Author Judith Viorst has been acclaimed for everything from her psychoanalytic studies to her amusing poetry books on the feminine condition throughout the decades (beginning with It’s Hard to be Hip Over 30 in 1968 and continuing on to I’m Too Young to be 70 in 2005). But, to certain age groups she is known exclusively as the beloved creator of the award winning children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Developed as a musical theatrical piece in 1998 by Viorst and composer Shelly Markham, Alexander is currently being given a very tender, extremely energetic production by Emerald City Theatre.
Waking up with gum in his hair, young Alexander soon finds his day on a continued downswing. His singing is determined to be too energetic for an upcoming recital just before he is banished from best friend status on the playground. A cavity, plain white sneakers and lima beans round out his exasperating day. Could an escape to Australia be the only solution to his continual woes?
Directed with joy and compassion by Ernie Nolan, this hour long piece contains plenty for the whole family to enjoy. While children will love the rambunctious humor, adults are given plenty laugh at with the skillfully delivered asides of the seasoned cast. Most importantly, everyone can relate to the very ordinary yet heartbreaking circumstances that the characters claim have created their very bad days. And while the show concludes with Alexander’s mother wishing him “The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days”, a beautiful song that has been famously covered by established cabaret star Karen Mason, there are no false illusions here. Tomorrow may be rough, as well. But, those who love Alexander offer up true hope that it will be better for him.
Performance wise, the manic charisma of Mark Kosten, as Alexander, is met with sweet sarcasm by Maddy LaRoche (whose “Lady, Lady” is a show highlight), knowing humor by Michael Rashid, exasperated joy by Tommy Bullington and a truly hilarious turn from RJ Silva as a Nirvana loving classmate of Alexander’s.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day, Very Bad Day runs through June 17th at the Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln Avenue, in Chicago. Tickets are $13-$16 and can be purchased by calling 773-935-6100 or by visiting www.emeraldcitytheatre.com. Emerald City, also, offers summer theatre classes for children. Information for those programs is available on the website, as well. —Brian Kirst