Review: "Petunia's Playhouse Live!: Petunia's Big Day" Makes a Big Impression for Small Humans

Petunia's Playhouse Live!: Petunia's Big Day

Book by Laura Kay Clark

Directed by Christina Rose Ashby

Music and lyrics by Billy Recce

Presented on demand by New Ohio Theatre for Young Minds and Party Claw Productions

January 17-February 6, 2022

Photo courtesy Party Claw Productions
No doubt there are those for whom a new school term has only ever been an occasion of self-confident excitement. For most of us, though, students and teachers alike, back-to-school involves some degree of fretfulness. Petunia's Playhouse Live!: Petunia's Big Day, based on the web series written and performed by Laura Kay Clark, tackles these first-day jitters with a spirited family-friendly musical. The 2020 web series Petunia’s Playhouse aimed to help equip its young viewers with tools and tactics to address the mental health-related challenges of living in a pandemic. Petunia's Playhouse Live!: Petunia's Big Day faced its own pandemic challenges: it was set to bring Petunia and company to the stage in an interactive format until soaring omicron cases intervened at the last moment. However, modeling the resilience that the show encourages, Petunia's Playhouse Live!: Petunia's Big Day has arrived in an on-demand video format.
Photo courtesy Party Claw Productions
The show opens with Petunia (Laura Kay Clark), a pink puppet in the Henson style, waking up on her first day of school, performing a song that includes her daily affirmations—that she is strong, capable, and brave—but also, importantly, acknowledges that strong, capable, and brave people can still get nervous or shy. The set for Petunia's home has a canted, hand-drawn look that evokes a children's storybook, and her colorful backpack acts as a focal point against that background which emphasizes the significance of this big day. It doesn't take too long, though, for this space to be invaded by the Anxiety Monster (Christopher Isolano)—costumed something like Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka, who can certainly give kids anxiety—and for second thoughts to start percolating and (literal) tummy butterflies to appear on the scene. Nothing short of a miracle can banish the Anxiety Monster, he brags in song; but Petunia may not need a miracle when she has her mother (Renee Titus) and her friend Pumpkin Duck (voiced by TJ Bolden), who is the best version of what that name sounds like, around to help her to meet this challenge and maybe even to help someone else in turn.
Photo courtesy Party Claw Productions
Petunia's Big Day combines winning performances; an engaging variety in its songs; and valuable messaging into one enjoyably lively package. Families can also supplement the experience with activities and resources curated on the Petunia's Playhouse website. Petunia's Playhouse Live!: Petunia's Big Day offers a good time with some good takeaways for the younger crowd, although viewers of any age, let's be frank, should be fans of Pumpkin Duck.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards


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