Most spiders could hardly be called winsome. Charlotte is not only winsome, she’s wise—and as the play “Charlotte’s Web” unfolds, she proves what true friendship is all about.
“Charlotte’s Web,” a YouthWorks production of Theater Works, opens Friday, March 4 and runs through Sunday, March 20. Suitable for ages 5 and up, the play is based on the classic children’s book by E. B. White and has been adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette, working with the advice of the author. It is produced by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing of Woodstock, Ill.
Directing a cast of 23 is Chris Hamby, director of education and outreach for Theater Works. This season, he also directed “The Secret Garden” for YouthWorks. Past productions include “A Year With Frog and Toad,” “The Tales from the Arabian Nights” and “Avenue Q: School Edition.”
Hamby says his reasons for selecting “Charlotte’s Web” and deciding to direct it himself were many. “I felt it important to offer a season that shared and showcased the commonality of storytelling with stagecraft,” says Hamby. “Our entire season is based on great stories—some classic tales tried and true and some brand new. I also really wanted a theater piece that I could use to elevate some of the younger actors we see in our programs at Theater Works.”
He notes that a lot of youth involved in Theater Works’ many programs are taking the right steps, such as auditioning and taking workshops and classes; yet they’re not always the right fit for the more dramatic stage pieces or the big musicals Theater Works produces. He says “Charlotte’s Web” is the perfect vehicle to move these actors into the spotlight and give them the direct experience they’ve been craving.
While Hamby admits that working with actors who don’t have much stage experience can require more teaching, he believes that the payoff is well worth it. “These performers are the future of our programs. I have a feeling we will see them land even bigger and better roles in the future. So much growth is happening every day—and I cannot wait for them to share what they are creating with a [live] audience on opening night.”
Cast of “Charlotte’s Web”
No stranger to Theater Works, 11-year-old Josh Pike is Wilbur, a lovable piglet in serious danger of becoming bacon. The homeschooled sixth-grader has previously taken on a total of 11 Theater Works roles, including Mowgli in “The Jungle Book,” a child with big dreams in “The Quiltmaker’s Gift,” Winthrop in “The Music Man,” the boy in “The Velveteen Rabbit” and Charlie Bucket in “Willie Wonka, Jr.”
Alexa Pedersen plays Charlotte, a most unusual spider who campaigns to save Wilbur. “Charlotte’s Web” will be the second YouthWorks production for the 13-year-old Highland Lakes School eighth-grader. The first was her role as a wolf in “The Jungle Book.” She also played Mayzie in “Seussical the Musical Jr.” for a YouthWorks summer camp and John Darling in Disney’s “Peter Pan Jr.” for Theater Works’ Kids Alive program. Other roles include Lumiere in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast Jr.,” Wolf in “The Jungle Book” and Gabriella in Disney’s “High School Musical Jr.”
Tabitha Horney, 13, plays Fern Arable, a young girl who loves animals and wants to save Wilbur. The homeschooled seventh-grader has been in such productions as “Narnia, the Musical” and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at Spotlight Youth Theatre and “The King and I” for Theater Works.
As “Charlotte’s Web” shows, friends come in all shapes and sizes—some large, some small, some human, some not. Theater Works invites you to come and watch this heartwarming tale as Wilbur’s friends—including Fern Arable, Charlotte and assorted barn animals—embark on a mission to save Wilbur from a terrible fate.
What you need to know
- Times/dates: 7pm Thurs March 10 & 17, 7pm Fri March 4, 11 & 18, 7 pm Sat March 5 & 19, 2:30pm Sun March 6, 13 & 20. No performance on Saturday, March 12, which is the date of Theater Works’ annual gala fundraising event.
- Cost: $14 plus $1 ticket fee
- Location: McMillin Theater, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, 8355 W Peoria Ave, Peoria
- Contact: 623-815-7930 or theaterworks.org
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