Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” might be a Buddhist morality tale if it weren’t such a knowing encapsulation of childhood.
Viorst basically applies Murphy’s law (everything that can go wrong, will go wrong) to an average day in the life of average child and comes away with a timeless story for all ages.
In the new B Street Theatre Family Series production, Alexander’s story becomes a rather even succession of disappointments that finally leads to a valuable lesson we all have to learn at some time or another.
Viorst’s stage adaptation of her book includes several jaunty songs she wrote with composer Shelly Markham (the B Street orchestrations are by Noah Agruss with musical direction by Rick Kleber). Alexander’s bad day actually starts before he gets up, as the gum he went to sleep chewing (whose mom lets one do that?) is in his hair in the morning. When he gets up, he slips on his skateboard and then drops his sweater into a sink of water. At breakfast his brothers Anthony and Nick get prizes in their cereal boxes, but Alexander doesn’t, and from there things are just going to go downhill for him.
Armando Luis Rivera’s plucky Alexander is a resilient rubber ball, though, as he bounces back from each setback with hope and vigor, only to be disappointed again.
The beauty of Viorst’s story is how both children and adults can understand how small and insignificant these little episodes are, yet how big they are to us in the moments when they happen. Not getting a window seat in the carpool or the particular color sneakers we really want are huge events in the life of a child, yet seen through the lens of experience we know they are not make-or-break events – and when it comes down to it, very few things are.
So Alexander’s teacher (a reserved Amy Kelly, who also plays his mother) tells him he sings too loudly, the dentist tells him he has a cavity and his best friend, Paul, says they’re not best friends any more. It’s enough to make a kid want to move to Australia, which Alexander considers until he learns things are pretty much the same down under.
The strong ensemble of Kleber, Anthony D’Juan, Denver Skye Vaughan, John Lamb, and Emily Killian are Alexander’s brothers, friends and classmates.
Director Lyndsay Burch keeps everything moving crisply, even though Alexander’s story runs through a series of valleys that have no peaks.
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.