The Very Hungry Caterpillar produced by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia at Children’s Theatre Company

Children’s Theatre Company is ready to brighten up a cold, dark winter evening – with black light. And what a dandy way it is to bring the stories of children’s book illustrator and writer, Eric Carle, to life on stage.

The production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia is absolutely charming – as gentle and appealing as cuddling a toddler who turns the pages as you read the books.

Little Cloud flies above the Eric Carle-duplicate set, appearing and reappearing in all his forms. The Mixed-up Chameleon wants to be all the other animals at the zoo. The children roared with laughter as he sprouted antlers, a bushy tail and feathers. The brown chameleon scurried up and down a tree, the red one reappeared on a flower and returned to bright green after he’d snatched a fly with his very long tongue. All of this to the accompaniment of kids carrying on a running commentary on the action – in full voice.

No matter. That was not only expected, but sanctioned with this announcement before curtain: “You may feel the urge to tell the story, too.” (Parents laugh. Pause.) “That’s perfectly fine. This is a non-shooshing theater.” Exactly. Shrieks of delight are all part of the experience.

The narration by Gordon Pinsent, was so spot on, that I didn’t notice it at all. That is my supreme compliment. I thought the volume level was a little high, however. Very tender ears in the audience, after all. I’ve had this experience more than once at CTC.

Just two puppeteers with one backstage assistant make the theater magic. I was seriously stunned that there weren’t more people behind the scenes. And after the performance, the puppeteers fielded questions from the children and showed them “how they did it,” which didn’t diminish the fun in the least. In fact, turning the black lights on the kids so they could “light up,” too, made all those bouncing audience members into true participants. Very smart.

I asked the mothers of two very young children how their girls liked it. The 20-month-old got a little restless and wanted to play, but only after sitting quietly for two stories! This is ideal for preschoolers, but maybe a little bit older than that.

The production is adapted, directed, and designed by Jim Morrow. Music by Steven Naylor was a nice mix and appropriate to the characters and action.

CTC is offering its first-ever sensory-friendly performance, as well as shows performed in Spanish and French. The show runs through February 23. Run time is 60 minutes with no intermission. Highly recommended for young children.

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