"Bud, Not Buddy" matures and shines at Children's Theatre Company. By ROHAN PRESTON, Star Tribune Last update: January 23, 2008 - 10:05 PM BUD, NOT BUDDY What: Adapted by Reginald Andre Jackson from Christopher Paul Curtis' novel. Directed by Marion McClinton. When: 7 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Fri., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 and 5 p.m. Sun. Ends Feb. 16. Where: Children's Theatre, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls. Tickets: $22.50-$37.50. 612-874-0400. In "Bud, Not Buddy," which opened over the weekend at the Children's Theatre Company, the first act offers a lot of perfunctory exposition. It dawdles a bit in setting up the plot and establishing the play's flashback storytelling style. But the second act, in which the hopes and dreams of a searching 10-year-old orphan meet the realities of the world, is simply sublime. Poignant and elegant, it made my eyes misty. Adapted by Reginald Andre Jackson from Christopher Paul Curtis' Newberry-winning book, "Bud" is about a boy in an orphanage, played by Nathan Barlow, who runs away to find his father. The father may or may not be famous bandleader Herman Calloway (Shawn Hamilton as a hurt and truculent taskmaster). When Bud finds Mr. Calloway, he is not received like he thought he would be. But wise and indefatigable, the young man with the potential to flower perseveres. The play takes place during the Depression, not today, when Bud's search would be a TV special. Staged with style and sophistication by Marion McClinton, "Bud" is ostensibly a show for children. Children's Theatre recommends it for ages 9 and up. But McClinton has directed a fierce work with some swinging jazz composed by Victor Zupanc -- not the bright musical underscoring that you might expect for youngsters. In other words, this production, which uses real-looking weapons, does not do too much nodding to children. The performances, by a very capable company whose members play multiple parts, are all admirable. Barlow, a Children's Theatre veteran, is clearly in a growth spurt and his voice is changing (getting lower). Still, he invests Bud with verve and hard-fought hope. "Bud" features a lovely turn by Regina Williams as the warm, sensitive singer in Calloway's band. In voice and body, Williams' radiant character wraps the orphan boy in warmth and love. Hamilton is deft and in the pocket as the leader of the jazz band. He moves with stylized syncopation as if he is walking on music. Kevin West, Payton Woodson and the always stellar Marvette Knight join Gerald Drake, Samuel Roberson, Traci Allen, Namir Smallwood and Max Tojtanowicz in this lyrical production that is as apt for adults as it is for children. It might be at Children's Theatre, but adults could ditch the kids and go to this one for themselves. It's a thought. Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

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