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The Little Moon Theater
The Little Moon Theater -- the latest production of TADA! Youth Theater, based on Irene Haas's illustrated book of the same title -- is about a traveling troupe run by five performers who have a habit of using their plays to make wishes come true for local youngsters. This would be a good thing, of course, if it weren't for the fact that they keep unintentionally foiling Penelope, a fairy Godmother who is but one wish-granting away from retirement.

An adorably klutzy old woman, Penelope is always a step behind, arriving too late to grant the wishes of children like Rose (a girl who wants to be accepted for her individuality, which includes the wearing of unmatched socks) and Alvin (a boy who wants only for people to accept his pet snake, Asparagus). But, eventually, Penelope and the five members of The Little Moon Theater discover a way that they can help each other.

The show features a nice batch of songs by Joel Gelpe, sung enthusiastically by the cast and accompanied by Tammy Holder on keyboard and Joe Brady on drums. "A Snake is Just a Cat Without Legs" is one of Gelpe's most clever tunes and "Listen to the Quiet" is a lovely ballad. The sequence called "The Wise King," in which the strolling players first show off their dramatic skills, is a highlight of the show and gives Patricia Fitzpatrick and Sydney Fishman an opportunity to shine as they try to one-up each other in singing and dancing. This leads up to an impressive routine that Fishman and Sam Levin execute with panache. (The show's choreography is by Danielle Quisenberry.)

TADA! has outdone itself this year on the design front. In an effort to really bring Haas's book to stage life, Tim Golebliewski has designed a flexible set that accomodates the show's many locales. One of its main features is a caravan piece that the players wheel around the stage and use to perform their plays.

A talented (and large!) young cast makes the show a joy to watch. It's a particular pleasure seeing performers that I remember from past TADA! musicals -- such as Aaron Jacobs as Alvin and the aforementioned Sam Levin -- growing into more substantial roles. Meanwhile, it's the youngest kids who steal the show, as always: Justine Rodriguez and Rachel Wunderli (alternating as Penelope) and Ryan Metzger (as the cutest little lovestruck puppy you've ever seen) are especially wonderful in this charming production.

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