'Babe' delights with small-scale mayhem

Due to reasons far too dull to recount, my print review of Babe, The Sheep Pig won't run until next week's issue. So, here are a few early thoughts about the adaptation now playing at the Children's Theatre Company.

Based on Dick King-Smith's novel, the play offers delights for anyone who loved the book or the film. If you have young kids, it's a great way to get out of the house in the deep winter for a fun afternoon or evening. But even if you don't have kids, it's still a great little escape. Much of that is due to the 10-actor company, led by the always-impressive Dean Holt in the title role.

An extremely gifted physical comic and performer, Holt puts his skills to great effect as Babe. Padded out and dressed in pink, he makes a great representation of a pig. It's his actions that sell the character, from the stubby run he employs while herding the sheep to the way he gobbles food whenever it's set in front of him. When agitated, Holt bounces (almost literally, he's wearing a lot of padding to get the right shape) around the stage like, well, a greased pig. [jump]

The staging hints at the animals with costumes and makeup, but it is up to the actors to bring them to life. It's not just Holt that makes the best of this opportunity. The entire company, be they dog, sheep (hmm, we seem to have the making of a Pink Floyd album here), cat, or rooster, all do a great job.

Mo Perry brings out all the warmth she needs as Fly, the motherly sheepdog who befriends Babe. Elsewhere, the ensemble has a great time bringing life to the whole barnyard, especially during Babe's first adventures there, as he is hassled by a rooster, a cat, a litter of puppies, and just about everything else he encounters.

The adaptation, by David Wood, isn't shy about the realities of life on a farm. While the farmer and his wife (Reed Sigmund and Elizabeth Griffith) are kind souls, they are still raising animals for food--Babe especially. Now, that changes once his value as a "sheep pig" is seen, but death is still a specter here. Director Peter Brosius handles this all with a delicate hand, making sure the reality is there, but never letting it overwhelm the gentle story on display. In the end, all of this combines to make for a real delight of a show.

Babe, the Sheep Pig runs through Feb. 27.