It’s not very often that a pig is the main character in a theatrical production.
That is the case, though, in the Rose Theater’s 2017-18 season-opening production of “Babe the Sheep Pig.” The play, which runs through Sept. 24, tells the story of a pig named Babe.
“Babe the Sheep Pig” is told from the viewpoint of a menagerie of barnyard animals. It follows the adventures of a young piglet named Babe who arrives at the Hogget Farm after a farmer wins him at a country fair.
Befriended by a kind sheepdog named Fly, Babe struggles to fit in with the others on the farm, who taunt him for being a less desirable animal. Under Fly’s gentle guidance, Babe not only learns the secrets of sheepherding, but discovers he has an innate talent for the skill.
“In ‘Babe the Sheep Pig’ you have this young pig who is sent to a farm and introduced to rules he doesn’t understand,” said director Matthew Gutschick. “It is a world where each species is separated and they each have a view of the hierarchy that exists between them. Babe uses his unique gifts to break through the barriers and leads with kindness and love. It is just a piece that, to me, resonates with great importance to our current socio-political climate.”
A cast of nine actors portray a wide range of animals, from pigs and sheep, to cats, ducks, geese, puppies and more. Each of the barnyard animals reveals their own distinctive personalities, helping to convey lessons on kindness, loyalty, love and beating the odds.
The production stars Mallory Vallier as Babe, Robyn Helwig as Mrs. Hogget and Robby Stone as Farmer Hogget.
Audience members will find that even traditional theater rules have been upended in this production. Families will enter the auditorium to find a quaint village fair taking place before the show starts.
Children are invited to go onstage prior to the show where they can engage in carnival games reminiscent of a time gone by. Seating is available onstage for families who wish to do so, allowing a stage-eye-view of the production.
“This is a unique experience for audience members who wish to see the show from the stage,” Gutschick said. “This on-stage audience then becomes a part of the action when Babe competes in the Grand Challenge Sheep Dog Trials.”
Scenery is minimal, with few moving parts. Scenic designer Christopher Rhoton’s design features a well-worn, skeleton-like barn that can become everything from a country hillside to a farmhouse to a village fair with the help of a handful of flown-in pieces.
While “Babe the Sheep Pig” is not a musical, Gutschick has chosen to incorporate a musician performing original and folk tunes live on stage throughout the performance. Musician Adam Sherrerd has written original compositions for The Rose’s production which are intertwined with more familiar tunes.
The production is designed for families with children ages 5 and up. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Fridays, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
The 2 p.m. show on Saturday will be interpreted for people who are deaf or hard of hearing; this show also will include audio description services for audience members who are blind. The 5 p.m. show is designated as sensory-friendly, with special accommodations made for families attending with a child on the autism spectrum.
Tickets are $20 and may be purchased by phone at 402-345-4849 or online at www.rosetheater.org.