Todd Jefferson Moore in "Balloonacy" at Seattle Children's Theatre. Credit: Angela Sterling
Seattle Children’s Theatre’s newest production, “Balloonacy,” differs from your typical kids' play in that it tells a story completely without dialogue. A red balloon drifts into an old man’s apartment and teases him out of his solitary funk. The man and the balloon become friends, play silly games together and utterly charm the audience. All without saying a single word.
But the play isn't silent. There’s a soundtrack — music from keyboardist Evan Barrett, seated at the side of the stage — plus giggles and guffaws from the enchanted families in the audience.
Actor Todd Jefferson Moore does a fantastic job playing the old man, complete with pants up to his armpits. It’s a one-man show, unless you consider the helium-filled latex balloon his co-star, and you should (check out the funny bio page).
As soon as the red balloon peeked out on the stage, all the kids busted out laughing. Together, the old man and the red balloon play leapfrog, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and hide-and-seek. At the curtain call, Moore takes a bow — and appropriately, so does the balloon.
The best parts of this play are the old man’s expressions and body language. The kids giggled when he overheated his microwave dinner, and squealed when he accidentally sat on his cupcake. “He’s funny!” I overheard one kid say. While the story sounds simple, “Balloonacy” didn’t read as too baby-ish a show for the bigger kids, perhaps because there isn’t any dialogue,
The story incorporates two things that every kid loves: balloons and birthdays. Hard to go wrong with that combination. But there’s a subtext about loneliness and hurt as well. You can’t help but feel a little bad for a guy who’s setting up for a party of one. Then the old man gets into a tiff with the balloon, and shoves his friend out the window, literally. The kids watching all picked up on the tension. “Why is he not being nice?” a little boy in the audience asked out loud.
If you’re the kind of parent who likes to make every experience a learning opportunity, you could talk to your kids about how to make other people feel better when they’re sad. You could talk about disappointment, too. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger when we heard “zwweeeee” — the sound of a balloon losing air.
One thing I particularly loved about this Charlie Chaplin-style performance is that it is so inclusive. English language learner? Hearing challenges? Not a problem. Age-wise, it’s recommended for 3 and up. I brought my resident 3-year-old to test drive the show, and as advertised, it was perfect for him. I saw a fair number of older kids in the audience too, who laughed just as hard as the preschoolers. And the play was practically tailor-made for my second grader, the world’s most balloon-obsessed kid.
“Balloonacy” tells a story about the universal theme of friendship, using the universal language of pantomime. We loved the show and we think you will, too.
The bottom line: This show is a lot of fun for all audiences and all ages.
If you go...
When: “Balloonacy” plays through May 5 with multiple showtimes each week. Dates to note:
Where: Seattle Children's Theatre at 201 Thomas St., Seattle, on the west side of Seattle Center. The performance takes place in the Eve Alvord Theatre (the smaller room with long benches). Tip: Go in right when the doors open to snag a prime seat.
Cost: Tickets are $30–$40. Rush tickets are half-price one hour before the show, based on availability. Buy tickets online or at the box office.
Run time: The show runs approximately 40 minutes with no intermission.
Age recommendation: SCT recommends the show for ages 3 and older.
Parking: Try street parking or one of the surface lots in the neighborhood. The theater is most easily accessed from the west side of Seattle Center, between Key Arena and the Pacific Science Center.
Nearby fun: Check out ParentMap’s guide to Seattle Center and don't miss the fantastic Artists at Play playground on the east side of the Armory, where you can get a snack or lunch.
Tips for parents: