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Whidbey Children’s Theater presents smart, funny, well-directed play
It may be “children’s theater,” but “Inside Frampton and the Outside World” is the most entertaining show I’ve seen this year — for any age.
This musical play, written and directed by Whidbey Children’s Theater artistic director Susannah Rose Woods, with its cast of about 30 mainly animal characters, is chock full of witty language, a swift-moving story-line, deftly directed actors, darling and clever costumes, smartly composed songs that infuse a variety of musical styles and a script with so much hilarious use of language that, between all the laughing fits and no small amount of smiling, it’s both a workout and a joy.
It’s worth seeing just for the laughs, but the sweet, rhyming language, the character-driven storyline and the bop-along songs all combine to make this a tour de force.
The story revolves around a three-legged cat named Frampton, played with feline flair by the sweet-voiced Chloe Hood, who desires nothing more than to go outside, much to the chagrin of his doting owner, the convincing Lily Simpson. He watches the exploits of his fellow animals from his housebound perch near a window and eventually encounters such characters as the chorus of three beatnik moles who would make Jack Kerouac proud; the fist-pumping activist ferrets; the friendly misunderstood Rottweiler and her posse of trying-to-be-fierce lap dogs; the outrageously funny, frantic-footed goose who’s forever dodging the dinner table and her equally funny and fast-talking farmer; the free-spirited but famished goat who raps and does a great bit with a series of twigs; the zen-like tortoise with perfect delivery; the sensible sweet cottontail; the effectively melancholy owl; the loyal deer watched over by her concerned sister as she longs for the security of the house cat; the diva cat with teenager attitude who snarls an excellent “whatever” meow and turns out to have an underlying layer of sweetness just like all teenagers; a clumsy raccoon and his nearsighted brother; three endearing noble weasels named Henry; the cutest chipmunks ever to grace a stage; and the funniest gibberish-talking squirrel this side of the nuthole.
The original music and lyrics by Woods and arranged by Robert Marsanyi is absolutely entertaining, traversing styles seamlessly from middle-eastern to funk, rap, rock and everything in between.
The story, with its themes of acceptance, tolerance, family, friendship and freedom is illustrated nicely by Woods using humor drawn from basic human foibles, with no trace of sentimentality. With her expert hand for direction, Woods draws out funny, honest and touching performances from actors ranging in age from about 7 to 16 playing both human and animals.
Take the kids, take mom, take the grandparents — just go see this show. It’s a smart and hilarious breath of fresh air.
“Inside Frampton and the Outside World” plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, May 6-14 and at 2 p.m. Sundays, May 8 and 15 at Whidbey Children’s Theater in Langley. Call 221-2282 for tickets.