Wednesday, February 21, 2024

‘Tuck Everlasting’ to bring magical story to Firestone High School stage

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Firestone Theatre is offering some family-friendly fun with an old-fashioned setting, magical elements and whimsical storytelling with the musical “Tuck Everlasting,” opening this week.

The high school cast will offer five performances of the folksy musical Thursday through Sunday at Firestone Theatre at Firestone Community Learning Center in Akron.

Director Mark Zimmerman said he doesn’t know of any Akron-area theaters producing the musical in recent history. His wife, Elynmarie Kazle, production manager for the Firestone show, recommended the musical after working on a youth production of “Tuck Everlasting” in South Carolina several years ago.

“I liked that it was family friendly, and I liked the magical part of it and the family element,” Zimmerman said.

The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2016, is based on the popular 1975 children’s fantasy novel by Natalie Babbitt, which also was adapted as a Disney film in 2002.

In this fantasy set in Treegap, New Hampshire, in 1893, the Tuck family has become immortal after drinking from a magical spring nearly 90 years earlier.

“They’ve done this accidentally,” Zimmerman said of the Tucks’ immortality.

Sheltered, 11-year-old Winnie Foster learns their secret after meeting Jesse Tuck, who is forever 17.

Winnie, who’s yearning for adventure, fights to help the Tucks protect their secret and ends up facing an extraordinary choice.

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The stage musical is different from the Disney movie, which includes a romantic element with a 15-year-old heroine. In the musical, preteen Winnie and Jesse are friends.

“The connection between those two is that they are both looking for adventure,” Zimmerman.

Tuck and Winnie are played by sophomores Kyle McFalls, 16, and Anna Foltz, 15, who lead a cast of 29.

“The kids really like it,” Zimmerman said. “They enjoy the music, and it’s got some real dance focus to it.

“It’s serious, but it’s not too serious,” he said of the story’s theme of immortality.

Firestone student leaders step up

On March 6, two students helped run rehearsal at Firestone, with Fiona Coughlin assisting with music directing as the cast sang to piano accompaniment by Firestone alumnus Steve Miller.

Student dance captain Jordan Benjamin also worked with the cast, including slowing down the fast-paced jazz dance “Partner in Crime” to perfect the complex choreography.

Senior Jackson Bird, who plays the suave villain Man in the Yellow Suit, rehearsed the jazzy number “Everything’s Golden” with the ensemble. Afterward, Coughlin reminded the actors to always be in character and have expressive faces.

It was a busy afternoon for the cast, who also had visitors Amber McIntyre and Emily Suman from Playhouse Square observing as part of the 2023 Dazzle Awards program. Firestone, which competes this year, has won eight Dazzle Awards since the high school theater awards program began in 2016.

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Firestone lead actress Anna now has the challenge of playing wide-eyed innocent Winnie, who is making continual discoveries as an 11-year-old.

“It was a little challenging to pick apart kind of finding that struggle of she wants to leave and she wants to explore the world but she can’t because she’s trapped in her house,” Anna said of Winnie, who’s in a mourning period after her father died.

Anna’s Winnie chafes under her suffocating mother, telling her pet toad, “I don’t want to just be good. I want to be daring.”

The music in “Tuck Everlasting” includes pop/rock, folk and contemporary Broadway styles. Anna said she enjoys the show’s varied styles of music and dance, which include folk and jazz. The choreography in the Firestone production ranges from Charleston-style dance steps to the balletic “The Story of Winnie Foster,” which depicts Winnie’s later life.

“I just love how fun this show is and all the different styles of song and dance,” Anna said.

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As Jesse, Kyle plays a character who has the looks and energy of a 17-year-old boy but the emotional maturity and intellectual capacity of a 104-year-old.

“He’s immature, he’s a kid, he’s having fun. But he’s also seen the pyramids and the Great Wall of China and everything that there is to see, he’s seen,” Kyle said of his paradoxical character.

He called “Tuck Everlasting’s” story heartwarming, silly and sad: “It’s really a beautiful story.”

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com.

Details

Musical: “Tuck Everlasting”

When: Opening 7:30 p.m. Thursday, continuing 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Firestone Theatre, 470 Castle Blvd.

Onstage: Starring Anna Foltz, Kyle McFalls, Jackson Bird, Fiona Coughlin, Stanley Niekamp, Anderson Rambler, Cecilia Bailey, Rylee Horowitz, Mabel Jennings, Austin Prince

Offstage: Claudia Shear, book; Chris Miller, score, Nathan Tysen, lyrics; Mark Zimmerman, director; Jacob Jay Jones, choreographer; Megan Meyer, vocal director; Sloan Stakleff, conductor/instrumental music director; Garrett Margraf, scenic designer/technical director; Elynmarie Kazle, production manager; London Wilson, Talia Green, Kierra Ashley, stage managers

Cost: $10-$18

Information: https://akron.booktix.com

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