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Salt Lake Acting Company's annual children's musical, "Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly," features a cast of creepy crawly characters who make a stand for interinsectual relations.

It's an adorable show about transformation, and it's about how having big dreams is OK and why our differences make us cool, says director Penelope Caywood, who fell in love with the play after choreographing a production seven years ago at the University of Utah Youth Theater.

The musical is adapted from a series of picture books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss. SLAC's annual youth show features evening and weekend matinee performances Dec. 2-28, as well as a series of energy-filled matinees for 1,700 students at 12 local elementary schools.

In the play, Worm (Sky Kawai), Spider (Cameron Fleck), Ant (Joseph Paul Branca) and Fly (Emilie Starr) learn from each other, as well as from Butterfly (Micki Martinez) and their teacher, Mrs. McBee (Alicia M. Washington).

Worm feels bad about himself because he can't stand on his own two feet since he doesn't have any, unlike his friends Spider and Fly. Spider leads a Broadway-style musical dance number about legs. Spider can't wait to outgrow his skin, while Fly dreams of being a superhero and Butterfly can't wait to immigrate to Mexico. "An important part of this play is that everybody's different, and yet we've very much alike," Caywood says.

For older audiences, the show's message might be on point after this month's divisive presidential election, says Cynthia Fleming, executive artistic director.

Younger audiences might particularly enjoy the show's zippy music. "I'm satisfying my inner 'Hamilton' need because there's plenty of rapping in the show — old-school, early '80s and '90s rapping, which is fun and identifiable for the kids," Caywood says.

Many of the company's daytime shows are performed for young theatergoers who have never seen a live performance, and that's a particular charge for performers, says Washington, an actor who is also a co-founder of Ogden's Good Company Theatre.

Performing for young audiences is, well, the bee's knees, because kids' reactions are so transparent, says Washington, who is a veteran of Intermountain Healthcare's Well tour for students. Caywood says when you hear schoolkids ripping their Velcro shoe fasteners, you know you've lost their attention.

As a black actor, Washington says she's particularly interested in helping kids of all ethnicities find actors and stories to identify with. She also hopes the elementary-school matinees can help kids see a future in theater, not just as performers, but also in creating sets, lighting and costumes.

Onstage, being able to watch young faces in the audience "and to feel their energy is something that is unmatchable," she says. "There is a magic that producing theater for young audiences gives you as a performer that you seldom get elsewhere." —

Insect diaries

Salt Lake Acting Company presents "Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly," its annual show for young audiences. Playwright Joan Cushing adapted the story from the popular series of picture books written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Harry Bliss.

Artistic team • Director Penelope Caywood, with assistant Sarah Katherine Walker; music director Dave Evanoff; set designer Thomas George, with assistant set designer ZoĆ« Fetters; costume designer Erin Carignan, with Katie Rogel; lighting designer Jess Portillo; and stage manager William Richardson

When • Dec. 2-28; shows are at 7 p.m. Friday, and noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; additional shows Dec. 17-19, 22-23 and 27-28; call 801-363-7522 for times

Tickets • Children $15, adults $25; 801-363-7522 or

Promotional shows

Monday, Nov. 28, 2 p.m. • Wasatch Elementary, 30 R St., Salt Lake City

Monday, Nov. 28, 6 p.m. • Performance at the theater for Voices for Utah Children

Thursday, Dec. 1, 5 pm • Sprague Library, 2131 Highland Drive, Salt Lake City

Thursday, Dec. 15, 6:30 p.m. • Sweet Library, 455 F St., SLC

Friday, Dec. 16, 11 a.m. • Day-Riverside Library, 1575 W. 1000 North, Salt Lake City

Donations • Throughout the play's run, SLAC will accept donations for its neighboring school, Washington Elementary, and the YWCA

Community partnerships • SLAC is promoting the work of Voices for Utah Children and Intermountain Therapy Animals, while students from Washington Elementary and the Visual Art Institute are creating artwork inspired by Cronin's books to decorate the theater's lobby

More • For more information on SLAC's Title 1 Arts Education program, call 801-363-7522