Electronic artist

Review: Take the Kids – Take Yourself – to see Leonardo, a wonderful show about a terrible monster at the Chicago Children’s Theater

It was a rainy Sunday morning, so what’s the best thing to do (instead of staying in bed)? A hundred parents and children—and me—thought the best thing to do was go to the Chicago Children’s Theater. And it was the right decision because we saw the most delicious game for children of all ages: Leonardo, a wonderful show about a terrible monster.

Leonardo (Lindsey Noel Whiting) really isn’t a terrible monster; This is the problem. He sucks at bringing a monster. He can’t scare anyone. So he decides he’s going to find someone he can scare and he begins a search for the scariest kid in the world. With the help of the librarian and electronic database Scaredy Cat Kid, he comes up with a kid named Sam (Sarah Fornace). It turns out that even Sam is hard to scare. In the second part of the play, we meet Kerry (played by Leah Casey), the second scariest kid alive. Sam and Kerry become friends, and the play ends with a message for all of us: to be a wonderful friend.

Leonardo at work with his puppeteer, Lindsey Noel Whiting. Photo by Ben Kauffman.

The play, adapted from two books by Mo Willems, is directed by Sarah Fornace and produced by Manual Cinema, Chicago’s fabulous live-action and retro-tech production company. It’s hard to categorize Manual Cinema, because there’s no other company like them. They call themselves a multimedia artist collective; they’re sort of a theatre, kind of a movie company and all of their old technology and ‘behind the scenes’ work is front and center for the public to see as they perform.

Using hundreds of illustrated puppets, fuzzy Muppet-style puppets, video projection, vintage overhead projectors, green screen techniques, live actors on live cameras and a live soundtrack, Manual Cinema brings the books by Willems in this captivating new show designed for the whole family.

You can catch the show on the big screen to the right of the stage or watch the cast and crew create the story on stage. There’s no right way to look Leonardo.

Kerry and Sam with Cloud. Photo by Ben Kauffman.

After the show, the artists and their puppets are in the large playroom outside the theater where they chat with the children and show them how the puppet works. The playroom is furnished with children’s tables and chairs, overhead projectors and supplies to make your own shadow puppets.

Leonardo was adapted by Sarah Fornace and Drew Dir from two books by Mo Willems: Leonardo, the terrible monster and Sam, the scariest cat child in the world. Music, lyrics and sound design are by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter. Puppet and prop design by Drew Dir and Lizi Breit. Julia Miller and Shay Turnage play Sam and Kerry in other performances.

Leonardo, Sam and Kerry. Image courtesy of Chicago Children’s Theatre.

Leonard! A wonderful show about a terrible monster is recommended from 3 years old. The show lasts 45 minutes without intermission, the performances take place until October 16 on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Chicago Children’s Theater is located at 100 S. Racine. Free parking is available in the parking lot on the south side of the building. Single tickets cost between $25 and $36, fees not included. Masks must be worn by everyone in the building. (My observation at this event and others is that children don’t seem to mind wearing masks. They just wear them.)

For more information on this and other productions, visit www.theatreinchicago.com.

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