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February 7, 2014

“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” is a Much Needed Lesson in Imagination

Written by  Isabel Quintero
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Stanley Wakes up Flat, Flat Stanley, MainStreet Theatre Company Stanley Wakes up Flat, Flat Stanley, MainStreet Theatre Company Ed Krieger

With the enthusiasm reserved only for recess, the students from Salinas Elementary School anxiously waited in the lobby of the Lewis Family Playhouse for the moment when they would experience one of their favorite story characters come to life in, “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley.” And then we walked in.

Jeff Brown’s beloved children’s book, Flat Stanley—about a boy who, when a bulletin board falls on him in his sleep, is flattened and can now fold himself into letter size and be mailed off on different adventures—is transformed, by Timothy Allen McDonald, into an adventure for the whole family. While the original book was released in 1963, the musical has a modern twist, with nods to contemporary classics Harry Potter and Star Wars, in the use of props and in the music. An acknowledgment which visibly resonated with the target audience and instantly connected them with the characters on the stage.

“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley,” though focused on family—Stanley, desperate for adventure and travel, realizes that what he really wants is to be with his parents and brother—sends another message which, given the constant reliance on handheld technology for entertainment, is desperately needed. The message, and here we border on cliché (but stick with me—it’s worth the trip), is that when children (or heck, we) delve into the realm of fantasy and imagination, adventure is always possible. This is not just the, “If you can imagine it, you’re there!” type of adventure either, but the idea that the audience has it within themselves to create and go.  Because when thisaudience member considered the choices the writers had made in regards to including Harry Potter and Star Wars, I couldn’t help but think about the creators of those two franchises—two people who simply imagined worlds and took us there to visit.

The MainStreet Theatre Company gives a knee-slapping performance replete with physical humor, outrageous costumes, and songs that had children singing and dancing in their seats.  The stand-out performance, however, was Michael Faulkner’s, who plays Stanley's father.  Silliness (and the musical is silly) is often underrated. Or, it is misunderstood as something that anyone can execute easily, but that is definitely not the case. Faulkner changed roles and wardrobes several times over, and though each of his characters was intended to make the audience laugh, each did it a new way.  Contrary to what many believe, it is not easy to entertain children, but Faulkner was able to do it with ease and respect for his audience.

“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” runs through Sunday February 16, 2014, Saturdays and Sundays only, at the Lewis Family Playhouse.  Prices are $18.00 for general admission and $16.00 for youth. For directions to Lewis Family Playhouse and for information about this and other upcoming events, please go to http://www.lewisfamilyplayhouse.com/.

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