When we first meet Arnie—fresh from the oven, chocolate frosted, and rainbow sprinkled—he's a happy and exuberant spirit, unaware that he's been made to be eaten. He's thrilled to be purchased and taken home by the meek Mr. Bing. But as Bing gets ready to take a bite, Arnie is terrified and convinces Bing to keep him around the house. However, the tyrannical Mrs. Plute, board president of Bing's condo community, threatens the arrangement. Plute declares that if Arnie isn't eaten, he becomes trash and according to condo rules must be thrown away by midnight. However, Bing's feelings for Arnie finally give him the inspiration and strength to defy Plute's authority and keep Arnie as his best pal.
Frances Limoncelli, who wrote the script, which is based on a children's book by Laurie Keller, sees a wider message. She tells us in a program note that the show says that "not everyone fits into the mold intended for them...it's good to dream of something bigger and to try to find it...and in the end friendship is the most important thing." But the show, with its perky tone and cartoonlike characters typical of children's theater, never conjures up enough sense of magic to transcend the basic lack of logic in the narrative. A doughnut does not seem to be a good candidate for anthropomorphic qualities.
Nevertheless, the lively music and lyrics by George Howe, Adam Arian's snappy direction and choreography, the colorful costumes by Elizabeth Wislar, and Ken Larson's clever set pieces kept the kids in the audience quiet for some 75 minutes. The energetic cast projects infectious high spirits. Within the parameters of the genre's exaggerated style, Tom Deckman is a highly expressive, likable Arnie, Thomas Poarch makes a sympathetic Bing, and Jane Blass delivers a comically grumpy Plute, lording it over fellow condo board members, played by Stephanie Fittro and Jennifer Wren. Blass, Fittro, and Wren also double as assorted doughnuts, as well as voicing and manipulating a disarming trio of doughnut-hole puppet backup singers.
It's all pleasant enough but hard to swallow.
Presented by Sunshiny Good Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at PTC Performance Space, 555 W. 42nd St., NYC. July 14–21. Remaining performances: Wed., July 18, 1 p.m.; Sat., July 21, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or www.nymf.org. Casting by Jamibeth Margolis.