Finding Your Place in the World

Kimberly Colburn
 | May 09, 2018

Amos & Boris

Have you ever felt out of place? Have you ever felt unfulfilled by where you’re at in life? Or felt like you just didn’t care about the same things as the folks that surround you? Meet Amos, seemingly the oddest mouse in Mouse Town.

Amos doesn’t care for the same things as all of the other mice in town. He doesn’t really like the weekly dance parties at the Tailspin, and he certainly doesn’t dance at the mouse party. He doesn’t get down with the beats—even when they are being spun by his good friend Carl—and he feels lonely in a crowd. He’d rather sit on the beach and look out at the ocean, even if that offends his mice friends. He’s fascinated by the sea and it captures his imagination constantly.

Mouse Town

Amos & Boris Mouse Town design by set designer François-Pierre Couture.

One night at the regular mouse party, Amos gets called out for not dancing and having a good time with everyone else. His best friend (and champion wheel-runner) Minden tries to make excuses for him, telling the crowd that he just foraged too much dinner. They aren’t buying what she says, though, since they’ve never seen Amos dance. He quietly leaves the dance and escapes to his refuge by the water. Minden follows him, trying to appeal to him to join the group again but Amos declines. Frustrated by his obstinacy, Minden suggests that if Amos loves the sea so much, he should build a boat. While Minden didn’t mean for it to be taken seriously—whoever heard of a mouse living at sea?—Amos is immediately inspired by the idea.

Amos stays up all night researching, and sets out early the next morning to begin constructing his boat. The hammering activity wakes his friend Carl. Carl inquires as to Amos’s plans; he doesn’t understand Amos’s need to live on the ocean, but he quickly sees that Amos will need help if he is to make the journey safely. Carl calls his mouse friends to help, and much to Amos’s surprise, they all leap into action and help him build his boat. When the boat is complete, they are dismayed to learn that it isn’t intended as a party boat, but instead Amos wants to make it his home. They feel taken advantage of and depart in a huff. Before Carl leaves, he encourages Amos to tell Minden. Amos appeals to Carl to take Minden out while he is gone, and doesn’t understand why Carl thinks she doesn’t want to go out with Carl. Carl concludes that maybe this trip will be good for Amos after all, and help him to discover the things that are obvious to everyone else in Mouse Town.

What awaits Amos on the sea? How can a tiny mouse possibly survive in an ocean full of beautiful but dangerous creatures? When things get rough and Amos meets a giant blue whale named Boris, his life takes an unexpected turn.

Amos ​& Boris is clearly full of challenges to stage (you can read director Jessica Kubzansky’s approach to the challenges here). In addition to the question of scale—how can you see a mouse and a whale onstage together, in the ocean, no less!—the cast and creative team are navigating puppets and numerous quick costume changes. If that isn’t enough spectacle for you: it’s also a musical. Playwright Sofia Alvarez adapted the beloved children’s book by William Steig and worked with composer Daniel Roland Tierney to bring the story to life.

Alvarez discovered the book while she was a nanny, reading it to her charges repeatedly and never tiring of the tale. She had the idea to turn it into a musical, and reached out to Tierney, who she had just done a project with. He agreed to mess around, and the two wrote the song “Sea Air” one afternoon. Because that went well, Alvarez secured the rights to adapt and pitched the idea to South Coast Repertory to commission. Associate Artistic Director John Glore, the producer of the TYA program, agreed…and the fruits are now going to be enjoyed by our audiences. For those familiar with the book, you can see that Alvarez and Tierney have taken artistic license to deepen and enrich the story by adding characters and introducing complexity in giving Amos a strong sense of his home on land. The music adds another layer, allowing the characters to give voice to their inner life, whether they are a mammal or a fish.

This complicated musical production with imaginative puppetry is all in the service of supporting a simple and moving story about the unlikeliest of friends…and how friends can help you see things you didn’t even realize about yourself.

Learn more about Amos & Boris and buy tickets.