“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web.
A critical essayist for the New Yorker magazine for decades until his death in 1985, E.B. White enjoyed his time at his rural refuge in Maine imagining the inner lives of the unpretentious creatures who made up that domain.
White finally penned two of his most famous children’s tales, “Stuart Little,” about a mouse, and the story that is currently being staged at Falls Church’s Creative Cauldron theater, “Charlotte’s Web,” about a generous spider and her piglet and other barnyard friends.
Both those tales have been regaled in popular celluloid versions, but there’s something special about a presentation where the public can imagine being settled in a rocking chair with lemonade in a barn-like place just watching the unfolding of a light-hearted and imagined drama.
That’s what Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of White’s book, the music and lyrics of Broadway composer Charles Strouse (“Annie,” “Bye Bye Birdie”) and the magical working over of the Creative Cauldron team provides us, including the direction of Matt Conner and the colorful, energetic acting of Charlotte (Abby Middleton), Wilbur the Pig (Will Stevenson), Sophia (Fern Arable), Martha (Izzy Smelkinson), John (Sylvern Groomes Jr.), Edith (Anna Phillips-Brown), Homer (Garrett Matthews) and the entire youth ensemble from the Cauldron’s Musical Theater Training Program, from sheep, to geese and ganders, lambs, owls, bats, baby spiders and an array of county fair people roles.
The production opened last weekend and runs through June 17 with a special sponsorship by Falls Church’s 2e Consults LLC.
As the Cauldron’s producing director Laura Hull writes in her program notes for the show, “No matter what age you are, it’s hard not to fall under the spell of E.B. White’s beguiling story.
“When the little runt pig Wilbur learns that he is headed for the ax, a compassionate little girl and an eponymous spider come to his rescue – yet another example of the resourceful feminine spirit that has been celebrated throughout our 2017-18 season.”
Along with the considerable talents of the adult actors, Hull writes, “Our young musical theatre trainees bring dedication and professionalism to their work at every rehearsal and performance.”
The kids in the audience on opening night were thrilled by the play, but they weren’t the only ones.
A heads-up to what’s coming over the summer at the Cauldron: along with a series of four arts adventure camps for ages 4 to 14, each culminating in a final performance day, there is the popular annual Summer Cabaret Series that kicks off on July 6 and runs every Friday and Saturday through mid-September where an intimate cabaret environment is achieved each night with a schedule of very talented performers.
Then there’s next season to look forward to, with a reprise of Conner’s stunning “Nevermore” musical with lyrics adapted from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, “Madeline’s Christmas,” the Passport to the World concert series, “Thunder Knocking at the Door,” a new “bold new works for intimate stages” premiere of Connor Stephen Gregory Smith’s “On Air,” and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” with Learning Theatre ensemble shows of “Peter Pan and Wendy” and “Alice in Wonderland” thrown in.
“Charlotte’s Web” runs now through June 17 on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.