“A Literate Musical-Comedy”
March 30-31, April 1 – 2001
Thomas Starr King Middle School
SYNOPSIS: A young girl, PAULA, hates reading books and would rather spend her time watching TV or on the computer. One night she is magically transported to an enchanted world where each land is inhabited by the characters of a specific classic book. She continues from land to land (book to book) and meets a variety of famous characters from legendary books like Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick, Little Women, Moby Dick, Eloise, The Grapes of Wrath, Mary Poppins and Harry Potter (to name a few). By the end of her adventures, she has learned that books can offer characters and stories far more dimensional and meaningful than those found on TV or in video games.
Written and Directed by Broderick Miller
Producer – Randi Trabitz
Musical Director – Elliott Douglas
Set Design – Brian Davis, Sandi Silbert, Tony Unruh
Costumes – Kathleen Nolen, Kelbe Bensinger
Vocal Director – Dinah Mills
Choreography – Kelbe Bensinger, Trish Boyer, Margit Edwards, Ruth-Anne Hammond,
Lighting Director – Diana Wagman
Hair & MakeUp – Sascha Bensinger, Jeannie Hackett
Props – Nora Paller, Robin Russin,
Photography – Iris Schneider
Sound – Dave Feinman, Tod Mesirow
House Manager – Judy Detar, Mary Beth Sorensen
Video Design/Editor – Tod Mesirow
Music Coordinator – Dave Feinman
Stage Manager – Marcus Hammond
Cast Party – Randi Sapin, Helene, Siegel
Concessions – Gwen Miller
Poster – Carrie Peterson
Pre-School Coordinator – Langdon Page
Spotlight – Leda Gordon
Program – Michael Travis
Woody Rickshaw – Piano
The Wedge- Guitar & keyboards
Koppius Phage – Bass
Nosmo King – Drums
BAXLEY ANDRESEN Eloise (Eloise); Miss Clavel (Madeline); Paula (Mary Poppins)
ELLIE BENSINGER Moose (Doctor Dolittle); Malfoy (Harry Potter)
EMILY BENSINGER Chrissie
JACK BENSINGER Billy Goat (Doctor Dolittle); Bingo Dealer (Mary Poppins)
ELIZABETH BRIGHTLY Calamity Jane (Tales of the Wild West); Paula (Little Women)
DARYL COKE Phantom of the Opera; Paula (Dracula); Paula (Harry Potter)
HANNAH DAVIS Gwen (Eloise); Claire (Madeline)
JESSIE DAVIS Sharon (Eloise); Noelle (Madeline)
ELENA DELVAC Becky Thatcher (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn);
Renault (Mary Poppins)
PETER FEINMAN Huckleberry Finn (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn);
The Wolf Man (Dracula)
AMANDA FELDMAN Paula (The Grapes of Wrath); Genevieve (Madeline)
HANNA FELDMAN Hanna (Little Women); Pocahontas (Tales of the Wild West)
NASTASSIA GODOY Grace (The Grapes of Wrath); Paula (Moby Dick)
ELLIE GORDON Paula (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn);
DeDe (Swiss Family Robinson)
JAMUS HAIN Tom Joad (The Grapes of Wrath); Harry Potter (Harry Potter)
IVY HAMMOND Liz (Eloise); Sophie (Madeline)
LINDSEY HOROWITZ Doctor Dolittle (Doctor Dolittle);
Annie Oakley (Tales of the Wild West)
ELIZABETH INKELIS Diana (Eloise); Isabelle (Madeline)
SARAH INKELIS Jayne (Eloise); Paula (Swiss Family Robinson)
QUINCEY JACOBS Lion (Doctor Dolittle); Captain Ahab (Moby Dick)
JENNIFER KIM Greta (Heidi); Trina (Swiss Family Robinson)
KAITLIN KING Ma Joad (The Grapes of Wrath); Paula (Madeline)
HENRY LEVINE Tom Sawyer (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn);
Buffalo Bill (Tales of the Wild West)
FIONA LIDDELL Paula (Dracula); Belle Starr (Tales of the Wild West)
THEA MESIROW Amy (Little Women); Samantha (Mary Poppins)
ISABELLE MILLER Meg (Little Women); Hermoine (Harry Potter)
ELIZA MILLS Paula; Annette (Swiss Family Robinson)
MONTANA MILLS Frankenstein (Dracula);
Wild Bill Hickok (Tales of the Wild West)
JUSTINE MINETTE Rat (Doctor Dolittle); Catherine (Madeline)
PHOEBE MINETTE Janis
DEIRDRE MURPHY Paula (Heidi); Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter)
ELIZABETH PARISKY Sonja (Heidi); Queequeg (Moby Dick)
DANTE PICKENS-HORTON The Mummy (Dracula); Starbuck (Moby Dick)
LORENZO P-HORTON Invisible Man (Dracula); Mr. Stubb (Moby Dick)
LAURA POLLACK Paula (Eloise); Suzie (Swiss Family Robinson)
KELLY RAPPLEYE Beth (Little Women); Lise (Madeline)
KARINA ROGERS Arachna (Dracula); Shirlene (Swiss Family Robinson)
ANDREW ROHRLICH Jack (Heidi); Pecos Bill (Tales of the Wild West);
Peter Pettigrew (Harry Potter)
LANA ROSEN Linda Lobster (Doctor Dolittle); Faith (The Grapes of Wrath)
MILO ROSEN Cow (Doctor Dolittle); Ron (Harry Potter)
OLIVIA RUSSIN Charlotte (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)
OLIVIA SAPIN Ingrid (Heidi); Madeline (Madeline)
SARA SIDLEY Paula (Doctor Dolittle); Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins)
ALLYSON TAYLOR Carla (Eloise); Juliette (Madeline)
ANDREA TAYLOR Heidi (Heidi); Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
KYLIE THOMPSON Aretha;
LUC UNRUH Dracula (Dracula); Ishmael (Moby Dick);
Snape (Harry Potter)
ALEXANDRIA VICKERY Frog (Doctor Dolittle); Hope (The Grapes of Wrath)
TESS WHITTLESY Jo (Little Women); Paula (Tales of the Wild West)
OWEN WILLIAMS Jim (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn);
Mr. Flask (Moby Dick)
SCENES AND MUSICAL NUMBERS
Scene 1 Prologue
“After the Gold Rush”………………………….Janis, Chrissie, Aretha
Scene 2 Paula’s Home
Scene 3 Ever-Ever Land
Scene 4 Doctor Dolittle’s Waiting Room – Doctor Dolittle
“Dead Skunk”………………………….………….Billy Goat, Cow, Doctor Dolittle
Frog, Lion, Lobster, Moose,
Scene 5 Mississippi River – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
“Proud Mary”……………………………………..Becky Thatcher
with Charlotte, Huckleberry
Finn, Jim, Paula
Scene 6 Upper-Eastside Manhattan – Eloise
“Subterranean Homesick Blues”……………Eloise
with Carla, Diana, Gwen, Jayne,
Liz, Paula, Sharon
Scene 7 Swiss Alps – Heidi
“River Deep, Mountain High”……………….Heidi
with Greta, Ingrid, Jack, Paula, Sonja
Scene 8 Sewing Parlor – Little Women
“These Boots Are Made For Walking”……Amy, Beth, Hannah, Jo, Kate,
Scene 9 California Orange Grove – The Grapes of Wrath
“Calling All Angels”…….………………………..Faith, Grace, Hope
with Ma Joad, Tom Joad,
and the JCC pre-school angels
Scene 10 The Castle Comedy Club – Dracula
“The Letter”…………………………….………….Arachna, Dracula, Frankenstein,
Invisible Man, Mummy, Paula,
Phantom of the Opera, Wolf Man
Scene 1 Dewey Decimal Transit Portal
Scene 2 Orphanage Classroom – Madeline
“School’s Out”…………………………………….Catherine, Claire, Genevieve,
Isabelle, Juliette, Lise, Madeline,
Noelle, Paula, Sophie
Scene 3 Whaling Ship “Pequod” – Moby Dick
“Tired of Waiting”……………………………….Captain Ahab, Ishmael, Mr. Flask,
Mr. Stubb, Queequeg, Paula, Starbuck
Scene 4 Deserted Island – Swiss Family Robinson
“S.O.S.”………………………………………………Annette, Bobbi, DeDe, Paula,
Shirlene, Suzie, Trina, Valerie
Scene 5 Chicago Boardroom – Tales of the Wild West
“Get Your Kicks On Route 66″………………Annie Oakley, Belle Starr, Buffalo
Bill, Calamity Jane, Paula,
Pocahontas, Wild Bill Hickok
Scene 6 Mary’s Tea Room – Mary Poppins
“Nothing Compares 2U”……………………….Mary Poppins
Scene 7 Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy – Harry Potter
“With a Little Help From My Friends”……Paula
with Dumbledore, Harry,
Hermoine, Lord Voldemort,
Malfoy, Pettigrew, Ron, Snape
Scene 8 Paula’s Bedroom
“Shout”……………………………………………….Band and Ensemble
THESE CHILDREN…these wonderful, challenging, complicated, beautiful, infuriating, talented, glorious children…devoted themselves to this play with a passion and commitment that gives me goosebumps as I write. I flash on some magic moments: ELENA’S luminous face absorbing direction with such pure trust; SARAH taking my breath away with “Ain’t Misbehavin’ at auditions; big MONTANA’S bigger heart; DARYL’S manic talent and energy; ELIZABETH BRIGHTLY delivering the “I’m mad as heck and I’m not going to take it anymore” rant with brio and presence way beyond her years; ANDREA electrifying Room 100 when she belted “River Deep, Mountain High”; LUC trumpeting “Monsters Rock!” after a great rehearsal — signaling the first scene to bond; the first time I heard JUSTINE squeak “It’s a tragedy”; ELLIE BENSINGER’S zillion-watt smile which should be harnessed by Southern California Edison; DANTE’S eloquent aplomb when he returns with the coffee (you’ll see); HANNAH DAVIS yammering directing suggestions every step of the way — many of them amazingly astute; HANNA FELDMAN receiving nine different suggestions on her monologue and then immediately re-performing it — hitting every single point; JAMUS’S gasp of joy when he found out he was cast as Harry Potter; ELIZA’S primal shriek when I jolted her to illustrate a point; THEA’S constant impish smile; PHOEBE’S pro attitude about everything, especially when I screwed up the Muses rehearsal schedules again (and again); the MADELINE GIRLS being the first scene to really gel; QUINCEY disappearing into Captain Ahab; LAURA being smart about her scenes — I mean, smart; KARINA overcome with tears during her big solo; ANDREW’S adorable mortification on having to put his arm around Heidi; LANA cracking me up in Dr. Dolittle no matter how many times I’d already seen it; HENRY’S heartbreaking frustration, aching to give his best as Tom Sawyer; the rush I felt when the MUSES found the poetry in “After the Gold Rush”; BAXLEY’S uncanny comic instincts; and my own daughter, IZZY, coming up to me after a Little Women rehearsal and gazing up hopefully: “Was I okay, Dad?”…
Thank you for the sublime joy of your children’s camaraderie. They have worked hard and developed craft. They have laughed and cried. They have stolen my heart. Directing them has been one of the most profoundly wonderful experiences of my life.
P.S. I recently discovered words which strike terror in my beautiful, patient, loving, wife GWEN:
“Hey honey, I have an idea for next year’s play…”
WHO SAID “STAY AWAKE”
Emily Bensinger (Chrissie)
CHRISSIE: First — stay awake. Don’t you dare fall asleep. If you snooze you definitely lose. You’ll be stuck here forever.
DAD’S VOICE: That’s it! No more television!
Justine Minette (Rat)
RAT: Aw…it’s another happy ending.
PHOEBAX AWARD WINNER
Phoebe Minette (founding awardee)
PAULA: This is already boring….Forget it, I’m not reading this…Oh Dinah, I got that all figured out. Look, what’s this Moby Dick about?: a bunch of guys in a boat looking for a white whale. Think: men with weapons…trapped in a small space…trying to kill a big monster. Hollywood makes this movie every week! I’ll stop by Blockbuster on the way home tomorrow and get the video. They’ll never know…It most certainly is not cheating — it’s… enterprising…I’m telling ya, Dinah, books are so over — that’s why they invented video.
PAULA: Oh my gosh, what’s happening?!…Dinah, I’m gonna have to call you back — I’m being sucked into a book, bye!
CHRISSIE: Dear girl, every writer has a muse.
ARETHA: The muse is a spirit who inspires the author, helps him or her to find their story.
JANIS: And put three of them together like us fine ladies — you’ve got a Pulitzer, baby.
PAULA: Well, I don’t find you very a-muse-ing.
CHRISSIE: Sweetie: the writing here is a bit better than that.
DOCTOR DOLITTLE: Hi…what seems to be the problem?
LOBSTER: There’s something wrong with my antennas…Dolittle checks the lobster’s antennae…I keep getting the Discovery Channel! Get it? Antenna? TV? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha….Oh man, I just break myself up…
DOCTOR DOLITTLE laughing thinly: Ha, ha…points to the Lobster’s stomach…Oh my gosh, what happened? Lobster looks down, Dolittle zips her hand up, into the lobster’s face. Made you look. So what’s wrong with you?
LOBSTER: Not sleeping well. I keep having these nightmares — I’m swimming, you know, in this pool of butter…
DOCTOR DOLITTLE: Oh, you poor thing…
LOBSTER: I tell ya — I wake up screaming.
TOM SAWYER: I’ll tell you what’s wrong…pulls out check stub…My first paycheck ravaged by taxes! A dollar-fifty for state taxes! Nine-and-a-quarter withholding! And just wait ’til I get find this FICA guy — four bucks! They’re taking my money to help people…I don’t even know! I tell you, I’m gonna call my congressman! Get an attorney! Oh, the humanity…!
CHARLOTTE: I think we just witnessed the birth of a Republican.
ELOISE: This is life or death — not community theatre!
PAULA: So what’re you doing sellin’ lemonade in the streets?
ELOISE: Times are tough, sweetheart. One day you’re the pixie in the penthouse, the next day you’re selling maps on Forty-second street.
DRACULA: So…two vampires walk into a bar and go…”ouch.” Pause — no laughter. Get it? They walked into the bar. Helloooooo…is there anybody out there?? You guys are killing me — again. Take my life — please.
PAULA: I’m not the type who gives up, you know? I mean it, I’m determined…I’m tenacious…I’m, I’m a Gemini. What are you?
WAITRESS: A waitress. Hands her dinner ticket. ‘Night sweetie.
DRACULA: Hey, hey…don’t cry. C’mon, it’s gonna be all right. I’ll help you.
DRACULA: Swear on my frequently-staked heart. Looks around the room secretively, then whispers. Okay. We’re not supposed to do this, but I like you. All right — you’re looking for the fifth element to a good story, right? Paula shakes her head eagerly. Okay, I can’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you where to find it.
PAULA: Where?! Where?!
DRACULA: You know that feeling you get when your Mom or Dad tucks you in bed and turns off all the lights…and then they lie down right next to you, turn on the small lamp next to the bed, and read to you, holding you in one of their arms at the same time, until you just drift off to sleep? And you have the happiest, most wonderful dreams?
PAULA: Yeah! Yeah!
DRACULA: It’s right there. Don’t tell anyone I told you. People will think I’m going soft. See ya.
PAULA: You guys sure get around.
CHRISSIE: Our attitude has latitude.
CLAIRE stands properly alongside her desk : Miss Clavel, I just wanted to speak for the class and say thank you for the great year.
MISS CLAVEL: You’re very welcome, Claire. But you should know by now that brown-nosing will not change that C-minus in History to a B. Nice try.
SHIRLENE: So what’s going on in the real world? We’ve been here since the late eighties, since, wow, when that joke George Bush was president.
PAULA: Oh man, have I got some bad news for you…
HERMOINE casting a spell with her wand: Shuttus Uppus!
The first SCTG play (although not officially the SCTG yet) was a gentle transition from the previous incarnation of the theatre group. The high-concept of a girl traveling through favorite books of literature and encountering classic/iconic characters like Tom Sawyer and Mary Poppins was a safe and friendly direction to go with the kids and audiences.
Taking over a program from two women who were as talented and they were beloved, Loanne Hamrin and Trish Boyer, was daunting. Thankfully, Trish helped us through the transition by choreographing several musical numbers which allowed a certain continuity for the actors who were suddenly faced with a brand new male director with a different approach to children’s theatre. Moreover, costumers Kelbe Bensinger and Kathleen Nolen stayed on (and have continued to stay on to this very day) which was a huge security blanket for the kids. And me. Having Kelbe and Kathleen in the dressing room – calming jittery kids, reassuring them that they look great and will be wonderful – has been one of the great emotional bedrocks of the SCTG.
The kids readily embraced the concept and characters and we were off and running. Several new key people helped establish the first initial tones of the SCTG type of play. Sandi Silbert’s brilliant set (realized by Brian Davis) was magical and lyrical. Our musical director, Elliot Douglas, was a charismatic pianist who brought an elegance and soulfulness to the musical numbers, which now ranged more into rock and popular songs as well as show tunes. Producer Randee Trabitz piquant theatrical sense – sassy and irreverent – was a perfect match for the new direction of the theatre group.
There were many magical moments in this first play – Tzara Sidley’s heartbreaking rendition of “Nothing Compares 2U”; the polite Little Women characters suddenly stripping off their dowdy long dresses to reveal hot pants and boots underneath to sing the empowering “These Boots Are Made For Walking”; Quincy Jacobs’ dynamic turn as Captain Ahab (forever engraving “arrrrr” into our memory cells); Andrea Taylor bringing down the house with a full-throttle and note-perfect “River Deep, Mountain High”; the Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn kids performing a rocking version of “Proud Mary”; Luc Unruh’s hilarious interpretation of Dracula as a bad lounge comedian; and the inauspicious SCTG debut of Ellie Bensinger as a singing moose.
There were two very key moments in the play. The opening song, “After the Gold Rush”, was admittedly a statement of tone and direction. This fragile piece of musical poetry served as the very first words and musical notes of the new theatre company. Beautifully performed by Emily Bensinger, Phoebe Minette and Kylie Thompson, this established a mood of lyricism and thoughtfulness that the theatre company continues to aspire to.
Secondly, the show stopping number of the play – the character Eloise (played by Baxley Andresen) singing “Subterranean Homesick Blues” – offered an illuminating indicator of where the SCTG was headed. Borrowing from the famous Bob Dylan video, the Eloise characters drop handwritten cards with signs and slogans in time with the music. This was a very a challenging scene to coordinate and, in fact, some parents complained that it was too difficult for their kids. Moreover, one parent told me her child was in tears because she felt the cards wouldn’t work and she would look stupid on stage. Happily, the kids persevered and this number proved to be the most popular (and enduring) of the entire show. It was only years later that I realized what a defining moment this was.
And it all started with Stay Awake! Audiences loved the show and the kids were happy. They proved that they could pull off a challenging production and developed a new confidence. Beyond the journey and the entertainment, the play established an important truth: Kids are smart. They can handle sophisticated dialogue and themes. And they like it.