Tuck Everlasting: A Hazel-Mesmerizing Musical
First off, I want to start this with a confession. There is one thing that may have influenced me when I went to see Tuck Everlasting The Musical. I went with my favorite young lady, Hazel, the four year old daughter of one of my favorite couples in the world. Sitting behind her and her parents (in the Front Mezz naturally), This pseudo-uncle was conscious that I was watching her body language from behind almost as much as I was watching this glorious show. And she was captivated. (I’m going to try to attach her video review to the end of this blog. Wish me luck). She barely moved throughout this two and a half hour musical adaptation of this classic children’s novel by Natalie Babbitt, and that says more about this musical then this review ever could. Although it was not a book from my childhood (Canadian born and raised), I had heard of it from the Disney movie and was the leading cheerleader to bring Hazel to see it. So I was really hoping she would like it and not get bored or fidgety. But she was mesmerized. Thank goodness.
So with my confession out of the way, I will say, hopefully without bias, that I just loved this musical. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, this musical lovingly and sweetly tells the story of a young girl, Winnie Foster (played by the very talented Broadway newcomer Sarah Charles Lewis) who runs off in search of some excitement and adventure away from her family who seem to be trapped in a perpetual state of mourning for her dead father. In the surrounding family-owned woods, she sneaks off and happens upon a 17 year old boy, Jesse Tuck (performed with perfection by Andrew Keenan-Bolger) drinking from a spring that turns out to be quite enchanted. Both the leads are wonderful, and we automatically connect with their zest for life and adventure exemplified by the lovely exciting number, ‘Top of the World’, in the same way that they connect with each other almost instantly. It seems these two were created to play these roles, and we are glad to be witness to it. Both shine gloriously. This haphazard meeting in the woods pulls Winnie into the Tuck family and their deep century-old secret, entwining her into the family like a long lost child.
In pursuit of Jessie Tuck, his older brother, Miles (played by the handsome and strong voiced Robert Lenzi), and their parents, Angus (Michael Park) and Mae Tuck (Caroolee Carmello), is the sinister Man in the Yellow Suit who runs the traveling fair. He has heard tales of this family, and is desperate to find that ‘fountain of youth’. Wonderously evil, Terrance Mann brings such glee and greed into this role, that we can’t help but be both entranced and frightened by his presence. Hazel’s shoulders and arms tensed up every time he was on stage, knowing almost instantly to be wary of him and scared for the Tucks. Carmello, as Mother Tuck and Park, as Father Tuck give deeply affecting performances. Carmello shines warmly when she sings about the day she met Angus, ‘My Most Beautiful Day‘ and Park is pure fatherly love in a touching scene in the boat with Winnie, when he sings about ‘The Wheel’ of life. The music and lyrics are lovely (music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle), although in general, the lyrics seem to be a bit forgettable, but what they have been able to do is infuse a great deal of emotion into our hearts with each number. I couldn’t sing you a song, but I am quite able to describe how I felt during any of the musical moments.
On the sidelines, but stealing the show every chance they appear, is the Constable (the stellar Fred Applegate) and his young Inspector-in-training, Hugo (the absolutely wonderful Michael Wartella). Their Act 2 number, ‘You Can’t Trust a Man’ is just plain Vaudvillian glory and should be relished. Set designer, Walt Spangler; costume designer, Gregg Barnes; and lighting designer, Kenneth Posner, all are doing fantastic work here creating a beautiful staging of this classic story, and Nicholaw’s choreography is at times spectacular, fun, and also lovely. The ballet finale, in particular, beautifully and wordlessly tells the story of the circle of life, and all its love, loss, and the different shades of its divine value. It’s a wonderful ending to a lovely children’s story, and I was just as enthralled as Hazel was.
(No such luck, but here is the lovely Hazel (much more excited then she appears to be in this pic) with the very kind and sweet Andrew Keenan-Bolger on stage by that glorious tree.)