Need a laugh? How about some Motown-style music and groovy dance moves? Then Childplay’s newest musical, “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play,'” could be what you’re looking for. It comes to Herberger Theater Center’s Stage West weekends Jan. 26-March 8.
An unlikely pair, Gerald the elephant is cautious, while Piggie is not so much. But they’re the best of friends and have a lot of fun together.
Based on the popular picture book series written and illustrated by Mo Willems, the show features such musical highlights as “Ice Cream Hero,” “Elephant in the Room” and “We’ll Be Friends,” performed by Elephant and Piggie. The two are backed up by some nutty singers known as the Squirrelles, reminiscent of such ’60s era girl groups such as the Ronettes and the Shirelles. The lyrics, by Willems, and music, by Deborah Wicks La Puma, are guaranteed to make you and your family want to get up and do the “Flippy Floppy Floory” dance.
And just what is that dance?
“You need to come and see the show to know what the ‘Flippy Floppy Floory’ dance is!” choreographer Molly Lajoie jokes. The truth is, she made it up. “That was something I got to create on my own, which was fun. I thought about the words and did some improv movements to come up with what those words would feel like with movement.”
How is dance important overall?
“In all good musical theater, song and dance are used to forward the plot of the story,” Lajoie explains. “It gives us insight to characters and relationships, especially with Elephant and Piggie and their friendship.”
She notes that as a choreographer, her main resource is the music and how it fits into the plot of the story.
“I sit and listen to it and look at the score and envision what I want to say in the piece and what I need to get across to the audience. I also collaborate with the director and discuss their vision for the story and incorporate [it] into the choreography.”
For Elephant and Piggie, Lajoie seems to have enjoyed coming up with the moves. “The music to me feels very jazzy, so I use a lot of Lindy and Charleston,” she says. And then are also the fun “elephant” moves. It’s safe to say, not too many musicals have those.
Directed by Debra K. Stevens, “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play’” stars Jon Gentry as Gerald and Katie McFadzen as Piggie. Kat Bailes, Sedona Urias-Remonett and Hannah Bentley make up the Squirelles.
Brunella Providente’s set design evokes the illustration style of Mo Willems and brings the picture books to life onstage. Alan Ruch serves as musical director, Addy Diaz handles costume design and William Kirkham lighting design.
Beloved characters, exuberant song and dance, and a high-spirited adventure. Sounds like the perfect way to introduce young people to theater.
Childsplay recommends “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play’” for ages 3 and up.