Fred Rohan-Varga’s endeavor of love, his new Caribbean children’s musical, Yaki Yim Bamboo The Musical, now playing at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre is an enchanting delight and certainly much more entertaining than I thought possible for an old fogey like myself. Any time I review children’s theatre alone (meaning without dragging one of young kids along with me), I always expect to be more analytical and less drawn into the story. But Yaki Yim Bamboo is enchanting, funny and a very charismatic show that proves to strike gold by interacting with the audience.
Centered around a mythical Caribbean island where only kids are allowed to visit, the story is about a an overgrown boy (Bobotwee) who refuses to leave the island and has somehow taken control of its inhabitants. Andrew Clarke as the villainous dictator who is spectacular and charming and sort of sad in his misdeeds. He dominates with some beautifully sung numbers and a perfect performance. The children in the audience are clearly enthralled by this character, but in a way which engages their desire to help the story along. They shout and laugh and raise their hands to volunteer with great enthusiasm and spirit. Kudos have to go to the cast in general for their charming ability to draw them in.
Two major ensemble characters, inhabitants of the island, are Mongoose and Iguana, played by Kristina Coia and Bobby Gamez. They are funny, wonderful with the audience and spontaneous and bring the story to fruition with charm and skill. Azusa “SHESHE” Dance and Janaki Gerard as Mother Enez and Za round off this lovely cast.
Music and choreography come together nicely in this play and you really get the sense that you are on a magical Island. The sets and costumes are equally as well handled and the lighting and sound make for a delightful experience. I really enjoyed it and left wondering what Disney would do with a tale like this. Why isn’t Mr. Roha-Vargas and company pitching this to a major studio?
Directed & Choreographed by Alex Acevedo, with Music Composition by Jay Griggs and Musical Direction by Noriko Sunamoto. Credits to Lyricist June Rachelson-Opsa, assistant Satoko Mori, Stage Management by Anthony Cona, Set Design by Anthony Freitas, Costume Design by Stephanie Berry, and Props Design by Savannah Edgar.
For more information about performances: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2506600