Regional Reviews: Seattle
Harriet's Halloween Candy
Also see David's review of Wicked
In a role very similar to the better scripted title character of last season's Junie B. Jones (also at SCT), vivacious actress Liz McCarthy plays a young girl who will go to any lengths to score as much Halloween candy as is humanly possible, then hoards it from her friends and rambunctious toddler Brother. Ultimately, she learns more about the rewards of sharing. That is really all there is to the plot, and perhaps it reads better (in Nancy Carlson's popular kids book) than it plays out in Ann Schulman's stage adaptation. Apparently in the book all the characters were animals, but only vestiges of that remain and are puzzling to those not acquainted with the book.
Veteran Seattle composer-lyricist Chad (Angry Housewives) Henry has contributed a pleasant but not hugely memorable set of songs to pad out the action, which still comes in at under 90 minutes. That those 90 minutes doesn't feel longer is due to the bouncy, committed performances of the show's dynamic cast.
Liz McCarthy keeps Harriet from being a pale clone of Junie B. Jones with her wry, grumpy portrayal, and sings Henry's songs with as much fervor as she would were the score by Sondheim. As her key friends, there is much charm and little sentimentality in the able efforts of Jason Collins as George, Auston James as Ed, Nicole Boote (the show's choreographer who stepped in at the last minute for an injured actress) as Tina, and especially winsome Caety Sagoian as friend Luanne and rollicking little brother Walter.
As Harriet's parents and other adult characters, Maggie Stenson and Alban Dennis are both a joy to watch, with Stenson's schoolteacher and wacky Southern fried neighbor lady a special delight. Musical director Mark Rabe makes everyone sound super and plays the onstage piano with verve. Choreographer Boote keeps the cast stepping lively.
Between Edie Whitsett's bright, technicolor-hued sets, Scott Gray's equally attractive and colorful sets, the show looks good. The under-eight set should find Harriet's Halloween Candy mostly to their taste. For everyone else it is at best a mildly pleasant and inoffensive diversion, but definitely a second-tier SCT production, given many of the company's more all-encompassing efforts.
Harriet's Halloween Candy runs through Nov. 12 at Seattle Children's Theatre, 201 Thomas Street, in Seattle Center. For more information go on-line at www.sct.org.
- David-Edward Hughes