Director Jana Denning is bringing her cast of 18 thespians to Warren Arts to present “Tuck Everlasting: The Musical.”
The show premieres tonight, Friday, July 30, at 7 p.m. Subsequent show dates are Saturday, July 31, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 1, at 2 p.m. Next weekend’s show dates, Aug. 6-8, are likewise Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Warren Arts is located at 5482 Manchester Highway. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by visiting warrenartstn.com. Runtime is two and a half hours, and the show includes an intermission. The production is family friendly and appropriate for children of all ages.
“Tuck Everlasting: The Musical” is based on the beloved children’s book “Tuck Everlasting” written by Natalie Babbitt and published in 1975. The book tells the story of the young protagonist Winnie Foster, a sheltered girl in Treegap, New Hampshire, who runs away from home and encounters the Tucks, a family who unwittingly gained immortal life decades ago by drinking the magical waters of a spring.
The Tucks include father Angus, mother Mae, son Miles, and happy-go-lucky son Jesse, whom Winnie befriends. In the story Jesse offers Winnie some of the water that gave his family eternal life, and Winnie has a decision to make: drink of the waters and live forever with the Tucks, or live her life and die.
Rising WCMS eighth-grader Takota Moore plays Jesse Tuck, and rising Centertown seventh-grader Kaylee Evans plays Winnie Foster. They both say their favorite musical number in the show is “Partner in Crime,” which they sing when they have snuck out of the Tuck house and gone to the local fair. The number also features slick choreography and energetic dancing from Moore, Evans, and the talented ensemble of singers and dancers.
Evans says the takeaway from the show is, “Go out and find an adventure, and just be who you are. You should love the life you have.” Moore gets a similar message from the show: “I would say the message is to ride the wheel plenty and live your life to the fullest,” he observes.
Both Moore and Evans have high praise for director Denning and their cast mates, including Colin Totherow, Karigan Smith, and Natalie Carr. Evans says of Denning, “She’s amazing and I’m astonished by how well she handles everything when obstacles come her way. She’s amazing and she’s a great director.”
Evans adds the biggest jokesters among the cast, in her estimation, are Kaden Hobbs and Carter Cantrell. Moore says he would count his fellow lead as the biggest jokester. “You just run around sometimes and try to get me to chase you,” Moore says of Evans.
Evans pegs herself as an “adventurous, creative person.” She says, “This was just the right character for me because Winnie Foster is just like that.” In her role as Winnie, Evans shines, and she is sure to captivate audiences with her singing, dancing, energy, and spirit.
Like Fisher Phillips in “James and the Giant Peach Jr.” earlier this year, Evans is a young local actor who makes a star turn and gets her close-up.
In addition to the aforementioned actors, the show also includes actors Delanie Sullivan, Robert Elam, Sami Burchfield, Jennifer Swims, Jennifer Grayson, Caroline McGee, Sophia Hunt, Alex Hunt, Nathaniel McCuller, Tristan Olsen, and Rachel McGee.
Crew members are Colin Riley, Gregg Garrison, Tara Austin, Denise Cheek, and Ed McCuller.
Sullivan wows with her singing. Elam will delight theater-goers with a scene that has him wearing red long johns. Moore shows vocal range with his songs. The choreography by Denning is sharp. Cantrell shows Elvis-like charisma with his villainous Man in the Yellow Suit character, who tries to get his hands on the magical spring waters.
Cantrell brings it strong in the number “Everything’s Golden,” almost stealing the show with his singing, dancing, and talent at being bad and feeling good about it.
Burchfield and Totherow have good chemistry as Constable Joe and his son Hugo Jackson, respectively, investigators who go out in search of Winnie Foster after she disappears with the Tuck family. The cherubic-faced Totherow brings a cheerful, plucky innocence to his part, and he and Burchfield get their moment with the number “You Can’t Trust a Man.”
Swims and Grayson play Winnie’s mother and grandmother and do not disappoint with their acting and singing. Caroline McGee plays Miles Tuck’s son Thomas with aplomb.
The ensemble work of singers-and-dancers Sophia Hunt, Alex Hunt, Carr, Smith, McCuller, Olsen, and Rachel McGee is top-notch and is at its best in the “Partner in Crime” and “Everything’s Golden” numbers. Enough good cannot be said about their dedication, flair, gusto, effort, and talent.
When Moore’s Jesse takes Evans’ Winnie up in a tree to see the view and to sing “Top of the World” with her, hearts will melt.