Lyle the Crocodile
The Lyle series of books has been charming audiences since the mute-but-charismatic crocodile was first introduced in The House on East 88th Street in 1962, the story from which the play is adapted. Times are tough all over, even in New York City, and it’s time for Hector P. Valenti to hang up his tap shoes. But he’s found the perfect home for Lyle, the Crocodile, just in time for the holidays. As the Primm family moves into a new apartment, they’re surprised to find Lyle sleeping in the bathtub. Lyle wins them over with his juggling, dancing, winning ways. Though not everyone is a fan, at first, Lyle manages to save the day and make new friends.
Hartzell is particularly excited about this production. “I love good physical comedy and killer dance numbers,” she says “And this show is full of both. Lyle is one charming crocodile living in one of the most vibrant cities in the world—New York City. There is no better way to say ‘happy holidays!’ than by taking your family to see a tap-dancing crocodile in NYC.”
Lyle the Crocodile is an extensive re-write of one of Kling’s earliest plays, first produced in 1991. Kling has been reworking the script under the guidance of Hartzell, who paired Kling with Composer Rich Gray to update the music as well. Gray previously composed the music for Time Again in Oz and Little Rock at SCT.
“Both Kevin and Rich share my passion for the books,” explains Hartzell. “It’s essential that everyone, and everything, remain loyal to Lyle’s original humor. From there, this dynamic, original musical explodes with a tap-dancing, magic-performing crocodile.”
Hector P. Valenti knows show business. And he knows that Lyle is one talented crocodile, but times are hard all over and it’s time for Hector to hang up his tap shoes, for awhile. Don’t worry though, he’s found the perfect home for Lyle in the meantime. East 88th Street, New York City. There’s no better place in all the world. Especially for an out-of-work crocodile. Just in time for the holidays, the Primm family moves into an apartment on East 88th, and as they try to get their lives in order they find Lyle sleeping in the bathtub. It’s understandable when Mr. and Mrs. Primm react a little, well, poorly to having a crocodile in their apartment, but Lyle wins them over with his juggling, dancing, winning ways. Lyle even wins over the persnickety neighbor, Miss Nitpicker. Mr. Grumps from downstairs doesn’t like anyone, so Lyle is no exception. After a fun-filled day of touring the city, ice skating, and seeing the delightful wintery sights, Lyle is accused of scaring Mr. Grumps’ beloved cat. The friendly croc gets sent to the zoo. The other crocodiles are nice enough, but this is no place for a reptile of such enormous talents. Thank goodness Hector P. Valenti is on hand to break Lyle out. Just in time, too. Lyle returns to the apartment building on East 88th Street to find Mr. Grumps’ apartment on fire, with Grumps and his cat still inside. Lyle the Crocodile saves the day and makes a new friend in the bargain.
The character of Lyle presents some unique challenges, as he is the centerpiece of the story and yet says not a single word. “Only the most expressive performer can channel Lyle,” says Hartzell, “in that silent style of Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball or Bill Irwin. With his amazing tap-dancing, Greg McCormick Allen is the perfect fit.”
Joining Allen is a cast full of longtime SCT favorites, including Julie Briskman (last seen at SCT in The Brementown Musicians), Allen Galli (A Tale of Two Cities), Auston James (2010 production of The Green Sheep), Ian Lindsay (last seen at SCT in Seussical), Jayne Muirhead (The Brementown Musicians), Don Darryl Rivera (The Brementown Musicians), Caety Sagoian (The Brementown Musicians) and MJ Sieber (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). Khanh Doan, Hugh Hastings, and Katherine Strohmaier round out the ensemble.
The cast is supported by an excellent production team, including Choreographer Marianne Roberts, Music Director Mark Rabe, Set Designer Jennifer Lupton, Costume Designer Catherine Hunt, Lighting Designer Geoff Korf, SCT Resident Sound Designer Chris R. Walker, Puppet Designer Annett Mateo, Fight Choreographer Geoffrey Alm, and Skating Coach (for the big Rockefeller Center scene) Christina Fritz.
Playwright Kling is best known for his popular commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and his storytelling stage shows like Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log. He grew up in Osseo, a Minneapolis suburb, and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1979, with a BA in theater. His storytelling started when a friend asked him to perform his stories. The National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, The Bush Foundation, The Jerome Foundation and others have recognized Kling’s artistry. This is his first collaboration with SCT since 2008’s Busytown.