Pushcart Players’ ‘Peter and the Wolf’ Coming to Stafford Library March 22

Mar 13, 2018

The Pushcart Players, New Jersey’s premier touring theater company for children, will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” at the Stafford branch of the Ocean County Library starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 22. The performance is free. However, pre-registration is required, either online at theoceancountylibrary.org, by phone at 609-597-3381 or in person at the library, located at 129 North Main St., Manahawkin.

Pushcart and “Peter and the Wolf” go together as well as milk and cookies. Pushcart’s mission, since 1974, is to provide arts education for children; Prokofiev wrote “Peter,” one of the most frequently performed works of classical music, to introduce kids to the individual instruments of the orchestra. Not for nothing is “Peter” called a “symphonic fairy tale for children.”

Peter, represented musically by strings, is visiting his grandfather, whose home is in a forest clearing. He goes out into the clearing, leaving the gate open. A duck (oboe) takes advantage of that open gate to waddle out to a pond for a swim. The duck gets into an argument with a bird (flute) – “What kind of bird are you if you can’t fly? What kind of bird are you if you can’t swim?” – as both of them are being stalked by a cat (clarinet).

Peter warns the duck and bird and they escape the cat’s claws. But Peter’s grandfather (bassoon) catches the boy outside the wall and takes him back into the house, locking the gate and sternly warning his grandson that wolves live in the forest.

Sure enough, a wolf (French horns) soon comes on the scene. The bird is safe in the air and the cat climbs a tree, but the duck is chased down and swallowed by the wolf. Peter climbs over the garden wall, has the bird fly around the wolf’s head to distract it, and, using a rope, snares the wolf by its tail.

Hunters (woodwinds; their shots are represented by kettle and bass drums) who have been tracking the wolf arrive, determined to kill the wolf. Peter convinces them that the wolf should be brought to a zoo instead, and the entire group heads off.

In the original ending the show’s narrator tells the audience members that if they listen carefully, they’ll be able to hear the duck, swallowed alive, quacking in the wolf’s belly. Some performances, notably Disney’s 1946 animated short, have changed that ending to make it more appealing to children.

However the Push Cart Players deal with the ending, they’ll surely provide a great evening out for youngsters and families and maybe ensnare, just as Peter does the wolf, a few children who will become forever enamored of theater and classical music. —R.M.

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