'Charlotte's Web' by Warner Theatre Young Actors Series

Nancy Sasso Janis

Les Ober directed his first Young Actors Series production with a charming production of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ running this weekend at the Warner’s Nancy Marine Studio. The play is based on the classic story by E.B. White and the director writes that “this heartwarming story and the importance of friendship in this play is a lasting message for young and old alike.” Isabel Carrington, the director of education at the Warner Theatre Center for Arts Education, called the show a perfect vehicle for Mr. Ober’s foray into directing the youngest members of the Warner Theatre community,

Although the book was written for young readers, it deals with the adult issue of death. Fern is a young girl that can talk to farm animals and Charlotte the spider is the loyal moral compass whose influence has a wide reach in the barnyard. Her web is the focal point of both the play and the magnificent set designed by Mr. Ober, lit by Mr. Ober, and built by Mr. Ober and Steve Picard. Credit for the wonderful webs goes to “web master” Eve Wolftrand and the largest one that Charlotte is able to climb upon is the masterpiece. 

Costumes designed by Michele Rinaldi for the animal characters feature puppets that fill the arms of actors dressed in black, as they acted alongside them (a la ‘Avenue Q.’) The spiders were a work of art and Charlotte’s make-up was impressive. The human characters were dressed in lots of farm-appropriate plaids and denim. 

My one complaint is a result of the limitations of the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre. On opening night, I had a great aisle seat on the raised bleacher section. Yet whenever Wilbur the pig was lying in his pen, I could not see him at all. I heard that the shortest members of the audience seated in the floor seats had the same problem. Although the flawless sound system allowed me to hear his lines, I missed a substantial portion of the performance by the talented young actor named Jake Kordas. Thankfully, the cute speaking voice of Mr. Kordas was the best part of Wilbur. 

Alyssa Archambault was a great Charlotte and made us care about what would happen to the gentle spider. Emily McGrath made a cute Fern Arable and Brendan Harris played her active little brother Avery. 
Trevor Rinaldi (‘Ragtime’) was  convincing in the role of Lurvy the farmhand. Brian Fisher played the farmer Homer Zuckerman and Emily Russell did fine acting as his wife Edith. Conio Lopardo and Caroline Ahlman played Fern’s parents nicely.

Barnyard creatures were played by a gaggle of strong character actors. Thomas Busemeyer was a very amusing Templeton the rat. Mary Sullivan was a fabulous goose and Patrick Minnerly played her gander. Nicholas Nadeau played a wise old sheep and Julia Busemeyer was a lamb. Uncle the pig was played by Aidan DiVita. Six young ladies were pretty adorable baby spiders.

Riley Delaney was totally in character as the fair prize announcer and Faith Morgan and Allison Nadeau were a reporter and photographer respectively. A small ensemble played fair spectators and farm hands/townspeople. 

Three teens served as narrators. Kaylee Stickney, Megan Farrar and assistant director Connor Picard were beautifully lit and nicely placed as they drove the story along. Kudos to all of the up and coming performers in the cast.

Auditions for the WTCAE’s ‘Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids’ on the Warner Mainstage are coming up in early December and the “big kids” in the Performance Lab will present ‘Play On’ directed by Ms. Carrington Feb. 12 - 14 of next year. 

The opening night of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ sold-out audience included lots of mostly well-behaved young people. ‘Charlotte’s Web’ runs through Sunday at the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre. 

Photos by Nancy Sasso Janis