For children, the life-sized elephant puppet may be the highlight of Walden Family Playhouse's Toby and the Big Top. But adults will be amazed by the sense of nostalgia for an old-time circus re-created by internationally accomplished artists. "We're kind of re-creating the turn-of-the-century circus that stopped a rural town in its tracks," says Walden artistic director Douglas Love. "It's a real celebration of what a circus is."
In the musical production, young Toby runs away from his uncle's Nebraska farm to join the traveling circus. While there, he meets the apeman, the lizard lady and their daughter; an evil ringmaster; and a father and son who perform a strong-man act. As Toby goes from cleaning up after horses to cleaning up after elephants, he realizes that circus life is less than glamorous. In addition to a nearly authentic circus performance, the audience gets an insider's view of life under the big top.
The elaborate, larger-than-life set was designed by the theater faculty from the University of Northern Colorado for the sixty-foot-wide Playhouse stage. Edwin Gerard is the director; the script is by New York City playwright Julia Jordan, who adapted it from James Otis's classic Toby Tyler; and music is by Erik Della Penna, who has worked on songs for Joan Osborne and Natalie Merchant.
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Toby and the Big Top opens at noon today and has daytime shows through July 27. Walden Family Playhouse is at 14500 West Colfax Avenue at Colorado Mills in Lakewood. For tickets ($14 to $16) and a complete performance schedule, call 303-590-1475. -- Jonelle Wilkinson Seitz
Film vs. book sparks debate
Everyone's a critic -- even our kids, who have way more free time than we do to spin out there in the wilds of popular culture. And because they have time to actually think, they might be better equipped than we are to make decisions about what's good or bad. Each summer, junior media pundits rule at the Book Was Better?! Film Series, a joint project of the Boulder Public Library and Colorado Chautauqua Association. This week's kick-off flick is Disney's Mulan, which screens at 7 p.m. this evening at the Chautauqua Community House, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder; Fa Mulan, Robert San Souci's written interpretation of the Chinese legend, is the subject of a subsequent book discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, at the Boulder Public Library, 1000 Canyon Boulevard. Kids of all ages and their families are welcome to participate; film admission is $2 and the discussions are free. For details, contact Chautauqua, at 303-440-7666 or www.chautauqua.com, or the BPL, at 303-441-3099 or www.boulder.lib.co.us. -- Susan Froyd