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The Brand New Kid

CATEGORY : CHILDREN
by Melanie Marnich

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 3994

SHOWING : February 26, 2011 - March 27, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Lazlo S. Gasky starts second grade in a new city in a new country and feels awfully lonely until popular Ellie McSnelly decides to look beyond his “funny” accent and give him a chance. A great message for kids 4+.


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REVIEWS

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The Stranger
by Dedalus
Saturday, April 16, 2011
3.5
Dear Parents:

It would be easy for me to wax political, and to rant about today’s political divide having the same roots as playground bullying. An argument can be made (and often is) that playground cliques are all about “ganging up” on whoever is different (and weaker), just as political rhetoric is often rooted in a belief that “those who are different” or even “those who disagree” are “evil” or “undermining the American Way of Life.”

But, this is a review of a children’s play, not a political blog (all evidence to the contrary). So, let me talk about “The Brand New Kid,” a new musical adaptation of Katie Couric’s book about an immigrant student being bullied by his classmates, and a plucky new friend who has the guts to defend him. If you are the parent of a rugrat in the four-to-eight year range, I can’t think of a better lesson you could share.

Laslo Gasky (Lake Roberts) has just moved from Hungary, and he’s facing his first day of school. He talks funny and he dresses funny, so he becomes the quick object of scorn of Ricky (Corey Bradberry) and Peter (Brent Rose). Ellie McSnelly (Joanna Burgess) and her friend Carrie O’Toole (Enisha Brewster) are embarrassed when they ignore his plight, so Ellie soon begins to defend and befriend the new kid. Before the end, all are playing together, singing together, and acknowledging that each and every person has something about them others may think is “just a little bit weird.”

Along the way, they all learn lessons about being the “stranger,” learning about “the stranger,” and, ultimately, “accepting the stranger.”

Okay, the songs are a bit bland for tastes (I couldn’t repeat even one melody now only three days after seeing the show), and Laslo’s problems are solved a bit too quickly (a nod, no doubt, to small ones’ limited attention spans). However, I really liked this cast, all of whom attack their roles with an energy that is positively contagious. It didn’t take me long to forget that they were adults playing kids, and soon just accepted them as kids (and, at one point, a poodle, a bird, and a tree). Erin Lorette is also on hand playing at least three adults, all of who are distinct and alive. The play is directed in a brisk 55-minute romp that makes its points clearly and with little ado, and, the kids at last Sunday’s matinee showed a minimum of restlessness, seeming totally rapt by the story.

As a parent myself, I try to underscore the concept of acceptance and non-bullying when talking with my daughter (who, unfortunately, missed this show due to a late-rising rehearsal commitment). It’s a lesson that is best learned young, and, at the risk of injecting even more politics into the discussion, it’s a lesson that, once learned, may keep your kids from one day becoming talk show “ranters.” And, it may just keep you from blaming all the country’s ills on “the other.”

Sincerely,

Julia’s Daddy

Postscript: Check out this sight for activities and things to talk about when seeing this play or reading the book on which it’s based: http://learningtogive.org/teachers/literature_guides/BrandNewKid.asp

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)



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