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Playhouse for children

Tacoma Children’s Musical Theater fills a niche

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It is always fun to see a new theater thrive, especially when the theater fills a niche that was otherwise unfilled.

Such is the case at Tacoma Children’s Musical Theater. It is the resident children’s theater program at Tacoma Musical Playhouse, and it is staging its second production, “The Fabulous Fable Factory.” The show is a collection of Aesop’s best known fables as told through a storytelling machine in the form of a gaggle of adult thespians.

While the show has only one child, it is still children’s theater because the show is clearly for young audiences — much different than TMP’s standard theatergoer. And it really fills a niche.

I have pondered for years the absence of a venue just for children, and the parents who love them. Sure, most of the shows staged at community theaters around the South Sound are fairly family friendly, but that doesn’t mean that they are for children even if they are appropriate for children. Sometimes children just want to have fun and go to a day at the theater with brain candy shows that have moral messages.

The South Sound theater scene was once just hanging on and fairly, well, predictable. There wasn’t a lot of difference between theaters just a decade or so ago. But that has changed. Theaters might stage the same shows from time to time, so their season lineups might seem similar, but the shows might be different now that theaters allow their directors to add their own bent to a script. I can watch the same show at different stages and find wonderment and whimsy each time.

The fact that there is a theater troupe dedicated to staging shows just for children further illustrates that the South Sound theater scene has ratcheted itself up yet again.

Yeah sure, the effort only stages a few shows a year, and it is an offspring of an existing theater. But it’s something and promises more to come.

So it is with those expectations that I went to see what this troupe was all about.

It was a fun show. Just fun. It wasn’t high theater or a big production with flashy costumes and rapidly changing sets. What it has is a string of stories children can understand while learning a little something along the way. But more importantly, it sincerely seemed like everyone on the stage was having fun. They were smiling and hamming it up the way good children’s theater does, even when there was no audience reaction. That means a lot since children pick up on that vibe.

I particularly have to give a shout out to Wadsworth (played by Andrew Fry), one of the cogs in the storytelling machine that strings the story along by telling fables as a way to entertain and test Margo (Sofia Lewis). He teeters on the verge of giddiness when he springs into action. But really all of the actors sparkle.

“The Fabulous Fable Factory” ends this weekend with shows at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $12 adults and $10 children at the Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave. Call 253.565.6867 or visit:

The next show will be Hans Christian Andersen’s “Emperor’s New Clothes” at 2 p.m. June 9, 10, 16 and 17.

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