Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review: The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Brings a Classic to Life

Amanda Pajer, Michael Faulkner, Doug Harvey and Josey Montana McCoy
Photos by Ed Krieger

An hour and a half east of L.A. in Rancho Cucamonga, The MainStreet Theatre Company puts on a Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) season at Lewis Family Playhouse. Of that season, one of the shows is specifically chosen for the very youngest audience members and this year it’s The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley. During the curtain speech, the producer asked who was familiar with the book and a room full of hands shot up in the air. It would be an exciting day for these young people who were eager to see how the company would bring their beloved Stanley to life.

Based on the wildly popular book by Jeff Brown, the musical follows the adventures of Stanley Lambchop (Doug Harvey), a normal young boy whose only desire is to “travel the world doing things no one has ever seen before.” One night while clowning around with his brother, Arthur (Josey Montana McCoy), Stanley makes a wish and a star falls in the sky, bringing the bulletin board above his bed to life. It falls on him while he’s asleep and, in the morning, he magically wakes up flat as a pancake.

Soon Stanley is off to see the world, thanks to the postal service, and his new ability to fit in an envelope. On his journey he meets a director in Hollywood, helps catch an art thief in Paris, and films a surfing movie in Hawaii. Everything is great…until he realizes that he misses his family and really wants to go home.

Harvey has a natural charm and a bright singing voice that makes him a likable main character. His relationship with McCoy provides some of the best comic moments in the show as they spar with lightsabers, pretend to have super powers, and make each other laugh as only little boys can. The standout musical number is their enthusiastic duet, “I Wish I Were,” an energetic pop rock song that expresses the boys’ desire to be a hero and do something great. Another is McCoy’s Hollywood Agent production number “Talent,” which is his advice to Stanley about what it takes to make it in Hollywood, complete with hats and canes and a big finish. (All of the cast members, except for Stanley, play several roles.)

The show is a perfect piece for a young audience, bringing the source material to life with broad strokes both in design and performance. The brightly colored set is a bold mix of geometric shapes made of dual-functioning movable pieces with surprising touches. Dwight Richard Odle is responsible for the versatile set as well as the three-dimensional and flat costumes. Stanley is a sight gag best viewed from the front so sit toward the middle of the house if at all possible. From the sides the optical illusion doesn’t have quite as much impact unless Stanley is further upstage, and his flatness is too much fun to miss.

The direction is crisp, dialogue and lyrics are easily understood, and there is enough audience interaction that the one-hour musical moves at a pace brisk enough to keep the kids engaged. They loved the physical jokes and the abundance of laughter throughout the show was proof positive that Stanley had succeeded in making its target audience happy.

The cast and creative team also includes Michael Faulkner (Mr. Lambchop), Ann Marie Lee (Mrs. Cartero), Amanda Pajer (Mrs. Lambchop), Janice Rodgers Wainwright (musical director), Kevin Cochran (director), Lisa Hopkins (choreography), Tom Ontiveros (lighting design) and Kevin Williams (prop designer).

Josey Montana McCoy, Doug Harvey, Amanda Pajer and Ann Marie Lee

Doug Harvey as Flat Stanley

Josey Montana McCoy, Michael Faulkner, Amanda Pajer, Doug Harvey and Ann Marie Lee

February 1 - 16, 2014Mainstreet Theatre Company
Lewis Family Playhouse
12505 Cultural Center Drive
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739
Tickets: 909-477-2775 x 5 or

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