The Birthday Feast

October 10 - 25
Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium

H-T Review

Veggies Fly in Cardinal’s First Original Work

One designed to magically transport audiences

by Matthew Waterman  H-T Reviewer

It’s an age-old question, and one that vexes parents more than ever in this current era of processed foods: How can we get kids to eat their vegetables? Ask the folks at Cardinal Stage Company, and you can expect that they will posit theater as a plausible method.

Nutrition is the subject matter of “The Birthday Feast,” a brand-new children’s musical by Bloomington locals Scott Russell Sanders (book and lyrics) and Alex Crowley (music).

“The Birthday Feast” marks the Cardinal’s first world premiere production. Cardinal commissioned the musical from Sanders and Crowley, seeking a show that could relate to the IU College of Arts and Sciences Fall 2014 Themester program, “Eat, Drink, Think: Food From Art to Science!”

When the show begins, it’s the eve of Maddie’s mom’s birthday, and Maddie (Lola Kennedy) wants to prepare something special for the occasion. Enlisting the help of her friends Jack (Matthew Weidenbener) and Isabella (Audrey Deinlein), Maddie sets out to make her mom a picnic.

Guidance and ingredients come from the friendly gardeners next door, Mrs. and Mr. Allegri (Maria Izzo Walker and Mike Price), but the hard work is up to the kids. Of course, some diversions are created by their lovable dog Mutt (Liesl Cruz).

Randy White directed an energetic cast in this show, with music direction from Robert Cruz and choreography from Diane Buzzell. The production is fast-paced enough to hold kids’ attention, yet still easy to follow for most kids.

Admirably and somewhat surprisingly, “The Birthday Feast” manages to avoid sermonizing. The play strongly encourages kids to consider the nutritional value of foods, but does not abandon storylines and humor.

The design was detailed and colorful across the board; Mark Smith and Christy Wiesenhahm’s scenery, Angela Malone’s costumes and Carrie Barton’s lighting generate visual interest aplenty.

Crowley’s original score is whimsical and memorable. Kids and adults will likely find themselves humming melodies from the show as they exit the theater.

Cardinal presents a well-wrought production of this scrumptious new musical. “The Birthday Feast” will certainly amuse kids, and it might even inspire them to try some vegetables.