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Broadway By Design: Walt Spangler & Gregg Barnes Bring TUCK EVERLASTING from Page to Stage

Who is Annie without her red dress? Or Eva with out her balcony? It is the charge of the Broadway designer to transport the audience into the world of a show, whether it be Great Depression-era New York City or outside of the Casa Rosada.

In our new series, Broadway by Design, BroadwayWorld will be shining a spotlight on the stellar designs of this Broadway season, show by show. Today, we continue the series with Walt Spangler and Gregg Barnes, who acted as scenic and costume designers for Broadway's enchanting new musical, TUCK EVERLASTING.


If you could live forever, would you? Take a journey you'll never forget in this powerful new musical about love, family and living life to the fullest. Natalie Babbitt's best-selling and award-winning novel, Tuck Everlasting, was first published in 1975, and has remained in print ever since.

Spangler told us of his designs: "The initial inspirations for the design of Tuck were Natalie Babbitt's original story - which is full of vivid descriptions - and the lyrical, funky tone of the music. I had seen a few workshops with actors and dancers up on their feet, scripts in hand that told me a lot about the sweeping, circular nature of the piece. For the Tuck family home and Treegap Wood I looked at scores of photographs of dilapidated cabins in the woods, sunshine in the woods, the different seasons in the woods."

"For Winnie's very proper home that she runs away from, I looked into Victorian American cottages around New England, as well as on old country store in the mountains of Virginia that my great grandfather had built back in the 1800s. You can't mistake the hand-made craftsmanship that went into early Victorian ornament, so we wanted to give the Foster home authentic detail, while at the same time making it dance onstage with an 11 year old girl. "

He continued: "The biggest - and funnest - challenge of Tuck was creating the enormous TREE that fills the stage. Jesse and Winnie must climb the tree while singing their hearts out for the song "Top Of The World." It's a fast-paced tune that takes them from the dark forest floor to high above the canopy of leaves in the sky. There's a sense that they've climbed for miles and can see out over the world forever. For me, the tree drinks from the same magic spring as the Tucks, so it had to be ageless and thriving and thrilling to see."

"We spent months in the shop, painstakingly reproducing each curving piece of the design model in full scale, and working out the mechanics hidden within the tree to make the climb seem effortless and smooth."

On creating the show's costumes, Barnes added: "The Tuck family drink from a spring at the base of an ancient tree in a woods owned by the Foster family in 1808 that grants them eternal life. 80 years later they encounter Winnie the great granddaughter of the Foster clan in that same wood. The story eventually covers approximately 160 years, well into the middle of the 20th century. We meet the Tuck family as pioneers in 1808, in a flashback 20 years earlier when Pa and Ma 20 are courting, the Foster family in mourning in 1900, a traveling fair of suspicious carny types (including a man known only as "the man in the yellow suit), and the townsfolk of Tree Gap New Hampshire from 1893 until the middle of the 20th century. Historically this is a vast canvas to work with and many things inspired me in creating the designs, but folk art and the tradition of old-world craftsmanship (needlework, tatting, embroidery, etc.) seemed an excellent place to start because they are the arts of our ancestors."

"The skill, patience and passion it took to create things of simple beauty seemed important in honoring these characters from our past...especially since before the advent of photography part of how we "know" them is by the artifacts they made during their lifetimes."

"Part of the design challenge is making sense of all these different time periods without it becoming a historical pageant. I wanted to create clothes that remained simple and timeless and that would exist in harmony with the palette of the woods in which the story is played out. The clothes are simple in shape but richly textured and detailed. There is a lot of dance and so many decisions were made simply for what is beautiful in motion."

"My team and I went to great lengths to find textiles that had their own story to tell. The ensemble men have vests and the women small corselets that are made from embroidered linens we bought and over dyed. They are embroidered with vines and acorns and flowers to exist in harmony with the natural world of the woods. It amazes me to think that an old linen tablecloth embroidered with ivy leaves (maybe it belonged to the Foster family!) could be repurposed to tell a new story on a Broadway stage. It is a story about generations past and those yet to come and the question of who would drink the water and choose to live forever. I hope these details add to the experience of revisiting the lives of our ancestors. "

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The cast is led by three-time Tony Nominee Carolee Carmello as "Mae Tuck" (Finding Neverland), Outer Critics Circle nominee Andrew Keenan-Bolger as "Jesse Tuck" (Newsies), two-time Emmy Award winner Michael Park as "Angus Tuck" (How To Succeed...), three-time Tony Nominee Terrence Mann as "The Man in the Yellow Suit" (Pippin), Fred Applegate as "Constable Joe" (The Last Ship), Robert Lenzi as "Miles Tuck" (South Pacific), Michael Wartellaas "Hugo" (Wicked), Valerie Wright as "Mother" (Elf The Musical), Pippa Pearthree as "Nana" (Noises Off), and introduces 11-year-old Sarah Charles Lewis as "Winnie Foster."

Rounding out the cast is an ensemble of Timothy J. Alex, Chloë Campbell, Callie Carter, Ben Cook, Elizabeth Margaret Crawford, Deanna Doyle, Brandon Espinoza, Lisa Gajda, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Christopher Gurr, Neil Haskell, Matt Meigs, Heather Parcells, Justin Patterson, Marco Schittone, Brooklyn Shuck, Jennifer Smith, Kathy Voytko, and Sharrod Williams.

TUCK EVERLASTING, which debuted in 2015 at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, is brought to life in a sweeping production which features a book by Tony Award® nominee Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde) and award-winning author Tim Federle (Better Nate Than Ever), music by Chris Miller(The Burnt Part Boys), lyrics by Nathan Tysen (The Burnt Part Boys), and direction and choreography by Tony Award® winner Casey Nicholaw(Something Rotten!, Aladdin, The Book of Mormon).


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