StinkyKids, The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
March 11, 2012
Full confession: Whenever I see a children's play, I take my seat prepared to hate it. I don’t blame myself for this. Instead, the finger points at our culture’s tradition of treating kids like they can’t handle real, thoughtful creativity. News flash: they can, and if sales of Dr. Seuss and Where the Wild Things Are tell us anything, it’s that they prefer it. StinkyKids the Musical, while not a bold reworking of the genre, gets close to this standard with this strong offering of fun, well-executed theatre for the smaller set.
Based on a series of books by Britt Menzies, the play follows a group of fun-loving rascals who, when offered to choose between the easy and hard way of solving a problem, always pick “impossible.” Case in point: Britt and her friends are super-psyched about spending the day at the just opened “MegaJumper 3000,” which must be amazing because every time someone utters the name, the children stare off like pint-sized zombies. When Britt wakes up with gum in her hair, however, the plans are thrown into jeopardy. It’s going to take the kids the rest of the play, and part of Britt’s lovely mane, to realize they should probably have just walked downstairs and told an adult. Even still, it’s a fun journey to watch.
What really makes StinkyKids work is the music and the performances. Sammy Buck and Daniel Acquisto’s lyrics and music are engaging and enjoyable throughout, and in some instances, very smart. For example, Britt and her two feuding friends break into a clever number about the differences in chewing gum. On its own, it’s a funny song, but it’s also a thoughtful way to explore the characters' differences, and the conflict that these sometimes create. Buck’s book is less inventive. A joke about kids not reading doesn’t make sense in a show based on a book. I also find the end too preachy, with the writers discarding their creative flashes for boring straight talk about “being a leader of good.” Instead of telling, I’d rather they stick to showing, a tool these two clearly have in their box.
The strong musical numbers are helped by a cast that can handle them. Vital has assembled a good group of singers, but also actors who perform this material without the caricature. That’s a real skill in children’s theatre, and one you don’t see enough.
If how quickly the “autograph line” formed after curtain is any indication, I’d say StinkyKids the Musical is the type of play lots of different kids will enjoy. Mine did, and, happily, me too.