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Center Stage

Children’s musical with creative camps are aplenty

5/1/2024

Madison Stone (left) is Ivy and Vivian Rosalie Coleman is Bean in “Ivy + Bean: The Musical,” May 3-12 at The Des Moines Playhouse. Photo by Steve Gibbons.

There is a special beauty about great stage scripts for children’s theatre. In the hands of an experienced producer such as the Kate Goldman Children’s Theatre at the Des Moines Community Playhouse, true magic manifests when the actors and the audiences combine to create meaningful memories through the power of live performing arts. A legacy of children’s theatre by this nationally recognized community theatre has been part of its programming for almost all of its 106-year-old history. Their May production of “Ivy + Bean: The Musical” holds an allure that blends a great story and music with its lead characters and meaningful content that will spark wonderful intergenerational conversations.

Annie Barrows created this show’s two lead characters inspired by the perpetual challenge of parents wanting to control who their children are friends with.

“My parents were forever trying to get me to like the kids of THEIR friends,” explained Barrows. “These kids were often weird. I didn’t want to play with them. It was a problem.

“I remembered that when I was writing the first ‘Ivy + Bean.’ Ivy and Bean are very different. Bean is loud and wild and goofy. She loves to be involved in games and poke her nose in other people’s business. Ivy is quiet and full of ideas. She spends most of her time learning how to be a witch. Each girl thinks the other one is weird. Each girl thinks she could never be friends with the other — especially because their parents keep nagging them about it. But sometimes opposites can become the best of friends BECAUSE they’re opposites. For example, people who like to talk need people who like to listen. And people with great ideas need people who can put those ideas into action.”

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Anne Frett directs this production, adding her own reasons why this show appeals. 

“The playfulness and creativity in the book come to life in the musical. Much of the story takes place through playing with friends and finding creative solutions to problems.

“Many of the events from the book also happen in the musical,” Frett continues, “including Nancy’s dancing spell. In the musical, the dancing spell turns Nancy into a silly Irish dancer, and the other kids join in the fun.”

When children’s literature comes to life on stage, it expands the minds of the young audiences, while allowing the adults to ride along in the wonderful experience. 

 

Other community children’s theater offerings to schedule

Two other venerable children’s theatre companies have shows this month. Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre has developed a more avant-garde approach, often tackling edgier material. Their “Marvel Spotlight – Squirrel Girl Goes to College” and “Hammered: A Thor and Loki Play” explore issues within the Marvel world of superheroes. CAP (Class Act Productions) Theatre in Altoona launches us into the world of Disney with their production of “Frozen Jr.” CAP has truly embraced their mission for children’s theatre: their operation, under the guidance of qualified adults and parents, allows students ages 7-17 to explore the world of performing arts through classes, performance and taking on production roles. The results are impassioned, joyous celebrations of performing arts for, by, and because of the students.

 

Something for your budding thespian

When adults take young people to experience children’s theatre, they often field questions about what it takes to be in a show. There are several area programs that give curious young ones the opportunity to explore the world of performing arts, especially if they don’t want to plunge into the deep end first through an audition for a show. 

The Des Moines Community Playhouse has well-established programming throughout the year, including a wonderful array of summertime camps. Their programming is designed for a variety of age groups. 

CAP offers several summer camps, each crafted to immerse the participants in various aspects of theatre. Tallgrass Theatre Company, in partnership with the West Des Moines Parks and Recreation, has expanded their Seedlings programming. Tallgrass has an impressive array of summer camps for various age groups. From this facet of Tallgrass that started several years ago with its student classes, Seedlings developed into offering its first full-length play this past holiday season. 

Des Moines Performing Arts, with its strong connections to Broadway and national tour companies, offers a well-established series of age- and interest-appropriate camps. Their Broadway Intensive, for ninth-graders through first year in college, is as it sounds — a focused camp for students seeking possible careers in performing arts. DMPA uses theatre professionals to conduct their classes.

In the Waukee/Clive area, Wagner Summer Theatre has been providing performing arts camps for several years. Add a list of camps for other arts disciplines — symphony, visual arts, science (STEAM) — and the Greater Des Moines cultural organizations will be sure to provide your child with lifelong benefits from their creative camp experiences. ♦

John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.

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