The adjective "flat" isn't typically a positive; it's certainly not desired by singers, sodas or tires. On the other hand, it works out for stomachs and pancakes. It's not something welcomed by the title character of Jeff Brown's "Flat" Stanley Lambchop books, either, but as a cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for, it's not so bad being flat.
In The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, now at Dallas Children's Theater, being flat also makes for some memorable tunes and serves as a love letter to the postal service and sending mail in the days before the letters "e" and "i" became prefixes for everyday words like "mail" and "phone."
The late author Brown's first Flat Stanley book was published in 1964, and it became so popular that it spun numerous sequels and garnered a loyal fanbase. There's even a Flat Stanley app (several of them, actually). This musical, which has a book by Timothy Allen McDonald, lyrics by McDonald and Jonathan K. Waller, and music by McDonald, Waller, David Weinstein and Stephen Gabriel, debuted in 2008.
At DCT, Clinton Greenspan plays Stanley, who lives with his brother Arthur (Andy Baldwin) and parents Mr. and Mrs. Lambchop (B.J. Cleveland and Natalie Weaver). Stanley wants to do big things, and when Arthur urges him to wish on a falling star, his dream to see the world is realized as he's turned into a two-dimensional boy. How this happens is a coup de théâtre for scenic designer Bob Lavallee and costume designer Lyle Hutchon.
What happens to him is plainly laid out in the song "My Child is Flat." But, in the spirit of making the most of undesirable situation, and with the encouragement of the cleverly named postal carrier Mrs. Cartero (Deborah Brown), they decide to put Stanley in a giant envelope and mail him around the world. He visits Hollywood, Hawaii and Paris, which is memorably executed with a foiled heist at the Louvre. Turns out, some famous paintings might be flat, but they're not empty-headed.
Directed by Michael Serrecchia and with music direction by Adam C. Wright, it's all great fun, expertly performed, vocally and acting-wise. Cleveland, Weaver, Baldwin and Brown get to have extra, hammy good times in multiple roles.
There's not as much subversive humor here for the adults as in some of the other musicals that DCT has produced, but for solid family entertainment, especially for younger children, you could say it's letter perfect.
◊ Here's video of Michael Serrecchia talking about his career and working on this show. Flat Stanley marks his DCT debut.