Lawrence Toppman

‘Magic Kite’s’ maiden voyage carries us away

Rahsheem Shabazz, Scott Miller, Veda Covington and Leslie Ann Giles (from left) work as puppeteers in Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s “The Magic Kite.”
Rahsheem Shabazz, Scott Miller, Veda Covington and Leslie Ann Giles (from left) work as puppeteers in Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s “The Magic Kite.” Donna Bise

Sometimes passion whispers. Sometimes reason nudges. Sometimes meaningful things get said honestly but simply. The proof comes in “The Magic Kite,” a show with music now getting its premiere at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.

That’s a slight misstatement, as thousands of schoolkids have seen the touring tale of Tito and his family. And they should, though CTC artistic director Adam Burke (who also directed this show) says some parents and teachers are uncomfortable with a play about deportation.

No single element of José Cruz González’s drama would discomfit a child, except conceptually. We begin with Tito (voiced by Rahsheem Shabazz) and his family on an outing, where father, Roberto, (Scott Miller) does magic tricks and helps him fly a kite. Mother Esperanza (Veda Covington) hints at a problem by asking whether Roberto has fixed the taillight on their car. He hasn’t, and by morning he has disappeared – presumably after a traffic stop revealed he was in the country illegally.

Tito, angry and depressed, fights with best friend Jamal (Leslie Ann Giles). Then he discovers that his dad’s kite allows him to fly, and he resolves to carry the family to Mexico to see Papa.

González adapted paintings by Charlotte artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner and captured their innocence, humor and pathos. He and Burke quickly decided to use puppets; that liberates the actors, who aren’t bound by race or gender, and helps youngsters absorb the story’s unhappy elements. (Mark Sutton designed the puppets; the cast all but disappears behind them.)

Whatever you think about the best ways to deal with immigration issues, you’re likely to be touched by so personal a story. González knew he couldn’t end on a tragic note, so Tito finds comfort with Esperanza and Milagro, his little sister. Their names mean “hope” and “miracle,” two symbols every child needs to keep moving forward.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

‘The Magic Kite’

When: 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 23, 2 p.m. April 24, 3 p.m. April 30, 2 p.m. May 1.

Where: ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St.

Running time: 50 minutes.

Tickets: $12-$20.

Details: 704-330-6534 or ctcharlotte.org.

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