It only takes a quick scan of Facebook to realize how contentious the political climate is. But Orlando Repertory Theatre has found a children's show that every American can get behind in "Chasing a George Washington," a musical playing through Nov. 18.
Well, I suppose if you aren't a fan of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, you might be put off by this pastiche of history lesson, children's comedy and disco dancing. But being anti-George or anti-Abe? Now that's truly un-American.
In the Rep's loud and energetic show, directed by Joshua Chase Gold, three students on a White House field trip accidentally knock the father of the country out of his official portrait. He then leads them on a romp through time, where the kids meet such famous residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. as Jackie Kennedy, Dolley Madison and President Lincoln.
President Obama is mentioned in the context of the nation's first African-American president, but political firebrands, don't panic: There's no mention of health care, the economy or any other current election issue.
The show's actual message is one of inclusiveness, that we're all Americans together. If that message is a bit heavy-handed, at least there's no chance kids will miss it.
The three children demonstrate the diversity of the country. Jose (Carl Krickmire) is a Latino boy who lives over a carwash in Los Angeles. Dee (Elaina Walton) is part of an upwardly mobile African-American family, and Annie (Ali Haselden) is a white European immigrant.
The actors amuse the young audience with their stereotypical behaviors: Annie's English can be a little confused, sassy Dee is full of "what-ever" attitude, and Jose likes to rap, yo.
George (a sprightly David Shipman) is a lot cooler than one would expect from his formal poses as he and kids race around the strikingly elegant set by Vandy Wood.
"Chasing George Washington" was commissioned by the Kennedy Center in conjunction with the White House Historical Association, and at times the history lessons feel a bit shoehorned into the plot among the silly dances.
Yet there's no doubt that watching President Lincoln (Rod Cathey) struggle with the Emancipation Proclamation, while his wife (Carly Skubick) frets about their ill son is moving for both children and adults.
And if the delighted students in the audience depart having learned nothing more than America is a country for everyone, in these divided times, that's a message worth repeating.
'Chasing George Washington'
• What: Orlando Repertory Theatre production of a musical by Karen Zacarias and Debbie Wicks La Puma
• Length: 1 hour, no intermission
• Where: Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 E. Princeton St. , Orlando
• When: 2 and 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Nov. 18
• Tickets: $11-$17
• Call: 407-896-7365
• Online: OrlandoRep.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun