Crackling with physical comedy, wordplay and innocent humor, Seattle Children’s Theatre's production of The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi, the opening show of its 40th anniversary season, is a delight for all ages. The play, adapted by Y York from a Rudyard Kipling story, is the endearing tale of an unlikely friendship between three distinct animals — a tailorbird, a muskrat and a mongoose — as they come together to stand up against their common enemy, the cobra. It emphasizes the importance of cooperating with each other and the value of friendship.
From the opening scene, where Darzee (the tailorbird) passionately sings an ode to her garden — that it’s “Mine, Mine, Mine” — Rikki Tikki Tavi is a comic tale that kids can easily relate to.
Kids will also enjoy a scene where Rikki the mongoose and Chuchu the muskrat discuss the various options of eating eggs (spilling, slurping and devouring) and the guileless exchange between Rikki and Chuchu and Darzee, as Darzee desperately attempts to get Rikki out of "her" garden.
An especially funny moment is where Nag the cobra invites Rikki (who is disguised in Nag’s discarded skin) to do the Cobra dance. As Rikki does not know the dance, he performs a hilarious routine that immediately has the audience laughing.
Although adapted from Kipling’s story, the strengths of the characters in the play are very different from the original. Kipling’s Rikki is a warrior. York’s Rikki is a reluctant hero — a baby that knows his weaknesses but passionately tries to save his friends. York’s Chuchu finds the courage to stand up to Nag even as Kipling’s Chuchundra remained cowardly.
Set in an East Indian garden, the music and costumes are reminscent of the exquisite sub-continent. I especially liked Nag’s outfit (inspired by an Indian sherwani, a long, coat-like garment) while my 5-year-old daughter loved Darzee’s sparkly white "birdy" dress. The set is colorful and vibrant, replete with replicas of flowers, plants and Darzee’s nest.
Parents should know
Officially recommended for children ages 5 and up, York’s adaptation has a positive, humorous and encouraging tone and is suitable for audiences of all ages — as long as they can sit for an hour. There are two scenes where some rapid changes (in costume and in score) may take young viewers by surprise.
“The bird is breathing funny!”
“I can calm myself now” in reaction to how Darzee helps Rikki calm down.
- The play is an hour long with no breaks. If possible, use restrooms before the show.
- Check out the active audience guide to the show, with great information, background and teaching tips.
- The theater has a quiet room should your child become restless or noisy. However, the room is not completely soundproof.
- There is time at the end of the show allotted for questions and answers. Encourage your kids to ask any questions they may have.
If you go ...
Where and when: Eve Alvord Theatre, at Seattle Center through Nov. 9.
Tickets: Thursday shows, $20; Friday shows, $25; weekend shows, adult $36, child $29. Buy online.
Parking: There’s plenty of street and public parking available near the theater, though you may have to pay. Consider public transportation.
Did you know? 10 fab facts about Seattle Children's Theatre's 40 years
Widely considered to be one of the top children’s theaters in the nation, Seattle Children's Theatre turns 40 this year. Fun facts about its four decades:
• Each costume for The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi took over 200 hours to make.
• This season, more than 250 actors auditioned for 29 available roles.
• Of SCT's 254 productions in its 40-year history, almost half (115) have been world premieres.
• In just the last three years, SCT has partnered with both Grammy and Pulitzer prize-winning artists.
• The composers for last season’s hit World Premiere production of James and the Giant Peach were also nominated for a Tony Award.
• SCT audiences consume approximately 186,000 chocolate chips each season as part of their cookie purchases.
• Spiders, dogs, cats, caterpillars, rabbits, sheep, turkeys and even penguins have graced the SCT stage over the years (true, mostly as puppets).
• Every summer the SCT Drama School partners with other favorite family organizations such as EMP, Pacific Science Center, The Seattle Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo.
• SCT audience members range from 6 months to 90 years old.
• SCT runs 11 shows a week for each production every season, five of which are dedicated to schools for field trips.