Offenbach and Rossini are not names that roll easily off most children’s tongues. Luckily for parents who are looking for a fun way to introduce their children to classical music, the work of these venerable composers becomes delightfully accessible in the Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s production of Little Red’s Most Unusual Day.
Much like the vegetables that parents sometimes sneak into muffins or milkshakes, the brilliant compositions of Offenbach and Rossini are seamlessly woven into a fast-paced and giggle-inducing adventure that will have parents and children guffawing in their seats, completely unaware that they are, in fact, digesting some pretty high-brow culture.
As the name suggests, Little Red’s Most Unusual Day is an adorable retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. In this version, (story and lyrics by John Davies) Little Red is joined on her journey to grandmother’s house by Dudley, a shy forest ranger who is smitten by Little Red’s mother, who he hopes to invite to a dance. When his invitation ends up in Little Red’s basket, Granny finds it and excitedly assumes that she is the subject of Dudley’s affections. The story is rounded out by Mr. Bigbad – yes, he’s a wolf – who is more comical than menacing.
A sprightly cast of four brings the story to life with operatic vocals and comedic timing. Dudley the forest ranger, played by Scott Nunn, is a standout for his glowing tenor. Madison Halla is an endearing Little Red with a dulcet soprano voice. Helen Aberger does glorious double duty as Mom and Granny. It was great fun to see Granny get some agency in this version of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. No more is Granny confined to bed, waiting to be eaten by a wolf. Nope, she’s waiting at the door singing deliciously about finding a man to love in the song “I’m a Little Granny.” Michael Beder, as Mr. Bigbad entertained the audience with his booming baritone and deadpan delivery of lyrics such as “I am sly and I am clever! I’m the biggest bad guy ever!”
Mary Frances Dini’s direction featured nimble set changes and a clever sequence in which the various characters chased one another around Granny’s kitchen table.
Stevie Miller’s music direction resulted in a fast-paced production that clipped through some of classical music’s most memorable melodies (Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!), trimmed to match a child’s attention span and layered onto the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood. Miller led pianist Sue McElroy through the musical numbers and the two musicians occasionally became part of the action when the actors interacted with them.
The costumes (Mary Frances Dini and Amanda Jones) are simple but clever. A leather jacket becomes Mr. Bigbad’s shredded, fur-lined outerwear and Little Red sports her signature cape. Dudley loses his pants in one especially funny scene.
Clocking in at a fleet 40 minutes, Little Red’s Most Unusual Day proves that great things come in dainty, child-digestible packages. The show’s simple, familiar humor and lilting music is a great introduction to the classics and a rollicking good time for kids and kids at heart.
Running Time: Forty minutes with no intermission.
The Victorian Lyric Opera Company’s production of Little Red’s Most Unusual Day plays through November 3rd, 2019 at the Kentlands Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 258-6394 or go online.
Amanda Jones, producer; Douglas Maryott, Stage Manager, Mary Frances Dini and Bill Rogers, Set Design; Bill Rogers, Blair Eig, Rand Huntzinger, Set Construction; Katherine Rogers, Lisa McPhee, Set Painting; Matthew Bailey, Lighting Design.