Think Pink (and cupcakes, too)

Oregon Children's Theatre's "Pinkalicious" makes sweet music and a little bit of a moral for its enthusiastically pink-clad audience

Oregon Children’s Theatre invited its audiences for Pinkalicious: The Musical to wear pink, and the suggestion was enthusiastically taken up by a majority of the audience at Saturday’s opening matinee. The pink-clad demographic, ranging from 3 years old to about 10, featured a corps de ballet’s worth of tulle and tiaras sported predominantly by little girls, but by at least two boys as well.

Oregon Children’s Theatre, celebrating its 30th anniversary this season, is a master of its trade, and has engineered every aspect of the afternoon to be maximally exciting for its young audiences, from the scavenger hunt in the lobby before the performance to the carefully marshaled line for actor autographs and (pink, obviously) coupons for free miniature cupcakes afterwards. And, of course, the show in between. A brisk 60 minutes, with peppy musical numbers placed at perfect intervals to minimize fidgeting, and just a dollop of audience participation, it’s easy to see why Pinkalicious) (written by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann, composed by John Gregor, and directed by Stan Foote) has been a sell-out hit for OCT through several revivals.

The great Cupcake Caper, Spray Division. Photo: Owen Carey

This iteration is anchored by the ridiculously winning Kai Tomizawa in the title role as a young girl who eats so many pink cupcakes, she turns completely pink, to the dismay of her family and friends. Last seen as young would-be Confederate soldier Raz in Artists Rep’s A Civil War Christmas, Tomizawa has an assured stage presence that in this instance puts her more closely on par with her adult co-stars than her fellow young performers. She can sing, she can dance, and she has a maturity and confidence—an ease with directing her brief moments of audience call-and-response and with holding the huge Newmark stage—that is seriously impressive. And judging by the multiple young audience members excitedly reading her name and reminiscing about her Drammy-winning performance as Junie B. Jones, she has something of a fan following. I found myself hoping that the casting director for next fall’s Fun Home at Portland Center Stage has an eye on her.

The source material is a popular picture book also written by the Kanns. Its very, very mild subversive streak includes the bluesy lament of Pinkalicious’s brother Peter (Skylar Derthick), whose love of pink is fiercely resisted by his father (Gerrin Delane Mitchell). As the boy next to me said loudly and firmly when Mr. Pinkerton forbade his son to play with a pink toy: “That’s not right.”

Sing, dance, slink, pink. Photo: Owen Carey

All does come right in the end, of course, with a slightly half-hearted effort to draw various threads—Peter prefers cookies to cupcakes, Pinkalicious has gotten into a fight with her best friend Alison, the Pinkerton parents are overworked and don’t have enough fun—together into a vague moral. Such dramaturgical quibbles are far from the point, however. The audience gasped as a curtain made of shimmering streamers was flown in from above and lit up by a disco ball, and shrieked with laughter at the scene-stealing dancing doctor. They groaned in knowing delight at a stolen plate of cupcakes, eagerly shouted advice to Pinkalicious, and recited catchphrases without needing to be asked twice.

The line for autographs formed immediately after the performance, and had wrapped halfway around the lobby by the time I had left the theater. A small audience member in a pink feather boa summed up the resounding consensus I overheard as we exited: “That was a good show.”

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Oregon Children’s Theatre’s Pinkalicious: The Musical continues through June 4 in the Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway. Ticket and schedule information here.

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