Stuart Little is a big delight at Flint Youth Theatre
FLINT, Mich.–Children are drawn to stories about how even the littlest of the little can accomplish great things. It’s an empowering message for people who usually have others making most of their decisions for them. It is for this reason that E.B. White’s Stuart Little tales enjoyed such popularity from when they were first published in 1945.
This week and next, Flint Youth Theatre takes on the somewhat daunting task of bringing that story to stage. Why daunting? In a book or a film, it is easy to have a character who is much smaller—mouse-size even—than all the other characters. On stage, where a production must rely on human actors, it is harder to show the difference in size.
But with several stage tricks and a call on audiences to use their imaginations, Director Samuel J. Richardson and his 12-person cast manage to do just that. Enrique J. Vargas, who plays Stuart, may be the same size as his fellow actors, but Paige Benner’s props are enlarged to help show the difference in size between Stuart and his environment. After several of these tricks, the show steps back and allows the audience to use its imagination—always a good bet to make when performing for an audience of children.
Stuart Little, adapted by Joseph Robinette, tells the story of a mouse born as the second son of the Little family. The tale takes him through several adventures before leaving his adventures in the capable minds of its audience and their imaginations.
Vargas cavorts on stage, presenting a Stuart who is thoroughly likable because of his curiosity, his affection for others and his willingness to tackle any adventure no matter how big. He captures a youthfulness and a love for adventure.
Brittany Reed returns to the Flint Youth Theatre stage after appearing in The Most Blank City in America. This time she leaves behind the political commentary to joyfully inhabit the role of Mrs. Little and the narrator. As the mother to a boy and a mouse, she plays up the worries and the joys. She’s great fun to watch as she enthusiastically adores her mouse-born child.
Colin Edwards inhabits multiple roles from Mr. Little to storekeeper and brings a fresh physicality to each role. The ensemble kicks off the play with a well orchestrated introduction to the story of a family whose youngest son is a mouse. They patter off each other and then create multiple high-energy roles throughout the show.
Richardson keeps the pace upbeat and ensures that his actors pick up cues, move with sprightliness and fill the stage—even occasionally spilling out into the audience. He keeps the focus on being a show that entertains the younger set. Even set changes are choreographed with dancing ensemble members and music that hearkens back to the 1940s.
Scenic designer Gene Oliver creates a set that can be quickly changed out with multiple backdrops and stacks of blocks that are painted to create different props and scenes (from lakes to canoes to a dentist chair) simply by turning them about to a different surface. It’s a set that works because it can be changed in and out so quickly with an ensemble that entertains while it does so.
Flint Youth Theatre produces shows for all youth, with some shows aimed at older audiences and others at the toddler set. This is definitely a show for the younger-aged audiences, though the adults in the audience were frequently laughing and reveling in the joy and excitement of this show.