9/15/2022 THE INCREDIBLE BOOK EATING BOY Alliance Theatre
(Note: Public Performances of this production have ended, but school-tour matinees will continue through October 5.)
If eating a book led to absorbing everything there is to know from it, what book would you eat? A Bulletin Board in the lobby of the Hertz Theatre lets you confess and share.
As a devoted Bibliophile, I’d have to ask, “Can I eat my book and have it too?”
But it is definitely a fine “thought experiment,” and a perfect introduction to Alliance’s home-grown musical adaptation (by Madhuri Shekar whose In Love and Warcraft was the 2014 Kandeda Winner) of Oliver Jeffers’ popular kid’s picture book, The Incredible Book Eating Boy.
Henry is starting Third Grade and is upset that his favorite picture books are a thing of the past – “They’re for little kids.” Worse, his best friends Olivia and Jeff LOVE to read. Henry doesn’t. But when his dog Rover “eats his homework” (the book he has been assigned to read) and starts speaking in English, Henry realizes he can just eat the books and not have to take the trouble to actually read them.
He is soon the smartest kid in his class. Until his stomach and bowels start to rebel.
This is a marvelous little play, celebrating imagination and books, chock-full of earworm-worthy songs by Atlantans Christian Magby and Christian Albright. It is filled to the brim with clever jokes for parents (and other grown-ups --
“Math books taste like pie”), but it never forgets what kids love (fart jokes, scary nightmares, and confetti cannons – this is a good show to NOT Stage Manage). At Thursday’s School Bus matinees, both audiences (third-to-fifth graders) were wildly enthusiastic as were their teachers and chaperones.
And the cast, who has been doing this since mid-July, is keeping it fresh and alive. Kudos especially to young Alexander Chen, who, even this far into what has to be a bruising schedule, made it seem kike “the first time.” His adult co-stars – Rhyn McLemore, Brad Raymond, India Tyree, and Juan Carlos Unzueta (*) we’ve seen and praised before and are (apparently) still bringing their “A Game” to these busloads, all playing multiple roles with frequent winks to the young audience acknowledging the doublings and triplings.
I am an avid fan of books and readings – it hurts my soul every time my spouse convinces me it’s time to “winnow down” my library – so I am the perfect audience for this story. And you probably won’t be surprised by my answer to the lobby question:
I would eat Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. I’d finally understand it, and it would probably taste like Guinness and Fish (''Holy eel and Sainted Salmon, chucking chub and ducking dace'' / ''One man's fish and a dozen men's poissons'') It takes a true bibliophile to allude to Finnegans Wake when reviewing a play for children.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com #AllianceTheatre #IncredibleBookEatingBoy )
(*) At Thursday‘s performances. Mr. Unzueta’s roles were very ably filled by understudy Jontavious Johnson.