‘Schoolhouse Rock Live!’ at Riverside Center Dinner Theater by Julia L. Exline

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Riverside Center Dinner Theater presents School House Rock Live! at their Children’s “Lunch ‘n Show” Musical Theater. With a book by Scott Ferguson, Kyle Hall, and George Keating and music/lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Kathy Mandry, George Newall and Tom Yohe, nostalgic adults can introduce their own children to the educational songs that they grew up loving after enjoying a tasty lunch! Steve and Mary Thompson direct this energetic production where song-and-dance numbers touch on school subjects such as Grammar, Anatomy, American History, and the Solar System, among others.

Set Designer Matthew P. Westcott keeps the stage simple and clean (more room for dancing!) with little more than a large projector screen that shows pictures and images throughout the show, while Lighting Designer Nicky Mahon and Technician Kevin Cleary have some fun with spotlights. Sierra Coan and Gaye Law keep costumes casual for the most part, though the number “Great American Melting Pot” is full of colorful clothing from all over the world.

Kimberly McDowell plays a teacher who, nervous on the morning of her first day of teaching, decides to watch some television to relax. She comes across old episodes of School House Rock, and the ensemble comes to life to help her organize her lesson plan. They do this with a series of songs, some of which are hits, and some, admittedly, misses. Crowd favorites include the famous “Just a Bill,” led by a Styrofoam-wrapped Christopher Hlusko, while Michael R. Colby amps up the young crowd with a lively “Do the Circulation,” and Anthony Williams’ tap-dance choreography for “Conjunction Junction” is a real treat, lead by Anthony Williams (who I must say, received the loudest applause by far).

After every few songs, the ensemble engages with the audience in “pop quizzes,” asking them questions relating to the songs that they’ve just heard, and the children seemed very happy to be interacting with the cast members. They encouraged the kids to get up and dance after the last song, and they came out into the audience to dance with them. Finally, the kids were able to get autographs from the friendly cast before heading home.

Though some of the vocals were a bit underwhelming in places the children seemed to really enjoy themselves as well as the adults, who got to relive classic moments from their own childhood. For a fun afternoon out, take your child for lunch and a show at Schoolhouse Rock Live!

Running Time is 45 minutes without an intermission.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! plays through September 22, 2012 at Riverside Center Dinner Theater – 95 Riverside Parkway, in Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call (540) 370-4300.