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Theater Review: Friendship the Perfect Blendship for NCT’s ‘Lyle’

 

“It’s friendship, friendship,
Just a perfect blendship,
When other friendships have been forgot
Ours will still be hot!”

From “Friendship” by Cole Porter

The lyrics cited above were going through my head again and again while watching the very entertaining Lyle the Crocodile at Nashville Children’s Theatre. Indeed, friendship, Lyle and NCT are a perfect blendship.

Onstage now through May 11 is a funny and warm Kevin Kling adaptation of the characters and storylines created by Bernard Waber for such books as “The House on East 88th Street” and “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.” The production features a beautifully breezy original score by Nashville composer Kevin Madill.

The Primm family gets more than they bargained for when they move into their new NYC home – there’s a crocodile in their tub! And not just any crocodile, but a saxophone-playing, house-cleaning, hors d’oeuvre-making crocodile that used to tour the world as the showbiz sidekick to Hector P. Valenti. While the Primms soon accept Lyle not-so-neighborly Mr. Grumps looks for any way to rid East 88th Street of him. Just what will Lyle and the Primms do?

NCT Producing Director Scot Copeland once again assembles a crack team of artists onstage and off for this Lyle. Courtney O’Neill’s scenic design brings the look of Lyle’s world in the books to life; so do Patricia Taber’s costumes and Colin Peterson’s special multi-media contributions. Scott Leathers’ lighting enhances every scene, and Madill’s excellent music complements not only the storyline but Janette Bruce’s energetic choreography.

Bruce is a terrific part of the top-drawer cast as Mrs. Primm to the equally terrific Samuel Whited III’s Mr. Primm. Their son Joshua is played with youthful delight by the always-engaging Andrew Kanies; Mr. Grumps in all his eyebrow-arched glory is the wonderful result of Buddy Raper’s dependable talents. As nosy Ms. Nitpicker Rona Carter is a hoot (and she tangos pretty well too); Shawn Knight and Jon Royal smoothly disappear into multiple roles; and Matthew Carlton’s Hector is, well, the best at everything in the hands of this versatile performer.

Last, but of course not least, is Bobby Wyckoff as Lyle. He may not have any dialogue, but with Wyckoff’s penchant for physical expression that doesn’t matter: we understand Lyle as completely as we understand his English-speaking friends thanks to the actor’s incredible abilities.

Yes, it’s friendship, friendship…well, you know the rest. Lyle the Crocodile is a sweet tale told well by the highly professional ensemble at NCT.

Lyle the Crocodile directed by Scot Copeland continues through May 11 at Nashville Children’s Theatre (25 Middleton St.). Public performances are at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays (no performance on April 20). Tickets ($20, $14 youth and students; group rates available) and more information are available by calling (615) 252-4675 or visiting NashvilleCT.org.

*Video and home page featured capture image courtesy Nashville Children’s Theatre.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).