Theatre Raleigh’s 2015 world-premiere dance/theater piece, The Wolf, is back, as part of the theater company’s new Family Festivities series; and it’s easy to see why this Family Festivities show has made a triumphant return. Joe Calarco’s script cleverly combines three wolf-centric fairy tales — The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Three Little Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood — creating a more elaborate plot, with unique character surprises and excitement. This makes for a lighter, happier Into the Woods Jr. feel.
The talent in this short 60-minute show is immense. The directing and choreography of Theater Raleigh artistic director Lauren Kennedy showcase all the incredible dancing and acrobatics of the young cast; the lovely immersive set by Thomas Mauney makes the audience feel like they’re inside the show; and Allison White (costumes) and Denise Schumaker (props) create wonderful visuals for the whole cast.
Quincy Ellis plays The Wolf, and his expressions and impressive gymnastic feats are a highlight of the production. Riley Rose Campbell (cat/fox) and Kameron Draper (mouse/rabbit) also stand out for their impressive technique and adorable animal moments.
The young main cast are solid performers. William Kalland, who played Peter at the 12 p.m. Sunday performance, was effectively moody and confused as to why his efforts to get what he wanted kept being frustrated, and his growth from that state of frustration is clear.
Chloe Calhoun, who plays Scarlett, adds subtlety to her strong, moralistic character’s actions and reactions to Peter, and owns her own character’s transformation in a crisis. Evan Tylka (Jack/Dog/Raccoon) is snappy and an excellent foil to Peter, but his human character isn’t involved in much of the main plot, which allows him to showcase his excellent movement abilities as animal characters.
Adult actors Timothy P. Caudle and Mary Kathryn Walston are joyful additions to the cast. They portray various grown-ups in the show with enthusiasm.
The ensemble of skilled dancers (Becky Layko, Sean Michael Jaenicke, William Thomason, Meagan Mackenzie Chieppor, and Victoria Moore) are the heart of the show; and they keep the energy up while interacting with audience members and executing moves to Andre Catrini’s lovely score. Their animal portrayals are likewise energetic.
The performances, music, design, and direction do well to overcome a problematic script. Issues include putting the central lead male character in a very clichéd love triangle, which is his motivation for the entire story. The nuances of the actors saved this awkward setup with their characterizations.
Scarlett is the quintessential strong female lead. Despite her herculean efforts to assist Peter, all the focus is still on Peter; and no credit is given to Scarlett, except by the audience. Other issues include, having ethical animal treatment and environmental crisis quandaries brought up only to be limply explained away or forgotten.
Another plot problem is using children’s love of farm animals to compel them to save those animals from being eaten by a natural outside predator only to be eaten by humans (obviously implied). The treatment of The Wolf himself is commendable, if not also problematic and simplistic. Nevertheless, any story that champions a peaceful resolution over violence is a welcome change.
Global warming is also mentioned early on — perhaps to get a laugh — but the script only mentions displaced wildlife as a symptom of global warming — which is why the wolf is around — and leaves the audience wondering about humans’ land consumption, factory farms, and their contributions to global warming/wildlife displacement.
Bringing up these issues, especially with children, is great and should be tackled more; but the script doesn’t fully consider them. What’s left is a sloppy and clichéd story, dotted with some progressive and interesting moments, but ultimately lacking in a cohesive message, ignoring all the moral dilemmas it brought up. The script is clever, but leaves this reviewer wishing The Wolf had considered more, especially because it is aimed at children; and they are smart and paying attention. It raises important questions, but then it glosses over them.
Don’t miss this rare second chance to see such a well-built and extraordinarily performed show. Everyone is sure to be delighted and have a great time. We hope to see more exciting professional family theater from Theatre Raleigh in the future!
SECOND OPINION: March 6th Raleigh, NC SobeSavvy review by #OutandAboutAva: https://sobesavvy.com/2016/03/06/outandaboutava-enjoys-the-wolf-theatre_raleigh-trthewolf-raleigh-familyfun-soncsavvy/; and March 6th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Sarah Lindenfeld Hall for “Go Ask Mom“: http://www.wral.com/raleigh-to-broadway-and-back-performer-brings-theater-to-kids/15485965/ and Feb. 9th preview by Sarah Lindenfeld Hall for “Go Ask Mom“: http://www.wral.com/-the-wolf-returns-to-theatre-raleigh/15280714/.
Theatre Raleigh presents THE WOLF at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. March 10 and 11; 12, 3, and 6 p.m. March 12 and 13; 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. March 17 and 18; and 12, 3, and 6 p.m. March 19 and 20 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, NC 27601.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 children 12 and under), except $5 per student for matinee performances for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: 919-832-9997 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/953591.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): email@example.com or http://www.theatreraleigh.com/familyfestivities/group-tickets/.
SHOW: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/familyfestivities/ and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/the-wolf-6200.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyhoIJJ9GwE&feature=youtu.be.
“FAMILY FESTIVITIES” SERIES: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/familyfestivities/.
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.
Joe Calarco (Washington, DC playwright): http://joecalarco.blogspot.com/ (his blog), https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/262 (Playscripts, Inc.), https://www.facebook.com/joecalarconyc (Facebook page), and https://www.twitter.com/joecalarconyc (Twitter page).
Andre Catrini (New York City composer): http://www.andrecatrini.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/andre.catrini (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/andrecatrini (Twitter page).
Lauren Kennedy (New York City director and choreographer and Theatre Raleigh artistic director): http://laurenkennedy.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=70340 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2757787/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/slaurenkennedy (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/slaurenkennedy (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Kennedy (Wikipedia).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Diana Cameron McQueen of Raleigh, NC is an actor working in the Triangle area and beyond. She is a lifelong theatergoer, which she credits as her real theater education. She is an alumna of Enloe High School in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). After returning to Raleigh in 2012, she debuted as an actor in the area. McQueen is mostly known for her performances as Vanda in Venus in Fur (2015) at Raleigh Little Theatre and as Queen Elizabeth I in The Lost Colony (2013-14) in Manteo, NC; and she most recently starred as Louise in The Underpants at Theatre in the Park in Raleigh. She’s passionate about and advocates for diversity and representation in media. McQueen lives with two very lovable cats, Odin and Aurelia. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.