A musical completely cast with children is making its Whidbey Playhouse debut Dec. 9.
“How to Eat Like a Child – And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up” is a series of humorous vignettes with catchy songs that are funny enough that both adults and kids will enjoy.
The play was written by Delia Ephron and originally aired as a television special in 1981. Along with how to eat like a child, audience members will learn how to behave at school, how to beg for a dog, how to torture your sister and how to watch more television.
“It’s little lessons where you get the ‘why’ through the eyes of a child,” said director Rusty Hendrix.
Hendrix is a veteran at the Playhouse; she estimated that she has directed about 35 shows.
The Whidbey Playhouse board wanted a show that was specifically for kids as there are no other shows this season with children in them. Hendrix suggested “How to Eat Like a Child” because her own children were in a production about 20 years prior, and she loved watching all of her kids and their castmates on stage.
She originally wanted to keep the cast fairly small at 15 kids. A total of 22 children ended up auditioning and Hendrix couldn’t say no to any of them. The cast has an age range from 7 to 15 years old. There are a few 7-year-olds, several 10- to 13-year-olds and two high schoolers.
“They’re all having a great time,” Hendrix said.
She enjoys directing children because the majority of them have never been on stage and she can be the one who introduces them to the theater world.
“They always go away knowing so much more than they come with,” she said. “You know, they come just knowing they’re going to act on stage.”
Hendrix said one of the bigger challenges the production has faced is dealing with the prevalence of seasonal illnesses.
“That is a dilemma for me,” she said. “You have a whole cast of children and they go to school and they get everything.”
To prepare for this, she had all the cast members learn every song so one child can jump in if another gets sick.
Lorena Kidd, who is 13 years old, said this is her first time acting at the Playhouse, although she’s done school plays before.
“It’s about how to stay a child and not grow up,” she said of the show.
She said her favorite part has been making friends with other castmates. Her favorite song in the musical is “We Refuse to Fall Asleep,” a song about kids resisting bedtime.
Elizabeth Lo was in the Playhouse’s production of “Grease,” her first play at the theater.
“It’s very different, just the cast and the overall mood of the play is quite a 360 from ‘Grease,’” she said, adding that she was the youngest actor in “Grease” but one of the oldest in “How to Eat Like a Child.”
Lo said it was a challenge working with so many young children who had never acted before, but it’s been fun to watch them learn and progress. Her favorite part of the performance is her song, “Why Should a Kid Have to Walk?” The song laments a parent’s refusal to give her character a ride to the store. It’s her first solo performance on the Playhouse stage.
“Anyone and everyone who wants to see something that could take them out of their normal life and give them an hour and a half of enjoyment should come see it,” Lo said.