By Alex Petroski
“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley,” directed by Kristen Digilio, began a nine-show run in early February at the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, starring Luke Rosario as Stanley.
For those who are unfamiliar with the series, Flat Stanley celebrated his 50th anniversary in 2014. The hero of children’s books was created in 1964 by author Jeff Brown and is now the subject of an exchange program that allows children to mail paper cutouts of Flat Stanley to other participants around the world. The cast and crew of the live action show for kids bring the two-dimensional fan favorite to colorful, musical and three-dimensional light.
In the Flat Stanley books, Stanley Lambchop becomes flat when a large bulletin board falls on him in his sleep. In the musical, Stanley and his younger brother Arthur Lambchop, played by Matthew Surico, dream of doing something amazing that the world has never seen before as they sit in bed prior to falling asleep. During the first act the two sing “I Wish I Were,” a song about aspiring to be great like Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. Dreaming big and reaching for the stars is the constant theme of the musical, though others are introduced along the way as well.
The show features 13 musical numbers, performed by the cast of just five. Katie Ferretti, Ronald R. Green III and Jessica Ader-Ferretti fill out the small cast. Only Rosario is restricted to just one role. Costume changes along with strategic wigs and stick-on facial hair allows the other four cast members to introduce additional characters. The group displays an undeniable chemistry with dance steps and song lyrics meant to dole out life lessons to the young theatergoers.
Ferretti plays Mrs. Lambchop, Arthur and Stanley’s bright red-haired mother. Green, who plays Mr. Lambchop, joins her to perform “The Funny Sunny Side,” a song about embracing the things that make someone unique, a message directed at Stanley when he is faced with the reality of going to school as flat as a piece of paper.
To make Rosario appear flat, he wears an orange-topped, purple-bottomed prop over the front of his clothes that resembles a yoga mat. Green was also the costume designer. He did as fine a job as Mr. Lambchop as he did designing Flat Stanley’s appearance and delivering his diagnosis as Dr. Dan, the mustache-clad pediatrician who sadly has no answers for the Lambchops about unflattening their son.
Eventually Stanley embraces being flat, and at the end of Act One he is convinced by mail carrier Mrs. Cartero, played by Ader-Ferretti, that he could travel the world by mail for just the price of postage. When Act Two begins, Stanley has arrived in Hollywood where he is met by a talent agent who sees potential in the flat kid.
Also played by Surico, the talent agent convinces Stanley to do some more traveling and gain life experiences before he pursues a career in show business. Surico, Ferretti and Ader-Ferretti team up for an impressive number called “Talent,” where they show off vocal range and choreographed tap dance steps to convince Stanley that Hollywood is for him.
Encouraged by his friend Samantha, who lives in California, Stanley travels to the Louvre in Paris, France, where he helps thwart an art thief. After that, Stanley travels, again by mail, to Honolulu, Hawaii, for his movie debut as a surfboard. Despite his success, Stanley realizes that he is homesick, and traveling the world and doing amazing things isn’t quite as special without family and friends around to share it.
Rosario’s performance carries the show. His singing ability and enthusiasm draws eyes like a magnet, though he is definitely not alone. Green and Ferretti serve as perfect compliments to Surico during the musical numbers. Surico is at his best delivering one-liners as Stanley’s talent agent. Ader-Ferretti is the “glue” to the production and shows versatility in filling a handful of different roles.
The show is a feel-good hour with a brief intermission between the two acts. Music, dancing and smiles make the delivery of important messages for kids of all ages very easy to absorb. The young minds in attendance are instructed to step out of their comfort zone to achieve fulfillment and reach potential, while remembering what success is all about: enjoying it with loved ones and taking pride in being unique.
The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” through March 5. Tickets are $12. To order, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.