Children Will Listen

The sterling Off-Broadway theater group the Axis Company has created a wonderful new holiday tradition with the fourth annual production of its winter show, Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid. This spirited children's play with music will have parents in the audience singing along as well. Seven tells the story of an urchin (Abigail Savage) who completes the herculean task of swatting seven flies at once. The Kid, as this hero is known, travels around town as a local celebrity, even sporting a belt buckle advertising the impressive feat. In a classic misunderstanding, everyone who encounters the Kid thinks the belt is referring to major acts of derring-do. Assuming that the Kid has killed seven people, they all try to make this new toughie do even more difficult tasks.

It is the lively cast of Seven that gives this sweet show its heart. The Kid meets up with a cornucopia of stock fairy-tale characters: the Scarlet Pimpernel (Brian Barnhart), an Ogre (Jim Sterling), a Princess (Margo Passalaqua), a Witch (Sue Ann Molinell), a Pea (the charming Laurie Kilmartin), even the month of December (Edgar Oliver).

All are remarkable performers, able to command the stage while charming both young and old audience members. Passalaqua, for one, demonstrates some impressive acrobatic dance moves, while Barnhart performs a rich, moving number that comes late in the show. And Molinell makes for quite a scary witch.

Director Randy Sharp's skills are just as impressive as the cast's. Not only is he a master at fluid pacing and making sure all of the cast members get equally prominent blocking, but he is also responsible for all the original songs. The show itself was written as a team effort by the Axis Company, and it is a clear representation of their synergy. This is an ensemble effort in every sense, and Axis's members seem to care as much about their young audiences as they do about each other. They never once talk down to their audience or appear bored or unhappy in roles that, in other performers' hands, could have come across as forced or trivial.

There are many morals to be found here for young people. The Ogre, for example, learns that you don't always have to brag about your physical prowess. The Princess realizes she should not judge a book by its cover and make fun of someone she doesn't know, since, for all she knows, they may have much in common.

Seven may be on the trite side, but it's always sweet and never saccharine. It is also very professionally done, thanks to its many top-notch technical effects, including David Zeffren's lighting design, Steve Fontaine's sound effects (as when the Kid kills the seven flies), and Valerie Hallier's artwork, which brings a veritable winter wonderland to life. Sharp also utilizes some video clips and cues to facilitate audience participation. One could presume that this show's purpose is to enthrall children, but the effect was the same for the parents on whose laps they were seated.

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