Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Theater review: Pinkalicious the Musical

Posted By on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 5:06 PM

Her dress, her room, her dreams, and her very soul are all pink. And after one too many pink cupcakes - or maybe five - and an attack of that rare disease, pinkititus, she's altogether pink from hair to toe. But in Pinkalicious the Musical, now at ImaginOn through May 5, our hearty heroine regards her affliction as Pinkatopia and only starts to lean toward moderation when her condition tips toward red.

As we come to learn, Pinkalicious Pinkerton's pink mania is embedded in her genes. Relatively speaking, her father, mother, and brother are closet pinkaholics, but they all band together in Pinkalicious' time of trial to take the radical cure prescribed for her by Dr. Wink: a totally green diet. Out with the food coloring and in with the brussels sprouts!

True to the tribulations of childhood, the medicine is worse than the disease. But lest you think this Children's Theatre of Charlotte production is all about juvenile comedy. This is a surprisingly satisfying musical directed and choreographed by Ron Chisholm. If you're not initiated in the Pinkalicious phenomenon, you'll at least be in for a unique theater experience. McColl Family Theatre was filled to the rafters with little pink princesses who adore the original book by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. The run of Pinkalicious was extended over a week ago due to ticket demand, so expect the same effervescent ambiance if you can snag tickets.

As their stage adaptation abundantly proves, the Kanns can do theatrical comedy at least as well as they can do kiddie book brevity. More shocking, their lyrics are terrific even though the original book doesn't rhyme - except in its mantra, "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." Now of course, the Kanns' lyrical proficiency in collaboration with John Gregor would all be wasted if Gregor's music didn't score.

Yet here is where Pinkalicious the Musical is most pepto-tastic, for the score not only trumps the recent revamp of Bunnicula that I saw off-Broadway, it eclipses that ***1/4 production in every respect except acting and scenery, where the two productions are merely equals. Aside from the musical score, which settles somewhere between Hairspray and Legally Blonde in excellence, the gap between Pinka and Bunni is opened up by the stellar singing, dancing, and costumes you'll encounter at ImaginOn.

Start with Cassandra Howley Wood in the title role, her best-calibrated performance since her stunning debut in Violet three years ago up in Davidson - yes, even better than her work in Putnam Spelling Bee last year at Theatre Charlotte. Exuberance and moodiness are both very human, not the cartoon brand, and she's a knockout singer without abandoning the childishness in her voice and manner.

Allison Rhinehardt and Steven Ivey are a wholesome Mom and Dad, laying down the law with an appealing laxness, and Peter, seemingly an older brother in this adaptation, is occasionally contradictory rather than hostile in Jordan Ellis' fine rendition. The real fun in the supporting cast is in the shape-shifting ensemble. Ashby Blakely gets to dress in drag as Dr. Wink, and Lucianne Hamilton runs her mouth in hyperdrive as Pinkalicious' best friend Alison. Olivia Edge completes the ensemble, joining them to become the three humongous dream cupcakes, singing what seems to be the tune of the Hitler youth song from Cabaret in high nasal Chipmunks harmony.

All hands and feet are on deck in Dr. Wink's office doing tapdance breaks in the "Pinkititus" show stopper. Then in far more garish attire, they return as the winged birds and bee who mistake Pinkalicious for a flower in the park. A few Charleston steps are tossed into that "Buzz Off" mayhem, underscoring how demanding Chisholm's dance rehearsals must have been. The overall effect of the boffo ensembles gets a big boost from Courtney Scott's eye-popping costumes.

It's a sobering moment when Pinkalicious must finally realize "there's a kink in pink." Otherwise, this whole show is as bright, energetic, and cheery as a fresh stalk of cotton candy and the whole circus to boot.

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