Audiences will see a new side of E.B. White’s childhood classic Stuart Little this weekend when the characters come to life with song and dance.
The Athenian Berean Community Players will perform Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Stuart’s Opera House, 52 Public Square, Nelsonville. General admission will be $7.
Director Jodi MacNeal is expecting it to be a show for both the young and the old.
If You Go
What: Stuart Little
Where: Stuart’s Opera House, 52 Public Square, Nelsonville, OH 45764
When: 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Admission: $7 general admission
The tale follows a little mouse born into a human family and the struggles he faces in accepting himself and his size. The production may draw those familiar with the book, which was published in 1945, and the movie, which was released in 1999, but MacNeal said even long-time fans will be surprised by the added music and choreography. People who have seen the movie haven’t seen these characters get up and dance.
“I’m a little partial to musicals,” Jenn Fritchley, the assistant director and choreographer, said.
In her opinion, the choreography helps to tell the story.
With a number of scene changes and a minimalistic set design, Fritchley said choreography goes far in portraying changes in setting. For example, scenes in the general store use choreography with a “funky” feel, she said.
The cast will be costumed in everyday outfits, but wigs, ears and tails will set apart the cats, dogs and horses in the show, MacNeal said.
Not all will be familiar with the story. The lead of the play, 9-year-old Eden Radcliff, said she had never heard of Stuart Little before the show. The role of Stuart gave Radcliff her first look into the world of a little mouse trying to fit into a very big, very human world.
Radcliff has performed in two plays before this, one of which was Charlotte’s Web, another production inspired by an E.B. White classic.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a very experienced actor,” Radcliff said.
Of the 32 cast members, only seven are adults.
MacNeal said word of mouth was essential in getting new faces in the show.
The musical was a learning experience for the group. Choreography and music were the most difficult parts for Radcliff, but she said they were her favorite parts. Radcliff said she has a close second in mind.
“Sometimes Jodi (MacNeal) gives out candy after practice,” Radcliff said.
MacNeal said she doesn’t want to just put on a good show. She wants to create a positive experience for the kids involved.
At the beginning of the production, the cast signed a contract in order to create a safe space. It was made clear that bullying would not be tolerated. MacNeal said it was never an issue, however.
“I think it has been a wonderful cast,” she said.
The preemptive strike against bullying makes sense in the context of the show, which focuses largely on acceptance.
The message is what drew MacNeal to the show at the very beginning. One song, “Size,” portrays that message well. It highlights personality over outward appearances.
“It doesn’t matter your size. It’s what is in your heart that is important,” MacNeal said.
The group looks forward to getting a crowd in for opening night. Radcliff said she’s expecting “millions of people” to come to the show.
MacNeal said they were able to advertise by distributing fliers to students at local schools. She is expecting it to be a family event.
“I’m excited for opening night,” MacNeal said. “It’s easier to sing when you have someone to sing to.”