No need to call the exterminator for this one, as these bugs are certainly a welcomed delight. Housed in Lincoln Park’s Apollo Theater, the Midwest premiere of Emerald City Theatre’s Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly is a “buzz” with charm, wit and appeal. Adapted from Doreen Cronin’s popular children’s book, director Jen Ellison and her team mount a production set well below the exterior’s sidewalk. The world of bugs and creepy crawlies is pleasantly on display in this clever and good-natured show, guaranteed to hold kids’ (and their parents) attention and more importantly, inspire their ever evolving imaginations. Blending contemporary musical styles, ranging from rap to pop, this hardworking and high-stepping cast brings to life the various cycles of the aforementioned insects while also celebrating the cultural diversities of each other. An important life lesson for everyone, if you ask me.
Emerald City Theatre’s latest shares the tale of three best friends, social insects indeed. Each beginning their day by jotting their individual thoughts, hopes and ambitions in their respective journals. We meet Worm (Christian Edwin Cook) a shy introvert with self esteem issues who just wants to do “big things.” Spider (Shaun Baer) an extrovert who wishes to shed his existing exoskeleton and get bigger. This ambitions arachnid is quite anxious to grow up. The third player to this central trio is Fly (Deanalis Resto) who dreams of becoming a superhero one day. Her inspirational “Flygirl” theme song may be just enough to propel her to rescue her ant… err Aunt Rita, trapped helplessly behind a window screen. Through teamwork and tenacity, it’s Flygirl to the rescue!
Along the way, we also meet their classmates, Butterfly (Juanita Anderson) a multi-lingual, Latin flavored larva, who just wishes to be a Telenovela star, and Ant (Travis Austin Wright) a cartwheeling and hand-standing insect, as kind as he is both agile and strong. The Queen Bee of the classroom, quite literally, is teacher, Mrs. McBee played by Jacquelyn Jones. Speaking directly to the kiddos in the audience early on, the bugs throw open the doors to their alternative worlds, both beneath our feet and up in the air.” The story initiates on the “First day of school, where we are a lot like you.” The students share their assignments about what they want to be when they grow up and what makes them unique and special. All have enthusiastic tales to share, except for Worm, sullen because “I don’t sparkle like Spider or make a splash in the sky like Fly.” He feels inadequate and insecure around his friends, and who cannot relate to that, whether you have two legs or eight? Speaking of legs, Worm muses “without legs or wings, how can I compare?” Oh Worm.
In between the important life lessons, there is vivacious choreography on display crafted by Mandy Work. The clever costuming by Sarah Jo White and set design Greg Pinsoneault will also delight. The story is propelled with an catchy original soundtrack and music direction from Alex Benjamin. As for Worm, he quickly learns “I’ve got worth because I help the Earth” and “The Earth never forgets.” This inventive and imaginative world shares lessons both inspiration and ecological. By the end, all the kids are honorary members of the Secret Bug Club, “The Dirt Bags.” While parents might feel the motivation to go wash their hands, their kids will be enthusiastically flooding the stage with their Kid Autograph Playbills in quest of a hug, photo, sticker or tag from their favorite acting arachnid.
Emerald City Theatre’s Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly is the first show in the troupe’s 20th season, motivated by helping Chicago children creatively face the world. Servicing over 62,000 students and 200 schools annually, these performances are the first exposure many of these children have to live theater. This Nonprofit theater company reaches children through the creative arts, education and outreach. Exposing them to live theater so young is essential to the development of their ever growing and expanding creative minds. Emerald City Theatre’s Artistic Director, Jacqueline Stone, shared the importance of mounting “productions based on best-selling books that feature characters in diverse communities and explore the journey of childhood” for these young audiences For a legitimate treat, just in time for Halloween, take the entire family to check out the wonderfully wacky world of Emerald City Theatre’s Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly.
Emerald City Theatre’s Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly is now playing at the Apollo Theatre through January 7, 2017