This past weekend, my family welcomed a new era of family theatre reporting: My daughter, almost eight, is officially too old for "Baby Shows" and my son, age three, is ready to sit in a chair for more than 47 seconds. I have a feeling that my kids will be taking turns helping Mommy with her writing job, but this past weekend we found something that was good for for all of us: The Vital Theatre Company's production of Uncle Pirate.
Based on the book by Douglas Reese, Uncle Pirate tells the story of Wilson, an average kid having a slightly rougher-than-average fourth grade experience. His constant cowardice makes him an easy target for bullies, his ineffectual teacher is no match for the constant environment of anarchy in the classroom, and Wilson's kooky, glasses-wearing parents are blind to their son's pain.
But then Wilson finds out that his uncle is a pirate. A REAL pirate! A pirate in need of.....a job! And Wilson's teacher just had a nervous breakdown and ran out of the school, leaving the position empty! And Uncle Pirate has a talking penguin for a sidekick who really, really, really wants to learn to read, so Uncle Pirate and his penguin Jack are going to school with Wilson!
Thanks to a little help from his imagination, Wilson learns to summon his courage and stand up to the bullies. Along the way he sees his fears for what they are: Silly stuff he made up in his own head. With positive messages about using your inner resources to conquer adversity while encouraging literacy and math skills, it's a story no parent could object to and kids five and up can understand.
I'm not sure how much of the plot my little guy actually comprehended, but he did have a great time thanks to a colorful puppet-parrot, catchy musical numbers with kid-appealing choreography and the usual high-energy performance I see from the cast of every Vital show. I enjoyed the show too, but mostly I got a kick out of a few classic "three year old goes to the theatre" moments:
When we first sat down, my son asked me if we needed glasses for the show. Glasses? At first I explained that Mommy was wearing her contacts, until I realized that he meant 3-D glasses. It occurred to me that my son didn't necessarily understand the difference between live theatre and a movie! So I had to explain (a mere thirteen or fourteen times) the difference between watching a story on a screen and watching real actors.
The set features a revolving piece that is a school on one side and Wilson's house on the other. When we first see it, it's a school but when it flipped into a house in the second scene, my son shouted out, "Hey! I thought that was a SCHOOL! Silly me," while slapping the side of his own head with an air of self-deprecation.
I must admit a swell of pride, however, when my three year old seemed to display an appreciation for the well-written lyric. "If ever I was bitter it, was because I was illiterate" sings penguin Jack. This cracked my son up. "Iwittewate! That Penguin is Iwwitewate!" (Say it out loud and remember, he's three).
My daughter found the show funny and engaging, but I think she enjoyed watching her brother even more. I was just happy to have found some live theatre that both my kids could enjoy. I'm sure that in the future we'll be doing more of a "divide and conquer" as my big girl and little guy help me take in New York's family theatre scene, but last Saturday we found something that was perfect for the three of us to enjoy together. And my husband got the afternoon off. Because I am the best wife.
GET TO THE POINT, MOM!
- A quirky, humorous musical with a positive message based on the book UNCLE PIRATE by Douglas Reese.
- Runs under an hour and is best for kids ages two through nine.
- Playing at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre on Broadway and 76th with Saturday and Sunday performances at 11 and 1 now through November 13th.
- For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.VitalTheatre.org
- I am the BEST wife.