Save Money in this Sunday's paper

Theater

comments

Cajun musical at Children’s Theatre has rollicking style

By Lawrence Toppman
Lawrence Toppman
Lawrence Toppman is a theater critic and culture writer with The Charlotte Observer.

More Information

  • ‘Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood’

    This funky musical at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte retells the story of the girl in the red hood, who encounters a gator en route to Chez Grandmere.

    WHEN: Through March 9 at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. (Except for Feb. 22, when it’s at 11 a.m.)

    WHERE: ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St.

    RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes without intermission.

    TICKETS: $12-18.

    DETAILS: 704-973-2800 or ctcharlotte.org.


Cats get a bad rap in plays for kids: They are seen as aloof, greedy, manipulative, smug, impudent or generally due a comeuppance by the end.

So one testament to the novelty of “Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood” is that feline TeJean (Isaac Gay) becomes the voice of reason. This tale uses the traditional version as a jumping-off point for silliness and songs with Louisiana seasoning. We feel we know it, point by point, but not entirely.

The villain is not a wolf but a gator named Claude (Mark Sutton, an audience favorite until he went into the audience and elicited shrieks from little folk). Rouge (Cassandra Howley Wood) is a duck who wants to show she can be trusted to deliver gumbo, cornbread and hot sauce to her flu-ridden Grandmere (Jany Bacallao).

Mama Duck (Lucianne Hamilton) permits her to go only in the company of harmonica-playing TeJean. The rest of the play consists of Claude chasing them through the bayou, around a riverboat or in and out of the alleys of New Orleans. He eats a riverboat captain (offstage) and belches lustily, so we know this gator means business. On the other hand, he’s slightly smarter than a warmed-over beignet, so we aren’t supposed to fear him.

Composer-writer-lyricist Joan Cushing, who was in the audience Friday, crams the 75-minute play with incidents and musical interludes: Dixieland (including ’20s-style sounds), zydeco, jazz and pop.

Despite a few references, such as gator hunters who look like “Duck Dynasty” refugees, the play exists in no particular time. It switches moods rapidly, from a funny New Orleans street funeral for a chipmunk (a victim of Claude’s) to a strobe-lit pillow fight between Claude and Grandmere. Director Ron Chisholm doesn’t let things get too frantic, and he choreographs a zany pots-and-pans routine for Bacallao, Hamilton and Kayla Piscatelli in three of their many guises.

Wood and Gay reminded me of mischievous Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket; they’re like an impetuous kid and a fond but disapproving nanny. Rouge remains so innocent we know nothing bad can happen in her world, even to Claude: A hunter may tote green alligator boots at the end, but as a child near me said when Claude reappeared, “He’s still got feet!” In this gentle version, nobody is going to gut the gator.

Toppman: 704-358-5232
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
CharlotteObserver.com