Adventure Theatre MTC presents Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood, adapted from the book by Mike Artell and Jim Harris, with Book, Music, and Lyrics by Joan Cushing. Directed and choreographed by ATMTC Producing Artistic Director Michael J. Bobbitt and with Musical Direction by Darius Smith, this feisty version of the classic is a great way to introduce your children to the history and tradition of Mardi Gras and Creole culture!
Set Designer Court Watson creates the Louisiana bayou with ragged layers of curtains (or, “Spanish moss”), a multi-leveled wooden dock, and painted lily pads, though the heart of the setting shines through the lighting and sound designs by Jason Arnold and Neil McFadden. A blending of greens, blues, and browns are complimented with effects like chirping crickets and rushing water. Zydeco music (a melding of rhythm and blues) is the driving force of this production, and highlights powerful influences from French Creole culture. My favorite technical element of this production are the costumes designed by Kendra Rai. Rai isn’t afraid to use a large variety of bright and bold colors, patterns, and textures in a single piece, and the resulting swampland critters are creative and fun (I especially liked the crawfish!).
Down in New Orleans, an adventure-seeking little duck named Petite Rouge (an enthusiastic performance by Brittany Williams) jumps at the chance to take a basketful of Cajun treats (gumbo and hot sauce, anyone?) to her sick Grandmere’s house. Rouge’s worried mother (played by Sakile Lyles) warns her about the dangers of the bayou (alligators, in particular) in the song “Straight There, Straight Back,” before sending Rouge on her journey, with her cautious cat Tejean (Jimmy Mavrikes) to keep her company. While Tejean is determined to follow the rules, Rouge sings about her desire to explore, and eventually convinces Tejean to stray off the beaten path…where they meet Claude (Greg Twomey), a “friendly” gator who charms Rouge with a song called “Rendezvous,” about adventure and excitement. However, a frenzied chase begins when Claude’s charms wear off, taking the trio through the swamps and into the chaotic center of a Mardi Gras celebration. Will Rouge and Tejean be able to escape the cunning gator?
The performances were great! This production is filled with energized song-and-dance numbers, my favorites being the tension-filled “Riverboat Waltz” and “Let Yourself Go,” which is accompanied by a tap routine. Twomey is a clear crowd favorite as Claude, gaining waves of applause after his number “I’m Hungry!” The cast is a small one, and therefore juggle a number of roles between them. Karen Vincent does a particularly fine job balancing her roles, though my favorite role of hers was that of Grandmere (her saucy exchange with Claude was a comedic highlight!) Wendell Jordan has a handful of roles as well, his best being a “Gator Trapper” who aids Rouge and Tejean in their escape. The cast ends by playing the spoons to an upbeat song called “Hot Sauce” before meeting the eager audience outside the theater.
Lively and fun, Adventure Theatre MTC’s production of Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood makes for a great family-friendly celebration of Mardi-Gras!
Running Time: 60 minutes, without an intermission.
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood plays through March 8, 2015 at Adventure Theatre MTC- 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo Park, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call (301) 634-2270, or purchase them online.