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Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Tomás & The Library Lady
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of The Women of Lockerbie, Seven Guitars, The Savannah Sipping Society, Something Rotten!, Hairspray, and Ragtime

Elizabeth Polen and Enrique Guevara
Photo by Tim Trumble
Almost every book lover remembers the first time they fell in love with reading. Pat Mora's children's novel "Tomás & The Library Lady," which is based on a true story, shows how the books in a local library opened up a world of adventure for the young son of migrant workers named Tomás. Mora's book was adapted into a one-act stage version by Childsplay in 2006 and they have brought that show back with a gifted cast who create a sweet, simple and straightforward yet poignant production of this true tale.

The plot follow Tomás and his family who have temporarily relocated to Iowa from Texas to pick crops. Tomás' Papa Grande often tells him stories which inspire Tomás' imagination. One day the young boy wanders into the local library where he meets the sweet Library Lady who exposes him to the endless adventures in the books at his disposal. In turn, Tomás teaches the Library Lady some Spanish words as they form a unique friendship.

Mora based the book on a true story in the life of Tomás Rivera who was the son of migrant workers and who eventually became the first minority Chancellor of the University of California Riverside, where the library now bears his name. José Cruz González adapted the book into a swift-paced 45-minute show that uses both English and Spanish to tell the story. He also wrote a few short songs that help bridge the scenes together and move the story along.

Childsplay's production is smartly directed by David Saar who keeps the pace lively and fun before it briefly dips into a slightly more dramatic territory at the end. With just a few small adjustments, Holly Windingstad's simple set becomes the various locales in the story while the dynamic animated projections from Anthony Runfola echo the imagination in the stories Tomás reads. With changes in their accents as well as a few costume pieces, Enrique Guevara and Elizabeth Polen beautifully portray the two main characters as well as members of Tomás' family with ease and dexterity.

While this story may play better for younger audience members, the gentle tale of one boy's growing imagination and his friendship with a librarian who is eager to feed his hunger for knowledge is one that anyone with a desire learn new things can relate to.

Tomás and the Library Lady at Childsplay runs through November 12th, 2017, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe AZ, with performances on Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale at or at the Tempe Center for the Arts Box Office 480-350-2822 (ext. 0)

Book, Music and Lyrics by José Cruz González, Music Arranged and Performed by Adam Jacobson, Adapted from the book by Pat Mora
Director: David Saar
Costume and Scenic Design: Holly Windingstad
Lighting Design: Kara Ramlow
Sound and Projection Design: Anthony Runfola
Vocal Coach: Tommy Strawser
Stage Manager: Koryn Weiman

Tomás: Enrique Guevara The Library Lady: Elizabeth Polen