The Washington area is fortunate to have a venue like Imagination Stage as part of the community. This company has provided wonderful theatrical experiences for children in the area. Sadly, their recent production of Charlotte’s Web falls a bit short.
Based on the novel by E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web tells the story of Wilbur the pig. Wilbur is the runt of the litter and he would have been killed if it wasn’t for the intervention of a young girl named Fern. Eventually, Wilbur lands in a new home where he makes many friends. His closest friend turns out to be a highly intelligent spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur realizes that his life is in danger, it is Charlotte who comes up with a plan to save him.
E.B. White’s original story is a lovely one. It not only highlights how a community can work together but it emphasizes the impact friendship and love can have on one’s life. The adaptation by Joseph Robinette captures the essence of the novel. However, this interpretation of the piece is not very successful. Director Kathryn Chase Bryer has teamed with choreographer Krissie Marty to create a story told through drama and dance. The idea is a promising one, but it is obvious that the creative team was not keeping their audience in mind when deciding on this concept.
Imagination Stage promotes this show for ages four and up. Yet, the dance sequences are slow-moving and very bland and have difficulty holding the interest of children that young. This reviewer witnessed several children fidgeting during these segments.
Despite the touching story, as a whole, the show is sluggish despite the efforts of a strong cast. Steve Wannall is lovely as the naive Wilbur. He injects a great amount of humor in a sensitive portrayal. Dawn Ursula is an excellent Charlotte, but the most interesting performance in the show is given by Stephon Walker. Mr. Walker plays three characters: Templeton, Arable and Lurvy. It is as Templeton the rat where Walker really shines. His portrayal of this character is vibrant and extremely funny.
The set by James Kronzer is outstanding. At first glance, it looks like a closed barn. However, when the doors are opened, a gigantic metal spider web is revealed. The costumes by Kathleen Geldard are appropriate for most of the characters. However, the costumes for the two pigs in the story may be a little confusing to little ones.
Many agree that Charlotte’s Web is a wonderful story for children. It is a terrific choice for the stage. It is just a shame that this production is too self-indulgent for small children to enjoy. Charlotte’s Web runs through January 9th.
Jennifer Driscoll: Fern