×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Atlanta Theater Review: ‘Tuck Everlasting’ the Musical

With:
Andrew Keenan- Bolger, Sarah Charles Lewis, Terrence Mann, Michael Park, Carolee Carmello, Robert Lenzi, Liza Jaine, Shannon Eubanks, Fred Applegate, Michael Wartella, Brad Anderson, Julie Barnes, Brad Bradley, Josh Brook, Deanna Doyle, KC Fredericks, Lisa Gajda, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Neil Haskell, Jane Labanz, Marco Schittone, Curtis Schroeger, Ben Silver.
Songs: “Live Like This,” “Good Girl, Winnie Foster;” “Come to the Fair,” “Top of the World,” “Story of Tucks,” “My Most Beautiful Day,” “One Small Story;” “Time,” “Jump the Line,” “Seventeen,” Everything’s Golden,” “For the Best,” “You Can’t Trust a Man,” “The Wheel,” “Everlasting,” “Everlasting Ballet.”

Move over, Matilda and Annie, there’s a new gal in town. A fountain-of-youth fable based on the ’70s children’s classic, “Tuck Everlasting” centers on adventuresome 11-year-old Winnie Foster (Sarah Charles Lewis), who comes across a family in the woods that have stayed the same age since they drank from a magical spring nearly a century ago. 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.

The tuner also differs from Natalie Babbitt’s novel and the film by making Winnie’s mother, Betsy (Liza Jaine), an over-protective widow who cautions “The world is a dangerous place” to her free-spirited daughter; also new is a traveling fair that opens the action up a bit, along with the ensemble’s wistful “I wish” opener, “Live Like This.” Most importantly, the script finds a simpler resolution at story’s climactic crisis.

Helmer and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, noted for his bold, sassy hand in “The Book of Mormon,” “Aladdin” and “The Drowsy Chaperone,” here explores a more delicate and lyrical approach, even creating a moving ballet sequence that reps one of the evening’s highlights. The show’s warm tones are deepened, too, by Walt Spangler’s set, grounded by his swirling forestry and Kenneth Posner’s golden-glow lighting.

Well-crafted tunes by Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen (“The Burnt Part Boys”) set their musical motif in folk-roots-meets-Broadway territory. A pair of touching ballads — “My Most Beautiful Day” and “For the Best” — are rendered by Tuck matriarch Mae, played by Carolee Carmello, who ankles the cast this week to begin rehearsals for another flight into fantasy, “Finding Neverland.” Beth Leavel succeeds her.

Crowdpleasing elements include terrific vaudevillian turns by Terrence Mann as the delectably villainous Man in the Yellow Suit (“Everything’s Golden”) and Fred Applegate and the limber charmer Michael Wartella — a breakout spot here —  as the deadpan constable and his eager deputy (“You Can’t Trust a Man”). As Winnie’s sharp-tongued Nana, Shannon Eubanks steals a scene or two while also landing the show’s biggest laugh.

The Tuck clan includes Michael Park as the patriarch who delivers the show’s philosophical summation (“You can’t have living without dying”) in “The Wheel,” and older brother Miles (Robert Lenzi), who tells his story of loss in “Time”; both songs are beautifully sung. But the two characters are sketchily written: Dad as a perennial lug until Winnie brightens things, and big bro as a toughie who turns too quickly to softie.

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.

tuck-everlasting-review-broadway

Popular on Variety

Atlanta Theater Review: 'Tuck Everlasting' the Musical

(Alliance Theater, Atlanta; 750 seats; $75 top) Opened, reviewed Feb. 4, 2015. Runs through Feb. 22. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Production:

An Alliance Theater presentation of a musical in two acts based on the novel “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt, with music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and book by Claudia Shear.

Creative:

Direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw. Sets, Walt Spangler; music director, Rob Berman; orchestrations, John Clancy; costumes, Gregg Barnes; lighting, Kenneth Posner; sound, Brian Ronan; production stage managr, Holly Coombs.

Cast:

Andrew Keenan- Bolger, Sarah Charles Lewis, Terrence Mann, Michael Park, Carolee Carmello, Robert Lenzi, Liza Jaine, Shannon Eubanks, Fred Applegate, Michael Wartella, Brad Anderson, Julie Barnes, Brad Bradley, Josh Brook, Deanna Doyle, KC Fredericks, Lisa Gajda, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Neil Haskell, Jane Labanz, Marco Schittone, Curtis Schroeger, Ben Silver.
Songs: “Live Like This,” “Good Girl, Winnie Foster;” “Come to the Fair,” “Top of the World,” “Story of Tucks,” “My Most Beautiful Day,” “One Small Story;” “Time,” “Jump the Line,” “Seventeen,” Everything’s Golden,” “For the Best,” “You Can’t Trust a Man,” “The Wheel,” “Everlasting,” “Everlasting Ballet.”

More Legit

  • Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works

    Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works as a Movie From Heyday, BBC Films

    David Heyman’s Heyday Films, whose credits include “Gravity,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story” and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, and BBC Films have secured the film rights to Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical “Follies.” “Follies” will be adapted for the screen and directed by Dominic Cooke, a four-time Olivier [...]

  • Tina Turner The Musical

    How 'Tina: The Tina Turner Musical' Tells the Icon's Traumatic Story

    It wasn’t the response Tali Pelman had hoped to receive. The group creative managing director of Stage Entertainment had traveled to Küsnacht, Switzerland, with one goal in mind: Convince Tina Turner that her life could be the stuff of a successful stage musical. “We walked in the door,” Pelman remembers. “Tina was already there, and she greeted [...]

  • Ben McKenzie

    'Gotham' Star Ben McKenzie to Make Broadway Debut in 'Grand Horizons'

    “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie will make his Broadway debut in Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons.” He joins a cast that includes Oscar nominees Jane Alexander (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “The Great White Hope”) and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”). The show has a strictly limited 10-week run and begins previews on Dec. 23, 2019, before officially opening [...]

  • The Great Society review

    Listen: Brian Cox on 'Succession,' Shakespeare, and the Crisis We're In

    Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.” Listen to this week’s podcast below: Cox [...]

  • Scooby Doo Ella Louise Allaire Martin

    Scooby-Doo Live Theater Tour Is Goofy Dane's Latest Adventure

    From its 1969 start as a Saturday morning kids mystery cartoon series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” starring its titular, talking Great Dane and his four teenaged friends, has made adventure its staple. Once Hanna-Barbera’s successor, Warner Bros. Animation, took the leash, Scooby and company became a comic book, a board game, a series of video [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

  • Laurel Griggs

    Laurel Griggs, Broadway and 'SNL' Actress, Dies at 13

    Laurel Griggs, who starred in Broadway’s “ONCE the Musical” as Ivanka, has died. She was 13. An obituary posted to Dignity Memorial indicates she died on Nov. 5, and Griggs’ grandfather wrote on Facebook that her death was due to a massive asthma attack. Griggs made her Broadway debut when she was six years old [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content