I was intrigued when I first saw that I Theatre was staging The Little Red Hen. As I knew it, this was a Level 1 “Read it yourself” Ladybird book with no more than eleven pages of VERY BIG text!
I had to find out, with kids in tow, how the drama company was going to transform this into a full-length family musical.
The answer came as quickly as the curtains opened – with I Theatre’s signature good-natured humour, creative storytelling and very varied genre of catchy songs and entertaining dances, of course!
Played by a cast of only five actors, the story zooms in on four farm animals, the resident farmer and a neighbouring miller. You’ll be familiar with the story of how the Little Red Hen wanted to plant and harvest wheat, make flour and bake bread, but had to do it all by herself… until the time came for the eating of the bread, when all the other animals clamoured to chip in and help.
The story itself was straightforward enough, but it was the characterisation and performances of the supporting characters that stole the show. This was a showcase of diversity at its best and had the audience in uproarious laughter at many points of the musical.
The Cat, Mouse and Goose were humourously imbued with unique personalities, and each one had their unique voice and song to sing (with dances to boot).
Mouse stole the limelight every time with her inaptly-timed appearances and disruptive, impulsive chatter, which was 100% spot-on in terms of comic-timing!
Goose, with her diva-esque petulance and frustration with everything and everyone around her, especially Mouse, was equally likeable. She had me rooting for her and cheering in relief when she finally got her two minutes of Bollywood fame!
And of course, no one could blame the too-cool-for-school Cat who simply could not tarnish his slick image and smooth moves with the demeaning (how dare we think of it!) acts of planting and harvesting.
The moral of the story and the virtues modelled by the Little Red Hen were not lost on the kids who raved afterwards about how nice and kind she was.
The bonus kickers, too, were that I Theatre found a way to weave in crowd-pleasing puppetry, audience interactivity and even a quick science quiz that kept the kids in the audience on their toes! The magic of the puppetry and the growing wheat also elicited oohs and ah of wonder, and had my six-year old asking how they did that!
I attended the musical with three kids – two girls and a boy, aged four to nine years and I was surprised to learn that each one of us had a completely different favourite character by the end of the show! How’s that for testimony that The Little Red Hen has something for everyone?