

Leslie Ann Sheppard (Maddie), Natalie Berg (Peggy) and Elana Ernst (Cecile), and (back row) Andrew Keltz (Willie), and Geoff Rice (Jack)


Additional information:

Chicago Children’s Theatre encourages all moms and girls to raid their closets before attending The Hundred Dresses, and bring any new and gently used dresses with them to the North Shore Centre of the Performing Arts to donate to the Party Dress Project.  
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Founded by Northbrook moms Stacy Simpson and Beth Hirshman and their teenage children, the Party Dress Project (partydressproject.org) is a non-profit organization that solicits donations of new and gently used dresses year round, and holds an annual sale of the donated dresses every fall with proceeds benefitting a local youth service organization.   
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Centre East Theatre in the North Shore Centre for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Illinois. Tickets are $26 for children (17 and under) and $36 for adults.   Call the North Shore Center box office, (847) 673-6300 or visit northshorecenter.org for tickets and show times.   
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Note:  The North Shore Centre boasts free, plentiful on-site parking.  Additionally, groups of 10 and more can receive discounted group rates, including deep discounts for school groups and scouting organizations, by calling GroupTix at (877) 447-7849 or visiting:  GroupTix.net.   
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The Hundred Dresses is recommended for children ages 6 and older.
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Photos: Michael Brosilow


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