Like most booklovers, I am typically happiest with screen and stage adaptations when the author is god — meaning, the script should religiously follow the original book. If your preschooler’s feelings about Eric Carle are similar to mine about, say, Jane Austen, your little one will likely be as pleased with The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show as I was with BBC’s six-hour version of Pride and Prejudice. (Don’t be alarmed; OCT’s production is only sixty minutes.)
The play opens and closes with puppeteers holding the picture books your children probably know and love, and everything that happens in between is absolutely true to Eric Carle’s art, both in its message and signature style. Carle’s beloved classics are brought to life with puppets that look as if they jumped right off the page, down to the painted tissue paper tail on the purple fox and the flashing light of the lonely firefly. While all of the cast members bring a fantastic physicality to the puppets, Robi Arce stands out. His uninhibited silliness and childlike delight are infectious. Children are encouraged to respond to the performance, and audience members jumped in on the well-known refrain, “but he was still hungry,” and counted along with the puppeteers as the caterpillar ate its way through the week.
If you manage to make it to the theater early, your children may participate in a scavenger hunt, complete a coloring page, or beg you for one of the stuffed caterpillars for sale. While the performance is very gentle, if you think your child could be frightened of the puppets, a seat closer to the back should solve that problem. There isn’t a bad seat in the house in the Winningstad Theatre, though I do recommend renting the $1 booster seats, as the folding chair kept closing on my daughter when she sat on her knees. If you think the lights and music may be too much for your child, a sensory friendly performance is scheduled for May 5th, at 11 am. There will also be an ASL interpreted performance April 7th, at 2pm.
I brought both my five-year-old and my eight-year-old to the performance, and I wasn’t sure if the latter would enjoy the show or find it too preschool for his liking. He actually had a great time seeing his former bedtime stories come to life, so feel free to bring your older children along, if only for their first taste of nostalgia.
March 31—May 13, 2018
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 5:00pm
Sundays at 11:00am and 2:00pm
Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
Run time: 60 minutes with no intermission