AFTER THE SHOW was suspended in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic, the cast of “Tuck Everlasting” puts on an impressive big number during a recent rehearsal. The MCP production opens at the Town Hall Theater on April 14. Pictured, left to right, are, front row: Mary Cosgrove and Rachael Nagy-Benson; back row: Jade Edwards, Sarah Heath, Lonny Edwards, Mara Urban, Kai Correll, Ethan DeWitt, Ella Kozak and Kathleen Smith. Photo by David Devine
MIDDLEBURY — In the summer of 2019, while on a college scouting trip to New York, Kristen Ginsburg and her daughter Eden visited the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and watched a recording of the Broadway musical “Tuck Everlasting”.
Ginsburg had loved the original children’s novel with its beautiful descriptions and intriguing characters. She had loved reading it to Eden and her younger sister, Ellie, when they were little. And she really wanted this musical not to be horrible.
It was not the case, she rejoices. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“It’s a gem of a show,” Ginsburg said. “The women there are strong and interesting, which is why I think I was drawn to it. The music is beautiful. And it’s fun.
Ginsburg was looking for theater ideas and wondering about staging “Tuck Everlasting” at the Town Hall Theater one day. But she hesitated. She had directed theater for the Middlebury Community Players (MCP) in the past, but never a musical.
“I’m not sure I can do that,” she told Eden.
Eden smiles. “Of course you can,” she said.
WHEEL OF TIME
Based on the hit children’s classic by Natalie Babbitt and adapted for the stage by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle, “Tuck Everlasting” features music by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen.
Set in the 1890s in the sleepy town of Tree Gap, NH, it tells the story of 11-year-old Winnie Foster. Winnie, who longs for a life of adventure beyond her white picket fence, gets more than she bargained for when she accidentally discovers the magic behind the Tuck family’s endless youth.
As she gets to know the family, Winnie realizes how painfully complicated their secret is. When an evil opportunist gets wind of the secret and plans to exploit and profit from it, Winnie joins the Tucks in a fight to protect the world from a type of knowledge he is not ready to possess. In the end, Winnie faces an extraordinary choice: return to her life or continue with the Tucks on their immortal journey.
Ginsburg assembled a production team, cast the roles, and began rehearsing the show in January 2020. Opening night was scheduled for the first week of May.
Then the pandemic hit.
At first, MCP put “Tuck Everlasting” on hold, hoping the show could be rescheduled for the summer, but it soon became clear that wouldn’t be possible. Still, the production team wasn’t about to throw their shot.
“We really wanted to bring him back whenever we could,” Ginsburg said. “So we promised ourselves not to let him down.”
They continued the conversation over the next year and a half, and when it started to look like it might be safe to hold socially distanced rehearsals with a masked and fully vaccinated cast, they started to come together. . It wasn’t always easy, Ginsburg said. Some of the original cast members were no longer available, so new auditions had to be scheduled. And some of the younger original cast members were… growing up.
Sarah Lucille Heath reprized her starring role as 11-year-old “Winnie Foster”. Heath was 14 when she was first cast. Now she is 16 and 17 years old. “Sarah grew as an actress during this time,” Ginsburg said. “She really embodies Winnie.” At the same time, “it can be more difficult to enter space being 11 years old”.
Observing this dynamic, Ginsburg gained a new appreciation for how the show explores the theme of aging.
I SEE YOU
Nothing about the pandemic is making life any easier for the current “Tuck Everlasting” cast and crew. Ensuring everyone stays healthy has been the number one priority – and the number one anxiety. There are no stunt doubles in community theater, so if an actor tested positive for COVID and couldn’t perform on stage, it could have a significant impact on the show. The actors only recently had the chance to rehearse at the Town Hall Theater, where ventilation made it safe to remove their masks.
“It wasn’t until they got on stage that they realized how disconnected they had been the whole time, not being able to see each other’s facial expressions,” Ginsburg said.
Audiences can see that their collective experiences during the pandemic will resonate in some ways with the things “Tuck Everlasting” asks them to think about.
“As the show progresses, you learn how isolated and disjointed the Tuck family is,” Ginsburg said. “And then Winnie falls into their lives and brings them out of their isolation. They spend time with her and rediscover that life is worth living.
Their stories allow for the same type of reflection that some of us may have gone through when we felt our own sense of isolation during the pandemic, she said.
Other moments, moments of drama, stand out on their own, regardless of the pandemic, like when in rehearsal Ethan DeWitt, who plays “Miles Tuck”, sings the song “Time”, and everyone cries .
Ginsburg laughed when she told the story. “Every time,” she said. “We are all crying.”
And the magic is found throughout the show.
Sometimes it’s simple, like when the remote-controlled toad that Buzz Kuhn made especially for the production flies away. Sometimes it’s more complex, like in the final scene, when lives are reviewed and stories come to an end using only the language of music and dance.
“It really is a beautiful, life-affirming show,” Ginsburg said. “Being able to share something like this is such a gift. It feels like a coming together, a comeback from COVID. Theater is new and shiny and fun again.
“Tuck Everlasting” opens April 14. For more information on tickets, visit townhalltheater.org.