‘Lulu and the Brontosaurus’ at Imagination Stage By Julia L. Exline

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FOUR STARS
Imagination Stage presents the world premiere of Lulu and the Brontosaurus, a musical based on the book by Judith Viorst, who also wrote the Book and Lyrics for the stage. With music by Shelly Markham and direction by Janet Stanford, this cheeky production hides a valuable life lesson about manners and character beneath bold characters and fun song-and-dance numbers.

Lulu (Casie Platt) explains to Mr. B (Vaughn Irving) why he should be her pet. Photo by Margot Schulman.
Lulu (Casie Platt) explains to Mr. B (Vaughn Irving) why he should be her pet. Photo by Margot Schulman.

With the production beginning in Lulu’s bedroom, Scenic Designer Milagros Ponce de Leon puts a large, lavish toy chest on a raised platform center stage, as well as a couple of chairs and some fancy drapes. After a tantrum that leaves the drapery flying, Lulu ventures into the forest, where dense, leafy plants and brightly colored flowers blossom over the stage. Lighting Designer Cory Ryan Frank adds to the forest atmosphere with orange and green shades, as well as dappled shadow work that gives a pleasant, sunlight-through-the-branches glow. Sound Designer Neil McFadden completes the mood with effects such as twittering birds and buzzing insects. Costume Designer Debra Kim Sivigny dresses Lulu in colors that compliment her personality (LOUD!), and nods to other character’s personalities through their costumes as well. A snake who fancies himself a forest ranger wears a boy scout vest as he patrols the scene, and a haughty, primping tiger is glitzed up like a beauty queen.

Simply put, Lulu (Casie Platt) is a spoiled brat, throwing extreme temper-tantrums whenever she hears the word, “no.” Her parents (Tracey Stephens Mother and Doug Wilder as Father) sing a song about her upsetting behavior in a number choreographed by Ilona Kessell, including a move that involves Lulu tying them up with a jump rope! Bullied by their daughter to the point where they give in to her every whim, they stiffen with fear at her latest birthday gift request (or should I say, demand): a pet brontosaurus! After failing to get Lulu interested in any other pet (a cute scene where they imitate the silly sounds and movements of various animals) her parents bristle under the biggest tantrum yet! Lulu is determined to have her way, and after packing up a mysteriously spacious suitcase (great special effects here– keep an eye out!), Lulu sets out into the deep forest to find her own brontosaurus, chanting, “I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna gonna get– a bronto- bronto- bronto- bronto saurous for a pet!”as she stamps her way through the audience…on her way to an adventure!

Lulu disrupts the peaceful forest with her stamping and chanting, butting heads with a Snake (Vaughn Irving) a Bear (Doug Wilder), and a Tiger (Tracey Stephens) on her quest to find a brontosaurus. With each confrontation comes a song-and-dance number, including a tense tango with the Snake, a tussle with the Tiger, and a sassy swing dance with the Bear. They all want her to improve her attitude, and are instead met with sass, insults, and a few bumps on the head! Along the way, a helpful Narrator (Lauren Du Pree) amps up audience interaction, keeping the children laughing and contributing to the fun by asking questions. Finally, Lulu meets the Brontosaurus, a massive puppet designed by Matthew Pauli and operated and voiced by Vaughn Irving. The Brontosaurus is gentle and sweet, but there’s a big problem: he wants to keep Lulu as a pet! Poor Lulu is hoisted up into a high tree and is expected to do tricks and eat leaves! Under the tender care of the Brontosaurus, Lulu begins to soften…and realizes that having a bad attitude will not get her out of that tree. Will Lulu learn to compromise?

Snake (Vaughn Irving), Tiger (Tracey Stephens), and Bear (Doug Wilder) discuss what to do about Lulu. Photo by Mrgot Schulman.
Snake (Vaughn Irving), Tiger (Tracey Stephens), and Bear (Doug Wilder) discuss what to do about Lulu. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is full of fun and adventure. The cast works well together and seem to revel in each other’s silliness. The puppet, though a bit squeaky while being operated, is a real sight to see! Not only will this provide an exciting hour and a half for your family, but a lesson of sharing and caring lurks between the lines.

Grab a couple tickets to Lulu and the Brontosaurus, and see if a few more “pleases” and “thank yous” find their way into the dinner conversation later!

Running Time: Approximately one hour and 20 minutes, without an intermission.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus plays through October 27, 2013 at Imagination Stage– 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call 301-280-1660 or order them online.