Conner Nedderson as Wolfgang and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Delivery in Seattle Children’s Theatre’s production of “Red Riding Hood.” Credit: Angela Sterling
Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT) is back! After a pandemic-driven hiatus, the theater's 2022 season kicks off with a world premiere production of “Red Riding Hood.” My almost-6-year-old daughter had just been inaugurated into the SCT tradition with her first few plays back before the pandemic, so it was a treat for the two of us to return to a favorite one-on-one outing spot.
The bottom line
SCT has made a name for itself by reimagining classic fairy tales, and Allison Gregory’s adaptation of the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” is no exception. The play begins with a character named Wolfgang, an actor, preparing to present a one-man version of the classic folktale. Amidst his preparations, he’s interrupted by a delivery driver. Despite her urgent package, the two decide to act out the tale together. A magical red beanie appears and transforms the delivery person into Red Riding Hood.
I highly recommend this inventive and comedic show for elementary-age kids and their families.
Working out the story
Wolfgang and the driver-turned-Red bicker over the exact details of the familiar folktale. It's in the same endearing way that my kids tease me when I mix up the details of their favorite bedtime stories. Their banter is funny and had the audience giggling in their seats. I could see my daughter’s eyes crinkling with laughter above her mask — it’s the kind of reaction that I only see from her at live events versus when she's in front of a screen.
Longtime Seattle Children’s Theatre fans won’t be surprised by how well the actors swap roles and jokes: Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako (Delivery/Red) and Conner Neddersen (Wolfgang) also delighted audiences as a two-person team in SCT’s 2020 production of “Snow White.” It was SCT’s last show before lockdown, so it’s only fitting that these two reunite for the season opener.
We arrived at the show early and the preview started a few minutes late, so we had plenty of time to scan the QR codes to download the program and Active Audience Guide. The guide includes interviews with some of the crew, and my art-loving daughter enjoyed seeing the costume and prop sketches.
Rather than wearing elaborate costumes, each character wears a signature piece or two: the wolf’s furry paws, mother’s red apron and Red Riding Hood’s ruby-red beanie. This seems to facilitate frequent on-stage character swaps and likely kept things lower-budget for a theater that’s still recovering from the pandemic.
Parents should know
The show is full of themes that will resonate with parents and kids still experiencing COVID-19 times. For instance, Wolfgang asks Red for advice on how to play the mother character. She replies, “Oh, I don’t know, old and tired? Strict, but loving …” That cut close to home for this mom who’s had to make and enforce extra rules during the pandemic.
There are heart-melting parts as well. When she’s getting ready to head into the dark forest to visit her grandmother, Red repeats positive affirmations to herself: “I am brave when the world around me is scary. I am clever.”
Later, Red and her grandmother reflect about taking one another for granted, singing that they never asked about whether the other likes to run, jump or kick a ball. This felt particularly poignant after years of limited interactions between grandchildren and their grandparents.
My daughter is on the sensitive side of the spectrum. I did worry a bit about whether she would feel scared as the wolf stalks Red through the forest, or when she and her grandmother are eaten (although they eventually escape).
The script dispels some of the darker parts in creative ways: Red herself says she’s too scared to go into the forest and the actors discuss whether they should end the play. They ultimately decide to continue. There are frequent breaks from character that avoid letting scenes get too heavy, and the minimal costumes emphasize that everything is pretend.
My daughter and I debriefed the play over dinner and ice cream after the show. Her favorite part was Mboligikpelani Nako’s portrayal of the wolf — it turns out she wasn’t scared at all!
If you go …
When: “Red Riding Hood” opens Friday, Feb. 11, and runs through March 6, 2022. (A preview performance is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 10.)
Where: Seattle Children's Theatre is located at 201 Thomas St., Seattle, on the west side of Seattle Center.
Tickets: $20–$50; buy tickets online for best availability. Prior to the pandemic, SCT introduced pricing tiers. Patrons can select their preferred ticket price, subject to availability. The tiers are premium ($45 child, $50 adult), standard ($35 child, $40 adult) and value ($20 child, $25 adult). Select “value” from the dropdown menu on the ticket page to find the cheaper tickets. There are a limited number available for each performance.
Accessibility: SCT offers an ASL-interpreted show (Saturday, Feb. 12) and a sensory-friendly show (Sunday, Feb. 20). Wheelchair and companion seating are available upon request, as are audio-described performances.
Age recommendation: SCT recommends this show for ages 5 and older.
Run time: One hour and 15 minutes, with no intermission.
Show resources: SCT’s audience guide provides a detailed synopsis of the play, as well as Red Riding Hood discussion ideas and games for kids.
Safety protocols: SCT requires masks for everyone ages 2 and older as well as proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for everyone ages 5 and older. Read more details online.