In a bit of serendipitous timing, Dallas Children's Theater is staging Roald Dahl's The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) just months before a glossy Disney movie version, directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, is set to hit the big screen.
DCT benefits from this coincidence both because of the renewed interest in the 34-year-old story and by coming out first, allowing them to fulfill their vision without being compromised by anyone's expectations after seeing the movie.
In case you need some brushing up on the story, the plot follows Sophie (Faye Austin), a young girl in an orphanage, as she's abducted by the BFG (Nathaniel P. Reid). But unlike other, less friendly giants, the BFG means her no harm. He's actually trying to protect her and show how he can protect others through the dreams that he bottles each night. But when the other giants sense Sophie's presence, the BFG must use all his wits to keep himself and Sophie safe, even going so far as to involve the Queen of England.
There is plenty to like about DCT's version, including the relatively simple but effective ways in which they convey perspective of size. Depending on the scene, Sophie (who also serves as the story's narrator) is depicted either as a normal-size human or in puppet form, controlled by Austin. The transitions between the two are seamless, allowing for easy understanding for audience members of any age.
Other scenes are enhanced by projected images, giant props, and other touches that could easily be dismissed were they not so well done. It's obvious that the production staff at DCT cares about the details, letting the audience get lost in the story.
Austin and Reid make for a fun pair, each diving into their respective roles with glee. And their back-and-forth handling of the Sophie puppet goes off without a hitch, another element that shouldn't be taken for granted.
Dallas Children's Theater's production of The BFG, playing through May 22, is both a great primer for the upcoming movie version and fun experience in its own right.