Reviewer: Kristine Gotham
Venue: Pit and Balcony Theatre
Walking into the theater last night, I was thrilled to see all the people. The lobby was filled with people picking up tickets, buying snacks and moving toward the theater, ready for a performance of Ramona Quimby. There were friends and family milling about, chatting with each other about their loved one, and carrying flowers to be presented to the aforementioned loved one at the end of the show. The anticipation was palpable, and the show did not disappoint.
Director, Amy Spadafore, selected a cast of individuals who blended together seamlessly to transport the audience to the world of Ramona Quimby, a third grader from Klickitat Street. Ramona, played by Karleigh Anderson, lives with her mother, Mrs. Quimby (Melanie Olk), father, Mr. Quimby (Nathan Cholger), and older sister, Beatrice (Riley Salvner), known as Beezus. Ramona’s favorite aunt, Aunt Bea (Michelle Mersey), lives in the city and visits regularly. Her best friend is Howie (Jack Rzepka), who lives with Ramona’s sometimes babysitter, Mrs, Kemp (Shirley Symon). Ramona’s world is rounded out with her teacher, Mrs. Griggs (Sandra Cline), frenemy Susan (Brynlee Ouellet), neighbor Adult Swing (Nikolas Conrad) and later, Uncle Hobart, Howie’s uncle, played by Dan Kettler. The cast is supported by a youth ensemble consisting of Dacoda Christenson, Natalie Kettler, RaQuel Ogweno, Grace Osborn, Avery Swartz and Layla Villanova.
Beezus serves as the narrator of the show. She introduces us to her family and the street where they live. She tells us about Mr. Quimby’s job at the frozen food warehouse, and how Mrs. Quimby stays home and makes the best cookies. With Beezus’ help we learn that Mrs. Griggs, Ramona’s teacher, is a difficult teacher to have, so Ramon’s problems with her are not all that surprising. Beezus also helps us to see that Ramona can sometimes be a pesty little sister but she loves her a lot.
The show moves mainly between the Quimby’s house on Klickitat Street and Ramona’s classroom at Glenwood School. We see Ramona when she is happy, like when Aunt Bea comes to visit, and we see her when she is angry/frustrated, when Susan steals her idea for a school project and is praised by their teacher. When the family is faced with a financial hardship, we witness Ramona worry about the family’s finances, and also dream about becoming an actor in commercials and making a million dollars so the family can go out to Whopper Burger and maybe to Disneyland. Ramona always strives to be herself, she doesn’t try to fit into anyone’s mold of who she should be. Her father describes her perfectly as his “little sparkler”. As the play moves on, Ramona learns that things don’t always go exactly as you would like them, but there are good things to be found and celebrated, and having a loving family, including a big sister, and good friends is the best thing of all.
Ramona’s world is created with the talents of Set Designer, Colorgia Romello. We are transported to a whimsical reality, where the houses are all bright colors and look reminiscent of a child’s drawing. The set is moveable, allowing for scenery to change easily by moving or turning the houses around.
Costumer Designer, Olivia Greanias, dressed the actors appropriately for the part they would play. The adults were dressed in business casual or casual clothes, while Ramona and her friends were dressed in jeans and comfy tennis shoes. Aunt Bea was in a dress, elevating her to a kind of ethereal, elegant being who floated in and out of Ramona’s daily world.
The technical team is rounded out with many others, who helped to create this wonderful show.
In addition to the action happening in the theater, there was a pop-up bookshop in the lobby. Production Partner, Leopard Print Books, provided theater goers with the chance to purchase Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary, as well as other books by Cleary and many other authors. Leopard Print Books can be found online at leopardprintbooks.com.
Ramona Quimby is a great chance to get out as a family. The play is child friendly, and if the laughs from the children in the audience are any indication, it is enjoyable too. Pit and Balcony offers a line of concessions to feed the hunger monster while enjoying the show. You have two more chances this weekend (Jan 27-29) and three chances next weekend (Feb 3-5) to be a part of the audience for this truly delightful show. Call the Box Office at 989-754-6587, visit online at pitandbalconytheatre.com, or come in person on show night. You won’t be disappointed.