It’s tough to write about a piece of work created and intended for children. When I heard that there was a musical play called Pinkalicious based on a series of popular children’s books that would be presented by Columbus Children’s Theatre, I thought I should approach the topic academically; thus began weeks of reading through dozens of Pinkalicious books with a neighbor’s four-year-old daughter. I’m not sure what the librarians thought of me as I walked out with a huge pile of these children’s books, and frankly I didn’t care – I was on a mission!
Pinkalicious began in 2006 as a book by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann (they wrote the book of the play as well, and are co-writers of the lyrics along with John Gregor, who did the music), and to date there are over thirty books in the series. They are all about a girl named Pinkalicious and her obsession with the color pink, and often her younger brother Peter figures into the stories. The first book, on which the play is based, has Pinkalicious eating so many pink cupcakes that she turns pink, coming down with a case of “pinkititis”. The doctor warns her that unless she eats green food to counteract the “pinkititis” that she will only be able to see pink (“pinkeye pinkititis” being the official term). Will she obey the doctors orders or will the situation get worse? I won’t spoil the ending, but I will divulge that no one dies.
There are good and bad things about this production, most of the bad stemming from the play itself, which is no reflection on Columbus Children’s Theatre aside from the fact that they chose it. I first want to focus on what is good and then go into explaining the other.
The actors are all uniformly adept at performing this material with a straight face. Avery Bank plays Pinkalicious exactly as written, which means she comes off as rather spoiled and whiny (as the character – I’m sure Ms. Bank herself is lovely – she’s certainly talented). She puts forth her smile and voice well, and it is a sizable part that requires her to be present and active in nearly every scene. Her parents are gamely played by Jessica Lynne Rigsby (Mrs. Pinkerton) and an unexpectedly ebullient Ashley D. Sergent (Mr. Pinkerton). Nancy Skaggs as Dr. Wink brings a lot of joy and laugher to her “Pinkatitis” number, appearing both a bit goofy and sinister at the same time. Poor Anneke Keesing doesn’t have a lot to do as Alison, but she makes the most of the role and wears her glasses well.
The real star of this show is Rayli Boyd as Peter, perfectly capturing the frustrations of being a younger brother while also being funny and self deprecating. Ms. Boyd has a vivacious stage presence and often steals attention away from her co-stars; it’s as if she walks around with her own private spotlight on her at all times. Even though Ms. Boyd is playing a boy with a sometimes questionable wig, but she does it with just enough swagger that I wasn’t sure she wasn’t a boy until I reviewed the program.
The set is nicely designed by Edie Dinger Watkins, smartly functional with surfaces for Pinkalicious to mark up with her pink chalk and able to transform into Dr. Wink’s office, and with an upper level for Pinkalicious’s very pink room. Patty Bennett’s costumes are bright and appropriate, with the ensemble outfits representing cupcakes, bees, and butterflies a real standout. In fact, those scenes with the ensemble dancing around (kudos to choreographer Kati Serbu) are the best parts of the show and the ones to which the audience really responded. Director William Goldsmith keeps the show moving and light in tone, and he makes the most of the space, staging it to accommodate the viewpoint from the far left and right where the majority of the seats in the theatre are located.
And now for the bad… This is not a good play, and it’s based on a series of books about an increasingly obnoxious girl who is thoroughly despicable. Don’t believe me? Check out Aqualicious, when Pinkalicious flippantly tosses a “merminnie” (a tiny mermaid, who was safe inside a sea shell until that girl came along) into a part of the ocean where she is almost eaten; or Silverlicious, where she manages to piss off the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Cupid, and a Christmas elf with her demands in the form of poison pen letters; or Purplicious, where she scolds Peter for requesting pink ice cream, shouting “Pink ice cream is for sissies!” What’s funny about the musical play is that Peter has a whole subplot about liking the color pink and being afraid to show it, eventually being encouraged to embrace it – not so in Purplicious! The play glosses over a bit just how bossy and spoiled Pinkalicious is in the books, definitely not the kind of girl any parent would want their child to emulate.
The songs are forgettable, with poor Ms. Boyd saddled with “Peter’s Pink Blues”, an unfortunate takeoff on the classic “Blues in the Night” by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, and the plot isn’t enough to sustain an hour-long show. The parents are given much bigger roles than they ever have in the books, with the mother coming off as particularly obnoxious, telling Pinkalicious that she is too busy reviewing her mutual funds and investments to pay attention to her. Well, I guess we see from where her daughter gets her attitude… And why does Pinkalicious wear a yellow dress at the beginning and ending of the show? She only wears pink in the books. Why the quick blush and stockings to show how she now has “pinkatitis” when she looks just like that in all of the books (once infected, she merely looks like she was playing around with her mom’s makeup) – couldn’t some creative lighting be used to really make her pink? And why is there a scene with Alison finding Pinkalicious’s wand and such a big point made of it when nothing comes off it? The authors should’ve taken some of the best books in the series (Emeraldalicious, Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink, and Pinkalicious and the Cupcake Calamity being the only ones I found enjoyable) and focused the play around them, but I digress. These are a series of books in which the colorful pictures are the main draw, and this play is left with what remains when the illustrations are gone.
Pinkalicious is mercifully only about an hour in length, and the kids in the audience at the performance I attended appeared to have attention spans that wavered a bit. They seemed to enjoy it enough, but they were only audibly responsive in the moments when the ensemble players appeared playing bees or cupcakes that I pointed out earlier. There are certainly far worse diversions for the younger set, but this isn’t a show with many charms for those of us over the age of eight.
If you are attending with children eight years of age or younger: **/ out of ****
If you don’t go with children: */ out of ****
Pinkalicious continues through to October 11th at Columbus Children’s Theatre located at 512 Park St., and more information can be found at http://www.columbuschildrenstheatre.org/pinkalicious.html