One day my little kindergartener son brought home a book from the school library. He insisted that I read it to him that night. It was called Momotaro, a Japanese Folk Tale. In the story, demons were continually coming to steal the food and trample the fields of the poor villagers. An old woman prays to have a son to raise who could become the hero to the village. The River Spirit brings her a son in a peach and she presents him to her husband who later trains him in the martial arts. The grown-up Momotaro goes off on a quest to fight the Oni monsters. He is joined along the way by a monkey, a dog and a pheasant who help him in their fashion. They fight the Oni monsters and return victorious.
As we were reading the story, I realized that 5 year old boys can readily identify with superheroes. Momotaro is really the tale of a Japanese Tom Thumb/Superman/Jackie Chan combined in one. A pretty potent combination. So, of course, I had to write a children's Musical for my youngest actors using this unique and interesting folk tale.
First of all, I needed to fill out the population of the story and decide on how to stage it. Japanese Kibuki Theater techniques are time honored and fairly easy to stage since they are so stylized. I decided to employ a few simple Kibuki staging techniques such as a fabric river, character masks, and dancers interpreting a movable forest. Since I knew that I would have many more girls than boys in my cast, I had to create some memorable female characters. So, what do little girls like more than playing with baby dolls and dancing anyway?
Amazingly, this script and score came together very fast. The music is based on the pentatonic scale and Asian instrumental sounds, but constructed with American Musical Theater sensibilities. We created a large Dragon Castle set, had the cast members create their own fantasy character masks, use dance props such as Chinese ribbon wands and tree branches, and we were set for our performance.
I have always been surprised that this little-known show was so well accepted by an American audience. The children, especially the boys, loved learning the Martial Arts slow-motion fight scene. The girls loved singing and dancing by the rippling fabric river with their baby dolls. They all got to sport their own creative character masks at one point or another in the show. And they learned a bit about another culture's most famous folk-tale. So, if you need an interesting show for your school or Children's Theater group, try Momotaro - A Tale of Bravery from baileykidsmusicals.com.
There will always be a special place in my heart for little 5-year-old Superheroes!