Summer theater campers present delightful romp at BPA
By BRIAN KELLY
Bainbridge Island Review Editor
July 27, 2012 · 11:34 AM
Take a little advice from Edwina.
This is a can’t-miss show.
A dazzling and delightful cast from the Bainbridge Performing Arts’ Theatre School summer camp takes the stage this weekend to present “Dear Edwina Junior.”
The musical, from Zina Goldrich (music) and Marcy Heisler (book and lyrics), is a show-within-a-show that features advice-giver extraordinaire Edwina Spoonapple, a 13-year-old who would do just about anything to be a part of the Kalamazoo Advice-a-palooza Festival.
The show is the culmination of the BPA Theatre School’s three-week production camp, and stars a cast of mostly third- through ninth-graders.
Victoria Whitlow, the show’s director and the education director at BPA, said it’s a heartwarming tale that she’s been anxious to bring to the stage for some time.
Whitlow, who has been in performing arts education for nearly 15 years and taught at The 5th Avenue Theatre and Broadway Bound Children’s Theatre before coming to Bainbridge, recalled how the show came highly recommended.
“I was directing in California, and my group of students there kept saying, ‘When do we get to do ‘Dear Edwina’ again?’ ‘Have you heard of ‘Dear Edwina’?’”
She hadn’t, so soon decided she needed to investigate.
“Just their enthusiasm for the show, as a teacher and a director, made me have to know what it was about,” she said.
“Ever since I saw a heartwarming musical that has 30-plus fun-loving, great, funny characters — how often do you find that in a show? — I said I have to do the show.
“And I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to do that. And when I joined the staff here this past year and I met these students, I said, ‘This is the time, the time is now,’” Whitlow said.
The story and songs will appeal to an all-ages audience, she added.
“The music is really good; it’s sophisticated and memorable, and the script is light and funny but very honest and true to life.
“And there’s some very relatable moments in there, that even as directors, they sneak up on us and we start laughing or crying just because it’s so relatable,” Whitlow said.
The production features an enthusiastic cast with many veteran performers.
Delaney Wiggins, 11, plays Kelly.
“She’s a ballerina, and she also has a lemonade stand that she’s really into,” Delaney explained.
Delaney is a seasoned young actor; she was Sally in “Charlie Brown,” Miranda in “Tempest,” and Veruca Salt, the spoiled English girl in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” and Glenda the Good Witch in “Jack Pumpkinhead.”
Learning some of the jazz steps has been difficult, but the acting camp has been great fun, she said.
“I met a lot of new friends and I’ve really enjoyed the teachers, because they are so nice and supportive,” Delaney said. “It’s just been a really fun experience,” she said.
Delaney said “Dear Edwina Junior” was new to her, too.
“I never heard of it before and I wasn’t too sure about it, but then when tech started going through it, I really liked it,” she said.
“I really like the story, and the play overall,” agreed Mollie Alpaugh, 12. “It’s really great for all ages; adults, younger kids, kind of in-between, and all the dance numbers are really fun to do.”
Mollie plays Becky the cheerleader, a part she has down pat.
“Before I go on stage, I kind of think I have to be super peppy and cheery and I have to use my whole body, because, you know, cheerleaders aren’t using only their voice; they are using their arms and their legs. I really have to get in with being a really fun, happy cheerleader.”
Mollie has previously been in two main stage plays, but this is her sixth show overall. She’s starred in “The Philadelphia Story,” “The Outsiders,” “101 Dalmatians” and “The Haunting at Black Rock.”
She got the acting bug in fourth grade, when she was cast in the title role in “Tommy Turkey.”
“I thought it was really fun and I wanted to keep acting,” she said.
The actors have been working for three weeks on the show, five days a week.
The toughest part, according to Mollie: the dancing.
“I am not a dancer,” she said.
“I think it’s coming together really well,” Mollie added. “There’s so many musical numbers that I’m surprised that we got all this together in time. Everyone knows their lines really well, and everyone knows the dance steps and the songs.”
The lead role of Edwina is being played by Tessa Longley, 11, and Chloe Lesh, 12.
“The role of Edwina is pretty big, kind of overwhelming,” Chloe said.
Sharing the part means Chloe will play Edwina for two of the four planned shows, with Tessa taking the stage for the other two.
When they are not in the title role, they will step into another part they both play in the chorus.
The pair have been diligently practicing their lines this week, in preparation for opening night Thursday.
Tessa said her dad has been a big help, while Chloe has turned to her older sister Mila for assistance.
“She has nothing better to do,” Chloe laughed.
The show also stars Mia Alpaugh, Anna Banyas, Madison Barrett, Julia Batson, Samantha Batson, Lucien Caro, Libby Clements Hall, Abigail Curtis, Sophie Eldridge, Ben Eldridge, Ian Eller, Isabella Faget, Claire Friers, Emma Gace, Grantham Gace, Margaret Hayes, Kalea Levy, Cayley Mead, Zachary Norberg, Camille Townsend, Freeman Tuohy, Natasha Visnack, Margo Walters, Elise Walters, Carter Wolff and Katherine Yoson.
“They are amazing,” Whitlow said. “They’ve impressed all of us with their level of professionalism and just their dedication to this show.”
“I think a lot of it is because of the themes that we find within the show; they are actually about friendship and supporting each other and giving advice. And so that has been a through-line throughout our curriculum as well,” she added. “The teamwork has been amazing.”
7 p.m. Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28. There is also a 2 p.m. show on Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, students, youth, military and teachers, and can be purchased online at www.bainbridgeperform
ingarts.org, by phone at 206-842-8569 or in person at BPA, 200 Madison Ave. North.Contact Bainbridge Island Review Editor Brian Kelly at email@example.com or 1-206-842-6613.