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A CurtainUp Review

The Parrot
By Amanda Cooper

Elizabeth Daniels and Renoly Santiago
Elizabeth Daniels and Renoly Santiago
Most family musicals or plays are revivals or direct adaptations of a popular kids book. It was refreshing to attend The Flea Theater's and Talking Band's world premiere of The Parrot and hear new music and a story that though loosely based on an Italian folktale is filled with modernized moments that overflow with creativity.

It was also pleasing to have a female protagonist who does not yearn for a prince. Instead we have Bela, played earnestly and solidly by Elizabeth Daniels, who is an upbeat, intelligent, independent teenager who lives a seemingly normal life with her mother. Instead of the fairy tale ending with the prince, this tale brings the magic of imagination into the life of a street smart modern kid.

The title comes into play as the story moves forward and a tropical parrot flies into Bela's urban house. This parrot comes bearing a tale about a princess with the same name as our heroine. Simultaneously, the thick, privileged son of Bela's mother's boss, BB Jr., has aspired to win Bela's heart by inveigling his way into her house. BB Jr and his sidekick Grovel (played by Matthew Dellapina and Paul Iacono respectively) are the comic relief for the kids. Their doofus-humor one-dimensional but solid. To fill the stage throughout the show, there's a chorus of parrots headed by graceful Renoly Santiago, as well as an ensemble of other characters that include animated furniture and appliances.

The score by Talking Band's Ellen Maddow is upbeat, the music filled with sweet rhymes and staccato phrasing. Though perhaps simplistic at times, it is always pleasing to the ear, and never gets in the way of the story's forward progression. Writer/director Paul Zimet's script, like the stage movements, os purposeful and direct, though not as robust as the visuals. The bright colors and funky designs of the costumes and puppets secure the individuality of the characters.

Though this may not be a groundbreaking piece of family theater, quality performances for New York City youngsters are a limited commodity. Therefore, before you buy tickets to take your kids to The Wiggles, consider The Parrot instead -- but don't wait too long since it's scheduled to close on February 22nd!

The Parrot
Written and Directed by Paul Zimet
Music composed and Directed by Ellen Maddow

Cast: Elizabeth Daniels, Matthew Dellapina, Paul Iacono, Renoly Santiago, Scott Blumenthal, Steven Rosen, Carolyn Goelzer, Autumn Dornfeld and Kimberly Gambino
Set Design: Nic Ularu
Puppet and Mask Design: Ralph Lee
Lighting Design: Lenore Doxsee
Costume Design: Kiki Smith
Choreography: Karinne Keithley
Running Time 65 minutes

The Flea and Talking Band at The Flea Theater 41 White Street in TriBeCa, 212-352-3101
January 21 - February 22, 2004.
Wednesday at 11am, Thursday - Saturday at 7pm, Saturday at 3pm and select Sunday Matinees at 1pm and 5pm.
Tickets are $15 through February 8, and $20 through February 22.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on February 5th, 2004 performance

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