The early-’70s album, children’s book and TV special Free to Be… You and Me was an ambitious project. The idea was to promote gender neutrality and individuality in the next generation. Years later, the songs and sketches still resonate. In a show titled Free 2 B U & Me, Project Empty Space and Alchemist Theatre take a look back at the work with a live performance that radiates with pleasant intensity.
Beth Lewinski and Kris Puddicombe play grown kids returning to their childhood home to clear out the attic for their mother (Reva Fox). They run across a copy of Free to Be and have to explain it to a kid named Billy (Grace Liebenstein). Thus enters a large, enthusiastic ensemble cast, all clad in bright colors.
Christy Hall Watson’s adaptation of the script weaves the disparate segments into a loose narrative. As directors, Watson and Erica Case keep the energy going with impressive momentum. Some of the best segments include Michael Traynor and Maureen Murray as kids who have a falling out over a string of letters. Liz Whitford is fun as the princess who would prefer to choose the man she wants to marry. Robby McGhee is priceless as her conservative father. And Michelle White has an irresistible sweetness as the girl who must always be first.
The usual measure of good children’s fare is whether or not it also appeals to adults. This retro show works that concept in reverse: It appeals to nostalgic adults first, who help spread the fun to the kids who accompany them.
Alchemist/Project Empty Space’s production of Free 2 B U & Me runs through March 31. For ticket reservations, visit www.alchemisttheatre.com.