Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster uses hundreds of illustrated paper puppets, book pages, two-dimensional props, furry monster puppets, and songs to bring Mo Willems’s books to life. Manual Cinema wanted to re-create the experience of holding one of Willems’s book pages, which are big, bold, colorful, and full of visual rhythm, with a playful use of scale. Like all Manual Cinema productions, you can watch the big screen like a traditional movie, or watch the artists below as they create the story in real time… There is no wrong way to watch the show!
Our Review of Leonardo! A Wonderful Show about a Terrible Monster
Our thanks to the Chicago Children’s Theatre for providing tickets for this review. All opinions are my own.
Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster at the Chicago Children’s Theatre is an interactive, playful show recommended for ages 3 and up. My 5-year-old is a big Mo Willems fan and we read this book almost every day last summer so I was excited to take him and his 2-year-old brother to their first play experience.
I was a little nervous about my 2-year-old’s attention span but he sat for almost the whole 45-minute show, clapping when it began and staying interested for most of the performance. After all, there is a lot to keep kids entertained, between the adorable furry puppets, various catchy songs and talented actors who give us the chance to watch their work in real time, as they brought the story to life on stage. I also think he was pretty thrilled with large rubber benches we sat on in the theater. Instead of being forced to sit in a boring chair, he seemed to enjoy having a kid-centric viewing area.
I thought it was really cool that you could choose to watch the story unfold on the giant screen or focus your attention on the actors who were controlling the puppets “behind the scenes.” The play stays pretty true to the book, with a few extra additions to the storyline about how to make new friends, which was a great theme for my 5-year-old son. It is easy to see that the cast members are genuinely enjoying themselves, which helps create a fun experience for the kids.
One of our favorite parts was when the narrator and guitarist paused a song to poll the audience and get the kids involved. This short but significant moment was a great way to make them feel like they were a part of the action. We also had the opportunity to meet the actors and puppets after the show, which was pretty special. I watched the kids’ faces light up, especially my son’s when he was able to give Leonardo a high five. I thought this was a perfect choice for a first play for the kids to see because it was just the right length (45 minutes) and full of energy. When it was over, my son immediately asked when we could come back!
How to see Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster at the Chicago Children’s Theatre
The show runs September 10 – October 16 at the Chicago Children’s Theatre, 100 S. Racine. Public Performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30am and 11:30am. For tickets, which start at $33, visit the Chicago Children’s Theatre website or call (312) 374-8835.
Tips for Your Trip
If you’re coming from the west suburbs, the Chicago Children’s Theatre is a great city destination that’s quite easy to get to. Seeing all the trains and skyscrapers on the way in added to all the fun! My son was very interested in learning some of the facts we told him about the buildings and it made us want to bring him back soon for another city adventure. As an added bonus, parking is free in the theatre’s lot (and there’s free parking nearby if it’s full when you arrive).
There are also tons of amazing places to eat nearby. We checked out Beatrix in Fulton Market for breakfast this time; Little Goat and Monteverde are two other family favorites with an urban edge. A more budget-friendly pick is the famous Lou Mitchell’s diner.
See our Chicagoland Kids’ Fall and Winter Theater Guide for even more great performances!
Past Performances and Reviews at the Chicago Children’s Theatre
Keep reading to get a flavor of past performances at Chicago Children’s Theatre.