St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (2011)
The portable sound laboratory (a steampunk, Jules Verne-inspired, neo-Victorian prop) designed and built by Sara Valentine.

STL Symphony blog

Peter and the Suitcase

By Eddie Silva
February 16, 2011

I stopped in on a Kinder Konzert Wednesday morning, a wonderful place to be, completely devoid of Pujols-contract news. The actor Michael Boudewyns--all the way from Delaware--joined the orchestra. In the first half of the concert, he appeared as host, dressed as an early era aviator and sporting a large moustache. He spoke with something akin to an Austro-German accent, a bit lighter than Schwarzenegger's.

He prepared the schoolchildren for a work by Leopold Mozart, Amadeus' dad, Toy Symphony. He told them that L. Mozart actually wrote works for barking dogs and for shouting, but for the purposes of the Education Concerts, toys would do. Boudewyns brought with him a marvelous instrument made of various curly plastic horns, like vuvuzelas with pretzel logic, and a menagerie of noisemakers. Since St. Louis Symphony Education Concerts are an interactive experience, the schoolchildren sang "cuckoo" whenever Boudewyns raised a red handkerchief in time with the orchestra.

If it's been a while since your last Peter and the Wolf experience, here's a refresher: Peter is the strings; Duck, oboe; Cat, clarinet; Wolf, horn; Bird, flute; Grandfather, bassoon; Hunters' guns, timpani and bass drum.

Prokofiev's enduring work is full of marvelous invention, but Boudewyns had some invention of his own, telling the story with the most basic props. A black purse, with whiskers and tail, represented the cat. A feather duster was the duck, and three bathroom plungers filled in as the hunters' guns. The star attraction, the wolf, was a suitcase with ears and tail, and when it was opened, a red mouth with teeth was revealed.

Backstage after the show CP (Community Partnership) staff member Dacy Gillespie asked Boudewyns if he wanted to return to the stage to meet some kids. "I always want to say 'hi' to kids," the actor said.

A row of eager schoolchildren stood below the lip of the stage, with many questions.

"Where do you get your things for the animals?"

"Many different places. The purse I found at a yard sale. I got the suitcase at a second-hand store. I had a yellow handkerchief that I used for the bird."

"You took something and used it for something else!"

"That's just what I did!"

"You were the guy with the moustache!"

"Yes, I was!"

"Where did you make this up?"

"I practiced at home in my living room."