“It seems we have no ordinary spider!” -Mrs. Zuckerman
I took my 5-year-old daughter Heidi to the Children’s Theatre Company’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” in Minneapolis this past weekend. She and I both knew and loved the story from the book and we were excited to see what a live production would be like.
Surprisingly, Children’s Theatre Company has never produced “Charlotte’s Web” before so this is a first for them. Yet you wouldn’t know it – the whole play flowed so smoothly and the performers fell into their roles so naturally that you’d think they’d done it dozens of times before.
The story opens with the memorable line from the young girl named Fern: “Where’s papa going with that axe?” As Peter C. Brosius, the Artistic Director notes in the program, “‘Charlotte’s Web’ is a story that introduces readers to an honest world and isn’t afraid of exploring the complexities of life and death.” Yet, Brosius continues, the author E.B. White “set a new standard for how intelligent, nuanced and witty a story for children can be.”
Charlotte’s Web is the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. Wilbur realizes he’s in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, so Charlotte weaves messages in her web praising Wilbur to convince the farmer to let him live.
Heidi sat quietly and engrossed throughout the whole play, which lasted a little under 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission. Wilbur is played by Ethan Davenport, a talented high school freshman, and Charlotte is played by Joanna Harmon, a likable newcomer to the CTC. Both had great chemistry as they interacted and bonded throughout the story. Joanna did an amazing job of acrobatics as she climbed up and down above the barn and weaved the famous messages about Wilbur the pig in her web, making everyone laugh with her line “If I can fool a bug, certainly I can fool a man. People aren’t as smart as bugs.” And she touched everyone as she showed her deteriorating health all the way up until her final moments.
Like everyone else, we laughed throughout the play at the many hilarious scenes. Like when the wisecracking animals in the farm were introduced – the sheep and the lamb, the goose and the gander, and of course, Templeton the funny, gluttonous and self-serving rat. I’m still impressed with how realistic the lamb’s “baaa” sounded (played by an 8th grader)!
And of course, everyone laughed when “Uncle the Pig” came out during the second act. Uncle the Pig, played by Dean Holt, was Wilbur the Pig’s competition at the County Fair. Heidi said he was her favorite character and I keep chuckling as I remember him flaunting his muscles and posing heroically while yelling out his signature phrase “Boom!”
Each performer fit their role perfectly and the sets and lighting were done expertly. When you think about it, it’s a difficult story to produce as a live-action play, but Children’s Theatre Company couldn’t have done it any better. With the many young kids in the audience, the performers did a great job of captivating their attention throughout, and left everyone with a positive feeling.
“Charlotte’s Web” is playing at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis through October 27th and is recommended for kids Grade K and up. Tickets are $22.00 and up.
Disclosure: We received 2 free tickets for this event. Our opinions are 100% ours.
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