Parents and children alike can struggle with conforming to society’s demands while still maintaining their individuality. In his latest musical “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience,” popular children’s book author Mo Willems explores this idea of fitting in while still being true to oneself.
The entertainingly silly story is set underground in Grandpah’s tunnel, where every naked mole rat is proud to be naturally nude and rock n’ roll loving. One day, a hat mysteriously falls out of the sky and lands in front of Wilbur (Ryan Sheehan), a naked mole rat who “wants more to [his] fabric of life.” Soon, a whole outfit appears and Wilbur decides to take the risk of being different by adorning himself in his new garb.
When Wilbur goes to meet his friends, Tall, Grande, and Venti (strangely named after Starbucks’ drink sizes), they are immediately shocked and repulsed by the sight of Wilbur wearing clothes. Meghan Magrath, Ari Lew, and Jess Andra make up the trio and sing the song “Scandal” in response to Wilbur’s new-found interest in abandoning his nakedness. The trio hugely exaggerates their disgust and inability to understand why a naked mole rat would ever want to wear clothes. At the end of the song, Grande sarcastically suggests that Wilbur should start his own store, so he does just that.
Sheehan shines as the sweet-natured Wilbur. In one particularly engaging scene, Wilbur introduces his new store, Hats and More (H&M for short), using a large cart laden with many colorful articles of clothing. Sheehan humorously sings and dances in his foppish tailcoats to the tune of “Putting on the Ritz.”
Everything comes to a head when Wilbur’s friends decide to take action by hitting the over-sized “Grandpah grand panic button,” summoning the greatest and wisest naked mole rat in the colony to restore order. As Grandpah’s overzealous, sunglass-clad secret service agent, Ashlyn Inman secures the surroundings. After much build up, Grandpah hobbles onto the stage. As Grandpah, Anthony Teixeira is a comical sight to behold, with his long, unkempt grey hair and his hunched posture. After asking why Wilbur wants to wear clothes, Grandpah wisely considers Wilbur’s simple, yet profound, question, “Why not?”
Long-time director Art Devine brings the rockin’ musical to life, with his emphasis on well-timed physical comedy. The simple set is lined with funny posters of famous musicians, like “Liza Molenelli,” portrayed in mole-like versions, creatively drawn by prop and set designer Thea Goldman. The varied choreography by Brandon Simmons matches the up-tempo and lightheartedness of the musical. Robin Mclaughlin’s costumes range in style from simple beige-colored clothing with cute sewn-on belly buttons to over-the-top outfits and sequin-lined capes.
This feel-good musical is fun for the whole family and the outdoor theater is a unique experience, nestled in the woods. The lively, hour-long show is packed with singing and dancing and is a great alternative to the beach. Children and adults alike will enjoy the actors’ many comic touches, along with the positive message of being yourself.
“Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience”
Cape Rep Theatre, Route 6A, Brewster
Through Aug. 28
Information and reservations: 508-896-1888, caperep.org