Lyle the Crocodile books, by Bernard Waber, had not been the first choice for bedtime reading in our house. My boys always wanted to hear more adventures of Captain Underpants, and my daughter always asked to hear what Pinkalicious was up to next. We have all the Lyle books though, and we did read them – Lyle can always be counted on to teach a good life lesson. However, this production of Lyle the Crocodile at Imagination Stage, adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling, music by Richard Gray and directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer, is so entertaining, we would definitely it take off the shelf every single night.
I’m not sure what to start with – everything is incredibly well done.
Lyle surprises the Primms when they find him living in their new house on 88th Street in New York City. Of course, the Primms are doubtful that they can share their new home with a crocodile, but when they realize how special Lyle is, he quickly becomes part of the family. Not all of their neighbors, however, are as happy to have Lyle living on their street. Mr. Grumps, played by the perfectly cantankerous Michael John Casey, is the hardest neighbor to charm, and things really start looking grim when Mr. Grumps has Lyle sent to the zoo! Will all the neighbors on 88th Street pull together and free Lyle? Will Mr. Grumps learn to appreciate Lyle’s talents and live harmoniously on 88th Street? It’s most certainly worth spending the 60 minutes to find out!
As to the production side of the show, I’m not sure what to start with – everything is incredibly well done. The entire production is a nod to a time when families talked to each other and the biggest excitement on the block was a cat getting stuck in a tree.
The music fits right in with some fun, jazzy songs and some toe-tapping, light rock ‘n roll. The dancing, choreographed by Lyle himself, Kurt Boehm, is engaging and inclusive, with some all cast dance numbers and wonderful tap dancing by Boehm. The costumes, designed by Frank Labovitz, look as if the characters pulled their clothes right out of the pages of the book. Fantastic textured fabrics in Lyle-green are the theme throughout. The stage, designed by A.J. Guban, is the interior of the Primm house on 88th Street, with Lyle’s old fashion bathtub upstairs and the Primms’ living room downstairs. Their house interior spins on a revolving base to reveal the outside of the row houses on 88th Street!
Multiple minor characters are played by two designated “Funny Guys.” Phillip Reid, as Funny Guy 2, is terrific. From the moving guy to the fireman, all of his characters throughout the show are funny, and he knows just want to do to get all the laughs. The same goes for Christopher Wilson, as Funny Guy 1. One of my daughter’s favorite parts was Reid playing one of the other crocodile “inmates” at the zoo.
Brynn Tucker is enjoyable as the mean but quickly charmed Ms. Nitpicker, and Jobari Parker-Namdar, as Mr. Primm, was flawless! (Parker-Namdar is an amazing talent; I recently saw him in Three Little Birds at Adventure Theatre). David Landstrom as Joshua Primm is adorable, and Ashley Foughty is a cheery Mrs. Primm. Matthew Schleigh, as Lyle’s original owner, does a great job of narrating and moving the story along.
Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission.
Visit Imagination Stage and make Lyle the Crocodile part of your family too. Lyle the Crocodile plays through January 10, 2014 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Avenue Bethesda, Maryland 20814. For tickets call the Box Office at 301-280-1660, or click here.