The Watsons Go To Birmingham-1963

Daddy (Bear Bellinger) deals with an unwelcoming racist (Ian Paul Custer) while driving the Watson family’s “Brown Bomber” through the Deep South.
Photo by Charles Osgood


Review by Isabel C. (pictured, right, with Actress Lyric Sims)

The play called “The Watsons Go To Birmingham -1963” at the Chicago Children’s Theatre is based off the book written by Christopher Paul Curtis. It is about a family made up of a 13 year old boy, Byron, an 11 year old smarty, Kenny, and the youngest girl, Joetta, with two parents—a mom and a dad—as they go on a road trip to Alabama to discipline their children.

I thought it was neat that everything on the set was moveable for a quick and easy transition from place to place or scene to scene. The car they used was only connected from the front of the car to the front seats, and all the three back seats were connected, but not to the front, they were also moveable.

The car also had a fake record player in the front of it that you could see. The headlights actually worked whenever they made the lights darker and it was “nighttime”. The seats in the back of the car were able to open and acted as a trunk for blankets and small bags for luggage. They had a slightly turnable steering wheel to drive with, too.

The family acted like a true, real family, with siblings fighting, parents fighting with the children or just the parents fighting. They also had a shaving scene with the dad and the two brothers. They acted so much like a real family that I overheard one kid in the audience ask if any of them were related at all.

The show really made it feel like you were in 1963 (I imagine) because of the clothing, the way they talked, and how scared they were about the police and white people. They also had record look alikes and music playing, just so you could feel like you were in 1963. It felt like you just stepped into another time period.

The 11 year old gave a great description of what was happening in every scene, which was helpful if you couldn’t tell what was going on or if you couldn’t exactly tell what they were saying.

I very much recommend seeing this play, as they have made a movie out of it. Kids that are around 10ish should be able to understand what is happening and why it is happening. Watch it, it is amazing and I loved it!


The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
Chicago Children’s Theatre: The Station
100 S Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60607