Mutiny in the toy box

Calling All Toys!

Book by Michael Schloegl
Music and lyrics by John Gregor
Directed by Carrie Libling
The Vital Theatre Company Children's Theatre
432 West 42nd St. 3rd fl. (Sat. 1:00 p.m. Sun 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.: 212/268-2040;
Non-union production (closes Apr. 27)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Calling All Toys!, currently playing at the Vital Theatre in Manhattan's Theatre District, is the fourth and final production of the Children's 2002/2003 season. With just a wave of a magic wand, this small but mighty troupe launched their 17th production delighting little patrons with a growing reputation for having the best children's theatre the city has to offer.

Our heroine Alexis is the little girl who has everything she wants. Unfortunately, she does not know how to treat people, and worse news -- today is her birthday. While she ungratefully opens a few of her presents, she accidentally waves a magic wand and finds her previously mistreated toys, like the Wizard, the Rag Doll, the Bear, and the Etch-a-Sketch,. all come to life. With a few magical adventures playing a board game, her new friends teach her the value of kindness and consideration to others.

Dianna DiPalma (Rag Doll) played a very practical character with a convincing Southern accent.

Lee Overtree's polished enthusiasm was the main focus of the show. As the fearless leader, he played the responsible role among the toys. His ad-libs and delivery were hilarious and fresh.

Kelly Hayes (Alexis) played a fabulous spoiled brat and displayed a fiery temperament in her part. Her excellent singing voice was showcased notably with well-structured songs.

Craig Fitzpatrick, who played the Bear, seemed to be the most popular of all the characters among the children. After finding the Bear's voice box annoying, Alexis rips out his battery. When the Bear does get to speak, during a magical game when they switch places, his song is wonderful and energetic.

Certainly one of the more ingenious roles created for the show was the Etch-a-Sketch, played by the bouncing David Shih, who portrayed a memorable Monkey in Animal of the Year.

Accomplished dancer and choreographer Michael Schloegl climbed a new notch in his new career as a writer for children's theatre with a solid, charming script that is funny and flows well.

John Gregor's music was youthful and fun to listen to.

Marco Jo Clate's choreography was stylized and seemed to evoke a delighted reaction in the audience. Carrie Libling's direction was full of detail and was a mixture of ancient fairy-tale stories and the modern-day sitcom.

Costumes by Candace Guttman were veracious in construction, particularly in the little pink dress for Alexis and the plump brown outfit for the Bear.

Set design by Jane Shepard was expertly created, with pink and jolly colors typical of the room of a young girl who has everything.

The theatre made half of the program a coloring assignment for the young audience members and also left room for the actors to sign autographs in the lobby on the way out for "meet and greet." This is great entertainment for the whole family at very reasonable prices. How often can you say that about anything in Manhattan?

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada