Worm’s school year is off to a tough start when he ditches his very first homework assignment.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to or know how to make an “all about me” report to his class, an exercise that lets his fellow classmates Spider, Fly, Ant and Butterly learn more about one another. It’s because he doesn’t think there is anything interesting enough to share with his friends about his dull, wormy existence.
As part of the title trio in Lexington Children’s Theatre’s latest production, “Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly: The Musical,” Worm embarks on the difficult but common journey of finding his place in the world.
The tale of Worm’s plight and that of his buggy friends takes center stage in LCT’s latest production, an adaptation of three books by Doreen Cronin.
Adapted by Joan Cushing, the play combines three of Cronin’s books into a bug-sized musical with a core message of friendship, acceptance and fitting in.
“This story is right up LCT’s alley. We love doing stories that teach lessons and values. We explore self-worth in the show, with Worm learning that he has things to offer and that he is special in his own way,” says Antony Terrell, who plays Ant in the play.
Cronin’s works are no stranger to staged adaptations. “Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type,” for instance, is a regular on the children’s theater circuit. But “Diary of a Worm, Spider, and a Fly” is the first musical mash-up of Cronin’s work, with musical numbers ranging from swing to hip-hop to ballads.
Taking its cue from the books, Cushing’s adaptation tells the story as diary entries, rather than as a continuous narrative.
“The central characters do make short diary entries revealing a little bit more about their personal joys and fears of what’s ahead of them as the days go on,” LCT artistic director Vivian Snipes says. “The characters become really wonderfully developed.”
That presented a particular challenge to Snipes, the show’s director, as she created a buggy world that is, she insists, really not that different from our own.
“While they stand alone, the diary entries are integral to the next moment and the moment before,” Snipes says.
The challenge then? To create an arc of character development despite the stand-alone nature of the entries or the fact that significant time has passed from one entry to the next or, as Snipes puts it, “keeping that thread alive in individual moments of diary entries that are spaced out.
“It was a challenge to find it at first, but in talking with the cast and constantly asking where the transformation is in each moment, we helped make sure that thread stayed consistent all the way through,” Snipes says.
In order to make Worm and his pals even more relatable, Snipes called on her designers to create scenic schemes with a magnified worldview, the way a bug would see it. Props and scenic elements have been enlarged so that audiences experience the bugs’ lives on a relatable scale.
“We have scaled the world up so that our human being actors do appear to be bug-sized in a very large world,” Snipes says.
“One of the lines in the music is, ‘We’re a lot like you,’ and they really are a lot like us in what they do and how they help each other grow.”
Russell says, “I think a lot of young people sometimes wonder when they see people with special talents or gifts, what they have to offer other people and I think they can relate to Worm.”
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer and critic.
If you go
‘Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly’
What: Lexington Children’s Theatre production of the stage adaptation of Doreen Cronin’s books.
When: 2 and 7 p.m. April 15, 2 p.m. April 23
Where: Lexington Children’s Theatre, 418 W. Short St.
Tickets: $18 adults, $15 children