‘Rainbow Fish’ comes to Paramount stage
By Randall G. Mielke For Sun-Times Media April 20, 2012 10:36AM
♦ 9:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. April 23
♦ Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
♦ Tickets, $8
♦ (630) 896-6666
Updated: April 20, 2012 10:36AM
When the creative people of the ArtsPower National Touring Theatre company got the rights to the book “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister, a story about underwater creatures, they wondered how they could bring it to the stage.
“Once we got the rights we thought, “How can we do this?’” said Greg Gunning, artistic director of the ArtsPower and director of “Rainbow Fish.”
The musical centers on the Rainbow Fish, the only fish in the sea with lovely shiny scales. Rainbow is aware of her beauty and spends most of her time looking at herself in the mirror. But when she will not share her scales with the other fish, they do not want to be friends with her anymore. Rainbow is confused and decides to look for the wise octopus to ask for help. Along the way, she meets a stuck-up star fish and a scary shark. When she finally meets the octopus, the advice she gets is simple: share your gift with others and you will find happiness.
The ArtsPower National Touring Theatre company will present “Rainbow Fish” on April 23 at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
One of the biggest challenges ArtsPower faced in producing the story for the stage was keeping the illusion of an aquatic environment without dressing the actors in fish costumes. The solution offered by Gunning was simple, yet effective: set up a magical mirror. Anyone who looks into the mirror and repeats a chant (guided by the Narrator) can see exactly what the fish world sees. And the mirror reinforced Rainbow’s major character flaw: her vanity.
“Humans can’t see underwater, so we have a Magic Mirror, an idea that Pfister allowed us to use,” Gunning said. “The actress steps through the mirror and then she plays her in human form. With that device we can change things. Star fish is a Hollywood star. The shark is a 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll guy with a leather jacket. We can also change the style of music.”
The music in “Rainbow Fish” is by Rich DeRosa and Gunning is the play’s writer and lyricist. The production features an assortment of musical styles from calypso to 1950s swing to gospel to east Indian.
Although costuming in the play is far from extravagant, there are enough accessories to suggest the different characters.
“What the actors wear allows them to change into characters,” Gunning said of the four actors and actresses in the play, all of whom play multiple roles except for the lead character of Rainbow.
“A guy playing a fish transforms into a the shark with the black, leather jacket. We add costume pieces to indicate who they are. It just gives the effect and the rest is in the imagination of the audience members.”
Gunning believes that a combination of several factors makes the play appealing to audience members, especially children.
“Many kids know and like the book,” he said. “Also, there is audience participation. We cue them into the change of characters. They call out ‘shark’ or ‘starfish.’ They get caught up in the fun of it.”