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THEATREWORKS' TUCK EVERLASTING
Has a lot of Heart

By Iride Aparicio

Photos Credit: Kevin Berne

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Natalie Schroeder as Winnie Foster

 

PALO ALTO, CA – December is the month when The Child in us, who remained dormant in our hearts during the other months of the year wakes up, and in a whisper, as if afraid to be heard by other people, encourages us to believe. To believe in the goodness of men, to believe in a better future, to believe in miracles and get acquainted with fairy tales,

TUCK EVERLASTING, may be one of them. It is a magical story, with music and dancing, that takes place in the year l893, in the back woods  of the Foster family’s home in Tree Gap, New Hampshire. The members or the family are: Nana, her widowed daughter Betsy, and her twelve year old Granddaughter Winnie, a restless girl, who tired of wearing black for the passing of her father, puts on a green dress one morning, and runs away to the town’s fair. In the forest, the girl meets the Tuck's family: Jesse, their younger son, Mae the mother, Miles her older son and her husband Angus. During the process, Winnie  grows up, experiences love, and discovers the secret of immortality

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L-R Eddie Grey, Chistine Reese, Tavis Leland and Jonathan Rhys Williams.

Originally written in l975  by  NATALIE BABBITT, as a novel for young adults, now considered a classic in Children's literature, TUCK EVERLASTING was converted into two films (l981 and 2002) and a few years later into a musical which made its World Premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in 2015, where it won the Suzi Bass Award for “Outstanding Musical Production. The musical was presented on Broadway in 2016, where it was nominated for a Tony Award,

TUCK EVERLASTING the musical with a book by CLAUDIE SHEAR & TIM FEDERLE, Music by CHRIS MILLER, and Lyrics by NATHAN TYSEN, is now being presented by THEATREWORKS Silicon Valley under the  Musical Direction of WILIAM LEBERATORE and directed by Theatre Works Founding Artistic Director ROBERT KELLEY at the LUCIE STERN THEATRE, in Palo Alto.  On its press’ opening night, the production was received with an standing ovation.     

The THEATREWOKS production of TUCK EVERLASTING has the magic of a children’s fairy tale. On the visual part, the scenes (JOE RAGEY) really conveys the feeling of a  a mysterious forest where trees can be climbed, the Tuckers could sing and dance, and drink the water, hidden under a pile of rocks. With fast changes, the forest is converted into the Foster’s house, the  interior of the Tuckers’ cottage and the ground of the Town's fair.

Adding magic to the visuals are the costumes (FUMIKO BIELEFELDT) the best one and perhaps the most creative, a banana yellow outfit for a man we only know in the story as “Man in the yellow Suit”

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L-R Teressa Foss, Natalie Schroeder and Michael Gene Sullivan

The story of the musical is the story of two families: The Foster’s family, Nana, (LUCINDA HITCHCOCK CONE) her recently widowed daughter Betsy (TERESSA FOSS) and her daughter Winnie (NATALIE SCHROEDER) The role of Winnie also played by KATIE MAUPIN in different productions. The Tuck's family has Mae, (KRISTINE REESE) the mother, her husband Angus (JONATHAN RHYS WILLIAMS) and their sons Miles (TRAVIS LELAND) his wife (GIANA GAmbardella) and Miles' younger brother JESSE (EDDIE GREY)

Winnie meets Jesse cimbing trees inthe forest. He teaches her to climb trees and look at the world from above. They have a wonderful time together but learning his “secret” the girl is forced by the famly to remain at their cottage overnight. 

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.Winnie, (SCHROEDER) Center dancing at the fair with Fairgoers

Thinking her missing, her mother contacts the police and Hugo (DAVID CRANE) and Constable Joe (COLIN THOMSON) began looking for her.  Sadly the only one who have seen her is the Man in the Yellow Suit  He goes to her house and arranges to return the child if her family sold him the forest.  The mother agrees, but things get complicated when he reveals to the Tuck’s how he plans to use the "magic" in the forrest. The Tuck' leave town but Jess promied Winnie to return.

We meet Winnie again as a seventeen year old lady. Five years earlier, she had promised to meet Jesse again, and ran away with him. But what happens next lets people thinking about living forever.

The musical is imaginative,and excellently presented to the audience. The acting on opening night, was star-caliber, even SCHROEDER’s, who is the only child in the cast, was superb, The voices of the singers, were well tuned, the dances rhythmical and  energetic in their movement

The music is pleasant but repetitive in temp. At first hearing, the songs sounded similar to each other and we could not remember a single tune, not even the repeated theme with a few notes of Maes’s music box. But the score was played well by the orchestra.

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L-R Fair goes admiring at  NATALIE SCHROEDER Winnie

We will end  our review with some interested facts about TUCK EVERLASTING  that were published in a copyrighted interview with BABBITT (the book’s author) that was published in Scholastic com at the end of her book.

When asked about the locality of the Fosters’ home, BABBITT said that the locality is real. That she lived in a house that had a forest in its back in Adirondacks, in Central New York State when she was young.

Talking about the characters in her novel, she explains that all the characters in her writing have secondary meanings and that in TUCK EVERLASTING she used Foster, as the last name of Winnie’s family, because Foster means Forests and their home had a forest. She used Tuck as the last name for the other family, because according to the thesaurus, Tuck is synonym of life. She also explains in her interview that she gave no name to  “The Man in the Yellow Suit” because she knows that  when we do not know the name of a person, it makes the person mysterious and she wanted her readers to fear this character. She ended the interview revealing, that the reason why she made Winnie's decision in her novel, was because after questioning herself she concluded that living forever would be lonely, and very boring at the end.

With immortality as it core, TUCK EVERLASTING makes a wonderful musical to make the child in each one of us, believe in magic during the holidays. And we should add, that the story is presented with a lot of heart.

TUCK EVERLASTING will continue playing at the LUCIE STERN THEATRE,  1305 Middlefield Rd. in Palo Alto  until December 30, 2018. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to theatreworks.org.