Charles Dickens’s schoolmaster Mr. Gradgrind from Hard Times (he who insists, “Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts”) would feel right at home in the grim factory town run by a petulant archduke in Mac Barnett’s 2012 children’s book Extra Yarn. There, young Annabelle and her schoolmates are taught, like their parents before them who now labor on the assembly line making tchotchkes for the archduke’s company, that “people who make mistakes deserve nothing.”
Through 3/19: Sat-Sun 11 AM and 1 PM; open captions Sat 2/25 11 AM and 1 PM, audio description and touch tour Sat 3/4 11 AM (touch tour 9:30 AM), sensory-friendly performance Sun 3/11 11 AM; Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood, 773-761-4477, lifelinetheatre.com, $20
But when Annabelle discovers a magical box of never-ending yarn and begins knitting sweaters and assorted other things for everyone in the town, something shifts. Her handmade goods aren’t “perfect,” but they’re soft and warm and bring such joy that eventually even the archduke wants in on the magic yarn action. But as we learn in Lifeline’s wise and warmhearted world premiere musical adaptation, the real magic comes from accepting our own imperfections and those of the people around us and building mutual aid networks to help weather our shortcomings.
Jessica Wright Buha’s script, featuring a charming score by John Szymanski, unfolds in a swift and engaging hour under Anthony Kayer’s direction, with a nimble cast of four playing several roles (except for Shea Lee, who shines as Annabelle). Amanda de la Guardia as Annabelle’s newly radicalized mom who goes on strike, Calvin Adams as the whiny archduke, and Bradley Halverson as the schoolmaster who learns some things from his students, all make Extra Yarn an enchanting tale and a smart way to teach us all that mistakes are how we learn. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a cute dog puppet (designed by Noah Ginex), too. It may not be a perfect show, but it’s darn close.