'Douglas Fir' plants seeds in kids'
minds.The best part of "The Journey of Sir Douglas
Fir" is seeing the reactions of the children in the audience --- wide-eyed
and open-mouthed --- as the reader's musical unfolds, Bully Bear growls
or thunder and lightning rattle the residents of Shawnigan Lake in the
Canadian province of British Columbia.
The "Sir Fir" legend, you see, is starting to sprout as many branches
as its title character. What began as an idea about five years ago has
grown into a fully performed reader's musical (done at podiums with
scripts), a children's book with CD and this charming TV special.
It was culled from two performances in early March --- the world orchestral
premiere of "Sir Fir" --- with eight actors-singers, a 64-voice chorus
and the 120-player Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jere Flint.
It's as plain as the wonder on their faces that the children in attendance
found in this story the magic that lurks inside any good book. But so
did their parents and, likely, so will you.
"Sir Fir" tells the tale of Douglas (Ric Reitz), a respected 350-year-old
fir tree and his forest friends: among them, excitable Earl Squirrel
(10-year-old Johnny Cenicola), lazy and hungry Monk Skunk (Mike Pniewski)
and rabid reporter Rona Redbreast (Libby Whittemore).
Deep down, though, it's about adapting to change and learning that
although something new is scary, it can also be exciting. "Sir Fir,"
obviously, is aimed at younger viewers and readers, for whom it is nearly
perfect. Its little stories of personal growth, the antics of its actors,
the catchy tunes by Jim Ellis and the Crayola illustrations of David
Brewer (which share screen time with close-ups of performers) make it
so. The words even show up on-screen so you can read along.
Particularly resonant is Ellis' song "Joined at the Dreams" (lyrics
by Reitz), which lightly touches on all the important parts of being
somebody's best friend. The kids may sway to the music, but it's the
adults who'll dab at a sentimental teardrop.
By and large, though, "Sir Fir" stands tall. It teaches without preaching.
It exposes kids to music and acting and reading and tiny lessons that
go down easy. Let's hope Reitz's company gives us another reader's musical
soon. Its gifts are those that can last a lifetime.
Kathy Janich - Atlanta
Waiting for the sequel.Move over Disney,
Douglas Fir is takin' over! This is a wonderful book, complete with
its very own music of top quality. Congratulations to the authors -
I think they started a saga here.
Andy Georgiades - Toronto,