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Washington, D.C. Spotlight: November 200...
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Legends of the Fall

Children's theater companies across Manhattan have set their sights high for the month of November, with two classical adaptations, a premiere by the best-selling author of a children's book series, a musical about the first aviators, a puppetry extravaganza, and stage appearances by some of the movers and shapers of Hip-Hop culture.

By New York City
Miguel Cervantes, Kate Wehterhead, and Jamie LaVerdiere in Cam Jansen

(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Miguel Cervantes, Kate Wehterhead, and Jamie LaVerdiere
in Cam Jansen
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
All the leaves are brown, and children who have been staring at the October foliage will probably be looking for some excitement this November. Fortunately, children's theater companies across Manhattan have set their sights high for the month of November, with two classical adaptations, a premiere by the best-selling author of a children's book series, a musical about the first aviators, a puppetry extravaganza, and stage appearances by some of the movers and shapers of Hip-Hop culture.

The Lamb's Theater, which currently houses Children's Letters to God, adds to its schedule another Off Broadway musical. Theatreworks/USA, America's foremost not-for-profit professional theatre for family audiences, presents Cam Jansen, based on David A. Adler's popular book series. The show features the young heroine using her photographic memory to solve a most enigmatic case -- described in the press release as "the disappearance of the Emerald Elephant of Pajamastan." (Maybe when she's done, she can help find a six foot five terrorist carrying his dialysis machine around Afghanistan.) Laurence O'Keefe, who wrote the score for Off Broadway's Bat Boy, teams up with wife Nell Benjamin for this production, which opens November 12.

The Paper Bag Players have been trotting around the globe for almost 50 years with imaginative blends of puppetry, mime, painting, dancing, and audience participation. On November 6, they land in New York for a new work called Put on Your Shoes, I've Got News at the Abrons Arts Center. This collection of short pieces tells us what happened "When Winter Stayed Too Long," gives us a taste of "Mama's Cooking," and goes "Stomping the Swamp" with affable alligators. Also on November 6, Looking Glass Theatre adapts Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, which follows a young woman's attempt to rescue her younger brother from the titular monarch.

Legends of Hip-Hop enter the New Victory stage on November 12, and they're not kidding about the moniker. This limited engagement brings together some of the giants of old school Hip-Hop, including Rock Steady Crew, funk pioneers the Electric Boogaloos, and Don Campbell, whose unique dance become known as "campbellocking." Bessie Award-winning choreographer Rennie Harris orchestrates the action to a background of live DJs, beatboxers, and classic TV clips from "Soul Train" and the "Carol Burnett Show."

A new adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera by the TYA company TheatreWorks/USA takes the stage for two performances on November 13 and 14. Perfectly timed to open before a new silver screen adaptation hits theaters this Christmas season, the David Spencer musical about an apparition that haunts the Paris Theater is already a legendary story. In another TheatreWorks production, master puppeteer Hobey Ford creates a mock menagerie in his latest work for Animalia -- which will apparently try to give The Lion King creatures a run for their money. The show incorporates Japanese Bunraku, marionettes, shadow puppetry, and Ford's original "Foamies" in a one-night-only event on November 21.

Manhattan Children's Theatre will present Robin Hood, the medieval legends of theft and generosity in Sherwood Forest, just in time for Thanksgiving. Mark Sparto, the playwright that adapted MCT's recent production of Rumplestiltskin, mines some of the original texts in a faithful story of Robin, Will, Tuck, Little John, and Marion's jaunts in Nottingham that's been told in every generation. Suitable for audiences 4 and up, it plays from November 20 to December 19.

Turkeys can't fly, but a musical about the Wright Brothers called First in Flight will take off on November 28 -- the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. As imagined by co-creators and real-life brothers Joseph and David Zellnik, Orville and Wilber Wright had to overcome bouts of sibling rivalry to get their flying machine off the ground at Kitty Hawk. This short flight lands two hours after it takes off, playing only for one matinee.

Another holiday season is upon us, and StageRight Productions will present a new adaptation of The Nutcracker in a musical play called Clara's Christmas Dreams on November 24. For curious children eager to learn the origins of the Tchaikovsky ballet that has become a holiday tradition, E. Thamalen's new work keeps close to the original play as written by Alexandre Dumas -- who himself was revising a story by German scribe E.T.A. Hoffman. Set in 1812 Germany during the Napoleonic Wars, it follows a young girl named Clara who is given the famous present, shaped like a toy soldier. Her dreams about the object introduce her to the Mouse King, the Snow Queen, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in a fantastical journey that eventually teaches her the difference between good and evil. Ho, ho, ho!


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