Wednesday, April 23, 2014

‘Charlotte’s Web, The Musical’

Story weaves a pig’s tale of unlikely friendships


By JENNIFER LIEBRUM
Express Staff Writer



Photo illustration by Erik Elison with Metro Graphics

   Idaho Mountain Express graphic designer Tony Barriatua is as fretful as a pig awaiting a blue-ribbon—or butcher—moment.
     The part-time actor is performing in the nexStage Theatre’s upcoming “Charlotte’s Web, The Musical,” the organization’s Theatre for Young Audiences production for 2014.
    Barriatua has acted and sung among adults, but this is his first stab at a child-driven production. While dutifully practicing his lines and songs during free moments in the daily commute, he just can’t see how those tittering, tattling, terribly distracting mini-stars will get it together in time for the show to open, and how they can be so cool under the pressure.
    As Charlotte herself told Wilbur when he saw his competition at the fair, she would no doubt likewise tell the worried Barriatua, “You Be You,” and the rest will follow.
    Having personally witnessed veteran director/actors/kid wranglers Patsy Wygle and Keith Moore weave more than a few silk purses from sow’s ears when my daughter Dev was a rabbit in last year’s magical “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” I have confidence that those talented, while frenetic, youth will more than get it together in time for the show to open, they will enchant.
    It will run from May 2 to May 4 at the nexStage,
in Ketchum.
    “Charlotte’s Web, The Musical” is an adaptation of the original book by E.B. White, the essence of which is friendship and loss. It’s the story of a lonely teenager named Fern struggling with growing up and letting go, and the pig Wilbur, who believes he has been born solely to play, and who is saved from his fate by a clever web-weaver named Charlotte.
    Life in the Zuckerman barn is hardly ordinary.
    Young Fern Arable joins Charlotte, the scholarly spelling spider, Wilbur, the life-loving pig, and the whole farm clan in an endearing tale that proves, as Wilbur says, “Friendship is one of the most important things in the world.”
    With music and lyrics by Charles Strouse (“Annie,” “Bye, Bye Birdie”) and book by Joseph Robinette (national award-winning children’s playwright), the musical score includes “Who Says We Can’t Be Friends,” an enchanting duet between Wilbur and his newfound companion Charlotte; “Welcome to the Zuckerman Barn,” featuring all of the story’s unforgettable animals in a hand-clapping, toe-tapping hoe-down; and “Summer,” a haunting, nostalgic chorus number that evokes a time and place from everyone’s childhood.
    It’s the animals rather than the humans who form the main focus of the play—from the fumbling simple and sweet Wilbur to the wily rat, Templeton, and the graceful, calming Charlotte, whose acts of love come at such a high price.
    “We’re born, we live a little and we die” is the message, but it is delivered with charm and humility.
    This professional nexStage production is traditional children’s theatre at its best—not fancy in any way, but a well-told story that includes some terrific performances by a local cast of characters, great songs and high production values.
    Tickets are available by calling 726-4TKS. They cost $25 for adults and $10 for children. There are two matinee performances on Saturday, May 3, at 2 p.m. and Sunday, May 4, at 3 p.m., as well as 7 p.m. performances on the Friday and Saturday.
     “When choosing our programming for young audiences, it is imperative for us to not only choose stories that will excite and inspire developing minds but will also excite and inspire adults, including us,”  said director Keith Moore. “This wonderful musical version of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ does just that while bringing a whole new dimension to E.B. White’s beloved classic and offers our audiences, both young and old, a very special experience.”
    The cast features both adults and young actors, who are listed here in order of  appearance: Barriatua, Trish Lewis, Natalie McStay, Logan Pilaro, Jamey Reynolds, Joy Bond, Keith Moore, Patsy Wygle, Jamie Wygle, Sonnet Gripkey, Tatum Fuller, Max Albright, Annie Lewis, Noelle LaFleur, Christine Estep, Raine Filbert, McKenzie Ellison, Annabel Webster, Liv Nelson, Wyatt Root, Ella Boice, Caroline Estep, Griff Connelly, Nick Smith, John Lewis, Levie Smith, Tatum Vontver and Emma Leventhal.
    The show is directed by Wygle and Moore with musical direction by Dorinda Rendahl, choreography by Sherry Horton, set design by Jamey Reynolds and lighting design by K.O. Ogilvie.


If you go
Tickets are available by calling 726-4TKS. The cost is $25 for adults, $10 for children. Shows at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum will be Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m., with additional matinee performances on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday, May 4, at 3 p.m.


 




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