by Louise Hilton
Swine Palace’s latest show is the musical “How Do You Run with a Shell on Your Back?”, a collaboration between Playmakers of Baton Rouge and Swine Palace, directed by resident ensemble member Jenny Ballard, with musical direction by Jason Bayle. The story follows six students from different social groups who are stuck in detention in the library (of all places!) and are deathly bored. They are also loathe to be seen with one another (“My friends’ll freak out if they saw me with you… Ew!,” they sing in the opening number). You have the jock, the teacher’s pet, the misfit, the popular (and mean) girl, the nerd, and the class clown. Think The Breakfast Club for the tween/teen set.
To pass the time, the wacky substitute teacher Mr. Sopperstein encourages the students to use their imagination to act out scenes from one of the books in the library, Aesop’s Fables. The kids join forces to do just that, enacting three of the most enduring fables through song: “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “Androcles and the Lion,” – whose accompanying song “Thorn in My Paw” is a stand-out as it follows the lovesick class clown Ari as he swoons over the popular Savannnah – and “The Tortoise and the Hare.” The kids realize soon enough that they’re not so different after all and the closing number, “Who’d’ve Ever Guessed,” is an up-tempo ode to friendship and finding common ground no matter how different we may seem upon first glance.
“How Do You Run” is fast-paced and short enough (60 minutes) to hold kids’ and teens’ attention and keep them entertained. With a talented cast, lively musical numbers, and its heartwarming message of acceptance, friendship, and of course, the power of imagination, this family-friendly show is definitely worth seeing.
The play opens tonight at 7:30 and runs through Sunday, August 5, in the Studio Theatre in the Music and Dramatic Arts Building at LSU. There are also 2:00 p.m. matinees on August 4 and 5. Company B will perform Thursday and Sunday. Tickets are $10, available at the door only. Get there early as the play is likely to sell out! Doors open at 7 p.m.