At age 6 my daughter Adela is now a veteran theater goer, but this weekend the whole family was excited for her little brother, 3-and-a-half-year-old Cruz, to go his very first play: Northwest Children’s Theater’s production of Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play. (Coincidentally, this was also Adela’s first play when she was 3 years old.) And seeing “bestest friends” Elephant and Piggie of the Mo Willems books come to life onstage is really a perfect entry into live theater for the preschool set.

We’d prepped Cruz for the play by saying that we’d all be sitting in a theater together, and it’d be dark like at the movies. We also cautioned that we’d all have to watch what was happening on the stage and not talk. He did a great job and sat on his cushions, soaking in the action onstage. Every time I looked at him, he had a giant grin on his face. He was so eager to watch what was happening, he almost leaned too far forward and tipped off his booster cushion.

Even big sister Adela enjoyed the show. Her favorite character was the Ice Cream Penguin, which she remembered from her first time seeing the  show. She dressed accordingly in a penguin dress and hoodie. I’d mentioned to Adela’s friend’s mom that we were going to see the show. She wanted to take her daughter, Opal, and when she learned that Cruz would be going, decided bring Opal’s little sister Daisy, too. Both girls enjoyed the show. In fact, 3-year-old Daisy loved the play so much she didn’t want to leave the theater when it was over. When I asked her who her favorite character was, she immediately replied, “Piggie!”

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The 60-minute length of the show was just the right length for Cruz and Daisy, too. The play moved along at a brisk pace packing in 10 musical numbers, so they never had a chance to get bored. John Ellingson as Gerald and Joellen Sweeney as Piggie were a delight. And the amazingly talented young members of the cast, delivered top-notch singing, acting and dancing, too.

The play’s book, while fun and bouncy, contained lessons on being a good friend that were easily absorbed — even by a 3-year-old. When Gerald took Piggie’s new toy and said he wanted to throw it, Cruz looked at me and gravely whispered, “He shouldn’t throw it.” He covered his eyes when Gerald threw it and the toy broke apart, and he later described the scene as “a little bit scary.” He was relieved when the toy was, in fact, not broken. And he laughed the hardest when it turned out that Piggie was not really going away from melodramatic Gerald, but simply needed to visit the potty.

Northwest Children’s Theater really gets their target audience. And Elephant & Piggie was a wonderful play for first-time theater goers that even their older siblings could enjoy.

Elephant & Piggie’s We are in a Play!
September 22-October 21
All show times 11 am and 2 pm

Denise Castañon
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