Over the River and Through the Woods
Over the River and Through the Woods” in Rehearsal
By Becky Donner
Most people can easily finish the beginning song lyrics, “Over the river and through the woods” with “to grandmother’s house we go!” This song evokes memories of cold weather, holidays, good food, and people we love, especially the people we love. Halifax County Little Theatre’s winter comedy will evoke those memories also, as they prepare their February showing by Joe DePeitro of “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
Set in Hoboken, New Jersey, the main character Nick is a young mid-level executive who lives near his four grandparents, who take delight in pampering him with home-made meals and take home goodies. Yet when Nick announces plans to move all the way to Seattle for a job promotion, the four grandparents know they have to do something to keep Nick nearby. All their other children and grandchildren have moved far away, and they cling to Nick fiercely.
Their goal? Find some way to keep Nick close by. The laughs come quick and steady as the four work together to try to convince Nick that his place is near them. Director Sandy Slayton has been rehearsing for several weeks now with her Southside Virginia cast to create the perfect winter show.
The character of Nick is being played by Halifax County’s Will Hamilton. A native of Long Island, NY, Will is a local attorney. Although this will be Will’s first time on stage for Little Theatre, he has helped out behind the scenes on shows previously.
The four grandparents of Nick come from three areas, and Slayton counts herself fortunate to have such an experienced cast. From Danville are Jane Reid and Steve Petrick, who both have a long resumé of shows they have been in throughout Southside Virginia.
Hailing from Clarksville is Peter Balys, a government man from the DC area who retired to Clarksville several years ago and has kept himself busy and in demand as an actor in Virginia and North Carolina.
Rounding out the set of four grandparents is South Boston’s Deborah Sizemore, who has been in several Little Theatre and Prizery productions, most recently in “The Dixie Swim Club.”
The final cast member is Keely Wheeler, who portrays a young friend of the grandparents. Their matchmaking eyes settle on her as a possible reason Nick might stay in New Jersey. Wheeler has been in several Little Theatre shows, including last spring’s production of “Beehive.”
Director Slayton is clearly enjoying the directing experience, commenting, “Whether you’ve been the one jumping out of the nest, or the one with the lump in your throat watching a loved one go, we’ve all experienced these growing pains during our lives, and some of us have experienced both the leaving and the being left. This story is so funny and so touching. It has a lot of truths in it, told in such a way that even while it makes you a little sad, it also makes you smile because the characters are so real, so heartwarming.”
“While people of all ages will relate to the story from their own perspectives, the story is so well written that they’ll appreciate the feelings of every character on the stage,” she concludes.
Assisting Slayton is her producer LaTonya Sadler and her stage manager Cyndi Overby. Costuming is headed by Ginny Bogart, and a host of Little Theatre board members and friends are helping by taking on all the little and big jobs that it takes to prepare a show for opening night.
The show opens in less than a month on February 20 and runs for two weekends, through March 1. Tickets are on sale at The Prizery for $12 for adults or $8 for students and can be bought in person at The Prizery, by calling 572-8339, or online at www.prizery.com. The tickets would make a great Valentine’s gift for friends or loved ones. As one person says who has seen this show several times, “You’ll laugh, and you’ll cry, too, but you’ll just love this story.”
Charlotte's Web opens to sold out house!
Don't miss the opportunity to see this wonderful show! Ticket sales are brisk, and may very well sell out for other performances. Charlotte's Web continues tonight, Nov. 22, tomorrow afternoon at 3:00, and then next weekend, November 28, 29, and 30 Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30, Saturday morning at 10 AM (with character lunch following that performance) and ending on Sunday afternoon at 3:00.
Photo by David Conner
By Greg Donner
Very few things in the world can lay claim to being the best, the brightest, or the most loved of its genre; but there is one children’s book that can claim the title with no argument from anyone. E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” is by far the undisputed ruler of children’s literature. It has no peers in its popularity over time and the place it holds in the hearts or children and those who were children long ago. The story of Wilbur, a special little pig, and his friend Charlotte the spider has lived in the hearts of readers for decades and will continue to do so for many more.
The members of the Halifax County Little Theatre recognize the power of the story so much that they have decided to do a revival of the play version as the opening production of their 2014-2015 season, “A Season Worth Winning.” They last performed the tale ten years ago and decided that there is a whole new generation of youngsters and their parents who would love the live production of their favorite novel.
Erin Thackston has taken the lead as the show’s director and is learning the ropes as she works with Becky Donner to develop the production for opening night. She says, “I feel a great responsibility to our audiences to present this timeless classic which appeals to such a large audience. It was my favorite as a child and the first chapter book I read to my children.” The high esteem which the book is held puts a lot of pressure on the whole cast and crew to make the live performance a real theatre experience.
The play is adapted by Joseph Robinette and features all of White’s memorable characters and locales from the birth on the Arable farm to the prize winning moment of Wilbur’s ultimate triumph at the county fair.
The large cast features adults and children who fill roles ranging from a very large pig to the smallest of spiders, with dozens of sizes in between. HCLT newcomer Kasey Rising plays the kind spider Charlotte, who must find a way to save Wilbur from becoming Thanksgiving dinner. Lorien Reeves is tackling the role of Wilbur with much aplomb for an actress so young.
Wilbur and Charlotte get a lot of support along the way from a cadre of barnyard regulars and of course Fern, the young girl who saved Wilbur from being sacrificed at birth. Audiences will be thrilled from start to finish by the faithful representation of the original material and the cast’s work to create the individual characters from the book.
Joining Thackston and Donner as part of the creative team are Pat Crew as choreographer and Ginny Bogart as Costume Designer. In addition, there is a large group of support personnel from Andy Rice as producer to set builders, makeup artists and painters. There are as many people working behind the scenes as there are on stage for such a grand undertaking, and everyone backstage is as committed to the success of the show as the performers. This is truly a labor of love.
Audiences have a treat in store on opening night when they can join Fern, the Arables and Zuckermans, Wilbur, Charlotte, Templeton, and all of their barnyard family for a night of memory-making. Parents will want to be sure that their children get to experience this classic story live and share a lasting memory of a special family event.
But let’s be honest. ”Charlotte’s Web” isn’t just for children. Adults can appreciate the story on a whole different level about the sacrifices true friends make for one another. No one should be left out of the joy of the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte.
The play opens at the Prizery Theatre at 7:30 on Friday, November 21. There are eight public performances planned, including two 10:00 a.m. shows on November 22 and 29, and two Sunday matinees on November 23 and 30. There will also be a special lunch for children with the cast members after the Saturday morning show on Nov. 29.
Season brochures for Little Theatre can be found at the Prizery, both libraries, and the visitor’s center. Patrons can call the box office at 572-8339, visit the Prizery to purchase tickets, or go online at www.prizery.com. Make plans early for the best seats and to be a part of this special event. Your children, or the child in you, will thank you for it.
Charlotte's Web Cast is in rehearsal for November 21 opening night!
HCLT’s A Season Worth Winning
By Greg Donner
Everyone likes a winner. With that in mind, Halifax County Little Theatre is unveiling their 2014-2015 season full of winners. They kick off “A Season Worth Winning” on November 21, with the timeless family classic, “Charlotte’s Web.” E.B. White’s characters are crafted into a moving script by Joseph Robinette, who captures the magic in the friendship of a little girl, a special pig, and a clever spider.
The story of Fern and her pig Wilbur is a familiar one as the girl tries to find a way to save the life of the animal that is destined to become bacon and ham when he is grown. But it is Wilbur’s gentle spider friend Charlotte who is able to spin webs to convince the world that Wilbur is indeed “Some Pig.”
Director Erin Thackston is planning to create the liveliest farmyard ever to be seen in Halifax County. The geese, sheep, cows, and even a rat are on hand to support Wilbur in his adventure and provide comic moments to entertain the whole family. HCLT believes that all patrons will leave the theatre feeling like winners as they celebrate this most beloved children’s book.
February brings another winning story with the heartwarming “Over the River and Through the Woods.” The setting moves to a quiet Italian-American neighborhood in New Jersey. However, there is a crisis brewing as two sets of grandparents find out that their grandson is about to move across the country. All of their families have left Hoboken for the sunny climes of Florida or California, and they are devastated that Nick has gotten a promotion at work that would sent him to Washington, “and not the close Washington,” the one across the continent.
The result is a comic evening of events as the elders try to change their grandson’s mind. No trick is too low to show him the importance of his family. They even try to play match maker if it will firmly plant him in the neighborhood.
Sandy Slayton directs Joe DiPietro’s humorous story of a family in transition and the power of love to resolve problems. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you'll remember when you've felt exactly as these characters feel as you go “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
The final production of the season focuses on the most intense and demanding sporting event in America, the spelling bee. In “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the characters have more quirks and peculiarities than will be found in any other contest. Here, above all, winning is the only thing.
The spellers have problems with family dysfunction, social ineptitude, and knowing where they belong in this world of competitive spelling, where finishing second is only being the first loser.
Andy Rice directs this musical funny peek into the world of competitive spelling. The show features the most outlandish band of middle school misfits ever to grace a stage. The youngsters are played by an adult cast, and their performances are strictly for a mature audience. For those who like to root for the underdog, this musical offers a variety of choices to support. Don’t be fooled by that old saying “just getting here is like winning.” These kids know better, and there has to be only one. The ultimate winner is the audience, which is treated to superb comedy and fabulous songs every night.
HCLT will be mailing out their new season’s information next week. Keep an eye out for your brochure and order your season tickets now. Brochures will also be placed in both public libraries and The Prizery. Don’t miss out on this Season Worth Winning.