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LA Theater Review

Super Sidekick

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There's nothing original about this children's musical from Theatre Unleashed. But Gregory Crafts' book filled with simple, positive messages, mixed with composer Michael Gordon Shapiro's singsong style, should hold the attention of most children younger than 10 for the production's one-hour running time—and there's even a few adult asides for the parents. But there's a raggedness to the action that indicates a lack of preparation by director Jenn Scuderi, as well as a few off-key voices, which don't help this moderately amusing fairy tale.

As the title suggests, the true protagonist is not the egotistical, dimwitted superhero Blackjack (Jase Lindgren) but rather his quiet—also dimwitted—sidekick, Inky (Scott Sharma). And when Blackjack and Princess Penelope (Hannah Nawroth) are kidnapped by the evil Slurm (Mark Anthony Lopez) and his Ninja Koala bears (Sara Wichman and Lindsey Moore Ford), it's up to Inky to save the day. Crafts' tale teaches children to not fear the dark, that girls can do anything boys can do, and that confidence is the key. The songs enforce those messages, and there's a bit of successful humor when budding lovebirds Inky and Penelope compare liking someone to various illnesses.

As with typical children's theater, the actors overact, but they refrain from outright buffoonery. Most of the laughs are earned by Lopez, who successfully straddles the line between performing for children and winking at the adults. The other bright spot is Sharma, whose nerdy, self-conscious mannerisms effectively convey Inky's fear to young audiences. Some of the humor is lost in the sloppily staged action, as well as the halfheartedly performed dances, choreographed by Jessica Brusilow. And the songs, though catchy in their repetition, are easily forgettable. Still "Super Sidekick" is capable of keeping children's attention, which is no small feat.

Presented by Theatre Unlimited at the Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. July 18–Aug. 15. Sun., 1 and 4 p.m. (818) 849-4039. www.theatreunleashed.com.

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