note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
The Wheelock Family Theatre is a marvel for many reasons: For its commitment to theater which reflects diversity; for its low ticket prices so whole families can attend together; For its quality work. Their latest achievement is to be the first theater in America offering open captioning for every performance. (It feels a little like the subtitles at the opera!) I was surprised at the number of times I used it when I didn’t quite catch a line.
Beverly Cleary’s delightful RAMONA QUIMBY (and her adorable family) come to life at Wheelock in a clever script by Len Jenkin, with a Motown score (to separate each scene) that had my audience of kids clapping in time to the music like they were my generation. The story finally rolls around to a moral about not always getting what you want (Hey, where was the Stones song which would have fit perfectly there?!!)… but most of the fun lies in the hilarious characterizations.
Andrea C. Ross makes Ramona twinkle with genuine star power and Wheelock regulars Jane Staab, Monique McIntyre, Ricardo Engerman, Wesley Taylor and Gary Ng have a grand time making the “ordinary” story (about Ken Baltin’s Dad losing his job and mom going off to work) tick along like clockwork. Director Susan Kosoff’s cast is first rate, with a positively teenybop performance from Helen McElwain as Ramona’s older sister, wonderful satire from Sarah Guyer Brown as a bored waitress (and several other roles), a vibrant turn by Sonya Raye as Ramona’s flamboyant aunt and best of all, another smashing comic performance from Maureen Keiller as Ramona’s (and everyone’s, I suspect) humorless third grade teacher.