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Children's theater opens season with seven mini-musicals

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
Pittsburgh International Children's Theater presents 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie & Other Story Books,' by Theatreworks USA Credit: Theatreworks USA

Kids can watch live-stage versions of seven popular children's books, along with matching tunes, in one musical playing on several Pittsburgh-area stages for the next two weeks.

“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie & Other Story Books” — which kicks off the Pittsburgh International Children's Theater season — offers the audience a cornucopia of mini-musicals, director Kevin Del Aguila says. Each simple children's book gets its own little separate story, and at least one song, in the one-hour play. Members of the cast of six perform as costumed characters in each play, which begins with a scene where children are exploring books in a library.

“It's packed full of good books and good shows,” Del Aguila says about the play. “It's not just kiddie theater; it's fun for everyone.

“The whole thing is very funny and turns into kind of a ‘Saturday Night Live' for kids,” he says. “They watch these six acts basically bringing all these characters from all these books to life. ... It's kind of magical. It's exciting to watch the children watch this show because they recognize these characters.”

The headlining story, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” is based on Laura Joffe Numeroff's book from the series of “If You Give A ...” books. With comical words and illustrations, the books explore cause and effect, Del Aguila says. If you indeed give a mouse a cookie, the rodent will want milk to go with it. Then, the talking mouse will want a mirror to look at its mustache. And, so on. A funny hypothetical situation ensues that the audience will love seeing on stage, he says.

“The whole thing is cause and effect: one thing becomes something else, and they all loop back on themselves in the end,” Del Aguila says.

“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie & Other Story Books” also includes mini-musicals of “Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman, “Borreguita and the Coyote” by Verna Aardema, “Imogene's Antlers” by David Small, “Master Man: A Tall Tale of Nigeria” by Aaron Shepard, “Math Curse” by Jon Scieszka, and “Owen” by Kevin Henkes. The show is a production of New York City-based Theatreworks USA, a children's theater company that provides plays for about 4 million people annually.

Music in the play runs the gamut among genres and styles, from country to hip-hop to a mariachi band, Del Aguila says.

“It's a great ... blend of all these different style stories and different-genre music,” he says. “It's a great trip from the beginning.”

The children in the audience, Del Aguila says, “go nuts; they love it. They are bouncing on their seats like Mexican jumping beans. It's full of lots of fun surprises.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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