Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Pollyanna’ a Mini-Epic as Four Plays in One in Kimberly

Papermaker Players Family Theatre Pollyanna cover_1523621019735.jpg.jpg

What the world needs now (and forever) is kindness and joy. There is plenty of that from 11-year-old Pollyanna, a fictional character who is so famous that she is in the dictionary.

In three more performances through Saturday, Papermaker Players Family Theatre is presenting the heartfelt tale of the girl who sees good in all in a beefed-up production of “Pollyanna” in Kimberly High School Auditorium.

At the fore of the sturdy presentation directed by Linda Mongin and Tracie Schmidt is Lydia VanNuland, a sixth grader at Holy Spirit Catholic School in Darboy. VanNuland brightly and confidently brings Pollyanna to life.

Around her, adults and other children perform with care the story of the newly orphaned Pollyanna as she enters the life of her rich and snooty Aunt Polly. Pollyanna captures the hearts of the townsfolk of Harrisonville, Vermont, with her ever-present kindness and joy. Aunt Polly (strongly played by Jill Hughes) resists at every turn. And then there’s heart-tugging drama: Pollyanna is struck by a car.

This production is rich with flavors. The time is 1911, and the set and costuming reflect the time. Scene changes come with music – snippets from often-famous works, one beautiful passage after another. Costuming blossoms in three added sections that set this production apart, like this:

Pollyanna has come up with the idea of putting on talent shows to raise money for a free clinic. In the case of this production, the three youth-driven shows are enactments of stories from children’s literature over time. Costuming is sha-ZAM vivid.

One. “When the Sky is Like Lace,” of Elinor Lander Horowitz, creates a mystique with language, dance and movement in an outdoor setting.

Two. “Who’s a Pest?” of Crosby Bonsall, spins around head-spinning wordplay and fanciful characters, some human, some mammals and one a multi-colored lizard.

Three. “Very Hungry Caterpillar,” of Eric Carle, is a simple story of a caterpillar who munches her way through a garden – “CHOMP” being a unison line as she makes her rounds – before spinning a cocoon and becoming a beautimous butterfly.

This and that:

+ The stage area is spacious. To the rear is Aunt Polly’s home, which reflects her wealth. It is two stories high. A stairway leads to the second level, one part of which is an attic room where Aunt Polly essentially stuffs Pollyanna. Hanging above is a chandelier. It would be unwise to set action so far back if it weren’t for wireless headsets that allow the audience to hear dialogue anyplace. Scenes other than in Aunt Polly’s home are accomplished by drops to the front of the stage, the movement of which is always accompanied by the nice music.

+ Adults in the cast seem to get a kick out of telling this story. The word “pollyanna” pops up once in a while, and now they can be in something special that gives it meaning.

+ Paperback copies of “Pollyanna” are on sale in the lobby.

+ Bullying is sore spot in schools today, and a big deal is made of it. It’s interesting to me to see well-played scenes of bullying by girls in “Pollyanna” in 1911 – a reminder that bullying is not a recent invention.

+ Thursday night’s opening performance ran smoothly. Even with all the moving parts surrounding four separate casts, people were at the ready. Wholly impressive.

***

Creative: Playwright – Craig Sodaro, adapting from the book by Eleanor Porter, with additions of “When the Sky is Like Lace” by Elinor Lander Horowitz, “Who’s a Pest?” by Crosby Bonsall and “Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle; producer/director – Linda Mongin; co-director – Tracie Schmidt; student director – Allison Vanevenhoven; sound – Brent Schuettpelz; master carpenters – Paul Leitermann, Steve Leitermann, Oliver Garcia; props – Victoria Mall; costumes – Jackie Schuette, Julie Hannon, Karen Vandenberg; make-up/hair – Tina Tischer, Kathy Hanson, Margie DeGrave

Cast (“Pollyanna”): Pollyanna – Lydia VanNuland; Aunt Polly – Jill Hughes; Nancy – Kim Burchard; Chloe – Quinn Martinson; Mr. Pendleton – Tom Nogar; Minnie Payson – Aleena Copeland; Chickee – Amy Schuettpelz; Mary Louis – Aubrey Norred; Cordelia – Elizabeth Davis; Mrs. Tarbell – Amy Carpenter; Mrs. Payson – Heidi Warner; Mrs. Ford – Holly Kallio; Jimmy Bean – Isaiah Nogar; Mrs. Snow – Marie VandeZande; Constable – Matt Digman; Dr. Mead – Eddy Mongin; Grocer – Randy Gralapp; Miss Hawkins – Robin Schmidt; Mrs. Rawson – Sara Morrow; Widow Benton – Sara Handrick; Dr. Chilton – Spencer Tenor; Millie Snow – Stacy Grosnick; Nurse Hunt – Victoria Mall

Cast (“When the Sky is Like Lace”): Girls – Allison Vanevenhoven, Kate Digman, Kealy Doran, McKenna Johnson, Paige Hussin; Penguins – Ashlyn Doran, Elaine Laurent, Ethan Tosher, Hailey Dovi, Walt Pitzner; Rabbit – Jillian Radtke; Trees – Jocelyn Wittkopf, Sidney Wittkopf, Sienna Vaubel; Elephant – Genesis Liebhaber; Snails – Kristen Roggenbauer, Tessa Rutchik

Cast (“Who’s a Pest?”): Homer – Andrew Gralapp; Lizard – Alora Garrett; Rabbit – Jillian Radtke; Bear – Casey Garcia; Squirrel – Ethan Kositzke; Lolly – Aoife Marinan; Molly – Meara Marinan; Polly – Sophia Strong; Dolly – Natalie Ott

Cast (“Very Hungry Caterpillar”): Garden – Kate Stadler, Kayli Blom, Kristen Roggenbauer, Lacy Graverson, Layla Quella, Lexie Olson, Liliana Nenning, Lily Brockman, Lucy Litwin, Lydia Kruse, Madison Lotten, Olivia Schilling, Rebecca Rew, Tessa Rutchik, Valerie Kallio

Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Remaining performances: 6:30 p.m. April 13, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 14

Info: showtix4U.com

***

VENUE: The eye-appealing Kimberly High School Auditorium is approximately a 700-seat facility. The building dates to 2001. The auditorium is located next to the gymnasium, and the two share a large commons/lobby area, which includes concessions, raffle and souvenir sales items related to the show. The auditorium is wide and spacious. The wall design includes brick columns reaching half way up, with cement brick and tan wood and brown fiber paneling layered in between. The ceiling is a pattern of tan wood and fiber paneling combined with metallic mesh areas. The design and materials suggest the space was built with acoustics in mind. The stage is especially wide, with the main performance space set off by a purple curtain. The proscenium stage (flat-front) is primarily tan, with a dark fringe on the top and shoulders that gives the impression of a giant key hole.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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