As the musical, "Dear Edwina" gets set to open tonight (Feb. 4) at CenterStage, the 28 children in its cast are receiving some first-hand experience with the saying, “The show must go on.”
Two dress rehearsals scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday were cancelled by Blizzard 2011 that on Lake Forest, making Thursday night’s dress rehearsal all that much more important.
“It’s affecting us, but this show was in great shape,” said director Doug Schuetz.
“With younger kids you want to have as many run-throughs as possible,” he said, “but you can’t worry about it.”
Seventeen-year old Erica Werner of Lake Forest High School plays the lead role of Edwina, a 13-year-old advice-giver who puts on weekly musicals in her back yard for her Paw Paw, Mich., neighbors. With the help of her talented friends, she answers their queries on topics such as working with their brothers and sisters, not liking certain foods and being asked to set the table.
“It’s a really cute play about learning manners and being a good person,” Werner said. “It’s fun and the music is upbeat; it’s for both kids and adults.”
Edwina is faced with her dream opportunity during the course of the 90-minute play: a chance to perform at “Advice-a-Palooza,” a self-help fair scheduled in Kalamazoo, Mich. Dr. Joyce Brothers cancels at the last minute on the festival, which sends talent scouts to Edwina’s backyard show-within-a-show.
Edwina’s 13-year-old love interest, Scott – played by 28-year-old David Green, the oldest cast member – is initially cast aside before ultimately winning her heart.
"Dear Edwina" is accompanied by a four-piece pit orchestra led by professional vibes player Ken Hall, along with Sandy Serna on piano, bass and piano.
Now 52, Hall plays regionally with a local jazz group, Message Ensemble. The last time he played in a theater orchestra was in high school, he said. However, when Schuetz asked him to perform, he looked at the score and agreed.
“I think it’s unique and it works,” he said of what is essentially a jazz quartet lineup backing the vocal performers. “This show is great; there are some really talented young kids.”
Auditioning students as young as 8 years old is a much different experience than working with more experienced actors, said Schuetz, who has been with the community theater steadily for the past 16 years.
“What I see at auditions is what I am going to get onstage,” he said.
Choreographer Margaret Miller has also been working overtime on the musical, which has more than 30 numbers, including “Gimme Gimme I Want,” about learning to share toys with your siblings and “Put it in the Piggy,” which offers a lesson for all American consumers.
Six years ago, Schuetz said he founded the community theater’s tradition of having one performance a year that offers more children’s roles and is suitable for a family audience.
Because the young audience show is always in the winter, he’s used to dealing with weather – and actors occasionally being under the weather with colds or flu. There are no understudies, adding an extra potential challenge.
The musical opens Friday night at theand runs through Feb. 12. For more information about tickets and showtimes, contact the CenterStage web site