Dougherty Arts Center,
through May 12
Running Time: 1 hr
Rosie is a star. She sings. She dances. She acts. She simply exudes glamour, as is apparent from her wide-brimmed straw hat, long red-red-red gown, and black feather boa. The other kids on her block may not always appreciate Rosie's stellar qualities, and her mom certainly doesn't (all she cares about is whether Rosie is looking after her kid brother Chicken Soup), but those of us watching this Second Youth Family Theatre production of the Maurice Sendak-Carole King musical Really Rosie have no trouble doing so.
That's because Marlow Moore shines with a light that no mere bulb can match. She takes the stage with such confidence and holds it with such poise and vivacity that her Rosie indeed feels born to the spotlight. Her singing and dancing have the gloss of true talent, and she has the force of personality that marks a star. Watching Moore's Rosie take command of the pack of Avenue P rowdies on the stoop of a Brooklyn brownstone and lead them through a day of pretending to film a movie (about Rosie, natch) is pure pleasure.
And these kids are no pushovers. Like the rambunctious youngsters of Sendak's books, these are characters with extravagant personalities who are opinionated and cranky, and who fuss and fight and tease each other -- in other words, real kids. The young Austin performers here bring them to life with a spark and sass that suits their quirky personalities and streetwise scrappiness. Moreover, they execute the musical numbers with more polish than some of their much older and more experienced peers on the local stage scene.
Rod Caspers seems to have imparted to this youthful company some of his own sterling professionalism and abiding love of all things theatrical. Throughout this director's long career, his shows have been distinguished by a crispness of production, not a kind that draws attention to itself but a soft-spoken sort that signals a desire to serve the material as fully as possible. It's always felt to me to have been born out of Caspers' deep respect and affection for the theatre. He cares, and that has consistently translated into work that is tight and refined and that radiates a warmth from the stage you can feel. Really Rosie is no exception.
The show draws on one of Second Youth's trademark strengths: the power of the imagination. The kids of Avenue P may be spending their days in make-believe, but that make-believe stretches their minds and enriches their lives. Second Youth likes to stage shows that don't give you epic casts or spectacular settings. They prefer to do shows in which a few actors may play many roles and places are suggested more than seen, so we can stretch our minds and join them in creating the scene. That's part of what makes Second Youth such an asset to the Austin arts scene: They understand the difference that make-believe makes in childhood dreams and wonderful theatre.
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