How To Eat Like A Child a delightful romp through childhood-Joshua Jansen
Often as adults it’s easy to forget the small pleasures and struggles of childhood. Those memories and moments somehow get locked away and rarely come to mind. A new production of How To Eat Like A Child and other lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up is currently on stage in Waterloo New York and being presented by the Seneca Community Players as the kick off to their 50th anniversary season. The delightful children’s musical with book by Delia Ephron, John Forster and Judith Kahan with music and lyrics by John Forster is based on the book by Delia Ephron and follows a group of children through multiple vignettes on the trials, celebrations, and nuances of childhood. The Seneca Community Players production is directed by SCP President and veteran director Eric Jansen with choreography and music direction by Kaylee Millerd. Remaining performances are being held at the Lafayette theater on Main Street in Waterloo on July 29 and 30th at 7pm and tickets are available both online at the SCP website and at the door.
The Musical follows a troupe of children from 7 to 14 years of age as they offer to pull back the curtain on the mysterious world of childhood and teach their audience this subtle artform of “child code”. The lessons are short, sweet, and often full of tongue and cheek fun, with subjects that range from (as the title suggests) how to eat (or not) certain foods, to annoying one’s sister, and faking being sick to stay home from school, among others.
Director Eric Jansen brings together several firsts in this production, including his debut in directing a musical. Much of the cast also takes the stage; in what is for many of them their first theatrical experience. The biggest first of course is SCP’s Young Players taking the stage in this historic venue. Those familiar with Waterloo may not recognize the name Lafayette Theater but do recognize the address on historic Main Street. The theater is the auditorium space at the former Waterloo Main Street school, which has hosted multiple grade levels over the decades but was shuttered completely in 2014. Recently, the building has been given new life and is in the process of being redeveloped into senior housing, but the historic auditorium is being saved and the Seneca Community Players are making the space their permanent home.
This exciting new life as the Lafayette Theater helps to take the audience literally and figuratively back to school adding to the authenticity of the performance and helping to inspire memories of theater-goers’ own elementary school days. The cast then invites the audience on a journey that twists, turns, and excites as only a story told by a child could. The most delightful part of this experience is that the cast is not playing characters but instead playing themselves in fictional situations that they identify with. This choice by Jansen along with an artful attention to the personalities of this ensemble make for a very truthful and authentic performance. Opening night, the audience was a buzz at intermission as patrons engaged with each other about how the stories on stage were reminiscent of their own.
The Set for the production designed by Seth Kennedy while simple allows for nearly seamless transitions that suggest the various locations and allow the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps. The cast does a great job moving the larger-than-life alphabet blocks to create the scenes of each lesson. The periaktoi backdrop is a tool of a well-studied theatrical practitioner that successfully surprises the audience as the scenes shift. The lighting and sound are both simple but relatively well executed and do not detract from the honesty of the piece. Intermission and pre-show music that fit the theme of the production would be an appreciated addition to an already strong showing.
How to Eat Like a Child is certainly worth braving the heat for and will send you home with a smile on your face and perhaps a tune stuck in your head. The cast is high energy and authentic and performs as a strong ensemble that is then embellished by memorable solo moments. A few such solos that are particularly memorable include “Why Should a Kid Have to Walk” performed by Mariella Kelley who as a student entering 5th grade commands the stage with truth and comedy that makes you smile from ear to ear. Aiyanika Gittens also has a powerhouse solo titled “Sayonara” that truly captures the injustice a child feels when being sent to their room.
All in all Seneca Community Players production of How To Eat Like A Child is a fun, family friendly night out that speaks to the child in all of us. I encourage you to let this cast and crew take you back to school and I commend all involved in their efforts to relaunch the Young Players program, open their season, and to bring life back to this dormant stage.
Joshua Jansen holds a BFA in technical theater from SUNY Fredonia. He is the technical director for the Atlanta Opera Company in Atlanta, Ga. He has held similar positions at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, Winnipesaukee, NH and Naperville North High School, Naperville, Il.