BWW Review: TUCK EVERLASTING at Booker High School Ponders Eternity
I love stories that make you think. You know they ones that make your mind contemplate what is wrong and what is right. I knew I was in for a great evening when Director Scott Keys took the stage before the show and asked the question, "If you could live forever, would you?" With that thought racing through the minds of the audience "Tuck Everlasting" produced by Booker High School began.
Youth productions in Sarasota are entertaining but they obviously hold an educational purpose and so I always have a different mindset when reviewing their shows. The one thing that holds constant though (in Sarasota) is the immense talent our young performers possess. They have an innate ability to bring a story to life.
"Tuck Everlasting" follows the Tuck family who once drank from a spring that gave them eternal life. They hide in the woods and the family separates for years at a time so those they come in contact with do not become suspicious that they never age. Their life of secrecy is interrupted when young Winnie Foster meets Jesse Tuck and the two form a friendship. Jesse takes Winnie to his home and as their relationship grows, they formulate a plan for Winnie to one day drink from the Spring so that Jesse will have her to spend his life with.
As the story unfolds, the Tuck family battles with Jesse's desire for Winnie to drink from the spring. This is further complicated by the Man in the Yellow Suit who is determined to find the spring for himself and destroy the life of the Tuck family.
From the opening moments of the show, the audience will be captivated by the incredible set and lighting design of Technical Director, Nick Jones. He and his team create a visual paradise which transforms the stage into a magical time. The scene transitions in this show can be tricky. A few of them were slightly distracting to the story, but the team did in a nice job in maintaining the flow of the musical.
Winnie Foster played by Bridget Marsh was magical as the young innocent girl who Jesse befriends. Her character is expressive, and she displays an innocence of a child with the maturity of someone well beyond her years. Marsh displays a strong vocal presence throughout the show. There are a few times I wanted her to really go after the money notes so I could experience the full range of her vocal prowess but her ability to carry a show from start to finish was never in question. She radiates on stage and that passion can be felt by anyone watching her perform.
Ryan Modjeski is the idealistic Jesse Tuck who believes Winnie will join him on this journey of eternal life. Modjeski is consistent the entire show. His facial expressions and comedic timing are pinpoint perfect. He displayed a nice vocal range which complimented Marsh. It is a complex role which Modjeski must navigate. He is 17 years old forever but has lived over 100 years. It is important to always balance the dynamics of a character especially one such as Jesse Tuck. As Marsh and Modjeski continue in their love of theatre this skill set will only continue to grow.
The Man in the Yellow Suit, is played by Timarus Foulks Jr. who commands the stage. He is meticulous as he weaves his way into the lives of those who can help him achieve his mission. Foulks is evil and at the same time makes a connection with his audience members that make you smile each time he steps on stage. He is firm and confident and displayed complete control of his character.
The mother Mae Tuck is portrayed by Emma Johnson. Mae is the glue that holds the family together and similarly, Johnson is a cornerstone of this production. Her singing is nothing short of magnificent. Her powerful, yet gentle voice is angelic. Her acting enhances every scene she is in. Johnson exhibits an overall skill level vastly superior to what you would expect to see on a local stage, and I am confident that the sky is the limit for this talented young performer.
Marcus Cruz-Santiago (Hugo) and Liam McGuire (Angus Tuck) also turned in notable performances. Both these actors bring laughter throughout the show. McGuire is poised and strong in his portrayal of the father and Cruz-Santiago is a shining example that you do not have to be the lead to make a role memorable.
One true highlight of this show is the choreography. Under the direction of Cynthia Ashford, the ensemble displayed a cohesiveness and power that dominated the stage. The movement was graceful, yet intense and added a layer to the performance most would not expect. The final scene in particular was simply astounding.
There were several sound issues which were a distraction. As a former director, I know the angst the Creative Team felt. This show was very high quality and hopefully these issues are rectified for the remainder of the run; but the cast carried on like true professionals. The male vocals lacked a little strength, but this does not diminish the overall quality of the vocal performances under Musical Director, Johnnie Mnich. The entire directorial team should be commended. They are truly doing fantastic educational and theatrical training with this program.
"Tuck Everlasting" is a show to entertain you but also make to make you ponder eternal life. One thing that does not need contemplation is the level of talent in our local schools. The cast and crew are amazing, and I hope that level of quality remains for all eternity.
"Tuck Everlasting" runs through December 15. Tickets and more information can be found at www.bookervpa.com