PIEDMONT -- She goes by "Diggetyrazzledazzle" and "Canibelle," but her fellow students at Havens Elementary School might just know her as Kayla Wong. This summer, however, she prefers her more exotic character names as she prepares for Berkeley Playhouse's production of "Starmites."
Wong, along with Piedmont residents Malia Lee, Yanela Roberts (all students at Havens) and Amelia Wire (who attends Beach Elementary), plays several fanciful characters in the Tony-nominated Broadway musical that's been described as "a living cartoon."
"This is really a crazy, fun show," said 9-year-old Amelia Wire. "I really like the story, but my favorite parts are the two fight scenes. In one, we fight without weapons, but in the other one, we use fans and flashlights as weapons."
Directed by artistic director Elizabeth McKoy with musical direction by Tania Johnson and choreography by Maggie Manzano, the show has lots to keep young audiences enthralled including, of course, the fight scenes.
The story follows Eleanor, a shy teen, who tries to avoid the pains of growing up by building a fantasy world from her sci-fi comic books. Of course, she's the superhero in her imaginary world. But, her bravery and confidence are put to the test as her made-up world becomes all too real.
Before you can say "Ack Ack" (one of the characters played by Yanela Roberts), Eleanor finds herself drawn into the conflict between Shak Graa, Arch-Creep of Chaos, and the Starmites, guardian angels of Innerspace. With the help of the Starmites and their captain, Space Punk, Eleanor finds the inner power she has always denied, defeats a colorful assortment of villains and conquers the evil force of "The Cruelty."
McKoy gives her young performers a chance to do several roles in this imaginative tale by dividing them into two casts with each one playing a different part in each cast.
"One of my characters is Hollaback, a man-eating lion, and the other one is Oragala, a goddess of Innerspace," Wire explained. "When I'm playing Hollaback and another actor is doing Oragala, it's hard not to start saying Oragala's lines because I know them so well. You really have to concentrate. But I love doing both characters -- one is so bad, and the other so good."
"Starmites," a part of Berkeley Playhouse's KidStage program, plays at 3:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 1-2. Performances take place at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave., in Berkeley. Tickets, priced at $20 for adults and $15 for youth, can be bought by calling 510-845-8542, extension 351 or by visiting www.berkeleyplayhouse.org.