Based on the book by Johnny Valentine, The Daddy Machine has a book by local playwright Patricia Loughrey, with music and lyrics by local composer Rayme Sciaroni. This is a family-friendly musical commissioned by Diversionary Theater. I can assure you that both adults and kids enjoyed the show.
The story is about two moms with their two kids and singing dog. Also, we can't forget the 62 dads; some are part of the cast and many are created from volunteer kids out of the audience. The Daddy Machine is one of the first - if not the first - plays for family audiences representing lesbian moms and their kids.
The star of the show is Stonewall (Jacob Caltrider), the family dog. As with any dog, the world revolves around him, his toys, and the number of pats on the head he gets from the family. The show opens with Stonewall singing "It's All Good." He has his toys, the kids, and the two moms to tend to his needs. Plus, they buy him lots of toys that make animal sounds. His second number, "My House," is a lament that his new dog house is still in a box ready to be assembled.
The moms, Mom (Krista Page) and Mama (Susan Hammons), have to leave for an emergency, which puts precocious Sue (Haley Heidemann, also played by Lirenza Gillette), the older daughter, in charge of Harry (Benjamin Shaffer, also played by Max Oilman-Williams), her younger brother.
Harry, being all boy, is in the process of creating a machine housed in an old
Kenmore refrigerator carton. Unhappy with missing his pancake breakfast, he makes some final adjustments and, much to his sister's chagrin, plugs it in. Lights flash, noises emanate from the cardboard construction, and out step a couple of dads. Dad #1 (Andy Collins) has a stack of pancakes while Dad #2 (Sven Salumaa) carries the spatula.
Harry sings about his favorites, "Pancakes." Sue has her moment in "Sixty-two Dads." The Daddy Machine spits out two more dads. All four dads sing of "The Art of Making Pancakes." The kids in the audience are beckoned to the stage, disappear backstage only to come out moments later with every kind of daddy hat on. The audience is encouraged to join the cast in some of the songs.
Heidemann plays a typical older sister trying to keep her younger brother in line. Shaffer portrays the impish, determined boy perfectly. Collins and Salumaa, the first dads, are absolutely hilarious. Page and Hammons, as the moms, are bookends for the play. Fortunately, we do see them re-costumed as some of the 62 dads.
While designed to appeal to the children and based, in part, on a child's picture book, The Daddy Machine does not dumb the content down. The musical, at one hour running time, is the right length for young kids, who seem absolutely captivated by Stonewall. The encouragement of the audience to become involved with actors further enhances the production. The company's final number, "A Little Blessing," is very touching. The show is truly kid-friendly, but it hasn't forgotten the adults.