Reviewed by Carolyn Albert
Presented by TheatreworksUSA at the Equitable Tower Auditorium, 787 Seventh Avenue (W. 51st-52nd Sts.), NYC, weekends at 12:30 pm, Nov. 4-12.
Pay careful attention to the age-appropriate recommendations in Theatreworks' colorful free booklet (available at the theatre). Most plays are suggested for a certain age and "up," implying that everyone, including accompanying older siblings and even parents, will enjoy the show. However, "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" states: "for ages five through nine." Indeed, I agree; the sparse audience of young children didn't shuffle or squirm as much as I did.
Although pleasantly imaginative, "Lyle" is also a bit silly and offers dubious values. Michael Slade's adaptation of Bernard Waber's children's books offers little that is educationally redeeming, with one noteworthy exception: when Lyle offers shy Josh Primm (Sean Fader) a way to make new friends: "Talk about what you like and what you don't like."
J. Marshall Evans was accomplished as the young alligator, kidnapped from his jungle home by an actor named Hector (the amusing Gregory Mire) to perform in vaudeville. When Lyle wants a real home, Hector abandons him in the bathtub of the Primm's soon-to-be-occupied house. The Primm parents (Douglas Santana, Karri Lucas) accept Lyle and he's happy, but then Hector tricks Lyle into rejoining him with a promise to find Lyle's mother (Jennifer Rule)—who eventually replaces Lyle in the act, so Lyle can rejoin his human family. Real issues of kidnapping and family break-up are ignored in this kiddy tale.
All performances are strong, with Jennifer Rule showing outstanding comic strengths. A clever series of "photographs" of Lyle and the Primms highlight Matthew S. Meers' eye-appealing direction (abetted by Doug Huszti's cartoon-like set and Layna Fisher's cute props). Mindy Dickstein's lyrics and David Evans' music blend well in lively songs. Martha Bromelmeier's humorously accessorized costumes (imagine a half-dozen dancing crocodiles) deserve Halloween imitation.