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Theater Review: Olympia Family Theater scores with "Busytown"

Richard Scarry's musical comedy has kids squealing with delight

Lowly The Worm knows where the intermission goodies can be found. Photo courtesy of Facebook

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Olympia Family Theater has joined the ranks of recent Tacoma and Olympia companies to make physical changes to their space. As of Sept. 1, they have finally found a permanent home in the old Capital Playhouse theater. They are currently fundraising to update the sound, put in new carpet in the lobby and other changes to update the venue. They opened their new stage - and their 2014/2015 season - with Richard Scarry's Busytown. Even if you've never read any of Scarry's books, there is still plenty to enjoy.

The musical opens with the "Busytown Theme," which introduces the characters in a cute and energetic way. Very quickly, Huckle Cat (one of the roles played by the fabulous Kate Ayers) wonders "What Do People Do All Day" and several numbers answer that question and lead us to Huckle's real conflict. How does a young cat become a useful part of Busytown? As Huckle works toward finding a job and purpose, the audience is entertained with a funny Andrews Sisters-esque "Pickle Car" (as homemade pickles are passed around!), a silly "Construction Worker's Ballet" and the sweet "Betsy Bear/Gonna Write Grandma a Letter."

Busytown doesn't offer as many opportunities for audience participation as past shows but the awesomeness of the "Train Song" at the beginning of Act 2 makes up for it. Kate Ayers as Train the Dog has the audience eating out of her hand, er, paw. After the "Train Song," the story moves back to Busytown where Huckle finally discovers what he wants to do and the "Busytown Finale" wraps up everything.

In addition to the fantastic singing and acting by Kate Ayers, Vanessa Postil was darling as Betsy Bear. The actresses who were the Trio (Terri Charles, Emmalene Ryle, and Caroln Willems Van Dijk) all had lovely voices that blended together beautifully. Over half the cast has performed in previous OFT productions and young audiences may enjoy seeing the familiar faces.

Becky Scott and Sally Fitzgerald outfitted the cast in simple, colorful costumes that complimented the scenery and props. Scenic designer Jill Carter, scenic engineer David Nowitz, the carpenters, and the many painters created a set that is perfect for a game of I Spy or That's Silly (spot the silly things). However, one young patron was heard saying, "Mom, this is just a pretend town." Noted.

While the entire audience appeared to enjoy the play, as evidenced by the laughter and gleeful murmurs at certain bits (seriously, the Pickle Car was awesome), the youngest patrons were extremely excited for the snacks that were available during intermission. Cupcakes, cookies with frosting, snack bars, and juice were available for suggested donations ranging from $1-$3 cash. There was also a raffle and other opportunities to help OFT (and get a little something for yourself). Busytown is perfect for ages 3 and older.

BUSYTOWN, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Oct. 12, Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, $13-$19, 360.570.1638

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