HSRT’s ‘Dragon Pack’ is a delight for families
HOLLAND–Hope Summer Repertory Theatre’s finest productions are often among their offerings of theatre for young audiences. So it’s particularly fitting that their 47th season kicks off with a delightful world premier of the musical children’s book adaptation Dragon Pack Snack Attack.
It may not be the catchiest title, but it’s a wonderful little 50-minute show geared toward children but enjoyable for the adults who bring them. Because HSRT gets it right in that regard. Much as the creators of animated films have figured out: it’s the parents who bring their children to shows, so they have to be appealing to all ages.
Which means a higher quality product overall, which also potentially means creating new generations of theater-goers, a worthy cause indeed.
Dragon Pack’s book began as a literal children’s book by Michiganders Joel Schoon-Tanis and Jeff Grooters and was transformed into a musical by former Hope College student Erik Durham. It tells the story of five dragons who, even though they’re born for it, grow weary of fire breathing and terrorizing humans, so they go to the beach and take a nap for 300 years, waking up in 2018 hungry—both literally and figuratively. They discover the wonders and pitfalls of fast food, and become fiendish and frantic when they can’t get enough to eat but then come up with a crafty solution.
Along the journey they learn (and in turn teach) important lessons, such as self acceptance, sibling love and appreciation, recognizing the value of being able to change one’s mind, and the very practical skill of stop, drop, and roll.
Seven terrifically talented and racially diverse cast members perform the seven catchy musical numbers in the round. Highlights include the opening and finale with high-octane choreography that looks heavily influenced by both Jane Fonda and Billy Blanks from Rebekah Santiago Berger, who also plays a sweet, big-voiced Cuddlefluff, and Julia Gomez’s “Money is Everything” that shows off her wonderfully strong vibrato.
Otherwise, the whole ensemble delivers fine performances, offering quirky, unique characters while also working together as a whole larger than the sum of its parts. They convincingly move through the Studio Theatre black box space engaging and delighting the children in the audience by asking them questions, sniffing them, and bringing some of them into the action of the play on stage.
Austin Winter’s costumes help create character beautifully, with colorful, multi-textured frocks made with a variety of different fabrics and patterns complete with horny-toed boots and shoes and head pieces such as pork pie hats covered in scales and beanies with dragon wings. Charlie Hill’s clangy, roaring sound effects and Konrad Ciolkosz’s dramatic flashes of lights work together exceptionally well, and Haley Borodine’s props also add to the necessary suspension of disbelief. The use of parachute fabric to create the beach scene is but one of many effective magical touches.
It is so heartening to witness artists so committed to their craft they elevate children’s entertainment to an art. It’s so rarely seen, yet exactly as it should be. Kudos to HSRT to playing to their strengths and to Director Michael Barnes for having the vision and skills to put together a show that’s even better than it needs to be.