It’s pretty impossible to have missed the bestselling sensation of the children’s book Dragons Love Tacos, but if you somehow haven’t read the book and are still taking your children to the Rose Theater’s production of Dragons Love Tacos, I would suggest checking the book out before you go. It will give your kids a better understanding of the interactive moments in this show–and it makes your feel like you’re part of an inside joke. Of course, if you believe you should always watch the movie before you read the book (or never read the book), that’s your choice. In this case, reading the book won’t take you very long.
The book is a rather short and simple affair that focuses on a boy who decides to feed some dragons some tacos. The play expands upon this and creates a world where the boy is frustrated by homework and bored with all other options of entertainment. He then discovers a documentary about dragons that comes to life and plays out in his living room. Along the way some morals are (a little heavy-handedly) enforced and we meet some delightful dragons who just want to play. But remember, while we find out that these dragons love tacos, they do NOT love spices of any kind. So, if you’re going to serve them tacos, don’t give them any salsa. But it begs the question–isn’t the point of a taco it’s very spiciness? Nonetheless these dragons can’t handle it. If you’re unfamiliar with the book I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say spices are a little hard on a dragon’s tummy.
I had the experience of seeing this play with a group of students from elementary schools in the area. I was one of the few adults in the audience. In many ways this made my experience much richer. The kids were entranced by the spectacle, and, when prompted, eagerly shouted out the answers to questions. They laughed at the dragons and got confused when a cell phone kept ringing (no spoilers, but it was part of the show). At one point my son, who came with me, was flabbergasted by the TV. When he saw the actor appear on the TV screen he urgently asked me, “Mom! How are they doing that?!?” Of course this was revealed a little later when the man stepped out of the TV. But watching children being exposed to the magic of theatre is a treasured experience of mine. I hope many of those kids remember this and choose to make their own theatre magic someday.
But while we’re waiting for them to grow up, this particular production team can keep the magic flowing. They did a stupendous job of creating a vibrant set and costumes for this production. The costume designer Sherri Geerdes, turned four actors into shiny, delightful dragons without making actual dragon costumes. It was lovely and I especially enjoyed the way the scales helped create the illusion of a dragon and brought light into the show.
Each actor playing a dragon did a good job of capturing the playfulness this production was seeking. Ashley Laverty can be thanked for working with the actors to help create their movements. Each dragon had a distinct personality that shined through their makeup. Their physical movements helped to distinguish them from each other and helped to tell the story as a whole. The dragons don’t speak, so much of their story was told through props, movement, and small growls/grunts. When each of the dragons were introduced during the play it felt like a less sinister version of a beauty pageant. They were funny, sweet, and childlike. Perhaps that is the best adjective for these dragons–they were childlike and in that innocence it was easy for the kids to connect with the dragons. Rather than single them out individually, you’ll have to go see the play to pick your favorite. I’m not sure I have a favorite dragon, but when I asked my son his answer was “the white or yellow one.” His friends responded in a similar fashion, choosing one and then quickly switching to another and then another. They’re all so good, it’s hard to just pick one!
In addition to the dragons the sets were amazing. The production notes mention that they were trying to create an over sized storybook world. They succeeded in this attempt. That description is exactly what they got. The world is big. It is fun. And it makes perfect sense for these fictitious characters to exist in it. It helped bring some magic into the story.
Perhaps the only low note to the story was the writing itself. It can be challenging to adapt a short children’s book into a play–even a short play like this one. In the attempt to add more substance to this particular story, there were pieces that were drawn out a little too much. It caused the action to slow and the fun to drag. So while I would not say that the play itself is a successful adaptation, I would suggest that this particular production has taken a mediocre script and turned it into a brilliant and exciting world.
As a director, Denise Chapman did a wonderful job creating an accessible story that appeals to younger viewers. They will be entranced by the colors, the music and the fun. She has created an ensemble piece that is fun for the whole family.
Dragons Love Tacos is playing at the Rose Theatre from April 26- May 12, 2019 with performances on Fridays at 7 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 5 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $20 general admission. Rose members receive four free tickets to the production. You can reserve tickets by calling the box office at (402) 345-4849 or online at www.rosetheater.org.
-By TAMAR NEUMANN