‘How to Catch a Leprechaun’ at The Keegan Theatre

This being a show meant for kids, I defer to a critical opinion I overheard right afterward, voiced by a child not yet 5:

 “That was really cool! Really funny too!”
Oillin the Leprechaun (Josh Sticklin) and Wanna-Be Leprechaun-Catcher Riley O’Really (Bradley Foster Smith). Photo by Mike Kozemchak.
Oillin the Leprechaun (Josh Sticklin) and Wanna-Be Leprechaun-Catcher Riley O’Really (Bradley Foster Smith). Photo by Mike Kozemchak.

Coauthored by Mario Baldessari and Ethan Slater and directed by Jon Townson, How to Catch a Leprechaun weaves a bit o’ magic in forty minutes from eight merry tunes and four lively characters. If the gleeful sounds coming from the youngsters at the 2 p.m. matinee I attended yesterday are any indication, Keegan has found a winner for the wee ones. Plus there’s just enough over-their-heads humor to land some choice chuckles for grownups.

Josh Sticklin turns in a delightfully impish performance as the Leprechaun. He sings the show’s first song, “The Lights Be Fading,” which includes in its lyrics a most entertaining version of preshow advisories about silencing your cell phone and such.

We’re soon in Mulligan’s Pub, where we meet Riley O’Really, a guitar-strumming minstrel and intrepid Leprechaun catcher played with a twinkle in his eye and a jig in his step by Bradley Foster Smith.

The two proprietors of the pub are the hearty, earthy barkeep Mrs. Mulligan (Sally Cusenza) and her lanky husband Mr. Mulligan (Bryan Doyle), who keeps distractedly swinging a golf club. The three sing a song called “Green Lemonade” explaining that’s the only beverage the pub serves.

The Mulligans dispute O’Really’s claim that leprechauns exist, but O’Really knows better. He has seen one himself in this very pub! Besides, all the kids in audience are in loud agreement because they’ve espied Sticklin’s character sneaking about too!

A funny antiphonal bit begins whereby anytime O’Really says his name, it prompts a chorus from the house of “Oh, really?” And when the youngsters were urged to point at any sighting of the Leprechaun, I heard them do so with the cutest of squeals.

Thus is set in motion the captivating tale of O’Really’s plan to catch the Leprechaun in order to obtain his pot of gold—a quest that takes him to a great daisy field, conjured by oversize prop flowers designed by Carol Baker and lovely projections designed by Patrick Lord. There’s also clever costuming designed by Kelly Peacock, a cheery lighting design by Dan Martin, and a bouncy sound design by Jake Null.

L to R: Brian Doyle, Sally Frakes Cusenza, Josh Sticklin, and Bradley Foster Smith. Photo by Mike Kozemchak.
L to R: Brian Doyle, Sally Frakes Cusenza, Josh Sticklin, and Bradley Foster Smith. Photo by Mike Kozemchak.

The ongoing interplay between the players and the young audience is indeed cool and funny. Smith does a preshow sing-along as folks are finding their seats. And soon as the show ends, the actors still in costume head to the lobby, where they chit-chat with the kids, hand out souvenir trinkets, and readily pose for photos.

For anyone looking to catch a really, oh-really kid-friendly musical this season, Keegan Theatre’s How to Catch a Leprechaun is a lucky charmer of a show.

Running Time: About 40 minutes, with no intermission.

Appropriate for children age 3 and up.


How to Catch a Leprechaun plays 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through December 27, 2015, at The Keegan Theatre – 1742 Church Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.
RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif
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John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg is executive editor of DC Theater Arts. He writes both reviews and his Magic Time! column, which he named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it, he explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees. Decades ago, in college, John began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile, his own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then John’s life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction essays, articles, and books and had a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg. Member, American Theatre Critics Association.


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