From Chicago Parent
Lifeline’s ‘Thumbelina’ brings both heart and courage to a familiar tale
November 4, 2016
By Keely Flynn
“I carry your heart within my heart.” This theme, drawing heavily from both the E.E. Cummings poem and the soul song of each and every parent, is the driving force behind Lifeline’s beautiful new production of “Thumbelina” (adapted and directed by ensemble member Amanda Delheimer Dimond, in collaboration with Mariana Green, Brandi Lee and Liz Rice).
Also new in this show? Delheimer Dimond and crew have upended Hans Christian Anderson’s traditional story arc of Thumbelina, who usually goes from one situation to the next where she’s kept, scurried away, married off and told where, when and how to be.
This version is refreshingly modernized, progressive and chock full of girl power.
Thumbelina, a tiny bit of a thing born from a flower planted by her mother (who’s grieving the loss of her partner and the future she had planned), wants to experience the wonder of The Outside. But, having lost enough already, her well-meaning mother decides that the best way to keep her girl safe is to forbid any contact with the dangerous things outside their home’s window. But, you know, things happen.
Thankfully, the storyline is less about whom Thumbelina will eventually marry, and more about the choices she makes along her path to self-discovery, and the concept that “family” can be the one you create. As she journeys into the forest and river around her, she comes into contact with terrific characters who, for their part, don’t walk so much as crawl, tumble, spin and weave their way up ropes. Both the staging and choreography are lovely, and create another sort of beautiful language in the fluid world which Thumbelina explores. The puppetry is also top notch, and the alter-ego of teeny tiny Thumbelina pleading her case to her non-yielding mother might be the sweetest thing you’ll see this season. Brandi Lee, an exceptional Thumbelina, is joined by a connected and physically fantastic cast, consisting of Bryan Bosque, Antoniao LaVance Boule Jr., Nate Buursma, Krystal Ortiz and Dominique Watkins.
The role of a parent–and what it means, exactly, to “parent” as a verb–weaves surprisingly well through a story not usually quite so sentimental. Or maybe it just hit me like a ton of bricks as I watched with my two enthralled daughters: You need to raise the child you have, not the child you imagined you’d have.
As parents, we want our children to fly. As parents, we want our children to be safe, always. And as parents, we want our children to know that bonds and love transcend time, space, distance and the confines of a little ol’ human heart.
And just like Thumbelina, they’ll figure out the rest.
From the Chicago Reader
October 25, 2016
By Aimee Levitt
I saw Thumbelina the day after the Cubs won the pennant, so it would have been very hard to kill my good mood. And Lifeline Theatre’s dance- and puppet-enhanced retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the adventures of the tiny girl who came from a flower did not. The cast turned in winning performances, especially Brandi Lee as Thumbelina. It was unclear how much of the show’s message, about finding your tribe and your place in the world, registered with its young audience; it seems like the sort of lesson that would resonate more with teenagers. Still, the kids seemed to enjoy it, and parents will probably appreciate the multiethnic cast and gender-neutral language.
From Theatre by Numbers
October 26, 2016
By Sean Margaret Wagner
Mothers and fathers, take your kids to see Lifeline Theatre’s “Thumbelina”, and you might notice them acting a bit differently. They may start asking after things like circus arts intensives and performing arts summer camps. They are definitely going to affect new accents and funky new gaits, you’ve been warned. This fairy tale adaptation by Amanda Delheimer Diamond is exactly the gateway drug to thespian-hood your kids will find themselves hooked on, and it will likely charm you, too.
In “Thumbelina”, you may remember our diminutive heroine (Brandi Lee) is born from an errant magical seed, and left in the care of an over-protective mother (Krystal Ortiz) who shelters her from the dangers at the edge of the edge of the world. She escapes her mother’s confines and loses herself for the winter in the woods. She befriends other creatures like field mice (Bryan Bosque), moles (Nate Buursma) and barn swallows (Dominique Watkins), and while I wouldn’t call anyone her enemy, she learns to recognize when others (say a frog, like Antoniao LaVance Bouie Jr.) don’t have her best interests at heart. No one comes to her rescue or doles out any great favors; to get where she’s going, she’s going to have to figure things out, mostly on her own.
One especially nice aspect of this adaptation are some of the troubling aspects of the original fable the developers have left on the cutting floor. You may remember the Hans Christian Anderson Thumbelina being passively inundated with interspecies marriage proposals and kidnapping attempts. Not so for Brandi Lee’s title character. This ensemble champions problem solving skills and a sense of humor that the 5-7 year old crowd would deem most impressive. This production also posits that belonging hinges less on what your community looks like and more on what they do. It encourages embracing people, even when their lives are vastly different from your own.
It has amazing charm for such a minimal concept, and the ensemble is quick to latch together, building creatures and plant life at speeds that would make Voltron envious. Director/Adaptor Amanda Delheimer Diamond and choreographer Dan Plehal have boiled their concept down to the barest minimum, and the performers have made fantastic use of the canvas. Actors with the heaviest story lifting are Brandi Lee, Krystal Ortiz, and Bryan Bosque, and they will have you eating out of the palms of their hands before long. “Thumbelina” is a perfect show for audiences in the single digit age range, but maybe not ideal for most tweens.
From Ada Grey Reviews for You
October 27, 2016
By Ada Grey
Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Thumbelina. It was adapted and directed by Amanda Delheimer Dimond based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen in collaboration with Mariana Green, Brandi Lee, and Liz Rice. It was about a very small girl named Thumbelina (Lee) and she really wanted to live a normal life and be able to explore outside, but her mother (Krystal Ortiz) didn’t want her to because she was worried she would get hurt. But then she goes out in the middle of the night and gets lost and she starts to meet a bunch of different animals along the way. Then she discovers a new family of fairies, but eventually makes her way back to her mother. This productions had a lot of puppets (designed by Stephanie Diaz), movement (choreography by Dan Plehal), and poetic language. I thought it was very gorgeous and interesting to watch.
I really liked the Frog (Antoniao LaVance Boule Jr.); he is the first animal that Thumbelina meets. He brings her over to his lily pad and wants to get married to her. I thought it was hilarious how Thumbelina called it his “pad.” He’s going to go and tell his mom all about it because she has been getting on his case about getting married and settling down. But he isn’t creepy or anything. He has a cute little raspy voice and he seems nervous. You still want Thumbelina to get away from him because you want the adventure to continue. She makes his pad into a raft with the help of a very friendly fish and then she gets an insect to pull her along, but of course an insect can not pull a small person for very long and then she goes down the waterfall and that is when she gets lost. This shows us she doesn’t want to settle down yet! It also shows you that she is very capable of surviving on her own and she doesn’t want anyone else’s help.
The Mouse (Bryan Bosque) and the Mole (Nate Buursma) take in Thumbelina when she is half frozen out in the cold. I think they either are or would be a cute couple because they kind of reminded me of Frog and Toad from the Arnold Lobel books. Each of them has something the other person doesn’t. The Mouse is artistic and the Mole is very interested in keeping everything real and things that fly. Thumbelina does like living with them, but they don’t like going outside, which is one of the things she really wants to do and that is the reason she leaves. Also, part of their group is a Swallow (Dominique Watkins) that they find with one broken wing. The Swallow seems to have made the largest impact on Thumbelina; she even wants to go with him to wherever his flock is going. But he says she can’t because she can’t fly and she needs to stay where she belongs. He also helps her when she needs him the most by saving her when she is about to fall off a cliff.
This is not your average kids’ show. It has some very intelligent aspects, and I think that it is very important to get young minds working. When you go and see a kids’ show it shouldn’t be boring for the parents. This show talks about surviving in the wild, and it also has the subject of friends going away and also feeling different from your family, which are some difficult things to talk about. The movement is very calm and relaxing and nice to watch. People might expect cute little songs or explaining things very slowly and simply, but they will get something that will actually intrigue kids of most ages and adults. It was clear when I saw it that very little kids might not have the attention span to stay intrigued, but probably 3 year olds and up would absolutely love this show.
People who would like this show are people who like capable heroines, cute mole and mouse couples, and frogs settling down. I think kids and their parents should definitely go see this show. There are so many kids who will love it, and I really enjoyed it as well even though I’m almost a teenager.