I've seen a fair amount of children's theater and now that I've seen Dear Edwina - I've seen perfection.
My only fear, after seeing the show, was this: how would I adequately describe just how amazing the show is to people who have not yet seen it but who I am ultimately trying to persuade to go see it? Should I invent a new superlative? What's the greatest way to say great? The most terrific adjective for terrific?
Alas, I say simply this: Dear Edwina is the perfect kid's musical comedy. It combines super catchy singalong songs with an endearing, moral-at-the-end story while never once feeling preachy.
Edwina is a wise-beyond-her-years newly minted teenager who dispenses advice to neighborhood kids. She does so in the form of a weekly live show held in her parent's garage. Edwina and her production crew friends act out the questions then sing and dance out the advice. In the end, Edwina and her friends learn a valuable life lesson about being yourself and what it means to be truly happy - an important message for anyone but especially for young girls and boys.
The greatness of Dear Edwina is that there is no weak spot, not a single breath is wasted in this punchy, touching and delightful kid's musical. The original show, from the talented ladies who brought Junie B. Jones to the stage, lasts a touch over an hour. It features snappy dance numbers, unbelievably clever lyrics and so much heart that even a cynical seen-it-all-before-theater-veteran adult will be smiling from the tickling of the ivories at the open to the ukulele strumming at the close.
The Mrs. and I took the Bear, who has loved all the musicals she's seen to this point both live and on film (Singin' in the Rain, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, An American in Paris and Mary Poppins), to see Dear Edwina last Saturday. While she's still too young (4 3/4) to get some of the school-age humor, she thoroughly enjoyed the singing, music (piano and percussion) and choreography. After the show, while we ate lunch at PIE, the Mrs. remarked that she didn't seem to laugh at any of the funny lines. The Bear responded very matter-of-factly in saying "Mommy, that's because I was really interested!"
And she was. There was non-stop fun on stage and she watched it all intently, not taking her eyes off the action for even a moment. On the ride home from Manhattan, the Bear had a three word phrase from one of the songs stuck in her head. She kept singing it incorrectly over and over, for over an hour. Once back home, I played the song for her online and now have created a monster. Twice nightly (at least) the Bear performs her very condensed version of Dear Edwina for the Mrs, the Mouse and I - and always to a standing-O!
Taking any youngster, but especially one between the ages of 7-13, to see Dear Edwina would be a wonderfully unique Holiday gift. The experience of great live theater is something that will stay with them for much longer than their interest in a random toy.
Tickets are on sale through Sunday January 25th 2009. All tickets are $39 and there isn't a bad seat in the intimate house located just a 1/2 block from Union Square Park.
Listen to three tracks, including Edwina's defacto theme song "Sing Your Own Song", and stream two live video clips of the show here.