Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

It’s silly of me to write a review of this show now, considering there’s only ONE more performance of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Children’s Theatre of Charlotte… But cut me some slack, I just saw it today, the next-to-last day of the run.

However, having seen the show today, I felt compelled to post something, in case some Charlotte reader was considering spending an hour on Sunday seeing the show, and was dying to know what I thought.

I LOVED it. If you’re in Charlotte, this is DEFINITELY something you’ll want to do at 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon. Get on over to the ImaginOn Theatre on 7th Street at 1:00 and line up for same-day tickets. ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to figure out a good date activity for Valentine’s Day.

The show is based on a children’s book by Judy Blume, and tells the tale of one family’s life with a working dad, a frazzled mom, an exasperated nine-year-old boy, and a precocious almost-three-year-old boy. The nine-year-old is the titular fourth grader, and the show is told from his perspective with a lot of narration.

Ashby Blakely stars at Peter, the fourth grade narrator, and is terrific in the role. His frustration at no longer being the center of his parents’ perpetual attention is perfectly conveyed, making it easy to sympathize with him. Every time he stomped over towards the door and called out an agonized, “Moooom!” about his little brother’s antics, I couldn’t help but smile.

Barbi VanSchaick performed as the boys’ mother, and was wonderful in the role. She tries so hard to keep her older son happy, her younger son distracted and fed, her husband in the good graces of his employer and clients, and the family sane. Whether she’s losing her temper when her two-year-old tries to fly out of a tree, or pleading with her older son to help her with a trio of unruly toddlers, or playfully teasing her husband at the end of a long day, she’s perfectly believable as a wife and mother trying to keep it all together. You find yourself rooting for her throughout.

It was Jon Parker Douglas as the two-year-old nicknamed “Fudge” that stole every scene he was in, however. Crawling around on the floor, being mischievous with pots and pans and pets, trying (and often failing) to play with his older brother and his parents, he was without a doubt the epitome of a creative and spirited toddler. I laughed out loud several times at his antics, and adored him in the role.

This is a very funny show, heartwarming and cheerful and brief. Kids and adults alike will enjoy it, so if you’re in Charlotte and have some time free in the afternoon, make sure you check out the finale at 2:00. You’ll be glad you did.

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