Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fun with Lyle the Crocodile

Kate Ayers and Ted Ryle

The children’s play Lyle the Crocodile performed by Olympia Family Theater is fun for children of all ages as proven on the night we saw it by the rapt attention of children in the audience and by the laughter of adults.

It is a musical based on two children’s books by Bernard Waber: The House on East 88th Street and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Set in New York City in 1950, the Primm family moves into a new house and discovers, much to their horror, a crocodile in their bathtub. Their fear and disgust does not last long, because Lyle the Crocodile (played by Kate Ayers) immediately proves to be funny, joyful and engaging. He has the ability to know what humans want and give it to them. The Primms soon accept him as a part of their family, and he becomes a special friend to their son, Joshua (Mandy Ryle). Their neighbor, however, the aptly named Mr. Grumps (Ted Ryle), does not take to Lyle at all. Even though Lyle is super sensitive to the feelings of humans and able to melt even the coldest of hearts, it takes him a long, long time to make friends with Mr. Grumps.

Grumps, who owns a department store and the nastiest cat on East 88th Street, ships Lyle off to the zoo (animal prison). But the Primms, with the help of Hector P. Valenti (Eric Crawford), pull off a prison break.

Kate Ayers and Eric Crawford

In the course of the action there is rope jumping, ice skating, a parade, and lots of singing and dancing by a talented cast. Ayers is a mime without white face in her interpretation of Lyle. She never speaks with her voice, but speaks volumes with her gestures. Crawford as Valenti “star of stage and screen” is a kind of circus master of ceremonies and narrator. Crawford has an entertaining way of clapping his hands whenever he says his own name, and he combines a kind of dignified restraint with comic energy. You gotta love the soft shoe dance number he does with Ayers.  

Ted Ryles’ expressions of anger are hilarious — he’s the apotheosis of the nasty guy you love to hate. He plays the part not only as a grumpy old man but as a nerdy grumpy old man with a soft spot in his hard, hard heart. Amanda Stevens plays the uptight and proper Mrs. Nitpicker in a most delightful manner, and she sings beautifully.

Mr. Grumps’ beloved cat is a puppet that is used to great comic effect.

The set designed by Jill Carter is up to her usual high standards, and the set pieces move smoothly and without distraction.

Piano accompaniment by musical director Stephanie Claire is outstanding.

Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. with additional 4:30 matinees Dec. 14 and 21, in the black box theater at South Puget Sound Community College’s Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Tickets are $10 for children 12 and younger, $12 military, $16 adults, available at, by phone at 360-753-8586 or at the Washington Center box office. More information at

Today is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

"This Saturday marks the third annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. Begun by author Jenny Milchman, whose debut novel, Cover of Snow (Ballantine), comes out in January, the day was her way of trying to encourage other parents to share the joy of being in a bookstore with their children."  Read the article in Publisher's Weekly.

More than 500 bookstores are participating in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day including in Olympia: Orca Books, 509 E 4th Ave and Half Price Books Outlet at Cooper Point Pavilion, 1520 Cooper Point Rd. SW.

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