Quote of the Day: It’s one thing to read a book. It’s another thing to get the music of the text. author Matt de la Peña on reading his book, Last Stop on Market Street, aloud to children. 

Greta Oglesby-Alejandro Vega-Ansa Akyea in Last Stop on Market Street Photo by Dan Norman

The creators of the stage adaptation of Last Stop on Market Street have found the music in the text. Playwright Cheryl L. West has done another amazing adaptation of bringing the page to the stage at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN. (She also adapted Lizzie Bright and Akeelah and the Bee.) Father and son team Lamont Dozier and Paris Ray Dozier wrote the music, and it is directed by Henry Godinez. It’s a bit like Sesame Street meets Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. The music is lively, hip-hop style mixed with Gospel and rap. The choreography, by Ashley Selmer, is wonderful. Many youngsters were wiggling in their seats and moving along to the music. You feel like you’re riding along with CJ and Nana as they explore the city, meet all kinds of interesting folks, and find ways to help others. It’s a fun, energetic show that really bounces along.

Greta Oglesby as Nana and Alejandro Vega as CJ in Last Stop on Market Street Photo by Dan Norman

CJ, played by the multi-talented Alejandro Vega, is reluctant to spend a long weekend with his Nana. He resists every attempt she makes to connect until she finally takes away all his electronic devices and insists that he ride the city bus with her and help at the soup kitchen. Greta Oglesby has a strong presence as the boy’s Nana, where she delivers some great zingers, loads of patience and compassion, and a bit of her own stubborn resolve. CJ’s attitude starts to get annoying, but he comes around in the end. Nana helps him see the beauty in everyday things and hear the music of the people he meets.

Alejandro Vega-Greta Oglesby-Dwight Leslie-Ansa Akyea in Last Stop on Market Street photo by Dan Norman

Ansa Akyea, always a delight to watch on stage, is the bus driver Mr. Dennis. He’s funny and engaging, and at one point saves the day. As usual, the Children’s Theatre creates shows with energy, love, and a few surprises. I heard many kids ooh and ah when the city bus pulled up! CJ is wary at first, but Nana shows him that everyone has a story, and once you open up to hearing it, you might just find a friend.

Autumn Ness-Alejandro Vega-Greta Oglesby in Last Stop on Market Street Photo by Dan Norman

Autumn Ness shows her usual charisma on stage as Madam Butterfly/Grandma Posey and has fun with the dance moves in the ensemble. Dwight Leslie, Calvin Zimmerman, and Kennedy Lucas play various roles with ease. The entire ensemble is lively and talented and engaging. Sanford Moore directs the rock band, the music seeming to come up from the Subway, or sewer system, under the city! The set, designed by Courtney O’Neill, is an inner city with all its messiness, noise, and beauty.

This adaptation takes what happens in the picture book a little further. West gives CJ a backstory, a reason to be spending time with his Nana, and a chance to learn from those around him. The characters sing about gratitude and taking care of each other. Clearly, CJ has a lesson to learn about gratitude and generosity. It can seem a bit overstated, but Nana guides with a gentle hand and leads by example. 

Last Stop on Market Street is co-commissioned by the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis and Chicago Children’s Theatre. This will be a wonderful show for all the school kids who take field trips to see live theater, and for the folks who bring their youngsters in from both rural and urban areas. You can see it through October 21, 2018.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever helped out in a soup kitchen or done other service volunteer work?

I found this Youtube video of the author Matt de la Peña reading his book to school children while taking the city bus to the library. The book comes alive through this interactive reading!