New musical is just right

The cast of "Bears Beware" rehearses at the Oak Bluffs School: Photo by Ralph Stewart
The cast of "Bears Beware" rehearses at the Oak Bluffs School for Saturday's opening. Photo by Ralph Stewart

By Julian Wise - March 23, 2006

"Bears Beware, Goldilocks is in Your Town," the one-act musical making its debut at the Oak Bluffs School this weekend, takes a wacky and whimsical look at the traditional Goldilocks fairy tale to envision a world where animals rule the planet and humans are zoo specimens. In this alternate reality, Goldilocks's famous visit to the bear household occurs during an escape from the zoo. "Bears Beware" is co-written by Donna Swift and Ross Mihako, with music by AJ Robb and Brian Weiland. Song lyrics are written by Ross Mihako. Shelagh Smilie and Donna Swift co-direct the play and Brian Weiland handles the musical direction. Seventh grader Ashley Gwynn plays Goldilocks, a specimen at the Menagerie City Zoo who dreams of eating vegetables, sitting in chairs, and sleeping on a mattress. During a tour of the zoo, Baby Bear (Taylor McNeely) pities the girl and helps her escape. The breakout becomes breaking television news and before long the bounty hunter Colonel Tusk (Mitchell Lowe), Tour Guide Tiger (Della Burke), and Mr. Lion (Tyler Shapiro) are hunting for the runaway. Goldilocks encounters Alley (Sara Swift), another human runaway, who leads her to The Cat Lady (Taylor Perrotta), an eccentric feline who takes in stray humans.

While on the loose, Goldilocks enters the Bears' home, resulting in the familiar disaster. The cast is rounded out by Alex Case playing Papa Bear, Mary Vogel as Mama Bear, Devon Lodge as Chet Zebra, Cammi Fernandez, Katharine Johnson, and Ashley Girard as Little Girls, Joseph as Buddy Bat, John Vogel as IM Sloth, and Ashley Tripp as the Farmer Statue. IMP alumni Emelia and Melora Armstead make guest appearances. Original songs include "Look at Me," "No One Understands Me," "I Love the People," and "Great Big Terrible World."

"Bears Beware" was originally written by Ms. Swift and Mr. Mihalko, who both have extensive theatre experience, as a 12-minute skit for the IMP Summer Camp at the Oak Bluffs School in 2005. When they decided to expand "Bears" into a full-length production, they had to overcome one logistical hurdle: Mr. Mihalko lives in Los Angeles. The solution: a month of phone calls using a special calling plan and speakerphones. Despite spotty cell connections and time-zone differences, the collaboration worked. The two enlisted award-winning Los Angeles composer AJ Robb, who submitted MP3 files to Ms. Swift for the actors to learn.

Amusing for children and witty enough to keep their parents entertained, "Bears Beware" promises to deliver laughs aplenty as it turns a familiar fairy tale on its head with a fresh twist.