Review: 'Lilly' shows Lexington Children's Theatre's expertise in fun

Contributing Culture WriterSeptember 16, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    'Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse'

    What: Lexington Children's Theatre's production of Kevin Kling's play adapted from Kevin Henkes' book. Suitable for ages pre-kindergarten and older.

    When: 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 21; 2 p.m. Sept. 22

    Where: LCT, 418 W. Short St.

    Tickets: $18 adults, $15 children. Available (859) 254-4546, Ext. 245, or LCTonstage.org.

Amie E. Kisling is no stranger to copious fun-having. It is, after all, a major part of her job as a theater educator of young people at the Lexington Children's Theatre.

In Sunday's opening performance of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, which Kisling directs, that contagious sense of unabashed, side-splitting enthusiasm spilled from the classroom to the stage in a show that is endearing, instructive, colorful and full of music and laughter.

Adapted by Kevin Kling from the book by Kevin Henkes, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, which continues through Sunday, is about a young mouse with a penchant for colorful costumes and over-the-top, fantastical escapism. She is the kind of mouse who always carries a squirt gun in her cowgirl boots "just in case." When her new baby brother turns out to be an unexciting "lump" and when her shiny new purse fails to garner the attention she needs, Lilly (played by Frances Werner-Wilson) acts out. But with helpful adult mice, including her parents (Daniel Ellis and Jesse Laine Harris) and teacher (Adam Montague), and a few hilarious romps of fantasy, Lilly regains her bearings as "queen of the world."

Sunday's show started a few minutes late because of a technical hiccup with the sound, but Christopher Freeman's sound design was worth the extra wait. The show's soundtrack is an integral part of its most successful comedic scenes, such as when Lilly's Grammy (Bri Dankers) and all her friends start "vogueing" and trotting around Gangnam-style. I definitely don't recall that degree of kitschy frivolity in the 2008 production of the same play, but as Lilly's Grammy says, "work it."

Eric Abele and Tony Hardin spruced up Eric Morris and Adam Spencer's original set design, transforming the stage into a colorful mouse-view of "a world under the grass," where the playbill says the show is set.

Werner-Wilson's job as Lilly is to enchant the audience with her precociousness, driving much of the humor with well-timed comedic delivery, which she accomplishes with charming ease and infectious enthusiasm. Her younger brother, Sam Werner-Wilson, gets in on the fun as a member of an ensemble of young people, including Ellie Burkholder, Annie Harris, Cavan Hendron, Erin Reed, Helena Schatzki, Katelyn Slavik and Charlie Stephenson, who alternately portray bullies, a giant cat puppet, students and store clerks.

Diandra Sallee and Austin Vahle deserve praise in supporting roles as Lilly's best friends, Chester and Wilson. Humorous scenes such as the duo's competition for the title "champion of the universe" had Sunday's audience grinning and giggling. Hannah Tirlea, who plays Lilly's snotty, self-absorbed, pink-frilled cousin Garland, and Addie Miller as baby Julius, whom Lilly dubs "the germ of the world," each have scene-stealing moments of hilarity.

Spoiler alert: Audience members might get just a bit wet. That squirt gun comes in handy, after all.


IF YOU GO

'Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse'

What: Lexington Children's Theatre's production of Kevin Kling's play adapted from Kevin Henkes' book. Suitable for ages pre-kindergarten and older.

When: 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 21; 2 p.m. Sept. 22

Where: LCT, 418 W. Short St.

Tickets: $18 adults, $15 children. Available (859) 254-4546, Ext. 245, or LCTonstage.org.

Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.

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