Flat-out good: First-class musical sends audience home smiling
By Connie Shakalis | HT Reviewer
This is what happens when good writers, lyricists and musicians deliver. Cardinal Stage’s production of “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” is an hour of storytelling, song and dance packaged in an envelope so appealing that I think I never stopped smiling Saturday during the day’s second matinee.
Insert some very good local talent as performers, dazzling costumes by Christopher Rhoton and a set, also by him, evoking postage stamps, and neither rain nor hail can dampen the afternoon. Rhoton is a find.
Jeff Brown wrote the original book “Flat Stanley,” and Timothy Allen McDonald, Jonathan K. Waller, David Weinstein and Stephen Gabriel sent it to further success, as a musical.
All five cast members shine, with two standing out.
Sam Sanderson plays a variety of roles — actually, all the performers do — and is sublime in each. He can do gymnastics, which kids in the audience always love, but he can also act, sing, dance and charm. His doctor character (who gets inadvertently kicked in the you-know-whats) was the favorite of the little boys I interviewed after the show. But Sanderson is special-delivery talented and a joy to watch. My favorite is his egotistical, domineering, blond-wigged, impresario character, but, really, Sanderson is first-class in everything.
Shannon O’Connor Starks is another triple threat and made excellent use of every inch of stage in Rhoton’s zesty costumes. O’Connor has that ethereal quality of likability, which either you have or you don’t. She has.
Cole Winston, as Flat Stanley himself, was, as usual, entertaining. Several of the audience’s children told me they chose him as their favorite. But one little girl confided, “It was scary,” referring to Stanley’s bulletin board having fallen on him (it was supposed to). Stanley, after all, gets flattened by that bulletin board and, therefore, decides to take full advantage of flatness: He travels the world for a wonderful while “for the price of a stamp.”
Tom Slater, in a non-kids’ show, would perhaps have stolen his scenes as the pink-sparkly-lipped showgirl with the great legs. I’m not sure that the 6-year-olds grasped his talents — make up, wigs, costumes, sultry dancing, comedy — but I did.
Danielle McKnight, a powerhouse of a singer, rounds out this talented cast, which, a challenge in children’s theater, gave us an actual show, interesting enough to hold the attention of grandmother and post-toddler alike.
Yes, that’s largely due to the writing and the cast, but I have to think Samantha Joy Pearlman, the director and choreographer, put her stamp on it, too.
Several of the musical numbers had particular appeal: a duet between brothers Stanley and Arthur, and a clever group piece involving ladies in skin-hugging purple and white feather boas.
And, of course, there was Slater at his best, in high heels and big (blue-green) hair.