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Children / Colorado Livin' / Events

Arvada’s “Flat Stanley” takes kid fun to a cool new dimension

Since 1964, the “Flat Stanley” books have encouraged kids to see the world, well, three-dimensionally.

Flat Stanley devotees spread the gospel today by encouraging young people to send letters to strangers around the globe, with words of encouragement and a Flat Stanley likeness enclosed. When that US Airways flight miraculously landed in the Hudson River in 2009, a passenger was carrying a Flat Stanley in his briefcase.

So never dispute the power of a flat-out positive message.

“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” is a cheerful, kid-pleasing musical based on Jeff Brown’s series of popular books. And it makes for another wonderful, family-friendly offering from the Arvada Center’s children’s theater wing.

It tells the tale of a polite, tie-wearing lad named Stanley Lambchop, who dreams of doing amazing things the world has never seen before. When a falling bulletin board flattens Stanley in bed — but doesn’t seem to have done him any medical harm — this seeming curse turns out to be an answered prayer.

Stanley can now slide under a door or be flown like a kite. Better yet, he can be mailed anywhere in the world for the cost of postage. So his doting but otherwise unconcerned parents ship him off on adventures to Hollywood, Hawaii and France, where Stanley gets mixed up in a caper worthy of “The Pink Panther.”

Along the way, promised adventures are had, lessons are learned, and eventually Stanley begins to yearn for home and family.

A bombardment of pop-culture references spans “Harry Potter” to “Star Wars” to “Get Smart” to Edvard Munch’s famous painting, “The Scream.” But mostly it feels like “The Wizard of Oz” meets “Around the World in Eighty Days” — without the flying monkeys, or anything else remotely scary or threatening coming Stanley’s way. That’s why this musical will appeal most to the youngest of audiences, and lose anyone of an age where danger is half the fun.

The musical is a great vehicle for adult actor Michael Bouchard as Stanley. Boyish and substantive at once, he’s someone kids both listen and relate to. His Stanley may be flat, but Bouchard is one of the more well-rounded actors in the state. He’s supported by the respected likes of Seth Caikowski, Mark Lively, Melissa Swift-Sawyer and more.

The names won’t mean anything to kids, but it’s fun to see, say, Creede Rep’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” (Bouchard) playing alongside Mark (Lively) from Town Hall’s “Rent,” Carousel’s Aida (Courtney Davis) and Denver’s iconic Patsy Cline (Swift-Sawyer). They’re the real deal. So is director Billie McBride.

And so, too, are the Arvada Center’s always outstanding production values for its children’s offerings. “Flat Stanley” is a playground for resident scenic designer Brian Mallgrave, whose deft magical touches and map-inspired images further the story’s themes of travel and finding direction. Mallgrave is also the costume designer, and it’s clever how he solves the problem of how to make a human actor as flat as a postcard.

The seconds just before the start of any children’s theater performance hum with the energy of Broadway opening. At the Arvada Center, that’s 500 keyed-up dervishes who squirm, clap and squeal in anticipation as the house lights come down. And they’re with Stanley from the get-go. They understand this kid who just wants his life to start.

“Stanley” emboldens you to find your true talent, to be yourself, and to go out and see the world. And until you’re old enough to do that on your own, then find adventure in everything you do.

It’s a first-class production. For about the cost of first- class postage. To mail a Flat Stanley, anyway.

-John Moore: 303-954-1056 or [email protected]


“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley”

Children’s musical. Presented by the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Directed by Billie McBride. Starring Michael Bouchard, Seth Caikowski, Courtney Davis, Mark Lively, Rob Riney and Maggie Tisdale. Through April 16. 1 hour. 10 a.m. and noon most Mondays-Fridays; 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. some Saturdays (call to verify). Recommended ages 4-10. $8-$10. 720-898-7200 or

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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