The simplest pleasures of the holiday season are often the ones that cost the least. A warm cup of cocoa shared with a friend. A spontaneously made snow angel. Homemade cookies and milk. A long, cozy nap on a cold Sunday afternoon.
To appreciate and enjoy the value of these every day experiences is a lesson not easily mastered in the commercial crush leading up to Christmas, but the folks at Lexington Children's Theatre make a strong case in favor of relishing ordinary moments in their latest holiday production, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, based on Laura Numeroff's If You Take a Mouse to the Movies and Merry Christmas, Mouse.
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Adapted for the stage by director Larry Snipes, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies follows a young boy (Robert Shyrock) and his mouse friend (Daniel Nation) throughout an extraordinarily ordinary and yet magical day of winter fun. It all starts with the movies, where Mouse discovers a new and wondrous treat, popcorn. Not only is popcorn delicious to eat, but you can string it together to decorate your Christmas tree. This discovery sets off a chain of wintry adventures where each activity naturally lead to another that is as exciting and fun as the one before.
Taking their annual holiday trip across the street to the larger, more opulent Lexington Opera House, the LCT production team and cast strike a balance in tone, form and delivery between the grandeur of the space and the charming simplicity of the show's message. The result is simple pleasure in itself — an hour of listening to children cackle and guffaw at the actors' comedic antics, all of which stealthily convey the show's many messages beneath its playful veneer.
Copious pratfalls, whimsical snow ball fights, and perhaps the goofiest mouse hat imaginable (kudos to costumer K. Moriah Smith for the visually ridiculous masterpiece) had last weekend's young opening-day audience in stitches. Parents will enjoy that the play includes other important lessons, like the basics of counting, the importance of cleaning up your messes and how to share and cooperate with others.
Shyrock and Nation share a jubilant, almost mischievous chemistry as the fun-loving boy/mouse duo. They expertly adjust their performances to play “bigger” to the larger Opera House space.
Speaking of big, Tamara L. Honesty's set design includes some mammoth pieces, some of which dramatically revolve while emphasizing the difference in scale between the boy and the mouse. Supersize props, like giant crayons, humorously punctuate the pair's mismatched sizes.
One of the most interesting and effective elements of this show is its mastery of rhythm and pacing. In the span of an hour, the characters have seen a movie, bought a Christmas tree, built a snowman and a snow fort, had a snowball fight and made homemade ornaments, all before heading back to the movies. Somehow none of this seems rushed, quite the contrary. It's reminiscent of those long snow days of childhood when school was cancelled and the day's possibilities for play was endless.