Published Sunday, December 09, 2012

Christmas shows at NTC: 'Madeline,' 'Pooh' sure to delight

By JOAN DOGGRELL

Special to The Newnan Times-Herald

Newnan Theatre Company’s 2012 Christmas season continues next weekend with two heartwarming plays for children.

The double feature children’s show includes “Madeline’s Christmas,” adapted from the delightful children’s story by Ludwig Bemelmans, and “A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail,” based on the stories by A.A. Milne with the script, music and lyrics by James W. Rodgers.

The two-act children’s show on the main stage will continue today at 3 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m.

Prior to Saturday’s show, Santa Claus will join Madeline, Winnie-the-Pooh and some of their best friends for a special Christmas tea with songs, games, holiday goodies, and pictures. Tea with Santa, beginning at 9:15 a.m., is $15, or for $25 you can enjoy the tea and see the 11 a.m. show following.

Laura Pratesi, directing “Madeline’s Christmas,” is well known for her starring roles in NTC productions such as “Cinderella,” “Epic Proportions” and “And Then There Were None.”

“This is my directorial debut,” said Pratesi. “I’ve done lots of other things at the theater: stage managing, lights, etc., but this is the first time I’ve been in charge. I feel the weight of the responsibility!”

“Madeline’s Christmas” takes place in an old house in Paris where 12 little girls attend boarding school. The girls want to go home for Christmas, but they’ve all caught the flu because they forgot to wear their scarves, which they’d washed, all except for Madeline. She forgot to wash her scarf – it was dirty but she wore it anyway – and consequently didn’t get sick.

“Madeline is full of gumption and bravery. She’s the smallest of the 12 little girls, but she becomes the leader of the pack,” said Pratesi.

“There’s a magical surprise at the end that gives them a way to fulfill their Christmas wishes. You’ll have to see the show to find out what it is,” Pratesi added.

The title role of Madeline has been cast with two local actresses. Megan Jackson and Molly McIntyre play the role in different performances.

“I have a really amazing cast of girls. They are so talented – any one of them could have been Madeline,” said Pratesi. “They have a wide range of experience – one of was a character in ‘The Hunger Games.’ Several have worked with professional theaters in the area, such as the Fox. People came from all over.”

“The book never goes into detail about the personalities of the other little girls, but the performers have done their research and found a personality for each child. So you don’t just see ‘12 little girls in two straight lines.’ You see individuals who just happen to be at this boarding school and have become friends growing up together,” added Pratesi.

Dave Dorrell, NTC’s managing director, is playing Harsha the rug merchant and magician, Allison Rohan, who was in “Seussical,” has the role of Miss Clavell, and Melinda Copeland is playing Mrs. Murphy, the school cook.

Robbie Kirkland is the musical director. He leads the NITWITS and has starred in several NTC productions.

Choreographer Brooke Trahan has performed in “Seussical,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” and “Cinderella.”

“She is a high student who volunteered to do the choreography,” said Pratesi. “She has had a lot of dance training, but being choreographer is a first for her, and I think she’s done a really good job.”

Kristi Rapson, a member of NTC’s board of directors, is directing “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail.”

“We have a wonderful cast of young adults: Sarah Demelow as Winnie-the-Pooh, Casey Bunce as Christopher Robin, Sydney Willard as Rabbit, Katy McGloughlin as Piglet, Jessica Pearson as both Eeyore and Tigger, and Sarah Beth Rapson as Owl and Kanga,” said Rapson.

Rapson has been directing shows since high school. As the drama director at the Dogwood Church in Tyrone, she writes sketches for the drama team based on sermon topics as well as scripts for videos, directing and acting as well.

“But this is the very first time I’ve ever directed a musical. Thankfully it’s a one-act! It’s been nice to have a new challenge.”

Christopher Robin tells a story about Eeyore, the old gray donkey who lives by himself in the thistle corner of Hundred-Acre Wood. He is miserable because he has lost his tail, and everyone, including Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, is trying to help their friend.

“We are not going with the Disney version of the production,” said Rapson. “We’ve gone back to the essence of A.A. Milne’s classic Christmas story, so the look of the show is going to be more along the lines of the classic pictures in the Milne books, a more rustic look than the shiny, bedazzled Disney styling. It’s going to be really sweet. At the core of it, our inspiration is Christopher Robin’s imagination. He’s playing with his stuffed animals in the woods and imagining stories where they come to life. It’s really a cute show.”

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