The Lake and Park School presented Really Rosie, The Musical, to a packed house in early February. The oldest children made up the principal cast, taking on speaking and singing parts. With lyrics and concept created by famed children’s author Maurice Sendak set to lively music by Carole King, the structure of the work allowed for individual classes to soak up the spotlight. Taking inspiration from his little set of books known as The Nutshell Library, each title featuring an aspect of basic knowledge good for everyone to have at one’s fingertips –“in a nutshell”– as well as from his earlier The Sign on Rosie’s Door, Sendak and King brought to animated life in the 1970’s the “Nutshell Kids”, which we performed as live theater.
Delphine, in the titular role of Rosie, began the performance. She “stole the show” from the moment she walked into the room, coming down the main aisle, singing “I’m Really Rosie, and I’m Rosie Real.” Soon she introduced “Johnny”, Rees, “Pierre”, Max, “Alligator”, Ruby, “Kathy”, Harriet and attempted to introduce “Chicken Soup”, Roham. His absence from the gang provided the impetus for the plot. The performance was off and running!
The Beginning Room sang and acted “One Was Johnny”, a counting song, featuring a house full of characters, mostly animal, who crowd in on our Johnny who “lived by himself and liked it like that!”.
The Beginning Room singing “One Was Johnny” along with Rees
Photo by Katrina Hawking
The North Room followed soon after with an ode to the alphabet, “Alligators All Around”. Children in green tee shirts, decorated with felt letters they had sewn on themselves, wearing hats with rotating propellers, acted and sang their way through twenty six mini performances.
Harriet as Kathy, seen here with three “alligators” from Morgan’s classroom
The audience was then treated to the cautionary tale of Pierre, “Who only would say ‘I don’t care!’”. In this number, children from The Big Room related the fate of a boy eaten by a lion. The gusto with which this piece was performed was appreciated by all, not the least being students from the other classrooms who watched with equal delight each rehearsal.
The finale of Pierre, featuring Max as Pierre and Roham, the lion
The tone of the show shifts with Rosie’s “When Everyone Screams and Yells”, which carries the production into the second act. At this juncture, Rosie works to keep her cronies captivated by the idea of making a movie about what happened to their mutual friend nicknamed “Chicken Soup”. When a downpour threatens, she masterfully moves them into her cellar where she proceeds to tell them with melodramatic flair that the reason he is not to be found is that he has died from choking on a chicken bone.
The whole gang joins in the fun, re-enacting his fate, finally lying down, playing dead, when the “newly deceased” enters from stage right onto the cellar scene. He (Roham) asks, “Where have you guys been? I’ve been looking all over for you. What are you doing?” “We’re dead!” they answer in chorus. “You’re not kidding,” he answers. “Let’s play something.”
As he hands out bowls of chicken soup with rice, Rosie tells him that he, too, must do a screen test. He agrees to do “Chicken Soup With Rice” (the song) and soon the stage is filled with all of the children from Andy Gregory’s Big Room, singing and acting their way through the twelve months of the year. The scene ends on a high note, literally and figuratively, with Griffin Ream leaping and sliding to a stop while singing “chicken soup with rice”, hitting a high F on the final note.
As a follow up to the show of course we had to eat “chicken soup with rice”. Children cooked with Eileen and Tom to make the meal from scratch. They cut up chicken, boiled rice, sliced vegetables and counted out spoons. During our meal, we watched the animated “Really Rosie” which originally aired on television in the 1970s.
Our thanks to Elizabeth Schiffler, Teaching Artist, for her support of the cast as they moved from creative drama into polished performance on the school stage.
Extension of our Sendak Study–Creating Libraries inspired by Sendak
The oldest group created a “Nutshell Library” of their own. Their ideas ranged from “sleep-overs”, pets, books, school, movies and pranks. For example, Roham begins his Handbook of Sleepovers with, “The pillow fort is a big feature in the sleepover.” Below is an excerpt from Harriet The Little Book of a Seattle Kid’s Life:
Seattle United or a “rec” team? That’s the question almost all kids and their parents are thinking about and wondering which is better, but my suggestion is that you start with a “rec” team until you are about 9 or 10 and then switch to Seattle United.
Ruby working on her book with the case for her library in the foreground.