The fantastic adventures of “Flora & Ulysses” are coming to the Lyric Arts stage Feb. 14-23 in Anoka in the family-friendly play.
Based on the best-selling book by Katie DiCamillo and the play “Flora & Ulysses” by John Glore, the show follows a little squirrel (Emmett Graham) who after a near-death experience with a vacuum cleaner, is rescued by Flora Belle Buckman (Val Heideman), a 10-year-old self-proclaimed cynic and comic book fan.
She names the squirrel Ulysses and soon discovers he has been reborn a superhero, with powers of strength, flight and the ability to type poetry on Flora’s mother’s typewriter.
Together, they embark on an unpredictable adventure, which has the power to awaken the possibility of hope — even for someone as cynical as Flora.
“This show is full of characters that are strange in a wonderful way,” said Val Heideman (Flora Belle Buckman). “‘Flora and Ulysses’ tells kids and audiences of all ages that strange and unexpected things should be embraced.”
The play also stars April Roedere (as Tootie Tickham), Julian Klein (William Spiver), Gabriella Abbott (Phyllis Buckman), Nate Otto (George Buckman), Paran Kashani (Dr. Meescham) and Madeline Achen (Ernie/Klaus).
Director Paul R. Coate said the play teaches kids and families to find their inner superhero powers to deal with hard times.
“The story really isn’t about the squirrel at all,” Coate said. “Flora has two divorced parents where she lives with her mom and misses her dad. Throughout the play, Flora discovers more powers within herself than those within the squirrel. It’s really a story about a young girl discovering her own value, self-worth, talents and abilities to cope through hard times. I hope kids are able to see themselves in Flora and be able to look within and see their own strengths.”
“Flora grows up through the course of this show,” Heideman added. “She starts believing she must be cynical because her world has let her down, but over the course of the play, she learns that hope is a superpower she can learn to use.”
Emmett Graham (Ulysses) dives into more difficult themes by exploring the relationships between characters.
“This show has some heavier themes that can take you by surprise in a piece that is aimed at younger audiences,” Graham said. “It does an amazing job of showing relationships and what can be healthy and unhealthy about them, and the different ways we can make connections with one another. It’s also full of larger-than-life heroes, goofiness and pure love.”
Graham plays Ulysses through the use of narration and a puppet who flies and does superhero stunts with the help of animation and projection.
“He’s a squirrel and a puppet,” Graham said. “It’s fascinating getting to simultaneously be in your own body, and the body of another separate entity.”
Coate says audiences can expect, “a lot of silliness with a powerful, heartfelt message that celebrates the worth and power of every human being.”
Aside from Coate, the production team includes costumer Katie Martin, stage manager Kate Bender, puppet master Madeline Achen, scenic and prop designer Brian Proball, light and projection designer Jim Eischen and animation designer Todd Draeger.
To learn more about “Flora & Ulysses,” visit lyricarts.org/flora-ulysses.
If you go
What: Lyric Arts presents “Flora & Ulysses”
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 14 and 21; and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Feb. 15-16 and 22-23.
Where: Lyric Arts Company, 420 E. Main St., Anoka.
Rating: Intended for general audiences. Children under 5 will not be admitted.
Tickets: Prices are $23-28
Info: Lyricarts.org or 763-422-1838