Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tuck Everlasting

The producers (and there are many) of this show have assembled perhaps the finest creatives available on Broadway and have made the best casting decisions possible.  Book writers Claudia Shear and Tim Federle brought their "A" game on this effort after many years of work on the story.  The music and lyrics by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen are a perfect blend of Broadway and Folk with rousing ensemble production numbers, tender ballads, and entertaining character solos.  Although he is the last one mentioned on the marquis page, Casey Nicholaw is at the top of his game with the show's inventive and dynamic choreography with hints of ballet and not a single kick line.  His directorial choices aren't obvious, and that's what makes the show sail along as smoothly and easily as it did.

The story is adapted from the novel of the same name by Natalie Babbitt - and for the record I've neither seen the movie nor read the book.  The charming and heart-warming story goes something like this - young girl whose father died last year wanders into the forest, meets young boy from a family that has discovered a fountain of youth in the wood and has lived forever for generations without aging.  They take her home overnight and eventually return her home the next day where she has to make a decision  - drink some of the water (in 6 years when she's old enough) or live her life in the here and now as intended.

The young girl, Winnie, is played by newcomer Sarah Charles Lewis.  In what will for sure be considered her star-making debut on Broadway, this young girl will most assuredly be on the short list for a Tony nom.  Surrounding her is a cast like no other and might be the most perfect casting for this show.  Of the Tucks, Broadway veteran and vocal powerhouse Carolee Carmello (Mae Tuck) plays the Mother, Broadway veteran and great stage actor Michael Park (Angus Tuck) plays the father, Handsome and talented Robert Lenzi (Miles Tuck) plays the older brother, and last, but not least, the undeniably adorable and supremely talented singing, dancing, and acting star Andrew Keenan-Bolger plays the title character Jesse Tuck.  But the casting bulls-eyes don't end here.  Broadway stalwart Terrence Mann plays with aplomb the Man in the Yellow Suit.  He's got a devilishly devious part and perhaps leads one of the best numbers (there are many) of the show - Everything's Golden.  And in case you didn't think that was enough - the Indomitable Fred Applegate perfectly plays older Constable Joe along with his young sidekick (and son) Michael Wartella (Hugo) to the delight of the entire audience - especially since the creatives smartly gave them a number at the end of the show that almost got a standing ovation -Story of the Man in the Yellow Suit.  The reprise of Join the Parade in Act I brought the entire company on stage with Mr. Keenan-Bolger joining the male dance ensemble to bring the crowd to its feet in a rousing company number.  It deserved an encore (as cheesy as those are).

To be critical, Act II was better than Act I in terms of story and pace but I suppose a bit more exposition (the drag) is needed in Act I.  What I think the creative team did brilliantly was to engage the audience throughout.  All those Broadway numbers for the secondary characters, the talented Tuck family casting, ensemble dance routines, the introduction of young star and finally the epilogue - which for some will evoke potent emotional memories of the ending of Six Feet Under - it was perfectly choreographed with ballet inspired dance and staged and without a single word the audience understood exactly what was transpiring.

Tuck Everlasting will tug at your heartstrings and bring you to your feet at the end.  Live for now and run over to the Broadhurst Theatre and catch a performance of a show that aims to live forever!