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Simple and simpler: If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

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The holiday misadventures of a little boy and a littler mouse don't figure to be the ideal vehicle for family enjoyment and nostalgia, but take a look at the Children's Theatre production of If You Take a Mouse to the Movies and you'll find that's exactly what this makeover has accomplished. Set design by Bob Croghan at McColl Family Theatre takes us back to a simpler age of children's books and devoutly two-dimensional popup illustrations. A cutout ImaginOn even rolls across the upstage as Mouse and Boy walk to the movies. Costumes by Courtney Burt Scott and props by Peter Smeal chime in with complementary quaintness.

Rapport between Mark Sutton and Nicia Carla is far more retro, hearkening back to the days of silent movies and vaudeville. Neither says anything for quite awhile in the opening tableau as we find Boy and Mouse at home in pre-holiday bustle. From beginning to end, director Alan Poindexter shamelessly stretches out the thin story, but there's always a laugh in the lagniappe.

Whether Mouse is thwarting Boy's efforts to wrap her Christmas gift, wreaking havoc at the movies, or turning the living room into Glitterworld, Carla is delightfully cheerful and insouciant in dishing out Mouse's mischief. Malice? Never! Just Mouse being Mouse.

Sutton copes beautifully with Mouse's flightiness and zaniness. He's responsible enough to occasionally resist -- and be bothered by -- Mouse's unruliness, klutzy enough to be victimized by her antics, and immature enough to occasionally forget about her and let her run wild. Above all, he's boy enough to value Mouse's friendship, yield to some of her wacky impulses, and have a few fun ideas of his own.

As you might have guessed, Take a Mouse is pretty low on deep seasonal meaning, but it's high in slapstick comedy satisfaction.

Oh. My. Gah. The word "cool" does not belong in any review of the touring production of Grease that descended upon us last week. There wasn't a single performer onstage at Ovens Auditorium who seemed to grasp the concept as propounded in the '50s by teen bobbysoxers and rocks. Grabbing gals' boobs and butts and guys' crotches may be the new wave today, but in the decade of turned-up collars, ponytails and Bobby Rydell? No.

Strapped into a milkshake-shaped elevator, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks headlined this debacle as Teen Angel. To be fair, the raunchiness and vulgarity had abated somewhat by the time the supernova appeared briefly halfway through Act 2. Strangely, Hicks didn't succeed in upstaging the load-bearing performers, Laura D'Andre as Rizzo, Lauren Ashley Zarkin as Sandy and David Ruffin as Kenickie. I marveled at the greased edifice of Mark Raumaker's hair as dreamboat Danny Zuko, but nothing else.

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