Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Og' Is a Celebration of Imagination, Play

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'Og' Is a Celebration of Imagination, Play

Article excerpt

SARASOTA YOUTH OPERA

In the realm of beloved children's tales that take you to other worlds, Narnia and Wonderland come immediately to mind. But children in the U.S. might not be familiar with a world well known to young readers in Canada: Og.

In Pierre Berton's book "The Secret World of Og," five siblings venture from their playhouse into the underground world of Og to rescue their baby brother and cat. There, they find little green creatures who have been "borrowing" bits of the children's stories and toys and making them real.

Composer Dean Burry adapted the story into a children's opera for the Canadian Children's Opera Company in 2010. On Saturday, the show has its U.S. premiere with the Sarasota Youth Opera, which previously performed Burry's musical version of "The Hobbit."

"This show is very much about make-believe," Burry said. "It's all about play and imagination, which is something that young people can really relate to. And of course, as well, the adventure. What kid hasn't peered into some hole? What would happen if we went on an adventure there?"

Burry said he intentionally went "over the top with the quirkiness of it," imbuing the story with a "Tim Burton-esque quality that is creepy, gross and funny all at once."

The Og creatures, having no culture of their own, adopt personas stolen from the children's playhouse including pirates, James Bond- like spies, and Wild West cowboys. It gives the actors many choices and many characters to play throughout the story.

"The show says that yes, it's great to play pretend, but it's also great to be exactly who you are," said youth opera stage director Martha Collins. "Celebrate who you are. Each of the main characters has a moment where they have to build up their courage, say, 'I'll pretend I'm strong, and that's what I'll be,' which is a great lesson for kids. …

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