REVIEW: ‘StinkyKids: The Musical’ Delights at Walnut Street Theatre
The show is running on select days and times through February 11.
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The adorable, high-energy StinkyKids: The Musical opened at Walnut Street Theatre this weekend, bringing to life the children’s book series of same name by Britt Menzies. The show is part of WST’s Theatre for Kids series, and runs through February 11. I brought my perfectly normal smelling kid to Saturday morning’s opening, and we had a great time laughing and learning valuable lessons in just one short hour.
The play introduces all the StinkyKids, including their leader Britt (played by the very talented Alexa Cepeda), who can apparently do no wrong… until she does. You see, all of the other kids are so excited for Britt’s parents to take them to Captain Happy’s Jumpy-Fun-Super-Bouncy Indoor Place (cue angelic music and lighting), but Britt wakes up with a giant mess of gum in her hair!
This is completely out of character for Britt, who never gets in trouble (“Seriously, never. It’s kinda sad, actually,” as her friend Johnny puts it). Suddenly, Britt has to deal with the fears of getting in trouble and disappointing her friends who idolize her, as well as the more immediate problem of having gum in her hair.
As you would expect, mayhem ensues. First, she and her friends have to devise a way to sneak out without alerting her parents (who are only represented as off-stage trombone sounds, a la Charlie Brown). After Billy’s home science lab fails to yield results, they have to scheme to go to the grocery store for supplies—making the prospect of crossing a street feel insurmountable, which is pretty accurate for six-year-olds whose entire world is their block.
When the stress of the situation causes Britt to act in a way that is uncharacteristically mean (pressuring a friend to give her money set aside for charity, and swiping another friend’s scissors to hack at her gummy hair in frustration), she finally has to face some truths about friendship and responsibility.
StinkyKids tackles the pressure of being perfect, and how it can get in the way of rational problem-solving and even kindness. After Britt’s meltdown, she spends her time-out in her room to reflect upon the concept of charity, and helping others. The motto “Be a Leader of Good” is emblazoned on the top of the bi-level set, and serves as a guide for the play (and the book series). Britt turns both her punishment and her leadership role among her peers into an opportunity to do good, creating a charity drive for others in need.
The show also does a very good job of depicting some very real issues that arise in childhood (and adult) friendships, like the way kids sometimes can get competitive and insecure over their “best friend” status. Early on in the play, the two other girls in the group, Hannah and Jen, vie for Britt’s attention in a musical number that Britt tries to resolve diplomatically, but this continues to cause anxiety and conflict throughout the show. Many kids will likely recognize their own relationships in this dynamic, and hopefully be inspired by the play’s outcome.
StinkyKids: The Musical is now at Walnut Street Theatre through February 11. Showtimes are February 3 at 10:30 am, and 1 and 3:30 pm; February 4, 10, and 11 at 11 am, and February 9 at 10:30 am. Tickets are $15 — $18.
The show is made entirely up of members of The Theatre School at Walnut Street Theatre, and if you stick around after the show you may even get to meet some of them!
Lead photograph courtesy of Walnut Street Theatre.