‘Wake Up, Brother Bear!’ at Imagination Stage by Julia L. Exline

Imagination Stage welcomes back the hit Wake Up, Brother Bear!, a highly interactive show for ages 1-5, that takes you and your child through all four seasons with a playful pair of bear siblings. Developed by Janet Stanford and Kathryn Chase Bryer, this show offers up some friendly fun that your own cub won’t soon forget!

The children and their parents sit in a large circle that surrounds a play area. A closer look shows that that floor is painted with concentric tree rings, giving the illusion that you are sitting upon a massive tree stump. A handful of larger stumps (with playful faces on them!) help to divide up the circle, so that when the time comes for the children to come up, the excited crowd is a bit controllable. Blankets are scattered every few feet, and the children are welcomed onstage to collect one, and find that inside each blanket is a felt bag of props that they use throughout the show. The clever and colorful set, costumes, and props are designed by Sara Neikin. Lighting also helps establish the settings; from a yellow sunlight and blue water, to a darkened room so that “lightening bugs” can be seen.

Cellist Katie Chambers plays lightheartedly in the background as Sister Bear (Megan Dominy, in padded, velvety brown overalls and furry ears) searches for her Brother (Tyler Herman). A large bundle of blankets stirs in the center of the circle, causing the children to excitedly point and shriek. However, the bundle becomes still again whenever a confused Sister looks over at it, and finally the children come forward to peel the blankets away one by one, until Brother Bear rouses, yawning and smiling good-naturedly at them. The children watch and help them through a whole host of adventures — from chasing a butterfly and hunting an elusive fish, to ice-skating and shadow-puppets. A particularly enjoyable moment came when each child grabbed a hold of large pieces of blue material, and then shook it to make a cascading waterfall alongside the beat of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” provided by the cellist

Sister Bear does most of the talking, with Brother Bear lumbering around with a big playful grin and enthusiastic movements. When his sister lies down to go to sleep, he lovingly covers her with his blanket when he sees her shivering.  However, he then begins to tremble with cold himself. In one of the sweetest endings to a child production that I have seen, the children begin to take up the blankets that they collected at the beginning of the show and cover Brother Bear with them. Mind, they were not asked or encouraged to do this — it was out of their own kindness.

With so many excitable children clamoring around, some of the children had to be wrangled back to their seats by their parents, but it was an expected and unavoidable part of the fun. They all had a blast, not only with the friendly bears, but with each other, as both kids and parents made new friends amongst the crowd. Not only is this a fun outing for your family, it is also a chance to meet new families and build friendships!

Catch these bears before they go back into hibernation!

Running Time: 40 minutes without an intermission.

Wake Up, Brother Bear! runs through February 3, 2013 at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Avenue, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (301) 280-1660, or purchase them online.



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