‘Carmela Full of Wishes’ invites Chicago Children’s Theater audiences to see the world through her eyes – Chicago Tribune

With the help of a fluffy dandelion, a child’s wild imagination takes flight in ‘Carmela Full of Wishes’, a world premiere theatrical adaptation of Matt de la Peña’s book and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Currently playing at the Chicago Children’s Theatre, this heartwarming tale of an exuberant Latina celebrates family, community and hope – perfect themes for young audiences and pandemic-weary caregivers looking for activities in significant person.

Guests who arrive early at the West Loop site will find an inviting lobby where children can create a simple craft that will later become a collective prop during the show. Upon entering the theatre, the vibrant colors of the set (designed by Regina García) transport the audience to a whimsical storybook setting, with a cityscape rendered in a style reminiscent of a watercolor. Blue and red electric lights represent telephone wires, with birds perched on them, while a lamppost and a fire hydrant stand in opposite corners.

Carmela, the eponymous dreamer, makes her entrance on a scooter she will use throughout the show, zooming up and down between seats that line the stage on two sides. Giddy with excitement at the thought of turning 7 today, Carmela announces that one of her fondest wishes has come true: she is now old enough to go to the laundromat with her older brother.

Colombian actress Maria Clara Ospina plays Carmela in an open and engaging way, with every emotion composed thoroughly, which suits the age of the character and the audience. Carmela’s costume (by Jazmin Aurora Medina) includes a tutu worn over red leggings with colorful sneakers, helping with the suspension of disbelief required when an adult entertainer plays a child. As Carmela’s brother, Juan Gonzalez Machain delves into the impatience often caused by a sibling following him, even though it eventually becomes clear that he loves his little sister.

As the couple make their way to the laundromat, stopping for various errands along the way, Carmela introduces the audience to the sights, sounds and smells of her neighborhood, a largely Latin community in a city or town. unspecified. Chicago-based Texas playwright Alvaro Saar Rios, who adapted the book for the stage, incorporates Spanish into the dialogue in a way that feels authentic to the characters but accessible to English-speaking audiences. Michelle Lopez-Rios, his wife and longtime collaborator, is directing this production.

When Carmela finds a white dandelion growing along the sidewalk, she struggles to decide what wish to make before blowing its seeds in the breeze. his active imagination presents too many options to limit himself. This plot device leads to a series of episodes in which Carmela’s wishes come to life on stage – ranging from childhood visions of candy to deep-seated dreams of a better life for her family.

We learn that the children’s Mami (Jasmin Cardenas) works long hours at an expensive hotel, while their Grandpa (Christopher Alamo) is a currently absent migrant worker, born in another country and in need of proper paperwork to return home. home. to his wife and children. In one of her daydreams, Carmela wishes for a luxurious bed for her sleep-deprived mom; in another, she imagines being reunited with her Grandpa and singing their favorite song together. Seeing the family’s struggles through the eyes of optimistic Carmela, grief is tempered with hope.

“Carmela Full of Wishes” marks the second time the Chicago Children’s Theater has adapted a book by de la Peña and Robinson, following the 2018 world premiere “Last Stop on Market Street,” which has since been produced by nearly a dozen of American theaters. These productions are part of a larger theater effort, under the direction of Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, to bring diverse and contemporary voices from children’s literature to life in world-first plays and musicals, many of which are performed in other cities.

The Chicago Children’s Theater is also working to make theater more widely available to local students, partnering with Chicago Public Schools to provide free and discounted tickets to underprivileged schools. In addition to its stage work, the theater offers virtual educational resources on its Youtube channel and in-person performing arts and STEAM educational programs for children up to age 14.

“Carmela Full of Wishes” is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, with weekday performances for schools and other groups. While children aged 5 to 10 make up the main audience for this production, the theater welcomes viewers of all ages; the opening show held the attention of several younger children throughout its 65 minutes. With its picture book visuals, charming cast, strong Latina protagonist, and universal themes, “Carmela Full of Wishes” is well worth a release for anyone with a little person in their life.

Review: “Wishful Carmela”

When: Until May 22

Where: Chicago Children’s Theater, 100 S. Racine Ave.

Duration: 65 minutes

Tickets: $32 at www.ChicagoChildrensTheatre.org

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