by Kevin T McEneaney
Really Rosie is a children’s musical with book and lyrics by Maurice Sendak, and music by Carol King, now playing in Rhinebeck at The Center for Performing Arts. Originating as a half hour PBS special in 1978, the script was turned into a one-hour play in 1978. Set on a hot summer day on P Street in Brooklyn, Rosie dreams of being a successful Broadway theatrical star, and to this end assembles her street friends to participate in her fantasy. Her street friends argue about what roles they should play, but they eventually allow Rosie to direct and sing. This play for young actors between nine and thirteen offers big shoes for children to fill.
Directed by Ann Chris Warren, Chief Operating Officer for the Boys & Girls Club of Ulster County, this performance rapidly moves along on roller skates (metaphor, although roller scooters are employed). Much of the magic of why this production succeeds is due to the Choreography team of Bryant Drew Andrews, Lisa Brown, and Cedric James, who have encouraged both programmed steps as well as inspired improvisation—the gestures revealing their characters.
Collette Witherspoon as Rosie has stage presence and voice, yet she was slightly over-miked in volume. Rosie’s best friend Kathy was superbly acted by Ava Curnell, who may have a future in acting. Nine-year-old Nadir Borno-Robinson as young Johnny is a natural born actor, singer, and dancer destined for a life in theater. As Alligator, a significant role, Dianne Watson, proved that she, too, may have a future in theater. Those who played smaller roles danced with exuberance and often with charming, comic panache.
The musical has a pre-recorded musical tract, yet everyone sings live. This is a large full hour musical with eleven songs, the theme song “Really Rosie” being sung at opening and reprised at curtain. My own favorite was “The ballad of chicken soup.”
Rosie conjures an imaginary movie producer, and the cast performs their neighborhood dream-epic finale with practiced gusto and dramatic aplomb, yet as Hunter S. Thompson eloquently pointed out, the so-called American Dream available to all is a recipe for mass delusion, but at such a tender age the wisdom of the old remains irrelevant to the young, who have their own dreams to run after with a smile as large as momentary encouragement and applause allows.
If you are a parent of a child between seven and twelve, I highly recommend this delightful play as an introduction to the world of theatrical inspiration and antique thespian passion. Tickets go at the reduced price of twenty dollars; the production runs only through July 17. For more information go to: https://www.centerforperformingarts.org/