Dandelion – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

How does it feel to be different and uncertain and wanting desperately to fit in with everyone else? We all have awkward moments but what if those moments stretch into hours and days and weeks? How would you cope? If your name is Dandelion and you are a slightly cowardly lion, you have a real case of insecurity. Whether you are five or fifty-five or even older, you are not immune to the condition. Everyone feels uncertain at some points in their life and Playhouse on Park in West Hartford has a musical selection for the youngest ones who might need a little help with reassurance.

Until Sunday, May 14, come visit the animal kingdom for a lesson in being proud of who you are as the book “Dandelion” by Don Freeman, penned over five decades ago, becomes a world premiere musical of the same name with book and lyrics by Joan Ross Sorkin and lyrics by Mary Liz McNamara, recommended for pre-schoolers to grade 3. School field trips are also available.

Come meet Dandelion, Sage Jepson, an insecure teenager who does not feel comfortable in his own rugged lion skin. He does not like his ratty yellow sweater or his wild hair and wishes he were someone else. When his whole homeroom gets invited to an impromptu party at the home of the popular Jennifer Giraffe, Liz Davis, Dandelion panics and is afraid to go. He realizes he needs to change to be accepted and liked so he gets a make-over: a new jacket, a curly mane, sunglasses and a bouquet of roses for his pretty hostess.

Unfortunately for Dandelion, reinventing himself is not the answer, thanks to a bully at school named Roscoe, Ryan Phelps, who also verbally attacks Jen’s younger brother Toby, Jong Sang Rheu. Dandelion also finds himself encouraging Zippy, Dan Zimberg, a zebra who does not care for his black and white stripes but it is the encouragement of Pippa the parrot, Sydney Weiser, who helps Dandelion to realize that just being himself is the best message of all. Swings who can play all the roles are Alia Irshaid Robert and Niko Touros. Jill Zarcone directs this energetic cast in adorable costumes by Vilinda McGregor who sing and dance for almost an hour, with music direction by Kevin Barlowski and choreography by Darlene Zoller on a leafy stage created by Lindsay G. Fuori.

For tickets ($22.50-25), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or online at www.playhouseonpark.org. Shows are Saturday and Sunday May 6 and 7 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 10 at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, May 13 at 10 a.m. (sensory friendly) and 1 p.m., and Sunday, May 14 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. School died trips are Tuesday to Friday at 10 a.m. and12:30 p.m., $7 per student.

Children are encouraged to make a wish on a dandelion card, as if they are blowing the petals in the wind.