July 18, 2011
For most fans of "Pinkalicious," the full-on live experience begins in the selection of the day's attire. The uniform is open to individual interpretation in style and fabric but not in color. Thus the sea of pink that greets the theatergoer at the Broadway Playhouse is of a pulsing wattage. Show up wearing something else and you'll feel like a visiting fan in enemy bleachers.
Pinkalicious Pinkerton, whom you'll detect is the heroine of this little musical fable for the preteen set, was born on the pages of the much-loved children's book by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann. This young lady, pink from head to toe, has a thing for pink cupcakes. And as with so many of us, her penchant for sugar quickly morphs from manageable pleasure to crazed obsession. Green vegetables are the first to go.
A girl, alas, cannot live on cupcakes alone, which is pretty much the moral of this little enterprise.
"Pinkalicious" was turned into quite a witty, melodic and peppy hourlong kids' musical by the original authors, along with composer John Gregor (whose score is really very witty and artful). The piece has been exploding all over the country in various productions and tours — very much like cupcake shops.
The production at the Broadway Playhouse is a non-Equity show created by the Emerald City Theatre and first produced at the Apollo Theater (where it was a big hit). Broadway in Chicago is presenting the show for the summer in its Water Tower Place venue.
This piece does not come with the production value you might expect in such a theater (although, in fairness, tickets are quite affordable). And I think Broadway in Chicago and Emerald City should have ponied up for a live band. Singing to tape is one thing in an off-Loop family theater, but this show will doubtless attract many young theatergoers attending their first downtown show, and at least a couple of live musicians should be part of anyone's first musical. The Sunday morning show I attended was packed; there should be room in the budget.
But assuming you can get past all that (tape always drives me nuts, especially in kids' musicals), Ernie Nolan's well-paced production is sassy and on target. These characters and performances aren't exactly of Chekhovian subtlety, and most of the actors are very early in their careers. But you cannot help but like the perky Lara Mainier, who plays the title role as if pink cupcakes were the very lifeblood of civilization. Mark Kosten, who plays the brother trapped in a sea of all things pink, is both a very fine singer and a funny actor. He's a name to watch.
If you have a lover of pink (or of cupcakes) under your roof, you'll also appreciate the way this show celebrates family, healthy living and, well, moderation in all things. It is a pleasant change from the staples of Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, which tend to market young stars. Pinkalicious may be pink, but she's also a Pinkerton, willing to learn from Mom (Rachel Klippel) and Dad (Patrick Byrnes).
And my favorite Gregor number? "You Get What You Get and You Don't Get Upset." I tried singing that parent-friendly lyric at home, but, alas, there is not much love of pink in my house.
When: Through Sept. 3 (EXTENDED JAN. 2012)
Where: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut Ave.
Running time: 1 hour
Tickets: $16-$22 at 800-755-2000 or Broadwayinchicago.com.
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