Metro Theater’s ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo’ is a treat for young audiences
- Written by Tina Farmer
In collaboration with the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center, Metro Theater Company brings “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo” to the stage with a fantastic production that’s vibrant, visually entertaining and fluidly presented in English and Spanish.
Four stories by popular children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle come to life via the magic of puppetry in the family friendly, safely distanced production. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear,” “10 Little Rubber Ducks,” “The Very Lonely Firefly” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo” are presented in the quick moving fifty minute show. The stories have simply communicated lessons, whether it be about opening yourself to new experiences, finding the place you can call home or going through change.
Each story is unique, yet the four together feel like a cycle of tales that encourage young people to explore the world with open eyes and curiosity and to keep looking for new friends. The stories have simple plots that reinforce positive feelings, with friendly characters that are engaging to watch and listen to. The bilingual script shifts from English to Spanish effortlessly -- introducing, repeating and interchanging the languages in a conversational way that feels natural even to unfamiliar ears.
Jamie McKittrick, Haley Medrano and Gaby Rodriguez are the onstage performers, with assistance from offstage performer and assistant stage manager Eleanor Humphrey and stage manager Jimmy Bernatowicz. In addition to providing movement and dialogue for the puppets, the actors add expression and directional focus that enhances the story. The audience can also clearly see the actors voicing and manipulating the puppets, which lessons the potential for the puppets to seem scary.
The puppets, built by the creator of the show Jonathan Rockefeller, are a visual homage to Carle’s work. The actors manipulate the puppets expertly, at times to almost mesmerizing affect. The lumbering bear, the bold yellow duck, the dance of the fireflies and many other animals come to animated life before the children’s eyes. Then, to cap off the show, the very tiny, very hungry caterpillar, eats his way through a garden and a picnic. After growing to a giant caterpillar, he spins a cocoon and emerges, spreading his butterfly wings and flying off stage.
Suitable for most children, the use of vocal rhythms, frequent repetition in both English and Spanish and purposeful audience response are effective tools for engaging the audience. Combined with the colorful puppets, expressive actors and intricate choreography, the show easily grabs and holds attention. Children over the age of about 10 or 11 may find the storytelling a bit less interesting, but dozens of puppets and interspersed languages keep the show varied and ever-changing. The spacious pods enable more energetic kids the space to move, dance or twirl around. Several youngsters were observed dancing with the fireflies during the performance I attended.
Metro Theater Company's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show / La Oruga Muy Hambrienta Espectáculo” continues virtually and on the front lawn of the new Kirkwood Performing Arts Center through May 24. The outdoor performance setting enables the use of safely spaced pods of varying sizes, with both lawn and chair seating options available.