Review: ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ at Adventure Theatre MTC

Have you ever had a day where absolutely every little thing goes wrong? Well, Alexander has. In the musical version of Judith Viorst’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, poor Alexander gets gum in his hair, trips and falls, and drops his sweater in the sink. And that’s all before breakfast!

Linda Bard as Audrey and Christian Montgomery as Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Linda Bard as Audrey and Christian Montgomery as Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Adventure Theatre opened their production of Alexander this weekend, and the show was awful…for Alexander, that is. Cara Gabriel directed a spectacular cast in the hour-long musical, with lyrics by Judith Viorst and music by Shelly Markham, that lets the audience laugh at life’s minor atrocities that can make a sour day feel worse.

Scenic Designer April Joy Vester created a multi-colored, open set with many different levels, which reflects the show’s high-energy feel. Large boxes are used and moved constantly by the actors, along with Alexander’s bed that rolls on and off.

Under the musical direction of William Yanesh, the songs are fun and light, with a gorgeous score and layered harmonies. The opening number, “If I Were in Charge of the World” (based on a poem written by Viorst in 2003), is sung by the ensemble. With dynamic choreography by Ashleigh King, the cast dances around on the brightly colored stage, in adorable onesies (costumes by Jeanette Christensen) imagining a perfect world with no oatmeal, allergy shots, or sisters.

Christian Montgomery as Alexander. Photo by Michael Horan.

Christian Montgomery as Alexander. Photo by Michael Horan.

Christian Montgomery (Helen Hayes award winner, multiple nom recipient) plays the unfortunate Alexander. He endures one calamity after another, which are only further accentuated by his siblings’ teasing. Brothers Nick (Sylvern Groomes Jr) and Anthony (Sophie Schulman), get all the good stuff. They find prizes in their cereal boxes – Alexander finds none – and get cool, new shoes, while Alexander is stuck with boring white ones.

During school Alexander’s luck isn’t any better. His best friend Paul (Tiziano D’Affuso) demotes Alexander to his third-best friend. And while all the kids get delicious desserts in their lunches, Alexander’s mom (Sally Horton) has forgotten to pack his.

When the students perform songs in a talent show, Alexander is the odd man out. D’Affuso’s Paul sings “Lizzy Pitofsky,” a hilarious and Dr. Seuss-esque number (Paul just “can’t get enoughsky”). But Alexander’s singing is incredibly loud and screeching so his voice just doesn’t blend.

Montgomery has his own set of killer pipes, though, which are heard in “Australia.” Throughout the show, Alexander dreams of going to Australia, where bad things surely don’t happen. In the number, gorgeous puppets of Australian wild animals (kangaroos and birds) designed by Andrea “Dre” Moore, are manipulated by the ensemble.

Each member of the ensemble plays multiple parts, including two characters (Linda Bard and Tiziano D’Affuso), who act as invisible temptations that draw Alexander into mischief. In one particular scene at the office of Alexander’s dad (Daniel Westbrook), Bard and D’Affuso lure Alexander to the copy machine with beeps and bops. Montgomery’s Alexander has zero willpower and easily succumbs, making copies of his face and butt. Naturally, the copy machine goes haywire and Alexander gets in trouble.

The simplicity of the show is part of its charm. Laughing at a poor boy’s misfortunes teeters on the edge of cruelty but Alexander’s problems are so relatable to parents and children (and anyone who was ever a kid), and so minor, that laughter is inevitable.  There is no moral to pull out of the tale but the basic lesson that bad days just happen, even in Australia as Alexander’s mom points out, and at the end of the day there is always tomorrow.

ATMTC’s production of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a light-hearted, ridiculously hilarious show with a wonderful cast. The story’s plot is definitely aimed toward kids but the talent is a joy for anyone to watch. The show is a guaranteed good time!

Running Time: Approximately one hour, with no intermission.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day plays through March 31st, 2018, at Adventure Theatre MTC – 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, in Glen Echo, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 301-634-2270, or purchase them online.

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