WHAT “Really Rosie”
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St.
INFO $25-$125; 212-581-1212, nycitycenter.org
BOTTOM LINE Family friendly musical shows off next-gen performers.
In a season that Encores! Off-Center artistic director Michael Friedman has repeatedly said was devoted to the American dream, we finally have the biggest dreamer of all.
That would be Rosie, the title character of the Maurice Sendak-Carole King musical “Really Rosie,” a smart, sassy city kid who, on a boring summer day, enlists her neighborhood buddies to help her create a “movie” about her life.
The story, a celebration of childhood curiosity and creativity, is based on two of Sendak’s works — “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” and “The Nutshell Library.” It started out as a half-hour animated television special in 1975 before getting expanded for an Off-Broadway production in 1980 and going on to become a staple for a multitude of local children’s theaters.
At Encores!, though, we have the next generation of Broadway stars, a cast of mostly tween and young teen triple threats (they sing, they dance, they act). Taylor Caldwell’s Rosie is a high-octane, belting bundle of deliciousness with serious show-biz creds (“School of Rock,” “Runaways”). She’s not alone with the impressive bio. Zell Steele Morrow, who plays Rosie’s brother Chicken Soup, was in “Fun Home,” Anthony Rosenthal (Johnny) just closed in “Falsettos” and Ruth Righi (Kathy) is still in “School of Rock.”
As Alligator, Kenneth Cabral brings down the house in “Alligators All Around” with some impressive tapping, joined briefly by choreographer Ayodele Casel (one of two grown-ups in the show, along with Charlie Pollock, who gets laughs as a chorus of maternal voices). Righi gives “The Awful Truth” the hard sell, as she shimmies and shakes in an effort to outsass Rosie. And it was fun to see the cool moves of Eduardo Hernandez as Pierre, recently of “On Your Feet,” but perhaps better known as the pint-size salsa dancer in the troupe Baila Conmigo, finalists in 2014’s “America’s Got Talent.”
Wisely, director Leigh Silverman lets the kids be kids, not stressing over the occasional missed note, lack of projection or rapid delivery of a line. Imperfection can occasionally be its own reward.
Before the sing-along finale (all bubbles and pink boas), there’s a poignant memorial as a 2009 interview with Sendak, who died in 2012, is heard: “I’ve always had a deep respect for children,” he says, “and how they solve complex problems by themselves . . . they want to survive. They WANT to survive.”
Truly, don’t we all?