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STAGE REVIEW

Fairy tale characters to the rescue in ‘Calvin’s Monster’

Tracy Keegan

The cast of “Calvin’s Monster,’’ a Boston Children’s Theatre musical adapted from the book “Fairy Tale Moments (Who Is Your Giant?)’’ by Marcia Trimble.

A simple story about confronting one’s fears has been transformed into a charming, high-energy musical by Boston Children’s Theatre, which is giving the show its world premiere. “Calvin’s Monster,’’ adapted by BCT executive artistic director Burgess Clark, suggests that knowledge and the support of friends help, no matter what scares us.

Based on Marcia Trimble’s engaging book “Fairy Tale Moments (Who Is Your Giant?)’’ and featuring a collection of hummable tunes by Jesse Soursourian and Austin Davy, “Calvin’s Monster’’ opens with an up-tempo rock song that introduces the audience to our hero, played with ease and a terrific singing voice by Colin Budzyna.

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Terrified that a monster is following him, Calvin takes refuge in a library. There he meets Mrs. Knowley (the delightfully expressive Shana Dirik), a librarian who seems part fairy godmother and part wizard, and is quick with quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Werner Herzog, and everyone in between. Although Mrs. Knowley encourages Calvin to read, he’d rather play a game on his iPhone. But when she suggests he turn to his favorite fairy tale character, Peter Pan, to help him face his monster, Calvin makes the effort and opens a book.

With a little help from the audience, Mrs. Knowley and Calvin conjure up Peter Pan (Nolan Murphy), who, in turn, uses his cellphone to call a meeting of the Fairy Tale Club. In short order, Snow White (Kristina Kastrinelis), Rapunzel (Natalie Vatcher), Cinderella (Rachel Padell), Little Red Riding Hood (Emily Pinto), and Jack (Alex Levy) - of beanstalk fame - all arrive to help Calvin confront the monster that’s left him cowering.

Clark, who directs, keeps the action moving briskly, using a game-show format in which the fairy tale characters play “Meet My Monster.’’ As host, Peter asks each member of the Fairy Tale Club to reveal a fear in order to show Calvin that everyone is afraid of something. The talented teen actors provide their fairy tale characters with unique and winning personality traits, and Clark’s dialogue has enough jokes to entertain parents as well as kids.

Before you can say “boo,’’ a dragon named Irving (Alex Aroyan) and the Wolf (Kevin Paquette) appear to talk about how hard it is to be judged as monsters, then team up for the show’s best song, “We’re Just Two Friends You Haven’t Met.’’

Dahlia Al-Habieli’s detailed library set feels cozy and inviting, with enough nooks and crannies for lighting designer Ben Williams to create some spooky shadows. Choreographer Briana Fallon has fun with the production number “Monsters Everywhere,’’ in which all of the characters dance with flashlights under their chins.

With its toe-tapping score, an enormously talented cast, and a creative team that includes a live four-piece band, “Calvin’s Monster’’ brings out the best in Trimble’s story and helps take children of all ages to, as one song puts it, “the other side of afraid.’’

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.
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