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THEATER REVIEW: Kids can become a backyard superhero with latest Imaginarium offering at the Underground

"Destroyer Dan" is one of the villains "Imaginarium: Superheroes," which opened Saturday at the Underground. Facebook photo

What super power would you pick if you were going to be a superhero? That is just one question young and old alike will be asking themselves while watching "Imaginarium: Superheroes!" The final Theatre for Young Audiences production of the season opened Saturday afternoon at the Underground.

One afternoon, Dudley (Jonathan Manchester) and his brother Louie (Joe Cramer) are waiting for their friend, Marty (Lacy Hadbas), who happens to be a superhero, to show up so they can play. Marty arrives in full costume, including a cape of many colors, and warns the boys about the "most evil, mischievous, conniving villain around," Dan the Destroyer.

Needless to say, Dan the Destroyer must be stopped. Along the way there is an epic rap war (think "Cabinet Battle #3") between the two brothers, funny characters with Australian and Scottish accents, and the story of an epic storm told with shadow puppets.

During previous seasons, Imaginarium shows were devoted to the topics of Mythology and Science as ways of opening children's minds to the power of imagination. "Superheroes!" has an added dimension by emphasizing all the everyday heroes that kids might never have thought of before.

Everybody in the audience gets to participate in this show, a hallmark of these engaging TYA productions. There is an oath to take, a secret handshake to learn (or not), silly noises to make, a whole lot of hand waving, and key words to which you have to respond to with great enthusiasm.

Right from the start, this was the most engaged audience I have seen in three season of TYA productions, which certainly adds to the fun and helps keep the small cast's energy level high.

With 50 seats down front arranged in only four rows, this is the most intimate Underground production to date. Nobody ends up too far away from the action, and the front row was packed with kids eager to participate.

One of the unique aspects of this show is that there were kids who showed up wearing T-shirts for their favorite superheroes. I saw a Superman and a Pokémon (I showed up wearing a Sunnydale t-shirt for my personal favorite, Buffy Summers).

Much of the humor, in the grand tradition of moose and squirrel, goes right over the heads of the small fry and hits the adults in the funny bone. This works great because the audience was evenly split between adults and children, with the parents and grandparents ending up laughing more than the kiddies.

After the show, the cast engaged with the audience, asking the kids what their favorite stories were and then explaining that all of the stories we heard were written by the cast members themselves using their imaginations. They also made their own costumes and pointed out to the kids that these were things they could do at home, too.

Note: I rarely comment on a show's program, but bonus points for the companies whose ads were specific to the TYA program in general or the superhero theme in particular.

If you go

What: Theatre for Young Audiences presents "Imaginarium: Superheroes!"

Where: The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St.

When: Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sunday through July 23

Tickets: Adults $15, Students/Youth $12 at www.duluthunderground.org

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