Sunday, May 3, 2015

reviews - THE THREE JAVELINAS - Childsplay

Tommy Strawser, D. Scott Withers, and Molly Lajoie
(photo: Tim Trumbule)
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production, that runs through May 24th

 "The Three Javelinas, based on the hugely popular children’s book of the Southwest by Susan Lowell... is both exciting and very, very funny. Based on the classic fable The Three Little Pigs and all looking wonderfully resplendent in D. Daniel Hollingshead and Kish Finnegan’s grand and detailed costume designs, barnyard javelina brothers Juan (an appropriately timid Tommy Strawser) and Jose (a funny D.Scott Withers) along with sister Josefina (a truly delightful Molly Lajoie) regularly perform their country musical, foot-stomping, hand-clapping act at the Last Chance Saloon. But barnyard performing is no longer enough for Josefina.  She has dreams.  When the sister receives an invite to go to Hoggywood where she believes her talents will be noticed by those who count, Josefina sees this as the opportunity she’s always wanted.  She could be known as Josefina, the Prima Javelina Ballerina.  Much to the chagrin of the two brothers, Josefina packs her bags and heads further west.  “Who will cook dinner?” asks a worried Jose. If losing their sister to the glamour of Hoggywood wasn’t enough, there’s even more trouble for the not so little javelinas.  A big, bad coyote (a perfectly animated Kyle Sorrell) has been given three chances by the unseen Coyote Council to catch a javelina. ... Millinger and Hulet’s upbeat, tuneful and occasionally surprisingly elaborate songs, the musical moments nicely propel the story forward without stopping the show.  They’re all brought to life by the show’s three leads,.. for the most part, director Dwayne Hartford has produced a thoroughly delightful and laugh-out-loud musical production that engages until Tim Monson’s colorfully lit fade out.  Only occasionally does the production falter when some dialog is lost amidst the backing score,  plus the cavernous Tempe Theatre stage often makes the staging look sparse, despite Holly Windingstad’s eye-catching set design.  A smaller and more intimate setting would work wonders." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Having the desire to go after your dreams while also understanding the importance of staying close to your family is the message at the center of the charming new musical The Three Javelinas, receiving its world premiere at Childsplay... Based on two of Susan Lowell's books, which in turn were based on the classic fairy tale of "The Three Little Pigs,"a colorful, upbeat musical with a tuneful score and, as usual with Childsplay, a very talented cast... Josefina and her brothers José and Juan are a group of traveling troubadours, who perform their musical selections at various saloons. Josefina dreams of becoming a ballerina, so she plans to head to Hoggywood to pursue her dreams. Juan has dreams of his own of doing something with his ability to draw. But the always joking José is happy with his life and wants the three to remain together as a performing trio. This conflict sets up a dilemma for the siblings, should Josefina and Juan pursue their dreams or stick with the family? While that seems like enough plot with a good message for a musical geared to a family, the fact that the three siblings are javelinas, and there just happens to be a coyote on the prowl, allows adaptor Jenny Millinger to expertly combine Lowell's two books, and the famous fable of the "Three Little Pigs," into a fun and engaging musical with a message.  With a combination of country flavored tunes, mariachi themes and rockabilly licks, along with a continuous nod to the southwest in the arrangements and even a bit of Broadway razzle dazzle in the way of a big tap number, the score by Todd Hulet is varied and tuneful. While there may not be any songs you remember later, the numbers are fun and the lyrics by Millinger are cute. ..a few things in the book could be tighter, especially in that it may be just a bit long to completely hold the attention of younger audience members. However, there is a sweetness and charm to the show that elevates the whole affair, even with a few shortcomings, into a winning musical. ...could still use a few tweaks in the story to tighten it up a bit and clarify a few small things and the score could possibly stand to either lose a song or two or have a more toe tapping memorable number. But even with those few shortcoming, The Three Javelinas is still a fun family friendly musical with a joy and clarity to its message that shows children of all ages that you can pursue your dreams while still remaining faithful to your family." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Childsplay's world-premiere musical "The Three Javelinas"...(is) a Southwestern spin on "The Three Little Pigs" in which the title characters build their houses out of tumbleweeds, saguaro ribs and  sturdy adobe bricks. Instead of a wolf, it's a magical Coyote looking to make a meal out of three musically inclined peccaries from the Sonoran Desert. But the heart of the story, as told by book writer and lyricist Jenny Millinger, is family.  It all makes for a pleasant two hours of musical storytelling, but could use a little more excitement... the one thing it doesn't have is a rip-roaring showstopper that the kids will be singing on the ride home. Despite José Javelina's unabashed love of bad puns, the humor also is pretty low-key. Indeed, there's plenty to like about "The Three Javelinas." It's sort of like a comforting plate of homestyle Mexican food. All it needs is a dash of hot sauce to kick it up a notch." -Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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