Children's Theater of Madison, in partnership with Theatre LILA, brings full, theatrical magic to the stage in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
On Friday morning, I had the unique pleasure of witnessing children’s theatre in its element – with an audience full of children. Children’s Theater of Madison, in partnership with Theatre LILA, brings full, theatrical magic to the stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The play begins with the announcement of a royal wedding, and several declarations of young love soon follow. The young lovers tug on our heartstrings while we giggle at the comedic side of love misguided. As Hermia, Kateri Klingele is refreshingly animated in her true love for Lysander (Ryan Williams), while Sydney Kleinholz is frank in her unrequited affections for Demetrius (Andrew Turner). Smart costuming and makeup choices by designer Monica Cliff gives the audience a clear picture of just who these characters are from the moment they step onstage.
As the mortal Queen Hyppolyta sings herself to sleep, the real magic of the play unfolds. Fairies emerge from every angle, confetti drifts down from the rafters, and the full set is fantastically revealed — all underscored by the soft lullabies of the fairies (one of many original pieces composed by Erin Crabb and Jack Sayre). Hyppolyta is transformed into Fairy Queen Titania (both played by Malkia Stampley), who maintains an elegant presence throughout.
The fairies are without a doubt the best part of the production, and director Jessica Lanius and co-choreographer Emily Janik incorporate them expertly into every scene. In many instances, the fairies become the scene, transforming into trees that move and snicker, watching every mortal move. The effect lends new perspective to the term “enchanted forest.” The youngest audience members are captivated by their magic, and older audiences are bound to fawn over their adorable performances.
The “Rude Mechanicals” have us all from the moment they enter: Their gleeful stupidity and slapstick is exactly what the kids want. Led by the clear crowd favorite, Bottom (Michael Huftile), these performers are on top of their comedy game, playing with subtlety and specificity. Their moments of stage fright — for example, when Bottom notices Hyppolyta is in the audience — are well-timed and delightfully embarrassing.
Lighting designer Jason Fassl makes the magic pleasingly visible by utilizing carefully focused color washes. The children seemed to adore the love-spell pink; I enjoyed the fairy-magic blue-tones. The red, blue and gray colors of the set (designed by Mike Lawler) glow in some scenes and disappear in others underneath a sea of confetti.
The play is punctuated by appearances by the mischievous and ever-giggling Puck, played amusingly by Di’Monte Henning. As he concluded the student matinee with the classic call for applause, the audience exploded with noise, a clear indicator that the kids were excited to be a part of the magic.
This production of Shakespeare’s most enchanting comedy is a thrill for all ages.