Seeing family theater at Scottish Rite is a different experience than the other theaters in town. A young audience can sit on a carpeted area in front of the stage while their parents sit in the seats behind or to the side. This makes this young audience feel like they really are a part of the show. Even as they wait for the show to start, the audience is invited to color their coloring page programs with the provided crayons.
When Scottish Rite turns the classic fable, “The Town Musicians of Bremen,” into the Bollywood version, “The Town Musicians of Mumbai,” the audience feels like they are in the forest with the animals and the robbers. So much so that when Donkey (Sean Gajjar), breaks the fourth wall and wonders out loud about what he’s going to do now that the farmer wants to put him out to pasture, the young audience has no problem answering him, even if he didn’t really ask for their help. In many ways, this production invites this from the fourth wall breaking to the group chicken dance at the end.
The dancing and the music give this production its energy. Live music from the Sacred Cowgirls Band — Pauravi Rana on keyboard, Marguerite Elliott on violin, and Kim Roche on bass — keeps the play moving along and gives the audience different ways to experience the story.
Donkey decides to head to the big city of Mumbai to become a singer. After all, he believes he has a great voice (It is very evident when you hear him braying that he does not). Off he goes through the forest to get to Mumbai. Meanwhile, we meet two bumbling robbers (Robert Deike and Chris Humphrey) who have stolen gold, fabrics and food from a wedding party. They run from a tiger and find a cave for their hideout.
Along Donkey’s journey, he meets a Dog (Minnie Homchowdhury), who is so old that her master is going to send her to the animal shelter because she can no longer be a watchdog. Dog also has a lovely howl (not really) and decides to join Donkey in Mumbai. Then they meet Cat (Preya Patel), who has a screeching meow, and has been replaced by a cute kitten. The merry band of musicians is complete when they meet Rooster (Megan Ortiz), who is going to be put in the curry pot, and has a lovely ear-ringing cockadoodledoo.
As each new member joins the team, we are treated to a performance of animal song and dance. Each animal has its own way of moving that is indicative of its species that goes along with the group choreography.
Meanwhile, the robbers are enjoying their feast, when they settle down for the night. Along comes the musicians, who see the feast, and decide to sing for their supper.
Of course, the robbers can’t make out that its just a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster that have invaded their cave. They run off, leaving their riches for the musicians to enjoy.
Scottish Rite Theater is truly a theater where you could bring any age and it would be OK. In fact, on Saturday morning, we saw kids from toddlers to grade-schoolers as well as their parents and grandparents. We even saw a father bring his adult daughter, who had developmental delays, and she could enjoy theater just as much as the kids on the carpet without judgement. This was also some of the most diverse audiences we’ve seen at local family theater shows, both in age, heritage and language spoken at home.
At 45 minutes, it’s a short show that moves quickly, making it a great introduction to theater for younger audiences.
“The Town Musicians of Mumbai”
11 a.m. Saturday through April 30; 1 p.m. Sundays through May 1. $8-$12. Scottish Rite Theatre, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org.