Where's Spot, his mother wonders? Is that lovable little puppy in the closet? No; that's a bear with a honey pot. In the piano? No; that's one of his animal friends (a hippo, though we can't tell). Under the rug? No; that's a cute turtle puppet.
Each time, 2-year-old Ava bubbled with laughter. What toddler doesn't love hide-and-seek?
Seattle Children's Theatre's world premiere of Adventures with Spot, adapted from the books by Eric Hill, is meant for children ages 2 through 7. I wondered about that wide age range, but the play held the rapt attention of both Ava and her 6-year-old sister, Taylor. Most of the children in the opening-night performance were 4 to 6 years old, and they looked absolutely delighted.
Spot himself, played with endearing enthusiasm by SCT regular Don Darryl Rivera, immediately draws the audience in. The physical humor brought the most enjoyment.
Spot tries to reach high enough to slip a letter into a mailbox, a routine involving a see- saw, a friend and a toilet. Spot and his mouse friend help mom make a cake for dad with lots of flour, more sugar, marshmallows, a whole tuna fish … and a remote control. Spot joyfully flies his kite, until it gets caught in that pesky tree; can his friend the kangaroo help?
All of Spot's adventures play on things common to children's lives, including getting a package with their name on it, going for a walk in the woods, getting just a little scared and losing a beloved toy – or bone. And every child has been tripped up trying to get their hands into coat sleeves, exaggerated in one of the play's most hilarious bits.
Woven throughout are Spot's love for his mom and dad and grandparents and his careful way of asking permission before he goes out to play or opens his package. His desires to do the right thing and to be kind and respectful to his friends shine through. The ending sketch when Spot says goodnight to his nocturnal friends and cuddles under the blanket while mom and dad read a story taps into the greatest source of a child's comfort and joy.
It was fun to watch Ava, seeing her first live theater performance, follow the action, crane her neck to see the funny animal puppets and clap with delight when she saw others clapping. The long bench seats in the theater allow some moving around and wiggling for the younger viewers, although there isn't floor seating. The hour-long show has a 15-minute intermission, when children can run up and down the ramps and stairs in the large lobby area. Ava's attention waned a little in the second half and she moved around on the adjoining steps during some of the short song-and-dance numbers.
This is a great show for your preschoolers and it will work well for your 2- and 3-year-olds if they have attention spans beyond five minutes.
However, at the end of the show there was a meet-the-characters, question-and-answer session, including an audience participation skit on making a cake. Not happening with a toddler. She was out of there!
IF YOU GO
Where: Seattle Children’s Theatre, 201 Thomas St., Seattle Center.
When: Through May 5. Thursdays and Fridays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 5:30 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ASL interpreted performance Saturday, April 27, 2 p.m.
Age recommendation: 2 to 7.
Cost: Ranges from $20 to $36.
Parking: On-street is limited and metered. Closest parking garage is on First Avenue North between North Thomas and North John Streets near Key Arena ($10 for up to 10 hours).
Contact: 206-859-4054; www.sct.org.
Wenda Reed is a Bothell writer and theater-lover.