Cartoonish Fun Delights In CCTC/HJT’s ‘Elephant And Piggie’

by Jennifer Sexton-Riley
Anthony Teixeira.
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The wintry chill will be no match for the laughter filling the air in the coming weeks at Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre as “Elephant and Piggie’s We Are In a Play!” lights up the stage with an all-matinee run Feb. 10 to March 3, including three school vacation matinees.

Based on the popular book “Elephant and Piggie’s We Are In a Book!” by author Mo Willems, “We Are In a Play” brings all of the meta-silliness, mind-bending creativity and good old fun readers and parents have come to know and love in books starring best buds Elephant and Piggie.

As Mo Willems fans know, Elephant (also known as Gerald) and Piggie are the best of friends. But could something happen which might put their friendship in peril? Impossible, according to Piggie. Gerald, however, can be a bit of a worrier. When the pair are invited to a party being thrown by the fun-loving singing Squirrelles, surely friendship and fun will prevail!

Right?

Let’s just say when it comes to Elephant and Piggie, anything is possible.

Director Jay Stewart, a lifelong professional clown and much-loved favorite on Cape stages and beyond, is the perfect choice to make sure the theater rocks with the kind of laughter we’ve come to know and love from Mo Willems and his wonderfully silly books.

“I was lucky enough to be asked by CCTC/HJT’s new Producing Artistic Director Jenn Pina to direct. Bless her heart, she thought of me when she saw the script and realized this is essentially a cartoon show,” Stewart said. “My background is in physical comedy, entertaining kids and clowning, and I have directed other shows that lean that way, but this time the show is already leaned. I thought, cool, I don't have to start from scratch.”

The CCTC/HJT production began with the vision of Emily Murray, the theater’s director of education and outreach, to inspire a Town Read, a collaboration with local education, literacy, and arts organizations to celebrate literature, Mo Willems' work in particular. With enthusiastic response and support from partnering local libraries, public elementary school teachers, parents,The 204 Cultural Arts Municipal Building, The Harwich Fund, and The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, and the staff and board of CCTC/HJT, the idea of CCTC/HJT coming to schools turned into CCTC/HJT mounting a full production of the play, with schools bringing students to the theater for the first time since the pandemic. Along with the 11 scheduled public performances of the play, CCTC/HJT will host school matinee field trips for approximately 940 students over the course of five days, hosting seven elementary schools from Barnstable to Provincetown. This is the first time field trips have come to CCTC/HJT since the pandemic. “It’s going to be a big laugh fest,” Stewart said. “This show has a wonderful feeling of friends pulling together and making things work. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with such a phenomenally talented and patient group of people. Everybody, from the musical direction by Bob Wilder, to choreography by Suzette Hutchinson, to the beautiful voices of the cast, to the set design by Guy Trudeau, to Mo Willems, who created a wonderful world of the imagination for kids, and for the kids in all of us. It’s a labor of love. And with all of the performances taking place during the daytime, we hope to see family members of all ages. We just love to see grandma and grandpa there along with the kids.”

“Elephant and Piggie’s We Are In a Play” features Anthony Teixeira as Gerald/Elephant; Trish LaRose as Piggie; Madison Mayer, Zach Johnson and Jane Loutzenhiser as Squirrelles; Kristin Stewart as Dog and Penguin; and Devin Massarsky as Dog and Penguin on Feb. 14, 15 and 16. The creative team features director Jay Stewart, musical director Robert Wilder, choreographer Suzette Hutchinson, scenic designer Guy Trudeau, lighting and sound designer Matt Kohler and costume designer Mindy Herington. The band is Robert WIlder on keys; Berke McKelvey on flute, clarinet and alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; and Chris Santos on drums.

“Elephant and Piggie’s We Are In a Play” runs Feb. 10 to March 3 on the CCTC/HJT stage. Performances are all matinees, and will take place Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m., with school vacation matinees on Feb. 20, 21 and 22 at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 will be a sensory friendly performance. CCTC/HJT is located at 105 Division St. in West Harwich. For tickets visit capecodtheatrecompany.org or call 508-432-2002.