Thursday Aug 21, 2008
Reviewed by Rob Lester
EDGE Contributor

A very small show (a few actors, a few props, some simple costume pieces); a very small script (it is over in about thirty minutes); very small characters (a thumb-sized little girl and others creatures of similar stature like a bird and a couple of frogs) all come together to create a children’s show that has a pretty big heart.

The unpretentious production of Thumbelina: The Story of a Brave Little Girl tells the well-known children’s story about a miniature girl born to normal-sized parents (we just see her mother) who hangs out on a lily pad, and whose adventures form a celebration of small but brave creatures. Thumbelina won’t take being height-challenged as she faces various obstacles including a forced marriage to an amphibian, and almost becoming the meal for a spider.

Audience participation, a staple of children’s theater, requires that we be encouraged to call things out, clap, and blow the clouds around. Still, there’s some originality here as well as humor that comes along just when we need it. There’s even a running joke about the Beatles because there is a beetle (the insect kind) in the play. However, unlike some kiddie theater, there isn’t a lot of humor aimed at adults to keep them interested at the expense of the kids who’d find such material frustrating and incomprehensible. Sarcasm is used very little; it’s a warm-spirited but not syrupy show.

…There’s a genuine love and respect for children that comes through this production, and real warmth.

Thumbelina herself is portrayed as feisty and a bit feminist without getting modern and political, her mom doubles as storyteller, and the numerous other characters have a nice variety of personalities. Imagination is stimulated nicely and nothing is heavy-handed..."Thumbelina" is a gentle and genial half hour of old-fashioned children’s story theatre with a little modern twist or three.

August 14, 2008
Reviewed by Leonard Jacobs

Although Thumbelina: The Story of a Brave Little Girl is geared primarily to youngsters, there are solid reasons for adults to see this spirited Elephant Ensemble Theater production.

Thumbelina (Mollie Lohinski), barely bigger than her dear mother's thumb, is kidnapped by a lady frog (Cheri Haller) who abandons Thumbelina overnight on a lily pad in the middle of a lake after telling her that she must marry her son Frog Boy (Christopher Van Jura) the next morning or die. Thumbelina cleverly gets herself free, but getting back home to Mom (Christine Seisler) is very complicated, involving interactions with a beetle, a goldfish, a sparrow, a spider, and threatening clouds — all played by Haller and Van Jura.

That writer-director Liza Lentini opts for the actors to make their costume changes before the audience smartly demystifies theatre for young folks and provides unexpected charms for the adults who might join them. At 30 minutes, the piece is a summer breeze spiced with bits of adult parody, such as when the sparrow offers Thumbelina part of her food supply — "regurgitated maggot mix with earthworm heads."

Reviewed by Matthew Trumbull
Aug 12, 2008

Elephant Ensemble Theater brings free theatre to children in New York City hospitals, but their current adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fable, Thumbelina: The Story of A Brave Little Girl, can be caught by children of all ages as part of the FringeJR series at this year's festival. And it should—everybody has a good time in this little audience participatory nugget. In fact, I was far and away the youngest child in the audience at Tuesday afternoon's show, and Reagan was president when I was last able to count my age on two hands. Kudos to the cast for their determination to keep the audience young that afternoon by insisting on audience participation anyway—Christine Seisler, the managing director of the company playing Mama and the narrator, led most of this, and she got us tired New Yorkers to scream "Quiet Down!!" at creepy-crawly noisemakers in the swamp, and clap for Thumbelina's dance until a super-giant French spider was outwitted. It was an adorable and completely heroic achievement on her part.

Thumbelina is a simple tale, even by children's theatre standards, but it's a winner in the hands of this ensemble. The eponymous heroine (Mollie Lohinski), the tiny adopted daughter of Mama, takes a rest one day on a leaf able to hold her daintiness quite comfortably. She is suddenly kidnapped by the hilarious Froggy Mom, who sounds like a Brooklyn yenta (Cheri Haller), for marriage to her dimwitted son Frog Boy (the rubber-faced, delightfully goofy Christopher Van Jura), and her escape sets her on an intrepid journey through a woods full of peril and new friends who help her find her home and Mama's arms again.

The petite Lohinski is a plucky jewel as Thumbelina, a little heroine who truly can inspire children in all the best ways…Director/writer Liza Lentini has crafted a production of Andersen's tale that engages youngsters without condescension, and it's a great, humorous story about staying positive and believing in yourself—good advice at any age.