Monday, December 3, 2018

Highly entertaining, 'Tuck Everlasting' poses intriguing question

Winnie (Natalie Schroeder) meets Jesse Tuck (Eddie Grey).

What if you could live forever without aging? Would you jump at the chance?

Not so fast, say the never-aging Tuck family members in “Tuck Everlasting,” the musical presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

An 11-year-old girl, Winnie Foster (Natalie Schroeder, alternating with Katie Maupin), learns the secret of the family’s longevity and has that choice in her New Hampshire hometown in 1893.

However, her new friend, 17-year-old Jesse Tuck (Eddie Grey), advises her to wait six years until she’s his age. She waits and makes the right decision.

The book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle is based on Natalie Babbitt’s popular children’s novel of the same name.

Tuneful music by Chris Miller with lyrics by Nathan Tysen makes this intriguing premise even more enjoyable.

Add in direction by artistic director Robert Kelley and a dynamic cast, and it’s a great way to celebrate the holidays and the inevitable cycle of life.

It begins with a brief scene in 1808 when the Tucks – Jesse, mom Mae (Kristine Reese), dad Angus (Jonathan Rhys Williams) and older son Miles (Travis Leland) – happen to drink from a spring at the base of a huge tree.

When they realize what has happened to them, they try to avoid other people and arousing their curiosity.

Winnie sneaks out of her house where her mother, Betsy (Teressa Foss), and grandmother, Nana (Lucinda Hitchcock Cone), are still mourning the death of her father a year ago.

After she encounters Jesse, she’s forced to his home, but her stubbornness and defiance earn Angus’ admiration. He allows them to sneak off and go to the fair that’s passing through town.

One of the carneys, the scheming Man in the Yellow Suit (Michael Gene Sullivan), finds out about the spring’s magic water. He wants to bottle and sell it, but he needs to know where the spring is.

In the meantime, Winnie’s worried mother asks Constable Joe (Colin Thomson) and
Colin Thomson (bottom) and  David Crane.
his bumbling new assistant, Hugo (David Crane), to look for her.

Of course she does return home.

This is a show filled with memorable scenes, such as the carnival’s arrival through the audience (“Join the Parade”).

The best and most moving scenes come last. No words are spoken as the actors enact the passage of time with weddings, births and deaths during a reprise of “The Wheel (of Life).”

Leading the opening night cast was the dynamic, poised Schroeder as Winnie. Not only does she act and sing well, she dances, too. She’s a triple threat.

Without singling anyone else out, suffice it to say that everyone else in this outstanding cast is praiseworthy, too.

This production is enhanced by Alex Perez’s choreography, Joe Ragey’s set, Pamila Z. Gray’s lighting, Fumiko Bielefeldt’s costumes and Jeff Mockus’s sound. The excellent orchestra is led by musical director William Liberatore from the piano.

Both entertaining and thought-provoking, this holiday treat is suitable for both adults and youngsters. It’s not to be missed.

Running about two hours and 20 minutes with one intermission, “Tuck Everlasting” will continue through Dec. 30 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne