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Theater for Young America presents lively children's show, 'No Dogs Allowed'

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"No Dogs Allowed!"

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“No Dogs Allowed!” a new musical for children, comes to City Stage in the lower level of Kansas City’s historic Union Station and makes its Midwest premiere was April 22, as part of Kansas City Theater, a spokesman for Theater for Young America said, today.

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This will be the Midwest premier of a charming new musical based on the award-winning book by Sonia Manzano, Alexandria Washington, customer relations manager for Theatre for Young America, said. Manzano, plays Maria on Sesame Street.

The music for “No Dogs Allowed!” was composed by Stephen Lawrence with lyrics by Bill Aronson. The show, produced by Theatre for Young America features many of their regular actors. TYA presents “No Dogs Allowed!” at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station, April 22 through May 17, 2014.

In the play, Iris, a young Puerto Rican girl who narrates the musical, tells about a car trip she made with her large funny extended family for a day at a state park. Although her Papi says she cannot bring El Exigente, her dog, she sneaks him in the car. After car trouble where everyone has to pitch in to get started again, they arrive at the park and it has a big sign that says “No Dogs Allowed!”

Sonia Manzano wrote the book and adapted it into a musical play based on her own Puerto Rican family in the Bronx. Stephen Lawrence composed original music and Billy Aronson wrote lyrics for songs celebrating the culture, creativity and love of this eccentric extended family.

The show is wonderful for young audiences. The show runs about 40 minutes and then the cast fields questions from their audience after announcing their real names. The talkback helps the audience better understand theater and feel important as the actors answer whatever they ask.

Count on this cast of seasoned professional actors to put a children’s show on with lots of color, flash, music, and dance. Each cast member sings and dances his or her way through several songs. The choreography is fun and lively and will definitely keep children focused. All the songs are happy tunes as is the script.

The adults in the cast shine. Bradley J. Thomas and Lena Andrews play the mom and dad. Thomas is very lively as a Mr. Fix-it character and really shows his musical-comedy flair in his part. Hedgpeth-Guerra is kind and loving as the mother and the calmer-downer of the group.

The aunt and uncle, so recently married and so hopelessly in love come to life by Wil Andrews-Weiss and Nicole Santorella. Their outbreaks as the couple so passionately in love that they just can’t stop singing and dancing is charming.

Eric Johansen rounds out the adults in the cast. Johnasen is a friend of the family and brings the picnic for the outing. He gets a chance to show his vocal talent with his solo number about making sandwiches for everyone. It’s a good number with Johansen performing.

As for the younger cast, Mia Hedgpeth-Guerra plays Shorty, the girl with the brains and older sister to Iris. She’s the voice of reason in the piece. The main character of Iris splits between two young performers (depending on the day/performance). Josie Leanti and Rylee Wilson alternate as Iris. (The reviewer saw Lenati.) It’s a cute performance by an up and coming actress.

El Exigente, the dog that creates the dilemma also alternates performers between Isaac Robinson and Jami Lenati. (May 7 was Robinson’s day.) El Exigente is the focus of the piece and the cause for the problem, but does not get to sing or talk. He is well adept as howling, running, and wagging his tail. A cute non-speaking performance by a young thespian.

Valerie Mackey returns from a 6-week tour of Canada and the U.S. in "Menopause the Musical" to direct this musical with a cast that includes Mia Hedgpeth-Guerra, Bradley J. Thomas, Lena Andrews, Nicole Santorella, Wil Andrews-Weiss, Eric Johansen, Josie and Jami Lenati, Rylee Wilson, and Isaac Robinson.

The play teaches how to work together to make the best of difficult circumstances. The family just makes the best of the situation and takes turns playing outside the park with El Exigente while each family member gets to do what they had planned, Washington said.

“No Dogs Allowed!” contains curriculum connections for live theatre, Latino culture, Spanish and English vocabulary, problem-solving, cooperation. The show is targeted for preschool and up.

Single tickets and group reservations may be reserved online at www.unionstation.org or by calling Union Station at 816.460.2020, or Theatre for Young America at 816.460.2083. The single ticket price is $9. Groups of 15 or more are $5.50 per person with a reservation. Season tickets are available at www.tya.org or by calling 816.460.2083.

The performance schedule for “No Dogs Allowed!” follows: Most morning performances begin at 10 a.m. on April, 22, 23, 25, 29, 30; May 1, 2,6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14,15, 16. Noon performances are planned for April 24, 25; May 2, 3, 9, 15, 16. Performances at 2 p.m. fall on April 26, May 3, 10, and 17. An evening performance is planned for May 9 at 7 p.m.

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