Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, Lifeline Theatre. Now in its 15th season, Lifeline has delivered yet another colorful, tight, professional, infinitely cute production that entertains kids without boring grown-ups. In Eileen Spinelli's story, town recluse Mr. Hatch gets a new lease on life after receiving a mysterious package with a note saying "Somebody loves you." Like Scrooge on Christmas morning, Mr. Hatch (James E. Grote)--eager to find his secret admirer--befriends his neighbors, regaling them with harmonica music and brownies, and learns a valuable lesson about friendship. Adapter Frances Limoncelli and composer-lyricist George Howe also collaborated on Lifeline's previous kid hit, The Emperor's Groovy New Clothes.
The ensemble, directed by Shole Milos, shows remarkable versatility in every aspect of staging and performance. The supporting actors--Rob Lindley, Danna Southard, and Sandy Snyder-Pietz--change characters every few minutes, and Ryan McKinty-Trupp's clever sets and Rebecca Oppenheim's costumes shift gears just as easily: a multipaneled kiosk serves as a factory table, newsstand, and meat counter while a half-and-half wig allows one actor to play both husband and wife simply by turning her head. If there's a nit to pick, it's that the story might be fleshed out: some of the lengthy interactive musical interludes feel like attempts to stretch the running time (which is just over an hour). But hey, if you're five, maybe you'd rather sing.