A kooky ‘Mother Goose’ charms the kids at Imagination Stage

Mother Goose herself is an ethereal, steampunk-styled lady who takes the audience through a silly, laugh-out-loud version of her 'typical day.'

Mother Goose is 400 years old, or maybe even 500, performing artist Ian Charles tells us in Imagination Stage’s Mother Goose. Despite the character’s alleged age, and hence, the age of the nursery rhymes themselves, Kathryn Chase Bryer and Janet Stanford’s Mother Goose is certainly not old-fashioned. In this production, Mother Goose herself is an ethereal, steampunk-styled lady who takes the audience through a silly, laugh-out-loud version of her “typical day.” The music, by Music Director Debbie Jacobsen, is familiar but occasionally infused with a hip-hop rhythm. The beloved characters are there, as puppets — the little lamb, the itsy-bitsy spider, the three little kittens, and the mouse who runs up a clock — yet we feel as though we’re getting a behind-the-scenes look at Mother Goose’s daily chores. I couldn’t help but imagine she is channeling burned-out, pandemic-exhausted parents around the world as she distractedly goes through the motions, making errors and causing mix-ups along the way. The children in the audience find this hilarious, while I (and I can only imagine, the other adults) knowingly nod our heads.

Ian Charles and Toni Rae Salmi in ‘Mother Goose.’ Photo by Noe Todorovich.

This show, like many of Imagination Stage’s productions, is interactive and able to hold the attention of the youngest theatergoers. Upon entering, each child is given a prop bag, which they eagerly use when Mother Goose is in times of need during the performance. Audience members are encouraged to sing, meow, and respond to the two actors frequently. The experience is also enhanced by age-appropriate sound effects from Sound Designer Gordon Nimm-Smith.

Ian Charles in ‘Mother Goose.’ Photo by Noe Todorovich.

Throughout the musical, the set and props are stars of the show in their own right, thanks to clever execution by Set Designer Giorgos Tsappas, Props/Puppet Designer Matthew Pauli, and Lighting Designer Jonathan Alexander. A large box on wheels rotates often, delighting us, and the creative use of shadows lends an enchanting, magical feel to the experience. Mother Goose has a particularly wondrous ending that is not to be missed!

The interactivity makes Mother Goose engaging for the young audience members, as does the humor. There is even a moment or two with more grown-up humor thrown in, which helps the adult companions enjoy it as well.

The two actors, who are on stage the entire show, are likable and fun to watch. Ian Charles, who does the puppetry and leads us through the story, has a lyrical and graceful way of moving around the stage; his presence is comforting and commanding at the same time. Toni Rae Salmi, as Mother Goose, reminds me of a quirky teacher or camp counselor in her role as the weary but warmhearted woman in charge.

Toni Rae Salmi in ‘Mother Goose.’ Photo by Noe Todorovich.

If you are looking for a whimsical way to spend a morning with a young one, Mother Goose is an excellent choice. It’s not always easy to find an appropriate opportunity for the youngest children to experience theater. With its slightly kooky, charming, and modern take on centuries-old nursery rhymes, you will marvel at your child’s sense of wonder and enjoyment. Perhaps you will even come away with a newfound appreciation of the hard-working Mother Goose.

Running Time: 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Best for children 1 to 5

Mother Goose plays through April 10, 2022, at Imagination Stage’s Reeve Theater at 4908 Auburn Avenue in Bethesda, MD. For tickets ($12), call the box office at 301-280-1660 or purchase them online.

COVID Safety: Ticket holders ages 5 and older must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and, for ages 18 and older, photo ID for all performances. Patrons aged 2 and up are required to wear masks while in theaters. Wearing masks in the lobby/gallery is optional. Imagination Stage’s complete COVID-19 Safety Precautions are here.


  1. Thank you for this beautifully written review. You’ve captured this imaginative and wonderful show perfectly. The talents of so many people come together to create this kind of magic for children. And what a special magic it is, because shows like this spark a love for theater in children that could last a lifetime. I happen to know the set designer for this show, Giorgos Tsappas. I was disappointed to see that he wasn’t credited for the canvas he created where this magic could happen, while the other designers, whose work was equally excellent, were called out. I kindly ask that you consider updating the review to credit him. Thank you for considering the feedback.


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