Middle school, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Musical" reminds us, is not for wimps.
The characters in the show — which returns to Children's Theatre Company (with some revisions) after making a successful debut six years ago — face bullies, nutritious foods in their trick-or-treat bags, meddling parents, moldy cheese and the viciousness of dodgeball. And that's all before reaching their teens.
It's a buoyant and kind show — so kind that the tiny bit of conflict in it, a falling-out between protagonist Greg and his pal Rowley, emerges late in the show and gets resolved quickly. The script is funny, the pop-meets-Broadway songs are bouncy and clever and the performances are uniformly good, including sly Mason Yang, an understudy who stepped in to play Greg's classmate Chirag and also seemed to be playing about half of the other singing-and-dancing characters in the show.
"Wimpy" finds Greg (Huxley Westemeier, who was in the original production as Greg's younger brother) trying to figure out what's going to help him make his mark in middle school: Good hair? Cool clothes? It takes two acts and about a dozen musical numbers for Greg to suss it out, even though the answer is staring him (and us) in the face throughout the show, which takes place on a giant sheet of paper from his sketchpad and in which the visuals all are inspired by his doodles.
Ironically, while Greg is trying to find the color of his parachute, he misses the fact that his pal Rowley knows exactly who he is. A brash, endearing goofball whose favorite things are safety and sharing, Rowley remains the best role in "Wimpy Kid," and Kamryn Henderson, in his CTC debut, makes the most of it. He's hilarious when earnestly explaining about how his musical idol tells fans to "follow your dream and practice proper time management." And his strong voice shines when he helps belt out "All About the Mom Bucks," a nod to hip-hop boasting that's 50% nerdiness, 50% swagger and 100% adorable.
Under Jenn Thompson's direction, there's plenty of energy and invention (check out how, at the touch of some Velcro, a row of teenagers transforms into a row of toddlers). Theatergoers who saw the show in 2016 will recognize most of this production, which has a couple of new elements and where the adults seem slightly more prominent than before.
Nothing wrong with going back to this "Wimpy" well, though. It was a terrific show in 2016 and it remains one in 2022.
Note: CTC has canceled two student matinee performances scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday because members of the company have come down with COVID. The theater will continue with general audience evening performances as slated, spokesperson Melissa Ferlaak said.
'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'
Who: Music and lyrics by Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler. Book by Kevin Del Aguila, based on the series by Jeff Kinney. Directed by Jenn Thompson.
When: 7 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sat., 1 and 5 p.m. Sun. Ends June 18.
Where: Children's Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.
Protocol: Masks required.
Tickets: $15-$78, 612-874-0400 or childrenstheatre.org.