From the Chicago Sun-Times
‘Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’ a model of good musical behavior
March 20, 2009
By Jennifer Burklow
What would we do without Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? For decades — since 1947, in fact — she’s been dispensing antidotes for the ill manners that plague the children who populate Betty MacDonald’s children’s classic, much to the relief of their bewildered parents.
Christina Calvit adapted “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” for Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries in 2000. An updated version of the energetic musical filled with finger-snapping, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music by Paul Gilvary returns to close the 26th KidSeries season. Gilvary has added a song and Calvit has freshened the dialogue for this lively production — deftly directed by John Hildreth — that’s sure to please its target audience of 5- to 10-year-olds and their parents.
Set in a small town of pastel hues, “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” is the tale of a warm-hearted woman who is a friend to parents and children alike. Her heart’s desire is to have everyone follow the golden rule, and her wacky cures manage to do just that while creating lots of laughter along the way.
Four actors new to the Lifeline stage take on multiple roles and perform with aplomb. Clever costume changes and various accents help young audience members differentiate between the characters each actor portrays.
From under the brim of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s funny hats, Rachel Boller exudes calm assurance as she guides desperate parents through hilarious cures for dish-washing-hating runaways, answer-backers, selfish-selfers and mean-spirited whisperers. She also does an understated turn as the rag-wearing Cornelia, the target of two sharp-tongued gossip girls.
Bouncing between roles of different genders — and species (his squawking parrot is awfully effective) — Scott Allen Luke delights with his expressive mugging and supercilious portrayal of the toy- and food-hoarding Pete Thompson.
Nicole Pellegrino and Gillian Bellinger aptly capture the angst of mothers weary of their offspring’s misbehavior and nail the cattiness of the style-conscious girls who turn their claws on Cornelia in “Whisperers.”
Alan Donahue’s colorful set puts Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s upside-down house center stage, sandwiched between two right-side-up houses. The homes, which initially appear to be facades, surprise with doors and windows that provide entrances and exits for the show’s many characters.
Cathleen Bentley’s jump-and-jive choreography adds to the energy generated by this 50-minute show, ably aiding its aim to “Make life a giggle with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.”
From Chicago Stage Review
March 18, 2009
By Robert Andersen
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle returns home!
Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries favorite returns by popular demand to their fabulous repertoire. First staged over nine years ago, Lifeline ensemble member Christina Calvit’s adaptation of Betty MacDonald’s delightful children’s bestseller (illustrated by Hilary Knight) still holds water. The original book has been a favorite of my two daughters for years. Sometimes compared to Dr. Seuss, because of the fantasy appeal, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle makes its lessons relatable with more realistic characters and without all of the rhyming.
The closest analogy that I can draw to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle would tie her to the popular Nanny McFee character. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle possesses a strange insight into the minds of children and comes up with some unorthodox remedies to their, sometimes unorthodox, behaviors. The lesson Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle brings to parents is – find a way to make children change without knowing you’re changing them.
The lesson she brings to children is – learn quickly from your mistakes and you’ll get more friends and sweet treats.
Or to quote another famous witch, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
My suggestion to children would be to watch out for kindly neighbor ladies that always smell like cookies, or ugly hags that carry a big stick, or any temp help that arrives by flying umbrella with a bottomless carpetbag.
Lifeline has always been concerned with bringing the theatre experience to all ages and for this I commend them. Their creative forces have never failed to entertain. Sometimes I’ll take a chance and bring my 3-year-old to a show with me, never quite sure of her reaction. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had her sitting on the edge of her seat. Each song had her yelling for more, and at the end of the show she looked at me and said, “Let’s do it again Daddy.”
It might serve the storytelling well to update some of the references of Pete Thompson’s. This is not to say that Scott Allen Luke did not give a wonderful performance, but rather, I don’t think that kids today understand the value of a coonskin cap.
Director John Hildreth presents a remarkably entertaining Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle that shines with an outstanding ensemble, wonderful music, (by Paul Gilvary) and charming staging. It is a captivating continuation of Lifeline’s commitment to producing exceptional theatrical options for younger audiences.
Special note: I would like to point out that all four of the primary actors are debuting their talents for Lifeline Theatre. While they have all performed with various Chicago theater companies, there first experience with Lifeline is a children’s show and I think their previous experience proves to be a win for Lifeline and the audience.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is delightfully appropriate for boys and girls from 3 to 13. Adults will also enjoy the 50 minutes of toe-tapping, finger-waving fun.