By Heidi Sutton
Doot Ba Da Ba Da Doot Doot Dah! Zip! Boink! Hubba-wha!? Guess what show is back in town?
Through Sept. 13, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presents a socially distanced outdoor production of Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We’re In a Play!’ on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society. The author’s award-winning, best-selling children’s books about Gerald the elephant and his “bestus” friend, a pig named Piggie, fly off the pages and on to the stage for an adorable musical experience young children will love.
With script and lyrics by Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, the show centers mostly around Elephant and Piggie’s We are in a Book! but draws from other stories including I Am Invited to a Party! Elephants Cannot Dance!, Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Listen to My Trumpet! and I Love My New Toy!
Directed by Courtney Braun, the fast-paced production follows Gerald and Piggie’s rollicking adventures as they solve problems and learn friendship etiquette with the help of The Squirrelles, Ice Cream Penguin and Delivery Dog.
With every new situation, every dilemma, every disappointment or triumph, the pachyderm and swine prove that they are best friends over and over again and, more importantly, demonstrate to children in the audience how friends should treat each other.
When Piggie is invited to a party hosted by the Squirrelles, she brings Gerald along so he won’t feel left out. When Gerald gets an ice cream cone and it melts before he can share it, Piggie appears with two ice cream cones. When Piggie plays the trumpet badly and everyone at the party leaves, Gerald stays to support her … and so on. Each scene ends on a positive note.
Logan O’Leary is wonderful as Gerald. Funny, engaging, polished, with an incredible singing voice, he portrays his good guy worrywart character perfectly. “I hope nothing goes terribly, horribly, best-friendship-ending wrong in the next hour!”
Aubrey Gulle is amazing as Piggie, Gerald’s “best, best, best, best, best, best, best, best friend.” Always smiling with a powerhouse voice, she shines in every scene with boundless energy.
The two actors are backed by a terrific supporting cast — the harmonizing Squirrelles: Gabrielle Arroyo, Lorelai Mucciolo and Gabriella Fugon; Alia Romanelli as Ice Cream Penguin; and Zachary Podair as Delivery Dog,
The songs and their heartfelt lyrics are the heart of the show. Each number, from the terrific intro, “Lucky to See You,” to the toe-tapping “Swimmy! Fancy!,” “Elephant in the Room” and the big show stopper “Ice Cream Hero” are executed perfectly with musical direction by Melissa Coyle.
Costumes by Ronald Green III are subtle but effectively reflect the character’s animal traits with gray pants, vest and shirt for Gerald; a pink dress for Piggie, brown dresses for the Squirrelles, etc.
Towards the end of the play the cast suddenly discovers they have an audience. Breaking the fourth wall, they invite the crowd to join in the fun by clapping, shouting out “banana” and doing the “Flippy Floppy Floory” dance, a perfect ending to a hilariously fun afternoon.
Recommended for ages 3 to 8, performances of Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We’re In a Play’! will be held on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society’s Roseneath Cottage, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown through Sept. 13. Running time is one hour with no intermission. Masks are required. Tickets are $18 per person. For a complete schedule and to order tickets, visit www.smithtownpac.org.
All photos by Courtney Braun