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Cleverly conceived and adapted for the stage by Ernest Zulia, with breezy music and lyrics by David Caldwell, the musical-comedy version of Robert Fulghum's 1988 best-seller All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is a series of vivacious vignettes that deliver some of life's basic truths with a big happy smile in the current Cary Players community-theater production, briskly staged by guest director Phil Crone.
Fulghum frequently wraps his astute observations about the passing scene in late 20th century America in a layer of humor, but isn't afraid to inject heart-tugging moments when they are appropriate. Fulghum vigorously preaches a gospel of transcending our own self-imposed limitations, and posits a sandbox Code of Ethics, which can be boiled down to "Share" and "Play Fair," supplemented by some essentials of hygiene, such as "Flush" and "Wash Your Hands Before You Eat."
Meanwhile, the six-member Cary Players cast illustrates key passages of the code in a series of comic skits. Highlights include Phil Lewis' pixilated performance as Norman, the shy kid and a budding wallflower, who fails to get a role in the kindergarten production of Cinderella, so he decides to invent his own role — that of an apochryphal barking, dancing pig who follows the heroine like sheep follow Little Bo Peep — and Norman steals the show in the process.
Jim Cox delivers a touching tribute to French leading man Charles Boyer, who nursed his wife of 44 years through a terminal case of cancer and then committed suicide two days after her death from cancer of the liver. Terry Townsend is hilarious as an indomitable Mother of the Bride, whose dream of planning and pulling off the Perfect Wedding turns into a nightmare when her daughter becomes violently ill while walking down the aisle.
Tracy Fulghum narrates a nice anecdote about Beethoven composing his Ninth Symphony while stone deaf, Ann Forsthoefel tells a cute story about a man so consumed by his busyness that he drives off with his coffee cup and briefcase sitting on the top of his Range Rover, Harvey Sage narrates the proceedings with just the right inflections to highlight the emotion of each segment, and live piano accompaniment by musical director Virginia O'Brien provides a nice pick-me-up during the play's pleasant but not particularly memorable musical numbers.
It may be hard for the average audience member to picture All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten as a musical comedy, but it translates quit well into comic sketches and songs. It is a spirit-raiser to be sure.
Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten concludes its two-week run on May 6-9 in the Cary Town Council Chambers. See our theatre calendar for details.