The Amazing Helena McDermott | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Amazing Helena McDermott 

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Theatre Wyrzuc, at Cafe Voltaire.

Helena McDermott is now a happy, confident, socially well adjusted young woman. As a child, however, she was cruelly taunted by her peers for her clumsiness at sports, her bookish interests, and, most of all, her tennis racket-size hands. But through the love and support of a courageous mentor, one Sally Sokind, Helena's self-esteem and spiritual awareness blossom. Finally she distinguishes herself by heroically rescuing her undeserving enemies from a fearful boar-monster.

The forced rhymes and uneven meter in which Brian Gary Kirst has written The Amazing Helena McDermott, Theatre Wyrzuc's first venture into children's musical theater, sometimes seem labored, as do "Guitar Guy" Mark Ozburn's relentlessly regular 4/4-time C-D-G melodies. But the eight members of the cast, led by Peggy Davis as the Amazing Helena herself, dig deep into their bag of oral-interpretation tricks to infuse the flimsy dialogue with some ingenuous enthusiasm and inventiveness. Kids will probably like the two obnoxious brats portrayed with relish by Margaret O'Malley and Nancy Kutzer, but Tina Steele's thoroughly charming boar-monster deserves its own MTV contract.

The Amazing Helena McDermott provides copious amounts of silly kinetic fun for small children, and the 45-minute running time renders the show not overtedious for jaded parents. Anyway, the play's message--"It's OK to be different"--is always welcome.


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