“Lyle the Crocodile” – Childsplay

This review aired on KBAQ November 14, 2011


Childsplay, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Childsplay creates wonderful theater adventures for young audiences and their new holiday production, “Lyle the Crocodile,” based on last weekend’s first preview, is a hit.  The staging’s only problem is that it runs too long but I’m sure that problem will be resolved before the official opening.

The adorable show instills the importance of acceptance and shows how do-gooders always rise to the occasion even when they aren’t fairly treated.  So, as they are entertained, young theatergoers benefit from these positive messages.

The Primm family has just moved to New York City.  As they get settled, they discover Lyle, a smart crocodile, lives in their bathtub.  He was placed there by Hector when the pair’s vaudeville act fizzled.  The Primm’s son, Joshua, doesn’t care for Lyle until he realizes how helpful and clever the crocodile is.  After winning over Ms. Nitpicker, a doubting neighbor, Lyle has a run-in with Mr. Grumps and his vicious cat, Loretta, and Lyle gets sentenced to a zoo.  That is until Lyle rescues Mr. Grumps and his cat in a fire.

Kevin Kling’s script adapts the popular Bernard Waber book into a musical with several cute songs.  As always, Childsplay’s production is tops.  Dwayne Hartford’s breezy direction is enhanced by Michael Barnard varied dances, while Alan Ruch and another musician play the score with skilled exuberance.  The nice sets convey New York City’s impersonality and vastness.  The cast couldn’t be better.  Adam Hostler’s Lyle is a personality-laced and toe-tapping wizard.  D. Scott Withers’ Hector is Lyle’s suave original owner and he also serves as narrator.  The Primm’s are Kim Manning as the mother, John Moum as the father, and Colin Ross as the son.  They couldn’t be better, while Katie McFadzen’s Mrs. Nitpicker is a charming doubter, and Jon Gentry’s crusty Mr. Grumps is nasty until he realizes Lyle’s advantages.

I always seek the help of young critics at Childsplay performances and I was sitting between eight-year-old T.J. and six-year-old Rocco.  Both of the young critics liked the show and both had seen other Childsplay performances and thought this was the best.  Rocco had seen other local shows and T.J. not only had seen other local shows but he had seen two musicals on Broadway.  They both had delightfully observant feelings about “Lyle the Crocodile” and they had lots of thoughtful questions.  T.J.’s two four-year-old twin sisters also enjoyed the show.

“Lyle the Crocodile” continues through December 24.  Thanks to my two young critics, T.J. and Rocco.  For tickets, call the Tempe Center for the Performing Arts box office at 480-350-2822 or order tickets online at www.childsplayaz.org.

Grade: A