This post is sponsored by Children’s Theatre Company
I was 7 or maybe 8. The neighbors probably rented a VCR and a worn copy of a VHS tape of An American Tail from the gas station. The neighborhood meandered over – adults and kids alike – to come and go, to watch a movie, grab a snack. Socialize on a Friday, (or maybe Saturday?) night. This is how the story goes, growing up, MY story.
I remember Fievel and the boat. I remember Henri the pigeon. I remember the cats, the mice, and the quest to be reunited with family. Most of all, I remember the story. I think my love of stories, of storytelling, was born out of this and other animated tales from my childhood.
When I learned Children’s Theatre Company was bringing An American Tail the Musical to the stage I was thrilled. CTC has really hit nostalgic high notes for me with their season this year, and I knew An American Tail the Musical would be no different. I couldn’t wait to share this story with my children.
I sat down to the opening show of An American Tail the Musical at the Children’s Theatre Company with my husband and children. I knew a little bit of what to expect as I had been invited to attend a rehearsal prior to the opening of the show. While I expected to see a beautiful stage production of the caliber I’m used to from the Children’s Theatre Company — I was not prepared to see TWO stories unfold.
The first is the story of a young mouse and his family immigrating to the United States at the turn of the century. Through a turn of events, he is separated from his family and must find a way to reunite with them. We know and love the story of Fievel in An American Tail the Musical. Watching it jump from screen to stage brought me the comfort of familiarity.
The musical opens in Russia where the Mousekewitz family is celebrating Hanukah with their family and other neighbors and villagers. At bedtime, Papa tells his children, Fievel and Tanya, tales and stories. If you are familiar with the story, then you know that the Mousekewitz family is then attacked by cats and flees to America by boat with other families. Fievel is thrown overboard and is feared lost at sea. The Mousekewitz family must face America without their son. Through a miracle, Fievel washes up on shore and must find a way to reunite with his family.
The set is clever (it’s a suitcase!), the props are hilarious (larger than life! Watch out for a particularly large grape!), and I could go on and on about the costumes. They are truly stunning. Gussie’s purple gown is a true show-stopper and harkens back to the animated character in the 1986 film version. The script was fast-paced and peppered with comedy, vibrant musical numbers, tension, humor (funny for kids and adults alike), and yes, cats. Alarming enough to set the appropriate tone which may be too intense for very young children (this show is recommended for those 5 and up)!
The second story is An American Tale of children allowed the opportunity to pursue their passion for theatre as part of the cast. To experience the loving support of encouraging adults cheering them on as they explore the world of professional acting. I watched, amazed, as child actors embraced their talents and exploded onto the stage in bursts of enthusiasm and careful poise. The child actors are incredibly dedicated to their roles. They certainly understand the importance and the deeper meaning behind their lines.
I was overwhelmed when I realized the significance Story has in this production of An American Tail the Musical. Fievel finds the inspiration he needs in the many stories his Papa has told him at bedtime to overcome the obstacles and challenges. Fievel’s challenges also subtly and not-so-subtly parallel the story of immigrants and refugees coming to the United States to start new lives in turmoil. As a parent, I truly appreciated seeing this played out on the stage. There were multiple talking points after the show and my children were chattering away asking question after question about what they had seen and heard.
The clever use of Story throughout the production not only illustrates a mouse’s quest to find his family but also how the stories of our lives and the history of those who have gone before us and will come after us create the rich tapestry of our Great Story.
An American Tail/Tale is a story of American history told by those creating American history. We hope you consider attending with your own history makers.
Tickets to An American Tail the Musical may be purchased online at childrenstheatre.org/AmericanTail or by calling the ticket office at 612.874.0400. Ticket prices start at $15 for kids and $25 for adults.