There is something special going on at the Theatre of the Riverside
Church. The New York Family Arts Festival, in conjunction with
Cutler Productions, Inc, is presenting the New York premiere of
a delightful new family musical from Canada: Aah-Pootee! That's
Aah-Pootee is one of over twenty Inuit words for snow, and somewhere amid the lonely expanse of Northern Canada, a child's search for identity becomes an enchanting piece of theatre in which snow serves as a catalyst: exasperating problems, assuaging disappointment and in its purity and loveliness, healing and renewing.
Feeling unloved by his single mother, who is so busy saving the environment she doesn't have time for him, O.K Okay runs off to become a new person. His search leads him into adventures with animals who try to sing and dance him into joining in their particular obsessions.
May Ebbit Cutler's book and lyrics are deceptively simple and work on two levels. The story is accessible enough to keep children entranced, and yet sophisticated enough to entertain their parents with a sly satire that gently but firmly questions our obsessions with work, play, appearances, and power. And everything is nicely supported by Andrew Svoboda's jaunty, tuneful score, which gives just the right light tone to the somewhat serious themes that propel the action.
If Anthony Patellis's direction was not as consistently smooth
or inventive as it might have been, the production was nevertheless
stylish and fast-moving, benefiting from energetic performances
from the large cast, especially the charming Michelle Lucchese
as the perpetually questioning O.K. Okay, and the hilariously
vital Raphael Peacock as a wolf in lion's clothing.
Breathtakingly lovely sets, costumes, and lighting gave the impression of a high-class children's book come to vivid life, particularly the creative evocation of the Northern Lights that ended the show. (Sets by Michael Cutler, costumes by Bettine Roynon and Lynne Fiori, lighting by Robin Paterson.)
Running on a very varied schedule only through August 6, Aah-Pootee! That's Snow! is an entertaining, thought-provoking, wise and wonderful introduction to live theatre for kids of all ages. Even for those of us who need no introduction. Try to see it.
Writing: Book: 2 Music: 2 Lyrics: 2
Musical Direction: 2
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita