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Theater Review: An engaging hour about ‘Science!’ for kiddies

The time has come to elect a president and the choice is between a male candidate and a female candidate, when suddenly a third candidate appears who announces he is "better than both of the other candidates combined."...

The time has come to elect a president and the choice is between a male candidate and a female candidate, when suddenly a third candidate appears who announces he is “better than both of the other candidates combined.”

Do not get too excited about the idea, people, because this is not reality but rather the situation in “Imaginarium: Mad Science!”, the Theatre for Young Audiences production directed by Robert Lee that opened Saturday afternoon at the Underground. The presidency in question is that of the Secret Association of Science Society (S.A.S.S.), and just by showing up you get to be a member.

Wally (Jonathan Manchester) and his sister Penny (Lacy Habdas) are the original candidates, when their cousin Thaddeus (Mike Pederson) throws his hat into the ring. The “race” will be decided by not by votes, but rather by who knows the most about science, and this hour-long show covers an impressive array of topics from animals, colors, and aerodynamics to magnets, germs, and kinetic energy.

Early on I was wondering about the age appropriateness of the science worked into the show, but during the discussion of primary colors a young girl in the front row piped up, “I know this,” which I take as a good sign. Regardless of your age, you are going to learn a thing or two from this high-energy show.

The TYA formula is firmly established at this point: Come up with a series of engaging scenarios, 2-5 minutes in length, involving a variety of styles, performed by a small group of high energy performers who usually play kids with whom the youngsters in the audience can easily identify.

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In this second season of TYA shows, the biggest area of improvement has been in the participation elements for the audience. While there are several moments when kids get to come on down and participate in what is happening on stage, there are even more opportunities to play along while sitting in their seats.

I especially liked when Penny made a point of making sure a particularly shy little girl in the audience got to do the (abbreviated) secret S.A.S.S. handshake.

The ensemble’s script for “Imaginarium: Mad Science!”- the exclamation mark makes me think of Magnus Pyke shouting “Science!” in Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”- saves some of the best segments for the second half of the show, with Wally’s “Pure Energy” rap song, the omelet-making production line, and the shadow puppet show with the dinosaurs.

I would like to see more humor that works on completely different levels for the kids and the adults, like the “Spruce Moose” reference, but that is to be expected from someone who was raised on the adventures of Moose and Squirrel back in the day (and still binge watches them on occasion).

But the chief attraction for parents and other adults is going to be enjoying how excited the kids get during these shows. That and the kiddies learning a thing or two about...“Science!”

If you go

What: Theatre for Young Audiences presents “Imaginarium: Mad Science!”
Where: The Underground, 506 W. Michigan St.
When: Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sundays through July 24
Tickets: Adults $14, Students/Youth $12
For information: (218) 733-7555 or duluthunderground.org

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