Based on the book by Judith Viorst, the children’s theatre version of ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (adapted by the book’s author herself with music by Shelly Markham) is certainly not just for children! Director Josiah Donnell astutely pointed out in his director’s note that “everyone has days like that,” no matter their age. Sure enough, adults and children alike in the audience related to the disastrous day that made for an enjoyable children’s theatre experience.
From the moment Alexander wakes up, everything goes wrong. Alexander encounters obstacles common to children such as wishy-washy peers, lima beans at dinner, and a trip to the dentist. Yikes! Fortunately, The Players Club’s production had a much better day than Alexander! Every aspect of this particular interpretation of the musical emulated the book.
First of all, Ed Donlevie nailed the title role. Sometimes, adults playing children in theatre fail to capture that youthful spirit, but Donlevie got it just right. From physicality to facial expressions to inflection, Donlevie brought the character that I so fondly remember from childhood to life. I found his performance to be incredibly likeable, and from the abundance of laughs at Alexander’s troubles, it is safe to say the audience did too. The ensemble (Lacy Kurz, Kate LeSage, Meghan Hindmarch, and Courtney Gardner) and Alexander’s parents (Ellie Knickman and Jim Carroll) had nice physicality, effectively carrying out Donnell’s blocking and choreography. One particularly effective character choice was the ensemble’s tendency to fidget and adjust their clothing when playing children. As far as performances go, the only setbacks were a few line flubs and inconsistency in the volume of singing from actor to actor.
All of the artistic elements of the show truly worked in unison to accurately portray the story. Costumes (Reba Ferdman and Betsy Berwick) and scenic art design (Lois Gordon) captured the mood of the book with vibrant colors and appropriate embellishments. Another nice touch was the use of the cast for sound effects and sometimes even as inanimate objects! In the scene when Alexander’s shirt falls into the sink, one ensemble member actually plays the bathroom sink while in another scene, actors transform into an elevator. I did, however, find a few aspects of the show aesthetically displeasing. While I applaud the use of vibrant fabric to cover different backdrops at certain times during the show, I did not like that from many angles the fabric was see-through, giving audiences a premature view of the wonderful classroom scenery. Also, I question the choice to have some tangible props while the actors pantomimed other props. I am not referring to the actors forming shapes with their bodies. Rather, for example, there are real cereal boxes but when it comes time to show the teacher artwork, the actors pretend to have paper in their hands. Granted, these flaws were minor in comparison to the overall quality of the production.
Anyone who has ever had a bad day will appreciate Player’s Club’s version of ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY, which impressively expresses the true spirit of Judith Viorst’s beloved book. This show, full of laughs and relatable moments, is not one to be missed!
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY
Book and Lyrics by Judith Viorst
Music by Shelly Markham
Directed by Josiah Donnell
February 9 – 17, 2013
Players Club of Swarthmore (Children’s Theatre)
614 Fairview Road
Swarthmore, PA 19081