What do you get when you roll a bridge, three houses, three goats, three pigs, a big, bad wolf and a troll all into one?
The new witty musical "The Three Little Pigs & Three Billy Goats Gruff," of course!
The production, which has been taking center stage at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre since Jan. 25, is a delightful take on the classic fairy tales with an energetic and charming cast, a colorful backdrop and fun lessons to learn along the way.
At the very beginning the production, we are introduced to the very lively animated taleteller (AACCT company member Mark Hansen), who keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with every twist and turn of each tale.
The old Norweigan fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff with a unique twist gets the play off to a great start. It is the story of three goats who must cross a river to get to a meadow on the other side of a stream in order to eat grass because there is none left for them to eat near to where they live. To do so, they must first cross a bridge, under which lives a troll who eats anyone who passes its way.
It's this big green, "fearsome" troll, also known as Pierre Sous-Pont, who the audience sees first. The troll is decked out in overalls with vibrant patches, an oversized cut-off sweater and humungous nose-- just what you would imagine a troll would look like. And then, the three billy goats-- Middle Billy (Cassandra Nary), Big Billy (Garrett Flood) and Baby Billy (Mattingly Bartole)-- grace the stage.
It's there where see how the billy goats, who are outfitted with full-body furry costumes, horns and hooves, try to devise a master plan to sneak across the bridge, only to find out that the big scary troll is not an enemy after all. In fact, of the several delightful tunes that are sprinkled throughout, the tale ends with Nary's song "I found a friend in my soup." It's a happy ending for all.
The second half of the play features the old tale The Three Little Pigs, which details the journey of pigs who build three houses of different materials. Their enemy the big bad wolf is able to blow down the first two pigs' houses, made of straw and wood, but is unable to destroy the third pig's house, made of bricks.
Two of the actors who play the goat characters in the first segment of the production turn into piggies in the second half. Nary (Middle Billy) switches to the Sleepy Pig, while Flood (Big Billy) changes to the Hungry Pig. Jillian Kuhl's Clever Pig character is the dominant role in the tale where she becomes the protector of the other two pigs when the big, bad wolf Dennis, played by Jeremy Matthey, comes to town.
The trio, dressed in cutesy pink attire from head-to-toe and topped off with pig ears and noses, are charming in their portrayals of the little piggies. And you can't miss Dennis, whose getup is a simple (and realistic!) wolf mask and an all-black suit with a cape.
During those critical moments when he blows down the pigs' houses, the music speeds up and the lights dim, getting the audience caught up in each moment.
Bottom line: This winter treat provides a dose of comedy, cuteness and fun for the family and not to mention, teaches a lesson or two about not judging a book by its cover and the value of hard work.