'The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show' review — an adorable, artistic delight
Read our five-star review of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, based on Eric Carle's children's books, currently playing off Broadway at the DR2 Theatre.
There is nothing like children's theatre to inspire pure, unadulterated joy. At an 11:30 a.m. performance of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, now off Broadway for the third time, kids colored in pictures of their favorite Eric Carle characters in the lobby and grinned widely for pictures in front of a step-and-repeat, clutching caterpillar plushies. On the way out, I noticed a sea of "first show" flags, proudly held aloft by young, newly minted theatregoers.
And that's not even to say anything of the show itself, which delights in its artistry and simplicity. Audiences are encouraged to laugh, clap, cheer, and respond throughout the performance. I'll admit I joined them at times. I'm sure I can speak for some other adults in that room — though they were engaging for the sake of their kids — when I say it was fun to have 50 minutes to be a kid again and rediscover the wonder of stories I grew up reading.
Unlike Rockefeller Productions' other recent children's shows, like Sesame Street: The Musical, which included a few jokes designed to make the parents chuckle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is decidedly geared toward the under-5 crowd. The dialogue is lifted directly from the pages of Carle's books, as are the character renderings. A total of 75 puppets perfectly mimic the author's pioneering collage-style illustrations.
And yes, that is books, plural, as The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show actually stages four of them. The first is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which teaches kids colors and animal names. Three puppeteers maneuver a menagerie, giving each puppet an amusingly distinct character — the blue horse has a deep, languid Western drawl, while the zippy white dog gets an Aussie accent.
Next up is 10 Little Rubber Ducks, which introduces kids to numbers, marine animals, and directional words. Credit is due to set designer Tyler Schank and lighting designer Jeremy Burd, who excellently capture the vastness of the ocean on the small DR2 Theatre stage. Following is The Very Lonely Firefly, which made the theatre feel intimate once again as puppeteers flew in swarms of firefly puppets from the back and front of house at once.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show saves its title star for last, and when he appeared, my crowd's reaction was akin to how I imagine Madison Square Garden at a Harry Styles concert. These kids knew this story, and they did not hold back from narrating along. And no matter that there's only one animal on display here — this segment makes up for that in scrumptious food puppetry. One scene sees the puppeteers float various snacks around the caterpillar in a sort of food ballet as he feasts.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is the perfect combination of art and audience. It doesn't purport to be anything more than what it is — a live storytime for youngsters — and it invites a wide-eyed audience who wants to be excited for it.
Directly behind me, I overheard a mother and her no-more-than-4-year-old son cheer about how this was his fifth live show. What else could you ask for from a children's show than to be a theatrical experience that makes them, like the title caterpillar, want to come back for more?
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