An occasional look at family-friendly theater around Washington. (Shows are appropriate for age 4 and older unless noted.)
Eight-year-old Judy Moody and her 7-year-old brother, Stink, the bumptious stars of a raft of books by author Megan McDonald and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, will be going on an island treasure hunt at Adventure Theatre.
“Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” is opening as scheduled April 20 despite an electrical fire in early March that damaged the theater’s offices and rehearsal space. “It’s pretty traumatic,” artistic director Michael J. Bobbitt said a few days after the fire. “We were having a great year, exceeding our goals in most places . . . so we are grinning and bearing it.”
“Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” was commissioned by seven Theater for Young Audiences companies across the country. Each troupe will do its own production as playwright Allison Gregory continues to tinker with the script. She has blended plot elements from the “Treasure Hunt” book and the first “Judy Moody,” in which Judy (Kelsey Painter) grumps about starting third grade without a souvenir T-shirt from summer vacation. That’s where her family’s weekend trip to Ocracoke Island — Stink (Philip da Costa) calls it “Artichoke” Island — and the treasure hunt come in.
When Bobbitt learned that the rights for a “Judy Moody” adaptation were available, he contacted six other artistic directors about a group commission. To his surprise, they were all interested. “What we have is seven of the top artistic directors of TYA in the country working on one project and the ability for that playwright to go back after each play and tweak and refine,” he said.
McDonald offered input, too, as the theaters were considering playwrights. Gregory “seemed to just really get the character,” McDonald said. “And with Judy there’s kind of a fine line when it goes to live action of any kind, because Judy’s so spunky, and she has all this enthusiasm and passion. I didn’t want it to tip over into seeming mean or nasty or snotty, or any of those qualities.”
Gregory got the message. “Megan McDonald was very adamant about not wanting Judy to come off as completely bossy and obnoxious and all of that, and frankly, I don’t think she does in the books at all,” the playwright said. “But I did have to soften some things, because when they’re spoken out loud, it just comes off as more aggressive as opposed to assertive.”
The more Gregory worked on the adaptation, the fonder she grew of Judy Moody. “What I love about her is, she is so resourceful,” she said. “For as much as she complains at the beginning, she is ultimately a glass overflowing. She can take a situation that’s not to her advantage and turn it around and make it to everyone’s advantage.”
“Judy Moody & Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” April 20-June 3 at Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. 301-634-2270. $19.50.
During her freshman year at Northwest High School in Germantown, Md., Ines Nassara was too scared to audition for the school’s production of “The Wiz.” Instead, she played percussion and added her voice to the chorus from the orchestra pit.
But now, Nassara’s teenage stage fright is just a memory. She is starring as Dorothy in a revival of the 1975 Broadway hit at Ford’s Theatre. A jazz, blues and R&B variation on L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “The Wiz” turns the story into a celebration — by creators William F. Brown (book) and Charlie Smalls (music and lyrics) — of African American music and culture. The tornado that hits Dorothy’s Kansas farm house carries her to an Oz that recalls Harlem in its heyday.
“People are very sophisticated and posh and stylish,” Nassara said. “It’s just this completely different world.”
Something of a Renaissance woman — she sings, plays classical music on the piano and pop on the bass guitar, writes songs for her band, Heroine, and speaks pretty good French, thanks to extended family in Europe and Cameroon — Nassara has a deeper view of Dorothy.
“She meets these three characters that are completely outside what she is familiar with — a scarecrow that talks, a lion that talks and a completely tin man,” the actress said. “She’s immediately welcoming, no matter what they look like, what they’re doing, what they appear to be. She immediately invites these characters on this journey, because she realizes that not only does she need help, but these people need help, so we can help each other.”
“The Wiz” Through May 12 at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. 202-347-4833. $28-$90. Recommended for age 8 and older.
For Harry Potter fanatics, Potted Potter, the Unauthorized Harry Experience — A Parody by Dan and Jeff (British creators Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner) will materialize for spoofery and a dash of Quidditch. Through April 22 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. 202-547-1122. $59-$95.
A grieving couple in 1920s Alaska becomes attached to a mysterious wilderness girl in the world premiere of the musical Snow Child, produced by Arena Stage and Alaska’s Perseverance Theatre. April 13-May 20 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. 202-488-3300. $40- $90. Recommended for age 12 and older.
Those rascals in Sherwood Forest take on King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, a riff on the medieval legend by Greg Banks, complete with sword fights, live music and audience participation. April 14-May 20 at Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda. 301-280-1660. $12-$30.