Author Giles Andreae and illustrator Guy Parker-Rees have shifted millions of copies of their picturebook about Gerald the giraffe, whose bandy knees and thin legs make him a dancefloor disaster. Aided by a violin-playing cricket, Gerald gets into the groove by imagining – like this is some sub-Saharan La La Land – that the moon and the stars are shining just for him.
Unlike Biff, the irrepressible pooch who longs to pirouette in Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, Gerald is a sorrowful sort. The book’s more mawkish moments are offset by elegant sketches of cha-cha-ing chimps and waltzing warthogs.
Julia Thomas’s hour-long adaptation, which she also directs, retains the themes of growing in confidence, dancing to your own beat and grounding yourself in your surroundings. Valuably, composer Tasha Taylor Johnson adds a ballad assuring the over-threes audience that it’s OK to feel sad sometimes, and describing how that feels (like you’re still hungry after you’ve had tea).
In Simon Kenny’s smart design, concentric suns burn through the back wall and a wheeled stairway makes Sophie Coward’s Gerald loom over other animals. But the book’s inner grace is jettisoned for a tone that is too often shouty rather than subtle. The gentle rhythms of Andreae’s rhymes are crowded out by a trio of bantering and beatboxing beatles (Joshua Coley, Gracia Rios and Jason Yeboa). In a nod to Curve’s other Christmas show, they enter by ad-libbing America from West Side Story.
Phyllis Ho’s Cricket insistently instructs the audience to roar about how much fun we are having, then guides us through jarring sessions of yoga-breathing to calm the children down. Tonally, it’s like flicking a light switch on and off, although the backwards somersault in Gerald’s triumphant closing dance, performed here with aerial silks, finally captures the book’s moonlit charm.
At Curve, Leicester, until 5 January. Then touring