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Tom Thumb, the Great

a Children's Theater
CATEGORY :
by Baldwin, Margaret

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3022

SHOWING : July 18, 2008 - August 02, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Tom Thumb rides to the rescue! But will he defeat the giants? Will he outwit Lord Grizzle and Queen Dollalolla? Will he win the the hand of the Fair Princess, um, I mean Alchemist Huncamunca? You'll need to come to Oglethorpe to find out! Just follow that Murder of Crows ...


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REVIEWS

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Not so Great, Not so Tiny!
by Dedalus
Sunday, July 27, 2008
3.0
For the third year, Georgia Shakespeare is adding a Family Classic to its summer repertory. This year, they commissioned playwright Margaret Baldwin to adapt “Tom Thumb” into a too-brisk hour-long showcase for actors and puppets.

I took my 7-year-old daughter Julia to yesterday’s bright-and-early 10:00 AM performance. I’m sorry to say that she was totally unimpressed, though I liked it a bit better. At this writing, less than twenty-four hours later, Julia can’t remember a thing she liked, other than Princess Huncamunca’s name. Admittedly, we had a long day after that, seeing both the “Mamma Mia!” movie and Onstage Atlanta’s “Urinetown” together (and, of course, I will have things to say about both of those before too long).

To start with, “Tom Thumb” embodies both the best and shakiest aspects of kid shows directed by Clint Thornton. On the plus side, it is energetic and is not afraid to use any means necessary to tell its story. On the not-so-plus side, it is too energetic, too-quickly touching on too-many plot points to the point of leaving even the most attentive toddler in the dust. And, sometimes, the mish-mash of styles comes across as, well, as a bit of a mish-mash. For example, here we see full-sized actor Derrick Ledbetter (in a stout-hearted performance) interacting with equally full-sized actors playing normal humans and giants, but we also see a cleverly manipulated Thumb-Size puppet interacting with those same “regular people.” We see Oriental-style shadow puppets portraying giants who can crush a person (or castle) underfoot, but we also see Muppet-style giants on stage less than 50% taller than their human co-stars. It’s enough to give a grown-up whiplash, though I daresay, a kid’s imagination can do things my old-fart Suspension-of-Disbelief avoids like a cliché.

Also, there seems to be too much story to cram into an hour. We have likeable King Archibald dreaming about giants and sending out a call for the thumb-sized knight to save his kingdom, we see out hero Tom cleverly dispatch the Goliaths, we see a who-will-get-the Princess conflict manufactured by the Drag Queen wife of the King and the rich and grizzly Lord Grizzle, we see Tom wooing the Princess Huncamunca, who would rather be an alchemist, we see a Giant Mother seeking revenge (or not), we see a magic-vs-reason thematic thread and a Be-True-to-Yourself thematic thread and a Good-Conquers-Evil thematic thread and a yadda yadda yadda … Each of these plot or theme threads would have made a wonderful play. All of them make a stew with too many veggies and not enough meat (if you vegetarians will forgive the metaphor).

Of course, there is much to admire and even enjoy about this show. As I said earlier, Derrick Ledbetter is a marvelous Tom, Bryan Mercer gives the King his usual friendlisome appeal, Spencer Stephens is an hysterically funny queen, Ally Carey is a winsome and plucky Huncamunca, and David Quay is a suitably oleaginous Lord Grizzle. I loved the puppetry (especially the tiny table Tom), the shadow work, and the Muppet giants. And I loved the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink energy that makes the hour zip by faster than a murderous murder of crows. But. But. But.

After last year’s “Robin Hood,” I made the comment that these summer shows seem to be concentrating more on Boys’ adventures, and this one was no different. It was all about Tom and Archibald and what they want. A little bit of lip service was given to the Princess Huncamunca and her ambitions, but it came across more as window-dressing than as part of the play itself. For the second year, let me make the plea – next year, find a classic for the girls.

And, please leave the kitchen sink in the kitchen.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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