I have this little daughter Kayla. She is small… and very funny. Kayla and her elder sister Sophie were treated to a live performance of one of their favourite cartoons… Charlie and Lola’s Extremely New Play!
For those unfamiliar with this particular BBC series, Charlie and Lola is about two young British children. The older brother Charlie is sensible and mature, has a best friend Marv, and loves football and the fictional character Captain Squidbones. Lola is the younger roughly 5-year-old sister who brings the precocious and curiousness that the series is primarily built on.
Stories typically centre around a lighthearted theme and will always include at least one sequence which delves into a wild ride through Lola’s imagination.
I wasn’t sure what to expect for the stage musical of Charlie and Lola. The cartoon and stories that my kids love all carried a certain whimsical innocence, which is pretty hard to re-create on a stage! I had wondered if the stage actors would overshadow the puppetry but after the first few minutes, the props started to take more of my and my kids’ attention so it worked well in the end.
The manner in which Lola and Lotta are taken on their magical ‘imagination sequences’ were creatively fashioned from everything we saw on the stage. Nothing was spared! The use of one of the stage actors as a pirate ship prow’s ‘mermaid figurehead’ in particular drew several laughs.
The sparkly writing in the series and eventful ‘imagination sequences’ of Lola were also inventively present in several scenes throughout. The producers showed off their own brand of cleverness through the use of various off-stage effects such as bubbles floating from on high into the audience during a water immersion sequence and confetti of red, yellow and brown paper leaves during the autumn scene. In fact, these scenes made the kids look up continually, in anticipation of the next surprise, sometimes at the expense of what was happening on stage!
Personally, my favourite prop was the ever-present tree on the stage. Its continual transformation throughout the performance was a nice touch. From the green of summer, the reds and browns of autumn, the bareness of winter and the first blossoms of spring, they followed the tales neatly, reminding all of us of the simple enjoyment of the four seasons, something we do not get to enjoy here in Singapore.
The show essentially consisted of five to six mini-story arcs from the actual TV/book series, using the theme of the four seasons to move the actual performance along and to bring in a number of the key characters. The more fervent fans of Charlie and Lola were treated to appearances by Marv, Sizzles the dog and Lotta, Lola’s bestest friend.
If there was one bugbear with the production, it was probably a little too long at roughly 80 minutes, including a 15 minute interval that struck me as a little odd. Going through the number of story-arcs were a real treat for Charlie and Lola regulars, but may have seemed a tad too much for the less well initiated.
The language and accents were distinctly British and with Singapore kids typically brought up on a steady diet of American kids shows, some may have struggled to catch bits of the performance. Having said that, my kids are fans and the mark of a good production for me is always if they enjoyed it.
My little daughter Kayla will tell you. She sat through the whole performance, thoroughly enthralled.