CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As part of FestivALL, Kanawha Players presented "Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales" -- a compilation of mostly familiar fairytales with a folksy spin.The play is comprised of six vignettes, three of which feature Jack: "Jack and the Bean Stalk," "Jack's Job" and "Jack and the Magic Tree." Jack, played by Edward Johnson, has a twangy accent and dons a pair of overalls when he talks about his home on "the mountain."The original "Jack and the Beanstalk" was credited to a British fairytale but has been reprised in many variants, so an Appalachian version with a starving mother at home is not too far of a stretch.The other three vignettes are "Catskin," a sort of Appalachian Cinderella; a musical version of "The Three Little Pigs," and "The Enchanted Tree," a spin on "Beauty and the Beast."
At face value, the production is very much a mildly hokey but charming children's theater show. A large number of kids in the cast play everything from barnyard animals to inanimate objects, and they're adorable, with little quirky props and masks made of decorated cardboard.There was a great deal of imagination and artistic interpretation that went into creating the sets and costumes. The presentation had a grab-bag feel, but it was obvious that limited funds had been used quite cleverly to make the most of what was available.The singing was fun and lively, but the canned music was too loud and often the dialogue was plowed over by a repeated loop of fiddle music.Kanawha Players is still struggling with the air-conditioning and, combined with stage lights and a giant spotlight, it makes for a stiflingly hot venue. Fans have been installed to regulate the temperature, but they are inadequate. Hand-held fans were given to audience members.I spoke briefly to the president of the organization after the show. She assured me that the group is working on climate improvements but had run into a few problems.If you have children or enjoy fanciful children's theater (and can stand somewhat sweltering temperatures), then this is a great show for you and your family. The multiple vignettes should make it easy for short attention spans, too."Sing Down the Moon" shows again Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm.Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1249.