{photo by Greg Mooney, courtesy of the Alliance Theatre}

Four of my children and I had the pleasure of attending a live play of Disney’s Mulan on Sunday afternoon, courtesy of the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Although my kids have seen both Mulan movies (at the beginning, my six-year-old daughter leaned over and whispered, “Is this 1 or 2?”), the storyline was new to me, an inspiring tale of honor, courage, and loyalty.

The play features not only an engaging storyline—not too difficult for a child to follow, yet interesting for adults, too—but an appropriate level of slapstick for young audiences. At times, my four-, six-, eight-, and ten-year-old children were literally hanging on the edge of their seats.

Mulan is a young Chinese girl whose family expects her to marry well and behave in a socially acceptable fashion in a land where traditions are written in stone. Instead, Mulan disguises herself as a boy and enlists in the Chinese army, thereby protecting her father, injured earlier in war, from serving on behalf of her family. Although this is not what her family and ancestors (portrayed by oversized puppets) would wish, Mulan’s actions don’t come across as defiant.

Leslie Bellair portrays Mulan as frightened but brave, a charming if not unlikely hero. She not only behaves courageously, but ultimately helps defeat the Huns and saves the life of the emperor himself, bringing honor to her family and winning the heart of the Chinese army’s captain.

The audience was invited to attend a Talk Back a few minutes after the show, where the eight actors sat on stage and answered questions. I loved how all ages in the crowd participated, with inquiries ranging from “How heavy is the armor?” to “How do you preserve your voice?” to “Who makes the costumes?” to “How did Mushu shoot flame across the stage?”

My six-year-old daughter raised her hand. Time was up before her turn, but I’m sure they would have told her where they got the doll that the army found in the ruins of a defeated village. It’s fascinating as a mother to see what things my children find the most important or interesting.

Since watching the play, the thing that we’ve discussed most is the fact that there were only eight actors, and the level of versatility required of them; most played at least three parts. In one scene a woman played the part of a man who was pretending to be a woman. That’s a fun one for play acting.

I left not only wishing we had season tickets to the Alliance (Looking Glass Alice, opening March 31, looks particularly intriguing), but also that I could score a job as backup photographer for Greg Mooney, whose lovely photos grace the walls of the Woodruff Arts Center. He’s obviously got a sweet lens and the only person in the audience allowed to photograph the plays. 🙂

A stop afterward for Frosted Oranges from The Varsity rounded out a perfectly memorable Sunday afternoon with my four youngest. Mulan runs until March 19th at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre.

Disclosure: Tickets provided for review.

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