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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day the Musical

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day the Musical
Eureka College Theatre Department

April 17 - 21
By Cara Rosson

If you are looking for a unique and fun activity for you and your young children to do this week, or if you are feeling especially childlike and need to indulge your inner little kid – I recommend going to Eureka College to take in their musical production of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

Yes, it is based on the well known children's book of the same name, by Judith Viorst. Ms. Viorst helped write this musical in 1998 with composer Shelly Markham, for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it premiered. If you are one of the few people who didn't read the book as a child, or read it to your children, or you just don't remember (it was originally published in 1972) – the title should give you a clue about the story.

Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair, his brothers tease him endlessly, his best friend demotes him to “third best friend,” his mom forgets to pack dessert in his lunch, at the dentist he is the only one who has a cavity, the shoe store doesn't have the cool sneakers with stripes in his size, AND to top it off, mom serves lima beans for dinner. If you remember anything at all about childhood – this is absolutely a disaster of a day – and this list is just a few of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that happen to Alexander on this particular day.

Director Holly Rocke and her cast do a very clever job with the staging. The cast is a mix of college students and actual little kids. And, per the original directions by Ms. Viorst in the script, they mix up the casting – so Alexander is played by a girl, well technically a woman, Eureka student Elizabeth Johnson. One of Alexander's brothers, Nick, is played by another woman, Valerie Rodriguez, and other characters are similarly cross gender cast. And it works well. The problems Alexander is facing could happen to a boy or a girl and be just as frustrating and disappointing. So playing with the gender roles brings a new layer of interest to a familiar story.

Some of the small things they've worked into the play are what make it the most enjoyable. One of the actual children from the chorus puts on a hat to become the family dog (and she is one of the cutest dogs you'll ever see!) The cast uses those little exercise trampolines to great effect, because I swear when they are excited, little kids really do have super springs in their legs. And casting first-grader Angelina Shank as the dentist is a brilliant comic turn.

The play is done in the round, and the cast and chorus plays well to all sections of the audience, and the action and choreography is very well done so that the scenes flow well visually. As an audience member, you can actually pick whether to sit in one of four seating sections - terrible, horrible, no good, or very bad – which I think was a great trick to bring the audience into a childlike state of mind from the very start. Unfortunately, the sound design was not well balanced, and often the piano and percussion accompaniment drowned out the actors when they were singing, especially when the were facing away from my section (I picked horrible, by the way, but no one section seemed better than another.)

There were a lot of children in the audience too, and they seemed completely engaged by it all too. Heck, there's even a fart joke (the mom farts in the elevator) – how could a six year old not love that? Mom farts are the worst! I know, I'm a mom and I get that a lot.

So grab the kids and make the drive to Eureka to giggle and snicker at all the silly and frustrating things that happen to Alexander (and probably you too when you were just a kid having your own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days). My own children had cub scouts and soccer practice, so they were pretty mad that they didn't get to see this amusing, clever, well done, very good show, since they love the book too. “Alexander” runs this week only, every night at 7:30 pm through Saturday April 21st. And it's only an hour long, so you can still get the kids home in bed in plenty of time for a school night.   Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for faculty, staff, senior citizens and alumni and $3 for Eureka College students and are available by calling 309-467-6363.  For more information, visit
Posted April 19, 2012

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