Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Singin' in the Rain, Drinking Habits, and Gypsy

Jon Gentry and Katie McFadzen
Photo by Tim Trumble
Children's book author and illustrator Eric Carle wrote over 70 books that have sold millions of copies, including his 1969 classic "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." While Carle passed away last year, Jonathan Rockefeller and his Rockefeller Productions previously created a stage production based on Carle's works titled The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. Childsplay presented the show three years ago and, due to an overwhelming response, has brought the charming, creative and crowd-pleasing production back. With 75 puppets, familiar stories, and an abundance of rich, creative elements, it makes for a wonderful introduction for young children to the joys of live theatre.

Rockefeller's show has had numerous productions, including an Off-Broadway run that was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. This 45-minute adaption of four of Carle's classic children's stories includes "Brown Bear, Brown Bear," "The Very Lonely Firefly," "10 Little Rubber Ducks," and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." With a cast of four who clearly and directly recite the words from the books, the simple stories that have some important lessons unfold as they operate puppets of various shapes and size.

Director Dwayne Hartford and four of Childsplay's regular actors, Jon Gentry, Katie McFadzen, Lillie Richardson, and Debra K. Stevens, provide clear movement and assured puppeteering skills, which effectively bring Rockefeller's creations of Carle's illustrations vibrantly to life. David Goldstein's white set design serves as a beautiful, blank canvas that allows the colorful puppets to stand out. Rhythmic storytelling, entrancing musical underscoring by Nate Edmonson, rich lighting by Cody Soper (which was inspired by David Goldstein's original design and which beautifully mimics the colors of the puppets for one of the stories), and fun and creative puppets combine to create stage images that are mesmerizing at times.

The puppets, designed by Rockefeller Productions, are all true to Carle's illustrations and, since all four children's books are very well-known, young audience members recite the lines with the actors. That makes for a joyful, shared experience and also the type of show where, if you happen to have an unruly tyke who makes some noise during the show, it won't matter since, most likely, other members of the audience will also be participate by saying the lines from the books out loud.

With themes that focus on the connection between animals, metamorphosis, and the need for someone to find others who are like them, Carle's books have some simple life lessons that even younger children can understand. Childsplay's production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a rich and rewarding theatrical experience for young theatregoers and a way for parents and older audience members to reconnect with memories of reading Carle's books in their childhood.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show runs through March 13, 2022, at Childsplay, Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe St., Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, please visit or call the Herberger Box Office at 602-254-7399.

Directed by Dwayne Hartford
Scenic Designer: David Goldstein
Costume Designer: D. Daniel Hollingshead
Lighting Designer: Cody Soper, inspired by David Goldstein
Composer: Nate Edmonson Cast:
Jon Gentry
Katie McFadzen
Lillie Richardson
Debra K. Stevens