Audiences Pleasured by Alexander’s Problems

Pardon the mass expression of schandenfreude emanating from Lincoln Park’s Apollo Theater.

But it takes a dive into a German dictionary to succinctly define the audience’s reaction to Emerald City Theatre’s musical retelling of the children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Schandenfreude means pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

In this production, misfortune abounds, resulting in pleasure untold for young audience members, ages 3-10, for whom this is written. It’s another in a host of currently staged Chicago area offerings giving kids an excellent introduction to musical theatre. Two others are “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Houdini Box.”

Mark Kosten is stellar as Judith Viorst’s Alexander, with unbridled enthusiasm so annoyingly real he allows just enough schandenfreude to seep in amidst appropriate compassion for a child’s day from you-know-where. Alexander’s misfortunes include:

  • Waking up with gum in his hair
  • Tripping on a skateboard
  • Dropping his sweater in the sink
  • Not finding a toy in his cereal
  • Not getting a window seat in the carpool causing car sickness
  • Teacher not appreciating his drawing of an invisible castle
  • Forgetting number 16 during counting time
  • A friend not accepting his help
  • Being told he sings off key
  • Not having dessert in his lunch
  • Falling in the mud…

And the list goes on. No wonder the poor kid wants to move to Australia.

But throughout this ultimate day of trials and tribulations, including a scene with some six-and-a-half-foot-tall-shoes sure to bring about multiple cases of Chicagoland Stride-Rite-phobia, Alexander and his competent ensemble make it to day’s end. When Patricia Lavery as Alexander’s mom intones, “You get to start it all tomorrow” in the song, “I Wish You,” there’s no doubt Alexander believes it, and the audience does, too.

Performances of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” run regularly through June 17 at the Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $13 for kids and $16 for adults and available at the Apollo Theater Box Office at 773-935-6100 or online at

The website is also a treasure trove of parent and teacher resources, including study guides on topics covered by the Emerald City’s performances. The company’s year-round programming includes live productions, theatre class offerings, summer theater camps, an extensive touring program and literacy initiatives.