When we hop on a city bus, our mind is on the destination, not the ride. We simply pop in our earbuds or stare at our phones, tuning out everyone in the seats next to us as we journey toward work, school or errands.
In Metro Theater Company’s re-telling of the Newberry Medal-winning children’s classic, Last Stop on Market Street – written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson – a trip across town suddenly becomes a musical joy ride that changes one young passenger’s life forever. Through the eyes of a child, we can all see the beauty in the neighborhoods that surround us and the joy of the people who call them home.
Playwright Cheryl L. West and director Jacqueline Thompson bring to the stage the story of tech-obsessed CJ who reluctantly joins his Nana, played by international jazz sensation Denise Thimes, on what he thinks is an ordinary bus ride. Determined to guide her grandson to travel closer to his roots, Nana encourages CJ to unplug from his devices, open his heart to new friends, and learn from their stories. His action-packed trip ends at Market Street with an experience he’ll never forget and a new view of the world around him.
At times loud and gritty, and at others sunny and upbeat, de la Peña’s themes of empathy, diversity and humor are woven throughout every heartwarming scene.
“The story is perfect for where we’re at right now,” remarked MTC artistic director Julia Flood. “All of us – whether we’re seven or 77 – have been craving that genuine connection with other people that has been missing from our lives. No matter how you’ve been impacted the past two years with everything going on in the world, it feels good to celebrate connecting with other people. That’s really what’s at the heart of this story.”
As moving as the tale is on its own, Last Stop on Market Street grabs the audience’s attention and holds on tight with eye-popping set designs that awe and irresistible music that will keep you dancing long after the curtain drops.
Scenic designers Peter and Margery Spack took inspiration from Robinson’s stunning illustrations and cues from St. Louis’ iconic architecture to create color-saturated, vibrant scenes that represent a city full of life. In addition, Last Stop on Market Street features music from Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son Paris Ray Dozier who fuse influences of R&B, hip hop, gospel, and rap into the show, paralleling the score with the cross-generational relationship between CJ and Nana.
Said Flood, “Last Stop on Market Street is so celebratory that it calls for movement and music. The Doziers’ combination of different genres creates this magical happiness that leaps from the stage. It takes an everyday bus ride and transforms it into one that really expresses the joy of those special moments when you connect with others.”
Last Stop on Market Street runs live on stage February 6-27 at the Grandel Theatre with a virtual streaming option available February 11-17. Tickets are $20-$36 and are available at www.metroplays.org/marketstreet, but to ensure economic barriers do not prevent families from experiencing its programs, MTC offers Pay-What-You-Wish tickets for both in-person and online shows February 10-12.
Whether your child is connecting to a story they already love or experiencing this modern classic for the first time, Flood wants them to walk out of the theater with a new appreciation for the city and the people they love.
“What I hope that kids take away from the show is a desire to look at the world around them, to see their community and all the hidden beauty that’s there before their eyes. I also want them to ask questions of their grandparents, to say, ‘What has your life been like?’ That’s a challenge for kids – they don’t think about fact the old people started out as young people just like they are. But when we open the doors for communication, we discover we have so much in common, no matter how different we are.”
To protect the health of its patrons and performers, MTC has a variety of COVID-19 policies in place. To learn more, visit www.metroplays.org/covid.
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge has written for STL Parent for more than 12 years. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL
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