By Colin Douglas
Arnie the Doughnut, Laurie Keller’s deliciously imaginative series of beginning chapter books for young children, delightfully illustrated by the author, herself, is being brought to life at Lifeline’s famous Rogers Park family theatre.
Beginning its 35th season, multi Jeff Award-winning ensemble member Frances Limoncelli has written an adaptation that truly satisfies and puts a smile on every face. Capturing all the wit, wisdom and whimsy of this scrumptious, contemporary classic for kids, here’s a wonderful tale of friendship, learning to adapt to change and just being yourself.
Directed with captivating cleverness by Elise Kauzlaric, the 60-minute one-act also features a memorable, toe-tapping score by George Howe. Some of his songs include “Doughnuts Are Made for Eating,” “I Want to Be More Than Delicious,” “Play With Your Food,” “Quite a Bumpy Ride” and the thoroughly infectious ear worm, “Sunshiny Goodness.”
The production features a kid-friendly scenic design, inspired by the book’s expressionistic illustrations, and rendered three-dimensional in Sarah Lewis’ colorful backdrops and adaptable set pieces. Jenny Pinson’s imaginative props add to the fantasy of this story, while Rachel Sypniewski’s extraordinary costumes and puppets are sparkling and mouthwateringly magical. She’s built a fully-baked wardrobe that, among other costumes, creatively replicate four different life-size confectionery, deep-fried treats.
The five member cast, several of whom play multiple roles, is a sweet ensemble of talent. Juanita Andersen masterfully plays both an obnoxiously pompous French Cruller, as well as nasty, antagonistic Mrs. Plute, the overbearing, rule-obsessed President of the condo association. Maddie Dorsey is wonderful as the plucky Powdered Sugar Doughnut, and also the moustachioed Baker and Sheila, a young condo tenant who’s been terrorized by Mrs. Plute. Khloe Janel is kind and endearing as the jolly Jelly Doughnut and optimistic little Ronnie, another condo tenant.
David Gordon-Johnson makes a tastefully titillating Mr. Bing, a shy young man who one morning decides to break with his traditional plain friedcake and purchase a new kind of doughnut for breakfast. Once he recovers from the shock of having bought a talking doughnut, Mr. Bing becomes good friends with his purchase.
But the real star of this musical comedy is Arnie the Doughnut, brought to sparkling life by newcomer Jared Rein. This actor is making his auspiciously delicious debut at Lifeline playing the personable, rainbow-sprinkled, chocolate-frosted treat. Mr. Rein is very likable, easy to understand and very talented, as is the entire cast. Whether singing about the ingredients that result in a great doughnut, making new friends or solving problems, this cast, led by Rein, wins over their young audience in song and dance. In a word, this musical for young audiences is just plain delicious.
Lifeline Theatre presents “Arnie the Doughnut” through November 26 at 6912 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.