In its eminently commendable quest for original feeder programming for children and their families, the Kennedy Center has hit both the heights ("Pepito's Story," "Brothers of the Knight," "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day") and the depths ("Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse"). Its most recent offering, "How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World," falls somewhere in between.
Based on Marjorie Priceman's book of the same name, this hour-long musical boasts a crystal-clear plot, delightfully eccentric characters and a synthetic, synthesized score chock full of platitudes.
The premise is as follows: Marjorie (Susan Lynskey), the child of a tofu-touting, eco-vigilante mom (Kate Kailey), has a hankering for a big, juicy apple pie. Like some urban Dorothy, she leaves home in search of the highest-quality ingredients for her baking project. Along the way she hooks up with a German grocer (David Bryan Jackson). Together they travel to Vermont, Paris, Italy, England, Sri Lanka and Jamaica for, respectively, the finest Granny Smith apples, eggs, semolina flour, milk, cinnamon and sugar cane.
The globe-trotting nature of the tale has been cleverly captured by director Lisa Portes, set designer Anne Gibson and costume designer Rosemary Pardee. The backdrop is a line drawing of a map whose tiny colored lights denote the places Marjorie visits. The various voyages are suggested by a toy airplane flying over the stage, a miniature train crossing, minuscule parachuted figures touching down in a field of semolina, red berets, and a French hen (Kailey) straight out of the Folies Bergere. The talented cast is no slouch with accents and attitudes either. Kahlil Lowry does a hilarious turn as an Italian farmer and a Sri Lankan tiger, and Sarah Ripard shines as an overzealous French chef.
One of the great strengths of this production is the balance the director and her five actors have struck between the cartoonish and the earthbound. They even manage to make Michael Silversher's cheesy songs palatable, even amusing at times. And though the ideal audience would be kids ages 5 to 10, "How to Make an Apple Pie" is the kind of show that all but the most fidgety toddlers, jaded teens or weary adults will enjoy.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. A book by Marjorie Priceman adapted by Wendy MacLoud. Music by Michael Silversher. Lighting by Marianne Meadows. Choreography by Ingrid Zimmer. Through Jan. 7 at the Terrace Theater. Call 202-467-4600.