The Doll People: A Review

Carolyn Brown '16 | The Doll People, directed by Ellen Kaplan, is a musical adapted from a novel written by Smith Alum. Ann M. Martin.

Carolyn Brown ’16 | The Doll People, directed by Ellen Kaplan, is a musical adapted from a novel written by Smith Alum. Ann M. Martin.

 

Carolyn Brown ’16
Assistant Photo Editor

The Smith Theatre Department’s first main stage production of the year, The Doll People, directed by Ellen Kaplan and based on the novel by Ann M. Martin ’77, is a charming children’s musical – an atypical play for the Smith theatre, whose recent productions have included plays dealing with subjects like prisoners and teenagers in foster care. However, this play definitely sets the standard for Smith to produce more plays for children in the future.

The story centers on the green haired Annabelle Doll, who, as she says, “is eight years old and has been for a hundred years – which is a very long time, especially for an eight-year-old!” She and her Victorian doll family – Papa Doll, Mama Doll, Uncle Doll, little brother Bobby Doll, Nanny and baby Betsy—have lived inside their human owners’ house at 26 Wetherby Lane for three generations. As the first ensemble number explains, their lives don’t change much – they like to stay at home and out of sight of the Captain -the house cat- and the other humans, lest they get attacked or fall into “Permanent Doll State.” One day, however, that changes when Annabelle meets Tiffany Funcraft, played by Allison Ristiano ’14, a new fun-loving plastic doll who has just moved into the house. Tiffany shakes up the house as she does handstands, goes around the hallways by herself in her Barbie car, and disregards the “Doll Code.” Tiffany then leads Annabelle, Bobby and Uncle to find Annabelle’s Auntie Sarah, who has been missing for 45 years. I won’t spoil it, but the ending is cute and heartwarming.

The stage is set with a larger-than life doll house that really functions like a house – the very realistic set is used to the fullest as the actors walk around it in the background and give the impression that you really are looking in on an average day in their lives. While of course there is some suspension of disbelief in the age discrepancies between the characters and actors -Bobby, for instance, is supposed to be five years old-, the upbeat nature of the show keeps the audience thinking of the characters as dolls—especially because the humans are always shown separate from the dolls as large projections behind them.

Like last year’s production of Marat/Sade, this show is a musical, and its songs are catchy and appealing. My favorite is “The Hoedown,” where the dolls’ owner, Kate, makes them dance like cowboys. As her little sister Nora enters the room, she makes the dolls go faster and roughhouse with each other, to their dismay. The dance requires a lot of energy and is fun to watch. I also enjoyed “When A Sad Thing Becomes a Glad Thing,” an entertaining number that showcases the vocal talents of Julia McCarthy ’15. In fact, the show -also featuring Ellie Davis ’16, Hannah Myers ’16, Samantha Biatch ’16, Kayla Girdner HC and Maya Rivera ’16- is very well-cast with adept singers and dancers.

The only problem with the show is that I wanted to see more. Since I am used to Smith producing longer plays such as Marat/Sade or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I would have loved to have seen more background about the characters. However, the show is great for an audience who wants to see the efforts of the cast and crew come to life in a fun show that will appeal to families and students alike.

 

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