Cast of ‘Dear Edwina’ takes the stage this weekend
The Jamestown Community Theatre will celebrate its 23rd year with production of the musical comedy, “Dear Edwina.” The book and lyrics for the show were written by Marcy Heisler, and Zina Goldrich wrote the music. The show will run for five performances at the rec center beginning Saturday.
“Dear Edwina” tells the story of Edwina Spoonapple who delights her neighbors in Paw Paw, Mich., with performances in the family garage. The show within a show is a musical version of Dear Abby, as Edwina and her friends give advice on everything from trying new foods to making new friends. Think of it as something of a musical block party filled with clever, catchy and poignant songs.
Artistic Director Mary Wright said she chose “Dear Edwina” because she wanted a community play that featured both children and adults. She also loved the message of the story: “Be yourself.”
“I thought it would be a fun play,” she said. “It’s very noncomputer technical in terms of what kids do now. It’s more about having fun and playing outside, and learning things that are not necessarily electronic.”
Wright said she hopes the audience will leave the show feeling happy, having learned about the wide variety of people it presents.
“There are all different kinds of people in this place,” Wright said. “Diversity is au courant right now, which it should be.”
Assistant Director Annie Mc- Intyre said the best part for her is watching the once-shy young actors reach the point where they are stealing the show.
“They gain so much confidence,” she said, “and they learn how to be themselves and feel good about that.”
One of the challenges the show presents is that it uses contemporary music with different styles and nontraditional harmonies, says Matt Bolles, the theater’s musical director for “Dear Edwina.” The show was intended for adult actors, and Bolles said the young cast has done a great job with the material.
“The play was written to be performed by an adult cast of eight,” he said, “but part of what we do at the Jamestown Community Theatre is mix adults with children. We do have a couple of experienced adult singers in the cast and the kids will learn from them as they go.”
Bolles said the children are learning difficult musical time signatures and entrances, but he likes to encourage young people to reach a little further.
The lead role of Edwina is played by 12-year-old Abby Hirsch of Jamestown. Hirsch said Edwina has two sisters and a brother, and all three siblings are seen as more talented than her – the evidence is displayed on the door of the family refrigerator.
That’s why Edwina decides to present her advice show.
“She just really wants to be up on the fridge,” Abby said.
Julia Hirsch, Abby’s sister, plays Kelli, Edwina’s neighbor. Kelli is a dancer with a tendency to try to upstage everyone else.
“She thinks she’s really cool and she thinks she has grace, when in actuality she has no grace,” said Julia. “She thinks she’s awesome, but she’s not.”
David Fuquea is playing Bobby Newsome, a new kid to the neighborhood. He walks into a difficult situation when Edwina asks him to replace a member of her show who’s been injured.
“As a new boy who just moved in next door,” Fuquea said, “they kind of grab me and I get involved in the show.”
Fuquea, a retired Marine colonel who was born and raised in Jamestown, is appearing in his second production with the community theater. He has a song called “Frankenguest,” which tells the story of a nasty young boy who is a guest at birthday parties. People come to think of the boy as something of a Frankenstein monster. The message of the song is to not be judgmental.
“I’m only here because my daughter is here and she gave me permission to be in the show,” Fuquea said. “Farren plays the queen and it has been a great opportunity for me to spend some time with her. My wife is one of the producers. It’s a family affair.”
Witt Tarantino plays Scott Kunkle, a boy who is misunderstood because he is a little ahead of his time. Scott is in love with Edwina and tries to tell her as much for the whole show. Witt is a 16-year-old from Jamestown who goes to Rocky Hill School. He is appearing in his third production with the community theater.
Katherine Hammersley, who lives in North Kingstown and works at McQuade’s, is performing with the group for the second time. She plays Annie, a Girl Scout who works as a babysitter.
“Annie is very responsible,” Katherine said. “She’s one of the older kids. She likes to have fun and sing, and she tries to help some of the younger kids.”
The role of Edwina’s older sister Myra is played by Anza DiGasper, a 12-year-old from the island.
“Myra is her older sister and she’s supportive of Edwina,” Anza said. “She is kind of on the sidelines helping Edwina along through the whole show.”
There will be five shows of “Dear Edwina”: Saturday, Nov. 16, Sunday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 22, Saturday, Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 24. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., Sunday shows start at 4 p.m. All productions are held at the recreation center.
Tickets at the door are $12 for general admission, $7 for seniors, students and children. Advance tickets are $2 cheaper and are available around the island, including Baker’s Pharmacy, Conanicut Ship’s Store, Secret Garden and Cathryn Jamieson Salon.