In an era when children’s entertainment is often a flamboyant bonanza constantly bombarding the senses, The Very Hungry Caterpillar show feels refreshingly personal and unassuming. The set, costumes, and script are modest, but colorful, and the production is minimal, except for the sheer number of vibrant puppets. As a parent, I appreciated the reminder that stupefying excess is not the only way to hold kids’ attention. A good story, well told, can do it just as well.
The show is playing at the very cozy 47th Street Theatre, just off Broadway, which fits this intimate production like a glove. Jonathan Rockefeller has created a charming four-part show based on Eric Carle’s classic books. The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, Mr. Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly, and of course the eponymous story, are all brought to life using a cast of four bright young actors and more than 75 puppets.
The small-scale production feels both familiar and exciting. It begins with an announcement encouraging children to be their antsy selves and inviting them to chastise any naughty parents that pull out a cell phone during the production. The kids are also marshalled to join the story-telling and even shout out, predicting the next color, character, and so on. Given the popularity of the books, there is no lack of audience participation from the kids, but it is not distracting or obnoxious. Most of the kids actually sat still and watched the story unfold, eagerly awaiting their favorite parts.
Kids from infancy to as old as 9 or 10 will love this show and I saw a wide age range when I took my kids for a Sunday matinee. While the show does not particularly appeal to adults, it does not drag on. The hour goes by quickly, building toward the visually stunning, if predictable climax. I asked my five-year-old son if he enjoyed the show and he responded simply, “Can we see it again please?!” I’d say that’s a ‘yes.’