Sweet fantasy continues Coterie’s family entertainment

8

By Bob Evans

Can you keep a secret? Winnie Foster can, and she does from age 11 through her death. Fortunately, the secret crept out in The Coterie’s newest, heart-warming production, “Tuck Everlasting,” that opened to a capacity crowd, Friday, March 2, and continues through April 5 on the lower level of Kansas City’s Crown Center.

The popular younger adult novel by Natalie Babbitt, adapted for stage by Mark J. Frattaroil, brings an endearing, charming fantasy to Kansas City audiences with this production. The story teaches the values of friendship, honor, family values, and also examines questions about life verses death as seen through various characters and stages of a person’s life.

For adults and seniors, the story brings to mind the mystical Shangri-La experience from Lost Horizon (novel and film) as well as the similarly themed Broadway and film musical-comedy, Brigadoon. In Shangri-La, no one ages unless he or she leave the magical Lamasery; in Brigadoon, the ficional town magically appears for only one day each century so it’s trapped in time.

“Over a century ago, the Tucks – Ma, Pa, and their sons Miles and Jesse – drank from a forest spring. Ever since, no one in the family has aged a bit,” The Coterie said. “They must live separately only to reunite once every 10 years because of rising suspicions when they never age. Now, young Winnie Foster is out exploring the woods, and she has accidentally discovered the Tuck family secret… which brings her to the question: Is living outside the rules of time a blessing or a curse?”

The premise of the book brings to mind questions that children face as they age. While the younger want to be older, the older wish to be younger–but know what they know now. As Winnie works her way though the process, she examines life, quality of life, values of love and friendship, treachery, honor, and traditions. Many of her life lessons stem from a 24-hour encounter she accidentally stumbles into when exploring the world beyond expectations. The process brings to mind Dorothy Gale’s over the rainbow dream.

“As an adventure-mystery uniquely told from the perspective of a young girl, the book is recognized for its sophisticated examination of life and death and has become a modern classic for young adults. Tuck Everlasting has sold over nine million copies worldwide and won several notable literary awards, including the Janusz Korczak Medal and the Christopher Award,” The Coterie said. The play remains faithful to the novel’s contemplation of never growing older, while bringing all the wonder and enchantment of the captivating story to life on stage.”

For the Kansas City debut, The Coterie assembles a powerful cast led by Kansas City’s favorite Ebenezer Scrooge, Gary Neal Johnson. Johnson a veteran of most Kansas City stages has played the miserly Scrooge annually in the lavish local live version of “A Christmas Carol,” but never appeared on The Coterie’s stage–until now. Johnson brings his decades of talent and characters as he creates the foundation for “Tuck Everlasting” as the older father-figure who departs his knowledge to the young Winnie.

As his wife, Mae, Nancy Marcy, another Kansas City veteran of all venues returns to The Coterie stage to develop the kindly over-aged mother wanting to preserve the family secret, protect a young girl from harm, and continue to watch over her boys, and prevent others from learning the secret of the magical stream that led to their life-everlasting.

The cast of “Tuck Everlasting” also features Fisher Stewart (as Jesse Tuck), Tyler Alan Rowe (as Miles Tuck), Jonathan Lloyd Schriock (as Stranger in the Yellow Suit), George Forbes (Constable), Aurelia Power (as Winnie Foster), and Bonita Hanson (as Voice of Grandmother).

Take notice of Jonathan Lloyd Schriock as the man in the yellow suit. Schriock delivers a delicious, devilish villain, reminiscent of the old-time silent movie genre where villain ties the damsel in distress to the railroad tracks. Fun to watch as he slithers into a couple of scenes, Schriock just looks like he’s basking in the role of the demon. “Tuck Everlasting” marks his debut on The Coterie stage.

The behind the scenes technical team did a great job of creating a beautiful set that functions well as scenes change to depict the different locations necessary for the show. The costumes are well-designed for this period-piece. The sound remains sharp throughout, the props are interesting, but of all the aspects, the lighting made the production stand out. The fade-outs in several scenes are stunning.

The artistic and production company of “Tuck Everlasting” includes Jeff Church (director), Danielle Renee (production stage manager), Jordan Janota (set designer), Jarrett Bertoncin (lighting designer), Georgianna Londré Buchanan (costume designer), David Kiehl (sound designer), Scott Hobart (technical director), Joyce Merrill (properties/set dressing), and Taylor Smith (production assistant).

“Tuck Everlasting” runs just over an hour with no intermission. The show is definitely family oriented and contains many teaching and discussion points for viewers. Even though all elementary ages would enjoy the show, “Tuck Everlasting” would most likely appeal to grades 3 and up.

Individual Tickets: Tickets are $11 for youth under 18, students, and seniors age 60 and older; and $15 for adults. In lieu of season subscriptions, The Coterie offers the Spotlight Club Pass, which works like a season ticket without committing to a set schedule. Spotlight Club members pay $100 for a flexible pass that includes 10 tickets that can be used for any show or combination of shows in the 2017/2018 Season. All tickets and Spotlight Club Passes are on sale now and may be purchased by calling The Coterie’s box office at (816) 474-6552, dropping by the box office on level one of the Crown Center Shops, or by visiting The Coterie website.

Special planned performances include: Friday Family Fun Night: March 9, 16, 23, and 30, 7: p.m. A free post-performance autograph session and photo op with cast members.
Interpreted performance in American Sign Language Saturday, March 10, 2p.m.

Tags: The Coterie Theater, Crown Center, Kansas City, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Children’s Theater, “Tuck Everlasting”

Images courtesy of The Coterie, J. Robert Schraeder & The Coterie Theatre and Bob Evans

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