Join the swarm at the regional premiere of the kids' musical comedy Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly, now onstage at Dallas Children's Theater. They do things big at DCT, but this may be their biggest show yet. Directed by Bob Hess, acted by grown-up professionals, it's a fabu-normous production that appeals on all levels.
Small fry will love its lively hip-hop songs and silly jokes about creepy-crawlies. Big fry will pick up on messages about ecology and the circle of life (earthworms help Mother Earth breathe, you know). Choreographer Jeremy Dumont has inserted wickedly clever visual references to musicals like A Chorus Line (for Spider's big number, "Legs") and Gypsy. (For the latter, Spider, played by the adorable Adam Garst, strips off his sweatshirt-hoodie exoskeleton, accompanied by insect fan dancers.)
The 20-song score by Joan Cushing (who also wrote the book) condenses three eco-conscious children's books by Doreen Cronin.
In 105 minutes of nonstop singing and dancing, a shy worm (Clinton Greenspan), self-conscious about being the only kid in school with no legs, earns confidence with the help of his teacher and friends. Spider is the energetic older brother type, eager to grow up and expand his web page (get it?). A fly girl (Lindsay Gee) performs a window screen rescue, which helps her overcome anxiety about being the only one in her class who eats regurgitated food. A bilingual butterfly (Alexandra Valle) dreams of migrating to Mexico. And an ant (Akron Watson) revels in his ability to haul heavy items on his head.
Their teacher, Mrs. McBee (Amber Nicole Guest), leads them all through show-and-tell exercises that teach simple facts about earth science and etymology. Various ant aunts, mama flies and papa worms are played by the versatile B.J. Cleveland.
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Scenic designer Randel Wright has created a 20-foot-high, multi-level, multimedia eco-system on the stage of the Paul Baker Theater that starts up high with a tree trunk and then moves down through gnarled tree roots and underground tunnels. Costumes by Lyle Huchton make layers of ordinary street fashion suggest the many legs, wings and antennae of the wearers.
The actors in this ethnically diverse cast are all top-of-the-food-chain talent-wise, with Gee and Garst (recently the star of WaterTower Theatre's Spring Awakening) standouts for their singing and hoofing in the "Jitterbug Ball" sequence.
Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly also spins a sweet story about acceptance, tolerance and understanding of differences. After this, you may think twice about swatting and squishing the you-know-whats. Diary of a Worm, a Spider & a Fly continues through June 3 at Dallas Children's Theater, with lots of morning performances and afternoon matinees. Call 214-740-0051.