Emerald City CHARLOTTE’S WEB Gives Children An Important Life Lesson

UntitledReviewed by : Dave McGuire

Recommended: Theatre In Chicago

The up and coming talents of the Emerald City Theater in conjunction with Broadway In Chicago is presenting one of those child hood favorites of so many Charlotte’s Web, the heartwarming tale of a spider who befriends a pig and sets about saving him through writing in her web.  I say upcoming talents because many of the cast members are still young and Emerald City Theater is the incubator for stage superstars in training. I give them full respect.

Liam Dahlborn who plays Wilber the Pig is just going into 7th grade and if his performance is any indication, he will be a Tony winner by the time he is 30 no problem, I say this with the predication that he has much to learn.  Liam has the energy but it is apparent in his delivery at times he is still learning the tools of an actor. Tosha Fowler, one of the adults in the cast, is great at playing Charlotte the spider, thought very poised, but then again so is the spider. Erik Strebig, who plays the iconic rat, Templeton, simply steals the show.  Whenever the show lacks energy, Stebig brought it back as the second he steps on stage all eyes shift to him; an amazing performance.

When you arrive the theater staff has tables for your kids to color at while waiting to be seated. I put this in here because the play is targeted to a younger audience, and I cannot thank the friendly theater staff enough for giving the kids something to do while they wait, makes it so much easier on the parents. Once inside, five cast members, are on stage playing ole school ragtime music as the rest of the cast danced through the aisles singing and greeting the kids, bringing the kids into the fold immediately, making a personal connection before raising the forth wall and beginning the show. The Emerald City Theater has a great understanding of kids. And they should if you want to liven your child’s interest in the show you could do worse than looking then up and perhaps getting your child involved in their classes.

Sadly once the once the fourth wall is established the band turns into cast members, limiting the amount of music in the actual play. The energy drains out and we are hit with a well portrayed, and well-staged, presentation of a child hood story that is without a doubt one of the great all time classic tales of friendship ever written for kids. The show is great and Templeton, is amazingly energetic and as stated above really does steal the show. However, the energy drains for lack of music. The very young in the audience lost interest, I cannot recommend this play for anyone under the age of 6-7. I say that with a heavy heart, because the performance was great. And I am glad it is how my daughter was first introduced to these classic characters. But sitting in the audience hearing all the other Parents around me struggling to keep their kids interested or still. Was a definite indication that while the Emerald City Theater Loves children, and works hard to instill a love of theater into the next generation once the forth wall is erected they lose anyone in the audience under 6.

Still they are doing so many things right that if your son or daughter is over the age of 7, I tell you now this is a must see. It is not a grand scale production. There is little music and Dance. But the actors portray there rolls with such obvious love of the stage, those hallowed planks, that you are fully drawn into the story. And even I who was forced by my sisters to watch the cartoon version as a kid over, and over, and over, and over, to the point where to this day I find myself with songs from it stuck in my head to this day. Even I who though I was immune to the heart break, at the end, of losing a friend, grew a little misty at the end, just a little choked up. With little stage, with little sets, with little costuming the performers had brought me fully into the story to the point of an emotional reaction. Well done, indeed, and Thank you. My daughter was in tears.

I would like to point out to the parents out there who for some reason feel they need to shield their children for anything negative like, death, and the natural course of life. Yes Charlotte, does die. If you don’t know that and this is a spoiler to you, opps, my fault, but seriously what cave have you lived in that you didn’t know? To you parents who don’t want expose your children to this, negative part of life, I would remind you that this story is a classic of childhood. And also the Emerald City Theater takes care of it for you, my daughter was in tears when Charlotte died. Out in the lobby there she was however hugging children and taking pictures with them. You cannot imagine how a child’s eyes lit up when they get to sit with a character they have just seen perform even die. You don’t get that in any movie. No video game can hug a child (well, yet.). So Long live the theater.

Tickets to CHARLOTTE’S WEB range from $16-$24. A select number of premium seats are also available for many performances. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations
and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. For a complete performance schedule, please visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.