A simple yet sensory-filled 55 minutes is all that’s needed for little theater-goers coming to watch Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day and Other Stories” currently at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. The short vignettes show the fun-filled days of growing Peter (Lydia Williamson), his friend Archie (Abigail Aukerman) and his parents who allow him to explore his days away.
Each of the ‘other stories’ are children’s books within Keats’ series chronicling a youngster he affectionally names Peter. The character was created from a Life magazine clipping of a real boy playing in the snow in 1940. As the years pass, Peter’s experiences evolve and his imagination leads the way.
Lydia Williamson plays Peter, and she undoubtedly embodies an impressionable five year old whose bright eyes are wide open and ready to receive whatever the world is giving. There is no specific time or place, just a child, his mischievous mind, and the elements inside his house and outside his door. The over exaggerated putting on of his bright red snowsuit causes the children to erupt in giggles and sets the tone of the production. But that’s not the only time; Instead of cushiony snow all over the stage, you can hear it under Peter’s feet. C-r-r-r-u-n-c-h, c-r-r-u-n-c-h, c-r-rr-u-n-c-h. You see it engulfing his body. The audience can share in his excitement with the subtle inflections in his voice. Crunching through the snow, feeling the brisk air on his face and making snow angels sends the little ones into a joyful tizzy.
There are colorful fluffy pillows being used as seat cushions, a bed, and even a birthday cake. Exercise balls doubled as massive snowballs with bursts of large confetti flying when the target is hit during a frisky fight. Imaginary sticks were used to draw in the snow and what seemed like a large glass terrarium half filled with water symbolized rain. The backdrop is a simple partition with different shapes, colors, and objects reflected to imitate crisp blue skies, a dreary and rainy day, and a busy birthday party.
Peter and Archie are best buds and tackle their days together. When they’re not fending off bullies, they’re pretending to be astronauts with magic goggles in tow. Abigail Aukerman is Archie, Peter’s mom, and Amy, Peter’s crush for whom he writes a letter but struggles with it’s delivery. Ron Lee McGill is dad and loves bonding with his son as most father’s do.
The age range is described as four and older, but I noticed tots much younger identifying with Peter and his antics. I overheard a little girl behind me say, “Mommy this is REALLY funny!” as if she were doing a commercial. My five year old thought it was silly enough to keep a smile on her face from beginning to end. Director, Mark Sutton says, “This show is meant to inspire an embrace of life with all five senses.”
And from what I can tell, it does just that.
Image provided by John Merrick.
For more information visit www.ctc.org.