Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse’s New Family Musical Thanks for the President is based on the 2008 book of the same name, written by Kelly DiPucchio. Children’s theatre, as the live performance medium for the adaptation of these books, is magical for children – it brings all the familiar characters and important messages to life, working wonders for young imaginations. And Circa 21’s Grace for President on April 23 delivered an adorable and spirited performance that no doubt engaged and inspired hopeful young politicians.
In this hour-long presentation, college student Grace Campbell is left bewildered after realizing there hasn’t been an American president, so she runs for class president against her male opponent. During production, we receive important messages about voting, recycling and friendship. And while, unfortunately, no elementary-aged child is going to come out and immediately run for President of the United States or vote midterm november (mark your diaries, adults!), this musical shows the importance of voting and using your voice. This is relevant and important for children to see, and delivered, here, through fun song-and-dance numbers and larger-than-life child characters.
Our titular heroine is Audrey Seneli, and as the only non-adult actress on the show, she proves way beyond her years as a performer. Seneli portrayed the charismatic Grace in this professional production with pleasure and well, and shared the stage with six equally talented and charismatic people, some of whom doubled in multiple roles.
Of the actors who leaned into their characters’ youthful energy, Marc Christopher, in particular, really focused on the out-of-the-dreamland nature of a bored schoolboy with his portrayal of Grace’s classmate, Henry. He also played the role of Thomas, the know-it-all teacher’s pet, who was Grace’s presidential opponent in the class president election, and also served double duty with the members of the cast Rachel Winter, Lexi Rae Smith and Emmett Boedeker, who played school kids. and teachers. They all changed their demeanor by playing different age roles while providing clear differentiations for younger audiences to follow.
Rounding out the cast were Sarah Hayes as Robbie, a cool student with a retro hat and peer of Grace, and Derrick Bertram as Sam, a quiet kid whom Grace befriends. Grace and Sam’s friendship was endearing throughout, and Sam’s struggle between the girls’ side against the boys in the election was enjoyable. About halfway through the play, Thomas hands Sam a felt tip pen and they start singing in a barbershop quartet alongside the other male students in the room in an effort to win Sam’s vote. Moments like this These were fun for the kids, but also entertaining for us adults, who actually know what a barbershop foursome is. (This family-friendly musical also has other jokes “for older audiences,” including Richard Nixon’s stellar impression of Sam during a classroom lesson on American presidents.)
Ashley Becher directed and choreographed Thanks for the President, creating energetic musical numbers about our political leaders, voting, and more. And the actors interacted with the audience in impressive ways, asking audience members questions and going down the aisles, and even educating the kids about all things political. Some of their questions I also didn’t know 100% the answer to, so when you bring your own kids to see this, you might find yourself getting a lesson from the US government too!
Set designers Becher and Nick Divarco helped shape this patriotic classroom environment, which lined the back wall with the faces of all of America’s presidents and had moving sets that proved versatile in staging. One moment I particularly enjoyed was their use of a table (a piece from the main Circa ’21 show Only desserts) on which a child was pushed around the stage. Meanwhile, lighting designer Kendall McKasson and costume designer Ellie Larson created bright, upbeat visuals that complemented the stage design, and sound design by Sam Ramont opened the show with a beautiful soundscape of presidential quotes. , setting the stage for Grace’s eventual presidential trip.
Around 21 years Thanks for the President is an endearing musical that children should see. It’s light and fun, but also includes relevant messages that are important to young audiences. Young voices matter, and this is a very simple and empowering testament to that – and any elementary-aged child who watches this will get something out of it, whether they leave voting-inclined midway through Nov. 8 or nope.
Thanks for the President is taking place at Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse (1828 Third Avenue, Rock Island IL) through May 14, and more information and tickets are available by calling (309) 786-7733 ext 2 or visiting Circa21.com .