Music Mary Liz McNamara
Book & Lyrics Joan Ross Sorkin
Adapted from the book by Don Freeman
Dandelion is a family musical based on the children’s book by Don Freeman, author of Corduroy and others. Being yourself is the simple, but powerful message of Dandelion. Dandelion is a shy, awkward teenage lion who is afraid he won’t be liked if he comes to Jennifer Giraffe’s party looking the way he always does in his ratty old sweater and mangy mane. He decides to get a make-over, which includes a new jacket, a perm and manicure, and he buys roses for his hostess to impress her and his classmates. But when he shows up at Jennifer’s door, she doesn’t recognize him in his fancy get-up and slams the door in his face, upset by Dandelion’s lion cousin Roscoe, an earlier gate-crasher and middle school bully. Outside Jennifer’s door Dandelion gets caught in a sudden downpour and his jacket is ruined, his mane uncurled, and his roses blown away. Moaning over his misfortunate of missing the party, he pulls up a handful of wild dandelions in frustration. When Jennifer hears animal sounds outside, she opens the door and now recognizes Dandelion who looks like his “old self” in his ratty sweater and mangy mane, and gladly welcomes him in. Dandelion sheepishly offers Jennifer the wilted weeds and discovers that she loves dandelions and is allergic to roses. When the guests tell him how an outlandishly-bedecked lion came to the door, he confesses he was that silly lion. Jennifer reassures him that she likes him just as he is.
In addition to the theme of appreciating “the real you,” the musical addresses the issues of bullying and the exclusion of outsiders. Regarding the latter, the show addresses “racial profiling” where a whole group is ostracized because one person in the group is a “bad apple.” In this case, Roscoe bullies Jennifer’s little brother Toby in the school yard and steals the cookies for the party when he is returning home from the store. In turn, Toby runs into Dandelion and announces that all lions are bad and tells Dandelion he is not welcome at the party. At first Dandelion is deterred from attending until encouraged by Pippa the parrot to be brave like a lion. Toby’s fears turn into a teachable moment when Jennifer convinces him that not all lions are bad, and at the end of the show, at the urging of Dandelion, Roscoe returns to the party to apologize, and he redeems himself by befriending Toby.
Cast of 6. Running time: approximately 55 minutes.
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Reading, The Dramatists Guild, Mary Rodgers Room (2019).