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Sold out "Sneaky Sheep" a big hit with the kiddies

That the first performance of "Some Sneaky Sheep and Other Tales" was sold out Saturday afternoon at the Underground was undoubtedly due in large part to the popularity of local cartoonist, illustrator and author Chris Monroe and her children's b...

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That the first performance of "Some Sneaky Sheep and Other Tales" was sold out Saturday afternoon at the Underground was undoubtedly due in large part to the popularity of local cartoonist, illustrator and author Chris Monroe and her children's books.

That being said, the Theatre for Young Audiences deserves an equal share of the credit for bringing the silly antics in Monroe's stories to life with creativity, energy and a whole lotta fun.

Nate Olson is Nathan, the genial host and keyboard player, with Jody Kujawa and Kendra Carlson as the sneaky sheep Rocky and Blossom, and Jonathan Manchester as Chico Bon Bon, aka the Monkey with a Tool Belt. The cast play other characters as well throughout the proceedings.

Director Robert Lee has adapted Monroe's "Cookie, the Walker," "Sneaky Sheep," "Monkey with a Tool Belt," "Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Proble," and "Bug on a Bike" (If there was a "Violet Days" cameo, I must have missed it).

"Some Sneaky Sheep and Other Tales" - I think that last word is misspelled - is a perfect show for a kid to watch from mommy's lap. The happiest kids in the audience were doing just that.

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High points in the show are the initial efforts to get Nathan to see the sneaky sheep, Kujawa's mustache turned soul patch, Chico Bon Bon's rap song (more Harold Hill than Cypress Hill), Clark's appearance in costume and the epic finale where the dialogue is quite Seussical in nature and rather epic.

Some of the stories offer age appropriate lessons, such as the reminder that people who care will protect and take care of you, usually reinforced with a song.

Compared to previous TYA productions, this one has less stories, but each has several distinct segments so that essentially every five minutes something new is happening on stage. There are several different types of puppets, outlandish costumes, and a bike ride to the circus that earned audience applause.

There were a few tykes not up to the experience. I would recommend parents pick the show time that least conflicts with nap time, because it is important to take a nap when you're tired.

More importantly, the opportunities for the audience to participate in the proceedings have been greatly enhanced.  There are several songs to sing, some sound effects to supply over and over and over again, and an opportunity to yell "Surprise!"

Best of all, there were opportunities for a lot of kids - 18 by my count - to actually get on stage with costumes or props and help tell the stories. This was the most engaged and excited TYA audience I have seen to date, and with good reason.

Afterward, the kids get to talk to the sheep and have their photos taken as snapping turtles. There are personally autographed Chris Monroe prints for sale in the box office, which is decorated with kid colored sneaky sheep.

I really should have rented a grandkid for this one.

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  If you go:

  • What: "Some Sneaky Sheep and Other Tales by Chris Monroe"Where: The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St.

  • When: Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sunday through May 29

  • Tickets: Adults $14, Students/Youth $12

  • For information: (218) 733-7555 or duluthunderground.org

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