In 2008, a mouse got onto the stage of the Arkansas Children's Theatre at the old Arkansas Arts Center. This mouse really, really wanted a cookie.
Unaware of the domino cascade of difficulties he was starting, a boy naively ignored warnings squealed by about 300 children and their parents and gave this mouse a cookie. Everything on stage wound up wrecked.
Somehow, though, the next year, someone let that mouse back onto the same stage, with the same feckless boy.
The Children's Theatre world-premiere production of "Merry Christmas, Mouse!" wasn't long on dialogue, but its action filled the gap with an hour-long, athletic romp for two actors and a workout for two stage hands who cleared props and created special effects.
During five months of preparations, then-Children's Theatre artistic director Bradley Anderson wrote the script in collaboration with actors Josh Rice and Katie Campbell, adapting a bestselling children's book by Laura Numeroff.
Campbell reprised her 2008 role as the mouse, and Rice returned as the boy. This time, Boy and Mouse encouraged the audience to count ornaments as the two tangled and fell over and into Christmas lights, tossed huge snowballs and played "hot potato" with a hot chestnut at a pace that the Democrat-Gazette's reviewer estimated would have boggled Bugs Bunny. Campbell somersaulted, juggled and played air guitar in her pear-shaped mouse costume with red overalls.
Set designer Mary Alyce Hare approximated mouse scale with a 30-foot tree with toeholds like a rock-climbing wall, a 10-foot mantel and giant props.
Interviewed during a rehearsal before opening night, Campbell and Rice insisted the show was more fun than work for them. "Hey, we get to play on an adult jungle gym," Rice explained.