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The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred DressesA musicalByRALPH COVERT and G. RILEY MILLSBased on the bookByELEANOR ESTES

The Hundred Dresses is a musical adaptation written by Ralph Covert and G. Riley Mills based on the book by Eleanor Estes. The play begins with the main character, Maddie entering Franklin Elementarys playground where she is greeted by her friend, Peggy the two talk about their new dresses and then go inside for a quiz.1

Before the quiz is handed out, a Polish girl named Wanda Petronski enter the classroom with her father Jan. It is through his discussion with Miss Mason that we learn they are immigrants, and Wandas mother did not complete their journey to America and later that day on the playground Maddie listens while Peggy and Cecile trash talk Wandas plain, blue dress.


Another day elapses and the girls discuss their dresses again, Wanda feeling left out says that she owns 100 dresses at home. Cecile and Peggy are in disbelief as well as their friends Jack and Willie. All of them begin to make fun of Wanda, claiming shes got a hundred dresses but only wears oneeven Maddie joins in in their hurtful rhyme game.


During class the next day a drawing contest is announced, boys draw motorboats, and girls draw dresses. After numerous encounters of still being teased about her 100 dresses, Jan Petronski has had enough of his daughter being bullied and pulls Wanda out of school and the two move elsewhere.


In class Maddie volunteers to bring Wanda her belongings to her home in Boggins Heights in the hopes that she hasnt left. Peggy tags along to see for herself these 100 dresses. Wanda and her father are already gone and it is at this point that Maddie realizes that her doing nothing to help Wanda was just as bad as the children making fun of her.


It is the day before Christmas break and the contest winners are announced, Peggy assuming its herself stands up to accept her award, but it turns out that Wanda is the winner. She turned in 100 drawings, her 100 dresses all beautifully illustrated. The class recieves a letter from Wanda, and both Maddie and Peggy decide to write her back to apologize for the way they treated her.


The central character of this play is Maddie, she is just trying to get along with everyone. Peggy is mean, Wanda is really nice and Maddie fits somewhere in between. She realizes throughout the course of the play that saying nothing about the kids bullying Wanda was just as horrible as the bullying itself. She realizes that it takes courage to stand alone and stand up for someone and to do the right thing.7

The play takes place over the course of a semester at school, the locations are the school playground, the classroom, and Wandas home in Boggins Heights. A unique choice made by the playwright would be the decision to add music because of the context of the play, having happy songs all the time was not what I was expecting when listening to the soundtrack. 8

Wood #1: Humor: The character of Willie is very comedic, he always comes to school in a different costume, be it robot, cowboy or space alien. He is always hiding from his bully, Big Byron who always steals his lunch, and on the day he finally escapes Byronhe drops his noodles on the ground which would be cause for great laughter.9

Wood #2: Colorful Look OnstageThe costumes are very bright in this show, pastels like yellow and pink are popular choices for the girls dresses so that they contrast Wandas simple blue dress. The colorful set of the playground and schoolroom are sure to keep children interested.10

Wood #3: MusicObviously with this play being a musical, music is a very important part of this show. The music is very bright and happy sounding for a majority of the numbers. There are 21 songs in the whole show and the show only runs 65 minutes! So its clear that these brief songs mean a lot in the plot.11

Based on Woods assumption of children audiences, I know that since children respond to actionthey would respond to the scene where the children taunt Wanda during the song Penny PaddywhackI also believe they would react differently and unpredictably towards this form of bullying as well. Some may cry, some may do nothing, like Maddie.12

Although it is stated in the back of the script geared for ages 6 and up, I believe this play would be better appreciated and understood by the second age group of 8-12, because at this age, most of the children viewing will understand the topics being discussed, while still enjoying the colorful spectacle put in front of them. 13

It does not fit the age below because the topic is still a little too complex, and would not fit the group above for the fact that is not complex enough because at ages 8-12, the viewer is aware of language of art but does not have a solid theatre foundation yet. However, that is not saying this play isnt fantastic for any age group. I would encourage families to go because of the lessons learned! 14

I believe that Covert and Mills were trying to target this age range mainly because this is the age where bullying begins to form and become a problem. Sure, a 6 year old will see Wanda is sad, but they may not understand the reason behind her sadness like a 10 year old would. 15

I loved this playone a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it a 9. I was a victim of bullying myself, so picturing what this girl went through was both easy and difficult for me. I think bullying is a huge problem in this day and age and it can have some serious effects. With the colorful and playful music, it makes it easier for children to watch and learn. 16

Ralph Covert is in a still active indie music group The Bad Examplesperhaps this is where the fun pop/rock sound for the music came fromHe created and performed in his play Ralphs World a kids rock musicalin watching some youtubes I saw how fun and dedicated this man was. He seems like a genuine person.17

I dont know if this counts as a fact, but he has worked with Ewan McGreggorand Ewan McGreggor is just such an amazing performer/singer/everythingG. Riley Mills founded the Bookwallah Organazation which collects books and distributes them to orphanages and childrens homes. That is extroidinary. 18

I heavily researched the Chicago Childrens Theatres production of The Hundred Dresses, and a review by Katy Walsh stated, As grown-ups, we need to act to stop the bullying in schools. An easy and entertaining way is to take a kid or two (or a classroom!) to this production, which helps kids learn important life lessons in an entertaining way. Go see it! This totally supports my interpretation of the play!19

There have been many versions and many productions of this play, the one I found the most information on was the Chicago Childrens Theatre production, that featured Covert and Millss script/score. I love the costuming and set design. 20