THEATER REVIEW: “Tuck Everlasting” @ French Creek Theatre by Laura Kennelly

Through Sun 8/4

Have you ever wished you could stay the same age forever (if you knew what that was)? French Creek Theatre’s Tuck Everlasting (based on Natalie Babbitt’s children’s book of the same name) explores what might happen if we could. Directed by Fred Sternfeld, the story’s musical version was written by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle. Chris Miller composed the music and Nathan Tysen provided the lyrics.

Everything happens in Treegap, New Hampshire. The nimble crew and ready actors turn the  simple stage set (designed by Derek Green) into a home, a forest and even a circus. It’s easy to picture a woods, thanks to French Creek Theatre’s location. It’s an up-to-date facility snugly placed just inside the Lorain Metroparks. Forest noises (provided by sound director Stan Kozak) help set the scene with welcoming bird chirps as one enters the theatre.

Not quite a teen yet, Winnie Foster, a restless girl played with remarkable alacrity by Calista Zajac, thinks everything about her small town life is boring. When she wanders into a nearby woods, she meets Jesse Tuck (a very likable Stephan Sandham), a 17-year-old lad who seems wise beyond his years. Almost unbelievably in these days of stranger-danger drills, she follows him deeper into the woods where she learns something she should not.

When Jesse and his brother Miles (Aidan McKeon) kidnap Winnie, she gets to know his kindly father Angus (Daren Stahl) and his loving and wise mother, Mae (Amiee Collier). As Winnie finds out, the family is not what they appear.

But there’s more trouble for Winnie to face. There’s also something going on with the fair that just rolled into town. That’s where the Man in the Yellow Suit (the sneakily villainous Michael Dempsey) plies his trade.

The large and capable cast also includes Betsy, Winnie’s strict but loving mother (Kate Gibson), and her grandmother Nana (Jeanne Task).  When Winnie disappears they call on the “good guys” — a comically officious Constable Joe (Bob Abelman) and his assistant Hugo Jackson (Joshua McElroy). McElroy’s deadpan glances at the audience suggest that Jackson took his mentor’s expertise with a grain of salt.

Ensemble members include Judy Abelman, Edie Barcelona, Isabel Faith Billinghurst, Amy Bransky, Paige Elizabeth, Gavin Ditz, Marlee Roberts Floyd, Julia Green, Christopher Michael, Gregory Robinson, Michael Ryan and Lyric Zeager.

Choreographer Jen Justice gave her dancers (some with super-nimble moves) plenty of space to show off during several stage-stomping numbers. David Williams conducted a small, effective orchestra.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s always fun to see a well-directed, well-played professional community theatre production: this is one. It’s suitable for all ages and the bleacher-style seats mean everyone can see everything. The show also may make you thankful that you cannot freeze your age and live forever.

Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3:00pm, at the French Creek Nature & Arts Center. Tickets are $16-$18 for adults, and $10 for under 18. The French Creek Theatre Box Office is open 10am-4pm daily, at (440-949-5200 ext. 221, or go to

[Written by Laura Kennelly]

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