Science is everything and everywhere in The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful and Her Dog!, a bubbly musical for children at The Keegan Theatre that takes audiences on a journey from a pillow-fort spaceship to the sun and back, just in time for snacks. With a book and lyrics by Lauren Gunderson (one of the most produced playwrights in America since 2015) and music by Bree Lowdermilk (whose first album topped the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart), this kid-geared romp packs a punch of educational material and hummable melodies.
Dr. Wonderful (Ruth Elizabeth Diaz) is a precocious, science-minded kid on a mission to save the sun from disappearing, with help from her dog Newton (Christopher Rios) and neighbor Ben (Delante Dates). The small cast is rounded out by Carianmax Benitez as Mom, who also is variously stylized as a detective and labcoat-clad researcher. The storytelling follows the kind of dream-like patterns that are easiest for younger minds to grasp because they adhere to kid logic: “Every scientific question is a mystery,” so we have to look for clues! We showed how to test a scientific hypothesis, now let’s go to space!
Just like a make-believe session unfolding in a kid’s playroom, the show’s journey ranges from the mundane to the magical. “I’m the dog,” Newton announces in an opening song to clarify his lack of obviously canine-styled apparel. And before you know it, this canine of seemingly few words is wearing a helicopter hat and rapidly explaining solar fusion. Indeed, the solar fusion song is a highlight, as Newton and Ben use light-up beachballs to illustrate the process, conducted by the ever-knowledgeable Dr. Wonderful. Gunderson’s book and lyrics certainly don’t hold back when trying to persuade kids that science is fun: according to one lyric in the show’s finale, “Without science, life would just be boring.”
Other highlights throughout were the projections by Zavier Augustus Lee Taylor, which transport the audience from Mercury to Pluto (“Never forget,” says Newton) and through textbooks and sparkly dance breaks. Speechless at the beauty of a projected celestial event, Newton finally murmurs, “This is so very – wow.”
From the show’s very first moments, the performers extended a warm invitation for kids to participate in Dr. Wonderful’s journey. As soon as the house lights went down, the actors took to the stage with a message explaining what was about to happen and inviting feelings of all kinds to ebb and flow throughout the performance: “Everyone reacts a little differently, but the most important thing is to have a good time!”