The Daddy Machine – Diversionary Theatre

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The Daddy Machine premieres at Diversionary. Based on the book by Johnny Valentine, the musical’s book is by local playwright Patricia Loughrey with music and lyrics by local composer Rayme Sciaroni. This is a family-friendly musical commissioned by Diversionary.

I can assure you that both adults and kids enjoyed the show. The story is about two moms with their two kids and singing dog. We can’t forget the 62 dads, some are part of the cast and many are created from volunteer kids out of the audience. The Daddy Machine is one of the first, if not the first, plays for family audiences representing lesbian moms and their kids.

The star of the show is Stonewall (Jacob Caltrider), the family dog. As with any dog, the world revolves around him, his toys, and the number of pats on the head he gets from the family. The show opens with Stonewall singing, “It’s All Good.” He has his toys, the kids, and the two moms to tend to his needs. Plus, they buy him lots of toys that make animal sounds. His second number, “My House,” is a lament that his new doghouse is still in a box ready to be assembled.

The moms, Mom (Krista Page) and Mama (Susan Hammons), have to leave on an emergency leaving precocious Sue (Haley Heidemann, also played by Lirenza Gillette), the older daughter, in charge of Harry (Benjamin Shaffer, also played by Max Oilman-Williams) her younger brother.

Harry, being all boy, is in the process of creating a machine housed in an old Kenmore refrigerator carton. Unhappy with missing his pancake breakfast, he makes some final adjustments and, much to his sister’s chagrin, plugs it in. Lights flash, noises emanate from the cardboard construction and out steps a couple of dads. Dad #1 (Andy Collins) has a stack of pancakes while Dad #2 (Sven Salumaa) carries the spatula.

Harry sings about his favorites, “Pancakes.” Sue has her moment in “Sixty-two Dads.” The Daddy Machine spits out two more dads. All four dads sing of “The Art of Making Pancakes.” The kids in the audience are beckoned to the stage; disappear backstage only to come out moments later with every kind of daddy hat on. The audience is encouraged to join the cast in some of the songs.

Heidemann plays a typical older sister trying to keep her younger brother in line. Shaffer portrays the impish, determined boy perfectly. Collins and Salumaa, the first dads, are absolutely hilarious. Page and Hammons, as the moms, are bookends for the play. Fortunately, we do see them recostumed as some of the 62 dads.

The musical, at one-hour running time, is the right length for young kids. Stonewall absolutely captivates the kids. The encouragement of the audience to become involved with actors further enhances the production. While designed to appeal to the children and based, in part, on a child’s picture book, The Daddy Machine does not dumb the content down. Adults will enjoy the performances.

Another nice touch is that they have cut an original cast recording CD, which is for sale as well as Johnny Valentine’s book, The Daddy Machine. The company’s final number, “A Little Blessing,” is very touching. The show is truly kid-friendly, but it hasn’t forgotten the adults.

Cast:

Jacob Caltrider, Andy Collins, Lirenza Gillette, Susan Hammons, Haley Heidemann, Max Oilman-Williams, Krista Page, Sven Salumaa, Benjamin Shaffer

Technical Staff:

Scenic Design Christian Lopez, Lighting/Sound Design Bonnie Breckenridge, Costume Design Shelly Williams, Properties David Medina, Accompanist Tim McKnight

Total Rating: Two Stars

Genre: Musical

Author: Book Patricia Loughrey, Music Rayme Sciaroni

Director: Rayme Sciaroni and Siobhan Sullivan

Date Reviewed: January 20, 2008

Dates: Weekends, January 18 thru 27, 2008

Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission

Diversionary Theatre

4545 Park Blvd

San Diego, CA

Box Office Phone: 619 220-0097

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.