1st Stage’s ‘Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee’ is a treasure chest of delights

A stunning family-friendly visual spectacle with puppets!

Delightful might be too weak a word. I mean, imagine Pee Wee’s Playhouse through the lens of Pirates of the Caribbean doing The Muppets Show. 1st Stage’s family-friendly Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee is one part variety show, one part meditation on overcoming loss, and an entire treasure chest of stunning visual spectacle!

Matthew Aldwin McGee as Dredgie McGee in ‘Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

In Act One we’re introduced to Dredgie (the show’s sublime creator Matthew Aldwin McGee), who’s doing his best to keep his head above wa … er, doing his best to keep his variety show running despite the many mishaps of working with the denizens of the deep. There’s a sandworm doing Shakespeare, an octopus magician with their starfish assistant, a sea-mail segment with Tiki dwellers, a visit from Neptune, his salty wife Salacia and their pet Kelpy, a baby sea dragon that doubles as a musical instrument, a mermaid who clearly woke up on the wrong side of the seabed (played with brilliant comedic timing and a deliciously restrained lack of restraint by Natalie Cutcher), and a trio of sigh-rens that inspired a spontaneous sing-a-long at the performance I attended.

Act Two opens with a beautiful, black light ballet with jellies and an angler fish and dives deeper into the darkness inside Dredgie — he is, literally, half the pirate he used to be. Here’s the heart of the show, taking us along the shipwrecked road to redemption to make Dredgie whole again with more than a little help from his friends. Though more serious than the first act, it still delivers on the whimsy with a sea snail escargourmet and a charmingly sweet visit from the now fully grown, like it’s really big, sea dragon. Will Dredgie complete his quest and be made whole again and what will he have to sacrifice to do so? Set a course for 1st Stage and find out!

Jacob Yeh as Neptune and Suzy Alden as Salacia; Suzy Alden, Linda Bard, and Ezinne Elele as the sigh-rens; and Natalie Cutcher as Hexikalina in ‘Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee.’ Photos by Teresa Castracane.

There is so much to recommend about this production. When you first walk in Christa Noel Smith’s set looks like a giant pirate-themed aquarium with vaudeville curtains in the middle. It’s beautifully lit by Alberto Segarra. The sound complements everything from the ambient design by navi to incidental music, David Dibble and navi, to the songs written by, and a special shoutout (ahoy?), to goth folk duo Charming Disaster. Erik Teague and Alison Samantha Johnson’s costumes, especially Hexikalina the mermaid, are works of art, and Andrea “Dre” Moore has created the perfect props for this world.

Front and center, bow and meridian, though are the puppets! The vast scope of puppetry in this show is stunning! There are hand puppets, rod puppets, 15-foot-tall balloon puppets that put their head in Dredgie’s lap, crankies, black light puppets, a hand-cranked, life-size mermaid tail (attached to a life-size and cranky mermaid), a puppet puppeting other puppets, smoke, and I’m sure there were more that I didn’t even realize. Staying for a Q&A after the show, I found out the cast are also doubling as the puppeteers and are having a great time being put through their puppeteer paces.

Be sure not to miss this treasure chest of a show before it hoists anchor on June 20!

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee plays through June 20, 2022, at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Road, Tysons, VA. Tickets ($15–$50) are available for purchase online.

Designed for ages 8 to adult.

The Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee playbill is online here.

COVID Safety: All 1st Stage staff, performers, and audience members are required to be masked at all times while in the theater. Proof of vaccination will be checked at the door.

Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee
Written and directed by Matthew Aldwin McGee
Associate Director El Chelito

Suzy Alden
Linda Bard
Natalie Cutcher
Ezine Elele
Lee Gerstenhaber
Matthew Aldwin McGee
Jacob Yeh

Production & Design Team
Set Design – Christa Noel Smith
Costume Design – Erik Teague & Alison Samantha Johnson
Lighting Design – Alberto Segarra
Props Design – Andrea “Dre” Moore
Sound Design/Original Composition – navi
Stage Manager – Justine Morris
Puppet Design – Matt-A-Magical
Composer – David Dibble
Assistant Stage Manager – Kaitlyn De Litta
Song Writers – Charming Disaster


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