th-vhc-orangesTHE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR and other stories by Eric Carle are brought to colorful life on the stage of Two River Theater by the puppeteers of Mermaid Theatre. (Photo by Margo Ellen Gesser)

It represents a departure from past Holiday Family Show productions at Two River Theater, in that it’s not a homegrown production in the spirit of 2012-2013’s A Wind in the Willows Christmas. It’s also a limited engagement that offers just three days of public performances — nearly all of which are sold out at this point.

That said, the touring production known as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites fits in nicely with the pro-literacy theme of past Two River offerings, being based upon a trio of works by the prolific children’s book creator whose vividly illustrated fables have delighted “kids of all ages” for nearly 50 years.

A production of Nova Scotia-based Mermaid Theatre, the critically acclaimed version of Caterpillar adapts three Carle stories in a colorful staging that uses custom-crafted puppets, black-light effects and original music to convey the author’s timeless, childlike sense of wonder with the glories of the natural world, and the ways in which we perceive them.

Having played nearly 3,500 times in six different languages for more than two million spectators in fifteen countries, including a recent stand of shows in the People’s Republic of China, the hour-long presentation comes to Red Bank for nine performances that commence with two school matinees on Friday, December 19 — and conclude with a rare pair of Monday shows on December 22.

Included in the three-part program are “The Mixed Up Chameleon,” in which the title creature’s attempts to imitate everything he sees lead to an important moment of self-discovery. The “Little Cloud” spends the day reshaping himself into a sheep, a shark, an airplane and more — and continuing that transformational theme, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” eats (and counts) his way through a wild variety of foods, on his journey to becoming reborn as a beautiful butterfly.

Mermaid Theatre artistic director, designer and puppeteer Jim Morrow created the show that’s become the signature piece of the Canadian company, performed by black-clad puppeteers who manipulate the brightly colored figures onstage. The recorded soundtrack includes music by Steven Naylor, and narration by veteran Canadian character actor Gordon Pinsent.

On Sunday, December 21, Two River will present a special edition of its annual Día de la Familia event — featuring Caterpillar performed entirely en Español. This special free event will begin at 4 pm with kids’ arts and crafts and a hot chocolate station prior to the 4:30 pm performance. For more information on this event, call (732)345-1400 (English) or (732)936-8843 (Spanish).

As this story is posted, many of the public performances of The Very Hungry Caterpillar are sold out; available seating remains for the two performances on Monday, December 22 (11 am, 2 pm). Take it here for tickets ($20 adults, $15 children under 12) or call (732)345-1400.