My six-year-old son Kyle is a huge fan of the children’s book “Dragons Love Tacos.” When I learned that Oregon Children’s Theatre had brought the story to life on stage at the Newmark Theatre, I knew it was the perfect recipe for a mama-son date. Last Sunday, the two of us headed downtown for a whimsical adventure of theater, laughter, and, of course, tacos.
The premise of the show is that – spoiler alert – dragons love tacos. What dragons don’t love is spicy salsa, which unfortunately sends them into a smoke-steaming, fire-breathing fit. We learn these facts (and others) from an enthusiastic narrator who pops out of a giant TV set and into the home of a young boy and his dog. Once in their living room, the narrator spends the remainder of the show teaching his co-stars as well as a very attentive audience everything we need to know about dragons from his fascinating “Dragonology” course.
The narrator was charismatic and skilled at working with young audiences, regularly bringing in call-and-response moments to make the performance interactive. How many children can yell “lettuce” at the same time? Turns out, an entire auditorium. To compliment the narration was plenty of action. The visually exciting dragon costumes, the on-stage taco party, and the chaos that ensued when the creatures accidentally ate salsa all kept the pace engaging and entertaining for kids (and grown-ups!).
Designed for All Audiences
A note to parents with sensitive kiddos: I was a little nervous about the intensity of the noise or lighting. Kyle has sensory difficulties and spooks easily; obviously fire-breathing dragons had the potential to be a bit much. Fortunately, it was clear that OCT had considered kids like Kyle when developing their production, creating a not-at-all-scary compilation of dance, fire, and scenic effects that ultimately brought the house down (literally and figuratively).
Theater for People Who Get It
The production was bright, fast-paced, and funny in all the ways you would hope a kids’ show would be. And, even more wonderful, it was clear that everyone in the audience was there with at least one, if not several, young kiddo(s). This sea of humanity was totally cool with the kid in front of me who danced enthusiastically through 90% of the performance. It was no problem when a toddler loudly squawked with glee during a more quiet moment. And the lady next to me didn’t give me any grief when Kyle switched from his seat to my lap multiple times. It was so nice to be somewhere where everyone just gets it. The hour-long performance was not too long and not too short, meeting the juuuuuust right Goldilocks criteria of young attention spans.
Meet the Dragons…er… Actors
Families who wanted to stay after the show were encouraged to meet the characters in the lobby, who gladly sign playbills and chat with audience members. Kyle was a bit too shy to approach them, which they were also skilled at handling. Again, it was obvious that the people behind OCT just get it, and the goal is to make going to the theater a fun, interesting, and maybe even sometimes a bit silly experience for everyone!
I wasn’t sure how to gauge Kyle’s thoughts on the show. He had been mostly quiet during the performance, only stopping at one point partway through to clarify, “Wait … do dragons actually exist?!?” Walking out of the auditorium, he noted the OCT banner that listed the upcoming shows for the 2020 season. I thought it the perfect opportunity to check-in. “Did you have fun? Would you want see another show like this?” I asked.
“I don’t want to go to another one,” he said, “I want to go to all of them!!!”