Most of us have heard the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” in one way or another. Some have read the versions by famous European fairy-tale masters The Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault. Others have come into contact with her from popular culture appearances in films like “Shrek,” television shows like “Once Upon a Time,” or the musical “Into the Woods.” The city of Gaithersburg, in partnership with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company produces Red’s classic story with a few unexpected twists in “Little Red’s Most Unusual Day,” now playing through November 3rd at th Gaithersburg Arts Barn.
In this version, the story largely remains the same: Little Red (Madison Halla) is sent by her mother (Helen Aberger) to visit her granny (also played by Aberger) who lives alone in the woods. On her way there she meets a hungry wolf, named Mr. Bigbad in this production (Michael Beder.) Throughout her journey, Red learns an important lesson about listening to your parents and not straying from the path, however fun it may seem to do so. The biggest difference in the story here is the addition of plucky forest ranger Dudley (Scott Nunn) who has a crush on Red’s mother. He also gets into a spot of bother with the ruthless wolf.
… a ton of fun for everyone.
However, perhaps the most unique aspect of this portrayal of the popular story is the addition of songs presented in the operatic style. Well known songs from operas have their words changed to fit into the story, providing an interesting take, as well as acting as a great introduction to opera for a young audience. Even if you aren’t well versed in the opera genre, you will still recognize some melodies that have famously made their way across boundaries into popular culture. One of the best examples is the opening song, where forest ranger Dudley belts out the famous tune from “The Barber of Seville,” with the famous “Figaro, Figaro!” pertaining to his puppy. It is a fun subversion for the adults, and a deft operatic introduction to the children in the audience.
“Little Red’s Most Unusual Day” is a ton of fun for everyone. There is enough action and hi-jinx to keep the kids occupied and engaged, and there are jokes enough for the grown-ups too. The vocals of the cast are superb, but they never take themselves too seriously. Nunn is sweet and charming as the earnest park ranger, and plays the comedy of the piece quite well. He also opens the show on a strong note (both literally and figuratively). Halla is lovely as the titular Red, playing the character as sympathetic and sweet. Her soprano shines in her solos “Just because I’m not very old” and “My mother said to me.” Aberger impresses doing double duty as both Red’s mom and granny. She does some excellent physical comedy as Granny, cracking up the audience during “I am a little Granny,” and also turned in a sweet performance as Red’s loving mom and Dudley’s potential paramour. Beder also inspires both laughs and applause as the wily wolf. He does a hilarious rendition of “Oh gosh and oh golly,” and he and Nunn also had a comedic gem with their duet “I would really like to know sir.”
The production was also excellent as well. Director Mary Frances Dini strikes a perfect balance between fun and musically accomplished with this production, and she is greatly benefited by Stevie Miller’s strong musical direction. Sue McElroy provided expert accompaniment to the songs, and the simple and adaptive set (design by Mary Frances Dini and Bill Rodgers) allowed the small stage to show all of the locations. The costumes were also effective, especially for Mr. Bigbad. While his costume made it obvious that he was the wolf, it is still evident that he is a person, which makes it less scary for the younger children (Costume design by MFD and Amanda Jones.
If you are looking for an enjoyable afternoon that the whole family can enjoy, “Little Red’s Most Unusual Day” is just what you need. The show runs for approximately 40 minutes, so even children as young as 4 should be able to make it through with no problems.
For more information on tickets, click here.