What a wonderful play! Fishnapped! at Olympia Family Theater is a wildly rocking, sweet, touching musical, ostensibly for kids but a treat for all ages. It’s a world premiere, too, locally written by Amy Shephard and Andrew Gordon with music and lyrics by Daven Tillinghast and directed by Jeff Painter.
Welcome to soccer camp in Saskatoon, Canada, home of the Squirrels. Camper and reluctant soccer player Claire (Megan Wakefield) feels like an unwanted misfit. Her only human friend is Sammy (Jesse Morrow), and she’s not even sure she can trust Sammy to stand by her. Thus, she clings to her only other friend, a pet goldfish named Blubber. But right before the big game someone steals Blubber. Blubber has been fishnapped, and in the time-honored mystery tradition, the hunt for the fishnapper ensues. He or she must be one of the campers — or maybe even Grandma, their coach (Rynelle Bircher). It could be Kyle, the star player (Mark Alford), or Claire’s big sister Astrid (Vanessa Postil), or Reggie (Justin Valdez), Harper (Mandy Ryle), or maybe even Sammy. As the campers question one another, much is revealed about teenage vulnerability, insecurity and the dread of not fitting in. Kyle thinks the way to earn friendship and respect is through braggadocio and prowess on the soccer field. Astrid is the one who cheers everyone on; she loves her little sister, Claire, but is embarrassed by her lack of soccer skills and bringing Blubber to camp. Harper is the brainy one, the only camper who can identify with Claire’s sense of being an outcast.
These insights into human nature emerge through the medium of comedy, rousing punk-rock music and dance (choreographed by Shephard). Every cast member is good. Standouts are Postil, Ryle and most especially Alford. The part of Kyle seems to have been written for him. More accurately, Alford makes the part seem that way. His exuberance and stop-action facial expressions put me in mind of Steve Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guy.” Also wonderful to watch is Ryan Holmberg, the onstage puppeteer manipulating and voicing Blubber, a puppet created by Jamie Jenson. Holmberg’s expressions amplify that of the puppet with superb comic timing, and his wordless sound effects (goldfish language?) are precious.
Jill Carter’s set design is delightfully lighthearted and attractive. The four-piece band, musically directed by Stephanie Claire, must also be acknowledged: Matt Fearon, bass; Bob McKenzieSullivan, keyboard; Theresa McKenzieSullivan, percussion and Ted Ryle, guitar. Finally comes the whodunit twist. Kids in the audience are invited to join cast members in the lobby during intermission and grill them about whom they suspect of being the fishnapper. Grownups are allowed to participate, too. In this way, the audience helps determine the end, which can be different for every performance.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
Where: Olympia Family Theater,
612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays – Fridays;
2 p.m. Saturdays – Sundays through June 4
How much: $13-$19
Learn more: 360-570-1638 | OFT