Friday, October 24, 2008

"Charlotte's Web."

Review
Check out my sister's new play if you are in the area.

First Stage weaves 'Web'
Troupe captures essence of classic
By ELAINE SCHMIDT

Posted: Oct. 20, 2008

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First Stage
Charlotte's handiwork is apparent in First Stage Children's Theater's production of "Charlotte's Web."
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First Stage
Charlotte's handiwork is apparent in First Stage Children's Theater's production of "Charlotte's Web."
Close Friendship is the star of the First Stage Children's Theater production of "Charlotte's Web," which opened this weekend.

The production, directed by Xan S. Johnson and featuring Joseph Robinette's adaptation of the E.B. White classic, captures the story's warmth and simplicity through a particularly likable cast of talking creatures.

Centering on the unlikely friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte, the story finds the wise, literate Charlotte saving Wilbur's life by writing grand things about him in her web. The "miracle" of words in the web persuades Wilbur's owners to keep him as a pet.

When Charlotte's life ends, Wilbur safeguards his dear friend's eggs and makes sure they hatch in the spring.

The First Stage production features Thirza Defoe in the role of Charlotte/The Narrator. As The Narrator, Defoe takes the persona of an American Indian storyteller, with a gentle, listen-and-learn wisdom in her delivery.

As Charlotte, she moves with balletic grace in a dimension of her own, thanks to scenic designer Sarah L. Hunt-Frank's brilliant floor-to-ceiling metal web. She presides over all the action on stage, watching over her friend Wilbur and fighting to save his life. Her presence, and constancy and wisdom are the heart of the show.

Friday's opening performance featured the "terrific" cast of young actors, which put John Filmanowicz in the role of Wilbur. Filmanowicz created an adorably innocent Wilbur, maintaining that sweet character without fail throughout his long scenes on stage.

Part of the charm of this production rests in the caricature animal characters that figure so heavily in the story. A combination of Rachel Anne Healy's clever costumes, which capture a few iconic elements of each of the animals, and portrayals that also center on a few iconic elements of each animal, creates delightful characters.

Todd Denning's Templeton (a rat) is a wonderful balance of greed and selflessness, spiced with facial/physical humor. Alison Mary Forbes creates a delightfully maternal Goose, reminding us of her animal nature with waddles and honks. All of the adults play multiple roles.

Bo Johnson, Elaine Wyler and Allen Edge round out the strong adult cast of characters.

IF YOU GO
"Charlotte's Web" runs through Nov. 16 at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water St. Call (414) 273-7206 or visit

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