|Angelica Howland, Tommy Strawser, and Jon Gentry|
photo: Tim Trumble
Click here for more information on this production that runs through October 18th.
...Childsplay...premiered the beginning of its 39th season with the genuinely surreal family comedy Sideways Stories from Wayside School. ...Wayside School was supposed to be a single-level building with 30 classrooms but the architect did something odd; he looked at the plans from the wrong angle and built the school on its side. ...That explains why there’s a clock and a blackboard on the ceiling. There are some other things to worry about.. Perhaps there’s something supernatural going on. ...Cast with some familiar Childsplay faces in addition to a couple of newer ones, the action takes place with the class on the 30th floor – when it’s not investigating the oddity of the 19th – and revolves around the likeable new teacher, Mrs. Jewls (Debra K. Stevens). Mrs. Jewls has just replaced the despicable Mrs. Gorf (Jon Gentry), a teacher who...took joy in turning the children into apples...As you can tell, this is a place where anything can happen, and does. Both the humor and broadness of the players are infectiously funny to the point where you may not realize there are still valuable lessons for a young audience to learn, including looking at things from another angle, plus teamwork and how working together gets things done...Directed by Dwayne Hartford with a keen sense of what makes children laugh and how to present it while never allowing the broadness of the actors to go too far, Sideways Stories from Wayside School is a colorfully designed production from Aaron Jackson that often resembles the dated look of a bizarre TV special from Nickelodeon mixed with a touch of Lazy Town. ...Jon Gentry delights... his evil Mrs. Gorf who hates children but loves apples you’ll remember. Debra K. Stevens’ Mrs. Jewls is the most likeable teacher you’ll ever meet...And as for the class, all actors from Tommy Strawser’s nervous Myron, Katie McFadzen’s pigtailed Leslie, Yolanda London’s Rondi with the missing front teeth, Michael Thompson’s ever smiling Dameon and Anglelica Howland’s cheerleader costumed Bebe who can draw anything in seconds – and not forgetting Eric Boudreau’s lengthy limbed Louis – bring well defined individual qualities to each character and not simply through appearance....It’s a great beginning to what promises to be an equally great season. " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
"Most of us have experienced our share of good teachers and bad ones throughout our educational years. Childsplay opens their 2015/2016 season with a comedy featuring two extremely different educators, one of the absolute worst and one of the best teachers ever. The wild and whacky Sideways Stories from Wayside School, based on the books by Louis Sachar, has many gifted Childsplay regulars in the cast, spirited direction, and colorful, inventive design elements. Childsplay scores again with this high-spirited and fun production. Wayside School had a bit of an issue during its construction. Supposed to be a one-story school with thirty class rooms, the builder misread the plans, and built the school vertically instead of horizontally, so the school is now 30 stories tall......the kids on the 30th floor are ruled by a witch of a teacher, Mrs. Gorf, who likes to turn unruly students into apples, with plans to bake them into a pie...While the story does get a little dark in the middle of the second act, it is entrenched in a playful sense, so even smaller children shouldn't be too frightened. ...the cast and creative elements are top notch. Jon Gentry is deliciously evil as Mrs. Gorf...Debra K. Stevens is sublime as the always chirpy Mrs. Jewls, having a sweet and sunny disposition, full of sincerity, as well as a clear and strong desire to teach her kids and teach them well....As the kids in the class, Tommy Strawser, Katie McFadzen, Yolanda London, Michael Thompson, and Angelica Howland all shine, and are appropriately childlike with exaggerated expressions and excitement about the events unfolding around them. They all have a lot of fun with the playful, mysterious elements of the script. Strawser is especially comical as the conflicted Myron, the young boy who is obsessed with touching McFadzen's character's long pigtails. Eric Boudreau is hilarious as Louis, the yard teacher, who has the casual, laid back delivery and accent of a California surfer dude. Director Dwayne Hartford plays up the mysterious moments without ever letting it get too spooky, and instills plenty of fun in the playful moments. ...Brimming with fun characters, and whacky, supernatural plot points, as well as the always important message about the value of working together as a team, Sideways Stories from Wayside School is a great start to Childsplay's 39th season." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
...“Sideways Stories From Wayside School,”...Based on the same-titled novel (and sequels) by Louis Sachar, it was adapted for the stage by John Olive...The action takes place on the 30th-floor classroom of the Wayside School, which, due to a construction error, was built vertically instead of horizontally. Oddly, it’s only 29 stories tall — there is no 19th floor — but that’s not the strangest thing about it. For starters, the teacher on the top floor, Mrs. Gorf, is a real witch, complete with warty nose and a penchant for transforming her pupils into apples....Maybe the best thing about “Sideways Stories” is that the students, despite their various quirks and talents, seem very much to be just plain old kids and not the usual stereotypes of brats and tattletales that we often see in grade-school comedies. The actors are clearly having a lot of fun with the supernatural goings-on, and their good time is contagious. There isn’t much in the way of life lessons, but really, there’s plenty of that children’s entertainment, especially in the theater. Sometimes it’s nice to turn your brain off and just laugh.- Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)