One of the best things about “Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse” is that the kids in this story act just like kids — even though the characters are mice.
The show, adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling from Kevin Henkes' popular children's books, opened Friday at the Rose. A Thursday preview audience of children from nearby Liberty Elementary School had no trouble relating to what was happening onstage.
Lilly (Shannon Rzucidlo), who calls herself queen of everything, is having a bumpy time. Mom and Dad (Alanna Reeves, Michael Wilhelm) have brought home a new baby brother, and Lilly misses the attention they used to give only her. She calls baby Julius “the lump.”
No doubt a kid or two in the audience knew just how Lilly felt.
To help her feel special, Granny (Rochelle Pickett) buys Lilly sunglasses and a purple plastic purse, which plays tunes when you open it. She also gets three shiny quarters to put in the purse.
But everybody is too busy to admire the new purse she wants to show off: her parents; her best friends, Chester and Wilson (Michael Miller, Colton Neidhardt); and even her favorite teacher, Mr. Slinger (Christopher Scott), who puts it on his desk for safekeeping so it won't distract the other students (including Haley Piper Haas, fun in multiple roles).
Lilly feels more ignored than ever. She angrily rejects her friends, dashes a spiteful note off to Mr. Slinger — and feels awful afterward for being mean.
The lessons in the script are clear but delivered without preaching or condescending. Director Graham Whitehead makes sure Lilly's feelings are not discounted in the process.
When she has to sit in the uncooperative chair, 10 minutes feels like 10 hours of utter despair. What kid can't relate to the agony of a timeout?
The show also used pop tunes and other music to reflect Lilly's extreme mood shifts. Kids in the audience were jamming in their chairs and pumping fists in the air when the happy tunes were blasting. No doubt they could also relate when she was upset.
They also seemed to enjoy watching many of the youthful characters riding bikes on the stage, up and down ramps, including some bullies whom Lilly tricks into leaving Chester and Wilson alone.
Ronald Wells Jr.'s scenic design features three tall, colorful buildings — Lilly's house, the purse store and the Mousessori Academy — that rotate often to reveal the interiors. Callyann Casteel's costumes and Kyle Toth's lights complete an always interesting visual picture.
The show is recommended for ages 4 and older, and it should be a fun outing for kids in single digits.
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