Valley Youth Theatre stages toe-tapping “Charlotte’s Web”

Valley Youth Theatre stages "Charlotte's Web, The Musical" Oct. 7-23. Photo courtesy of Valley Youth Theatre.
Valley Youth Theatre stages “Charlotte’s Web, The Musical” Oct. 7-23. Photo from a past production courtesy of Valley Youth Theatre.

Best friends with a spider? Can that be possible?

It can if the spider is a really cool creature named Charlotte. In fact, Charlotte spins a very special web while teaching a pig named Wilbur the true meaning of friendship.

Valley Youth Theatre invites everyone to pull on their boots and come on over to the Zuckerman barn to meet Charlotte, Wilbur and other fun characters in “Charlotte’s Web, The Musical,” which runs Friday-Sunday Oct. 7–23. Directed by Bobb Cooper, producing artistic director, the show is the second of VYT’s 28th season.

With music and lyrics by Broadway legend Charles Strouse and book by award-winning children’s playwright Joseph Robinette, the production is based on a beloved classic children’s book by E. B. White, published in 1952.

In this musical adaptation, Wilbur the pig sings about “Eating” in a humorous yet poignant song about growing up; he and his new companion Charlotte do a captivating duet, “Who Says We Can’t Be Friends;” and the nostalgic chorus number “Summer” evokes memories of childhood for everyone.

The talented cast includes young actors from all over the Valley, ranging in age from 7 to 18. In the title role of Charlotte is Corinne Niezgodzki, a sophomore at Horizon High School in Scottsdale. She has also appeared in VYT’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and in “Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Playing Wilbur the pig is Albert Johnston, a freshman at Arizona State University. He previously attended Millennium High School in Goodyear, and was last seen in VYT’s “Grease.” He was nominated for Best Male Lead for the ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards in 2016.

From left: Lamb (Vivian Nichols) Sheep (Taryn Landis) Wilber (Albert Johnston) Gander (Jared Barbee) and Goose (Emma Dabill) rehearse "Charlotte's Web." Photo courtesy of Valley Youth Theatre.
From left: Lamb (Vivian Nichols), Sheep (Taryn Landis), Wilber the pig (Albert Johnston), Gander (Jared Barbee) and Goose (Emma Dabill) rehearse the current production of “Charlotte’s Web, The Musical” Photo courtesy of Valley Youth Theatre.

Ella McDade, a seventh-grader at Desert Shadows Middle School in Scottsdale, is Fern Arable, the little girl who loves Wilbur. Recently seen at the Herberger Theater Center as a sea creature in VYT’s production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” Ella also played the lead in “Annie” for Homestead Playhouse and has appeared in VYT’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Narnia.”

Andy Wissink, an eighth-grader at Christ Lutheran School in Phoenix, plays the rat named Templeton, who never does anything for anybody unless there’s something in it for him. “Charlotte’s Web” is Andy’s seventh VYT production. He also played Peter in “Narnia,” Punch in “Pinocchio,” and Curley in “Peter Pan.”

Additional cast members include Jared Barbee of Goodyear (Gander), Emma Dabill of Scottsdale (Goose), Taryn Landis of Glendale (Sheep), Riley Thornton of Gilbert (Lurvy) and other talented performers in the ensemble cast of unforgettable barnyard animals.

As an added attraction, everyone who purchases a ticket to “Charlotte’s Web, The Musical” will have the opportunity to win a pair of VIP tickets to Schnepf Farms, which hosts its Pumpkin & Chili Party all month, among other attractions. A winner will be chosen at each performance.

“Charlotte’s Web” is a joyous musical teaching the importance of friendships, however unlikely, and VYT believes it offers audiences of every age a very special experience.

If you go: Oct. 7-23; 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7; 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturdays; 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sundays. Valley Youth Theatre, 525 N. First St., Phoenix. $18 plus fees. 602-253-8188 or