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TUCK EVERLASTING
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Review Roundup: TUCK EVERLASTING Opens in Atlanta - UPDATED!

The world premiere of the musical Tuck Everlasting is currently running at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre.

TUCK EVERLASTING is brought to life on stage in a wholly original production, featuring a book by Tony Award nominee Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde), 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 (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot).

Leading the cast in the role of Winnie Foster is ten-year-old Atlanta based actor Sarah Charles Lewis. Joining the cast are Tony Award Nominee Carolee Carmello (Scandalous, Parade) as Ma Tuck, Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Newsies The Musical) as Jesse Tuck, Robert Lenzi(South Pacific) as Miles Tuck, Tony Award Nominee Terrence Mann (Pippin, Beauty and the Beast) as the Man in the Yellow Suit, and Michael Park (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) as Pa Tuck.

Based on the beloved best-selling novel by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting is an exhilarating story about everlasting love, never-ending life, and discovering what it means to truly feel alive.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Refreshingly -- and necessarily -- Mr. Nicholaw brings a softer touch to this period fable...Mr. Tysen's lyrics are accomplished, with mostly precise rhymes...But as with "The Burnt Part Boys," the score could use more variety. Many of the songs run along similar grooves, relying on laid-back melodies that gradually expand into soaring climaxes...Already polished and enjoyable in this developmental run, "Tuck Everlasting" makes for the kind of kid-friendly musical that might find the waters choppy in the commercial sphere, with its Hallmark-specialish period warmth and lack of spectacle. Indeed, the most dazzling passage is probably the culminating ballet, wordlessly conveying the circle of life, as it were, without benefit of spectacular puppetry and a familiar pop song. It had the woman next to me repeatedly wiping away tears, and I understood how she felt.

Frank Rizzo, Variety: Tapping into live-forever fantasies of theater's two core audiences (young people and baby boomers), this handsomely produced tuner, premiering at Atlanta's Alliance Theater, shows commercial potential; it's rich in warmth and spunk, but needs a dash more vinegar to cut through the waters of sentimentality if it wants that evergreen life, too. Despite its existentialism-lite sweep, this is an intimate family story of love, loss and the purpose and power of storytelling in the American folk tradition of Twain and Wilder, with music and dance elements that deepen the story's themes and emotions while also helping to deflect some of the narrative's more head-scratching details. Smartly, the book by Claudia Shear ("Dirty Blonde") steers clear of the treacly teen romance of the 2002 Disney film adaptation and smartly returns the story's heroine to childhood...Helmer and choreographer Casey Nicholaw...here explores a more delicate and lyrical approach, even creating a moving ballet sequence that reps one of the evening's highlights...Well-crafted tunes by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen ("The Burnt Part Boys") set their musical motif in folk-roots-meets-Broadway territory.

But the show's heart lies in the relationship between Winnie and the eternally 17-year-old (but really 104) Jesse Tuck, played by Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who skillfully balances the joy of youth with the underlying loneliness of his journey. As Winnie, Lewis is a real find: self-possessed and engaging, with the presence to not only hold a stage but also carry a show. Still, her character needs a bit less pluck and a little more conflict about the family she may be leaving behind in exchange for a sip of Foreverland. There also isn't a fulfilling resolution for Winnie and Jesse at story's end that satisfies. If some of these details can be worked out, the show just may have a shot at living on, too.

Andrew Alexander, ArtsATL: It's overall a pretty appealing show, cleverly staged, swiftly moving, slick and entertaining, but it still lacks a crucial sense of enchantment. In a musical, there should be some significant emotion shared between audience and characters if all that singing and high kicking is to mean something. I never quite understood why Winnie wouldn't just take a gulp...Moreover, her dilemma about whether or not to drink is essentially internal and solitary (she's the only one that faces it), and internal dilemmas confronted in isolation are not something that big, brassy musicals depict particularly well. Instead of drawing closer and closer to Winnie and her world, we get a bunch of busy, vaudevillian stuff about a fair, a flashy villain and a pair of comic detectives. It's all fun, but pretty unrelated to what should be the show's central dramatic question...Still, the songs are decent if unmemorable...It's a good cast all around, but the best element is Shannon Eubanks as Winnie's spaced-out, doting grandmother.

Manning Harris, Atlanta INTown: This enchanting piece of musical theatre, with a ten-year-old girl named Winnie Foster (Sarah Charles Lewis) as its central figure, works. If you allow, it will take you out of this world...I won't tell you the specifics, but this scenario opens up all kinds of fascinating metaphysical questions -- for the Tucks, for Winnie, and for us. What do you value most in life, and how do you want to live? If you think this is sounding a bit heavy, I assure you it's just the opposite. This musical play has qualities that are quite magnetic and ineffable...The musical score is charming and the dancing, especially at end of the play when it integrates marvelously into the story, is first-rate. The set design is spectacular (Walt Spangler)...The actors are largely New York imports and are excellent, with the notable exception of Sarah Charles Lewis (Winnie), who is from the ATL and is outstanding. The show is wistful, contemplative, and fun, with the promise of romance. You may be quite moved by the end; many were.

Allison Drennan, GoUpstate.com: "Tuck" is one of the first shows in a long time that I have seen not knowing any of the music in advance...The score boasts 20 songs written by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen. They range from upbeat, happy songs to those that are reflective and make you think a little harder...The star-studded cast of "Tuck" blew everyone in the audience away. The shining star of the production is Lewis. She is an extremely talented singer and dancer, giving great warmth to the character of Winnie Foster...two-time Tony nominee Carmello, drew me into the show as Mae Tuck, the family-oriented, loving mother wants to spend more time with her family and is very protective of Winnie...My favorite part was the ending, but don't worry, I won't give anything away. One of the final scenes from the book is replaced with a breathtaking dance that shows how time passes and reveals the choice Winnie makes to the audience...It isn't just a show that you can sit and watch for two hours; instead, it absorbs you right into it and makes you think about what you would do if you were in Winnie's position.

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Photo Credit: Greg Mooney


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