“The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” begins after the dust has settled, with two houses in ruins, two pigs digested and one suspect in custody awaiting trial.
In this musical version of the fable, the wolf has devoured the pigs in the houses of straw and sticks, but he did not drop down the third pig’s brick chimney into a hot pot of water. Instead, the play boils down to this: Alexander T. Wolf is under arrest and the porcine population of Piggsylvania wants his hide.
Wolf, a.k.a. “Big Bad,” is accused of two counts of “cruel and unusual consumption” and the wanton destruction of private property. The show now on stage at the Theatre of Youth follows his case through the courtroom, where the all-pig prosecution and the hog of a judge set about delivering a ham-handed kangaroo court.
Jacob Albarella plays the Wolf, a hairy mammal who relies on his voracious charm to defend his actions.
He has an uphill battle. Kerrykate Abel is the hardheaded Judge Juris Prudence, who proclaims that she isn’t interested in fairness, she wants justice. Sarah Blewett as the snooty snout prosecutor shows no patience for the Wolf’s mournful howls of unfairness, and Sarah Mullen follows suit as she plays a drove of curly tailed witnesses.
Their oinking and bleating grab the attention of the audience right off the bat, with some clever stagecraft and a well-crafted shadow puppet rendition of the crime. The songs are clever and breezy take-offs on familiar tunes and the cartoonish set is spot-on for this joke of a trial.
“Did he huff? Did he puff? Did he blow those houses down – and did he eat those two little pigs?,” the prosecutor asks.
Well, yeah. But what we want to hear are the mitigating factors.
Jennel Pruneda, as Lil Magill, the newshound hungry for the story, narrates between scenes and does her best to keep the exposition from becoming “boaring.” Meanwhile, the kids in the audiences just want more Wolf.
And then they get him. As in the Jon Scieszka book that inspired the play, the Wolf explains that he was merely going to his neighbors for a cup of sugar when his cold got the best of him and then, well, sneezing can sound an awful lot like huffing and puffing, one supposes.
In the end an Oink-o-Meter measures the jury’s verdict.
At the talk-after, which follows all TOY productions so kids can see how theater really works, we learned that there are alternate endings to the show, depending on how the vote goes. TOY artistic director Meg Quinn said the voting has been pretty lopsided so far. We won’t give it away any more than to say that one real-life defense attorney, when he heard about the verdict, smiled and said, “That’s why I like to pick young jurors.”
3 stars (out of 4)
What: “The Case of the Three Little Pigs”
When: Through June 4
Where: Theatre of Youth, Allendale Theatre, 203 Allen St.
Note: Recommended for ages 4 and older