Google “unlikely animal friendships” and you’ll find YouTube videos with playful pairings of an orangutan and a dog, a sheep and an elephant, a cat and a dolphin, etc. One of the best such relationships has to be the spider and the pig in E.B. White’s classic Charlotte’s Web.
It’s a story that’s perfect for the stage, and Casa Mañana Children’s Theatre’s production of Joseph Robinette’s widely produced stage adaptation doesn’t disappoint.
The eight-legged Charlotte (Stephanie Tovar) and pig Wilbur (Jeremy Dumont) become fast friends, along with other barnyard animals, after she turns him into a fairground star by writing words (“terrific,” “some pig”) in her web.
A big part of what makes the production stand out is Tammy Spencer’s costumes. The spider (all black with strips of fabric) and pig (pink overalls, pink shirt, pink cap) are easy enough, but her creativity really comes out with smelly rat Templeton (Ryan Page), the mama Sheep (Pam Dougherty) and Goose (Becca Brown).
In each of those cases, it’s about keeping the human underneath the costumes apparent while still evoking the animal.
Sheep, for example, wears a fluffy white coat with black gloves, stockings and a hat — and Dougherty carries herself regally, on two legs (not four). The rat wears grungy, gray/brown clothes with a dingy overcoat. Goose has a terrific bustle and a demure hat. In each case, the actor gets into the spirit of his or her animal, and Page, in particular, has a ball with his scattered, scavenging rodent.
Director Jennie Lynn Godfrey keeps things moving, and Dumont uses his physical training as a dancer to jump, tumble and spring to life the effervescent pig who is saved, thanks to the intrepid arachnid, from the butcher block.
It’s all perfectly adorable for very young theater audiences — and their parents who will fondly remember their favorite unlikely animal pairing of all.