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‘Really Rosie’ review: A terrific cast impresses in kids’ musical

"Really Rosie" stars Taylor Caldwell in the title role. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

“Really Rosie” plays at City Center through Aug. 5. 131 W. 55th St., nycitycenter.org.

There is a striking similarity between Dolly Gallagher Levi (in a red headdress, at the top of the staircase, singing the title song of “Hello, Dolly!” to a pack of observant waiters) and Rosie, the daydreaming, assertive child of Avenue P, wearing sunglasses and a feather boa, at the top of a Brooklyn stoop, delivering the title song of “Really Rosie” to other neighborhood kids.

City Center’s annual Off-Center series is concluding with “Really Rosie,” Carole King and Maurice Sendak’s cheery and charming children’s musical.

It is refreshing to see loads of kids filling the seats at City Center, taking part in a drawing contest in the lobby and working on a connect-the-dots puzzle inserted into the program.

In 1975, not too long after the debut of King’s iconic 1971 album, “Tapestry,” the singer-songwriter teamed with Sendak (the late children’s author and illustrator of “Where The Wild Things Are”) to create a half-hour animated television special about a starstruck young girl who convinces her pals to play along in preparing the movie version of her life story.

“Really Rosie” was subsequently turned into an hourlong stage musical. Since its Off-Broadway debut in 1980, it has become a staple of children’s theater companies. Its catchy songs serve as tutorials on the alphabet, numbers, months of the year and proper behavior, and its loose storyline celebrates the power of the imagination to overcome loneliness.

Leigh Silverman (“Violet”) directs a terrific pack of young performers, who bring both vibrancy and vulnerability to their characters. Taylor Caldwell, an original cast member of “School of Rock,” shines as Rosie. The cast also impresses with dance, effortlessly performing tap and hip-hop choreography by Ayodele Casel.

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