What do you get when you mix the harmonic and melodic structures of the Temptations' "My Girl" with the rhythm section of Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine"?
"I Got a Snow Ball," a ditty by Eric M.C. Gonzalez that percolates sweetly in "The Snowy Day." The music gives the show a sense of play and place even as it pushes the narrative along.
Adapted by Jerome Hairston from Ezra Jack Keats' classic children's books, "Snowy Day" is up in director Ansa Akyea's super-cute production at St Paul's Park Square Theatre through Dec. 23.
The one-act takes its name from Keats' 1962 title that became the first children's book about an African American child to win the Caldecott Medal. Hairston fills out this stage work with later Keats books, including "Whistle for Willie," "A Letter for Amy" and "Goggles!"
These stories are marked by a sense of wonder as young Peter (Joe Charley) delights in new discoveries. He relishes sledding in the snow, and becomes so smitten with the winter powder that he puts a snowball in his pocket for safekeeping. He's bereft the next morning when he cannot find it where he left it.
Peter and his dog, Willie, have outdoor adventures, and the young boy tries his darnedest to whistle. Thankfully, he has a mother to teach him.
"Snowy Day" premiered in 2016 at the Children's Theatre, with a big emphasis on puppets designed by Italian virtuoso Fabrizio Montecchi. There's commendable puppetry at Park Square here, as well — kudos to puppet designers Peter Talbot and Amm-Ra Seka, for their Willie the pooch is beautifully expressive.
Still, director Akyea highlights different things in this production, which also is imbued with fun and innocence, and with more grounding music.
The show also reorders, at least for the hour that we sit in the darkness, our sense of time. "Snowy Day" takes its time, nodding to the source material and to the target audience of families and tykes.
Designer Mark Ferraro-Hauck's colorful set, amplified and augmented by Maxwell Collyard's video projections, helps to give the production the feeling of a picture book come to life.
Akyea uses his cast well. Charley's Peter is physically expressive and filled with innocence. It's nice to see a big kid nail that part of childhood that seems so fleeting in our hyper-mediated environment. Still, the choice to have Charley put his feet up on his bed with shoes on makes us wonder about his parenting.
Speaking of which, Maje Adams and Latanya Boone play the parents less as guardians than as hype-man and -woman. They're all in, bringing lots of energy to their roles and to the room.
"Snowy Day" is narrated by a versatile ensemble that flows in and out of the stage, working tirelessly until the end when they sing, in the manner of Stevie Wonder, "Happy Birthday."
Peter must grow up and we must re-enter the world outside the theater, grateful for a sweet reminder of youthful innocence.
'The Snowy Day and Other Stories'
Who: Adapted by Jerome Hairston from Ezra Jack Keats' children's books. Directed by Ansa Akyea.
Where: Park Square Theatre, 20 W. 7th Place, St. Paul.
When: 3 p.m. Sat. (sensory-friendly performance), 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Dec. 23.
Tickets: $16-$20. 651-291-7005 or parksquaretheatre.org.