Review: ‘An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly’ at American Pops Orchestra

The American Pops Orchestra recently presented their original adaptation of the children’s story, An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly. Writer, Claybourne Elder, has taken the madcap rhyme and transformed the poem into a zany musical with arrangements of popular hits, in classic APO style, cleverly worked into the story and sung by a trio of actors.

The cast of 'An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly' at the American Pops Orchestra. Photo by.
The cast of ‘An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly’ at the American Pops Orchestra. Photo by Carolina Stamey.

Music Director Luke S. Frazier conducted the live orchestra, with himself on piano – Luke Wedge (Violin 1), Marissa Murphy (Violin 2), Julius Wirth (Viola), Jonathan Terry (Cello), Greg Watkins (Bass), David Sanders (Guitar), and Jeremy Yaddaw (Drums).

Ricky Drummond served as director for the project and kept the show humming at a fast pace. And with light audience participation, the whole show easily held the focus of the youngest audience members.

For those unfamiliar with the original story, it goes a like this:

There was an old lady who swallowed a cow;
I don’t know how she swallowed a cow!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider;
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her!
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
But I don’t know why she swallowed the fly.

So how exactly would one go about staging such a silly story? In a restaurant, of course! And the overture is none other than “Food Glorious Food” from Oliver!

Evan LaChance and Kevin Rose play two brothers at the grand opening of their new restaurant. They nervously set-up for the big day until their first customer arrives, who comes in the form of the lively Old Lady, played by Hillary Morrow.

Morrow is no stranger to the APO stage and is a fantastic character actress. She hobbles around as the surprisingly nimble, but convincing, old lady and takes a seat at the main table. But before she has a chance to order anything, a fly flies directly into her mouth and she eats it!

The mortified brothers apologize profusely as the fly buzzes around the old lady’s stomach. And one brother, who we learn has an affinity for animals, feeds the old lady his spider to help her catch the fly. Problem solved, right?! Wrong.

Well, the brother also happens to have his beloved bird, Argentina on him. Though, he is hesitant to allow his beloved bird to be eaten and sings “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” to tremendous applause. But, alas, the bird is swallowed whole, to swallow the spider, but now the old lady is being pulled about by the growing zoo in her belly.

And so on and so forth the story goes. The small cast sings and dances to many outstanding numbers, like “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, “I Will Survive”, and “Friendship” from Anything Goes.

American Pops Orchestra yet again hits a home run with their outrageous and fun, An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly. Morrow, Rose, and LaChance were hilarious, worked beautifully together, and thoroughly engaged with the children.

The production was a perfect blend of musical experience and pure silliness that makes it easy to share the beauty and wonder of the arts with the younger generation, in hopes that they grow up to appreciate and support the arts in the future, for their own enjoyment and for generations to come.

Running Time: One hour with no intermission.

An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly played on January 26, 2019, at The American Pops Orchestra at Arena Stage in the Molly Smith Study – 1101 Sixth Street SW, in Washington, DC. For more information on The American Pops Orchestra, go online.

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