Monday, March 7, 2022


by Ruth Ross

In March 2020, like so many community, regional and professional theaters, the Chatham Community Players closed its doors while rehearsing their upcoming production, Tuck Everlasting.

Yet, even though, the Chatham Playhouse was dark, the intrepid actors and production staff never lost hope that the curtain would rise on this show.

Well, that loyalty was well placed as, on Friday, March 4, 2022, Conductor Lois Buesser tapped her baton, the 7-piece ensemble struck up a sprightly tune, and a fetching group of dancers twirled around the stage (above, left) to open this charming piece of musical theater.

Adapted from Natalie Babbitt’s children’s book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle, Tuck Everlasting tells the story of the Tuck family who drink water from a magical spring and become immortal. When they encounter Winnie Foster, a young girl who lives in their rural New England town of Treetop, NJ, she becomes friends with one of the sons, Jesse, who soon offers her the secret to everlasting life. She then must decide whether to join her new friends in immortality or live out her normal life as a mortal, eventually to die.

Jeffrey Fiorello’s inspired direction moves the large ensemble of 13 dancer/singers around the playhouse’s modest acting space and elicits marvelous performances from the 10-actor cast.

Grace Lustig portrays the adorable, self-proclaimed “good girl” Winnie Foster with aplomb; 
she’s spelled by Jayden Declet at other performances. She seems very comfortable onstage and is convincing as a young girl on the cusp of puberty, who runs away from her repressive/depressive widowed mother Betsy (Susie Paplow) and her indulgent Nana (Pat Powers Wry) because they won’t let her attend the fair that’s just come to town. She’s matched by Corey Chichizola (right) as Jesse Tuck, who’s really 104 years old but says he’s 17; he, too, conveys the earnest impulsiveness of a teenager smitten by a young girl and willing to spill the beans on the secret he and his family have been living and hiding for almost a century. Both these young actors have excellent voices and dance very well.

By telling Winnie the secret, Jesse incurs the wrath of his parents. Sky Spiegel Monroe (left) is absolutely incandescent as Tuck matriarch Mae—anxious to see her two grown sons after a 10-year absence and bowled over by Winnie’s arrival at their hidden house as a woman she can relate to after living in a male-dominated house for 87 years! She really shines in recounting the day she and Angus were married (“My Most Beautiful Day”), so almost feel like guests at the wedding! Jeffrey Fiorello’s patriarch Angus is more of a cypher. He doesn’t appear to do anything other than sleep and fish, along with yearning to be a normal mortal, even if it means dying! Rounding out the Tuck family is older son Miles, played with a haunted darkness by Matt Robert; he breaks our hearts recounting how he hasn’t seen his son Thomas in 80 years (“Time”) when his wife took the child and left the enchanted woods.

Nearly stealing the entire show from these talented actors is Sean Lynch-Littlejohn (right) as the Man in the Yellow Suit, an “evil banana” of a villain. This long drink of water slides and slithers around the stage like a serpent as he attempts to learn the secret of immortality and secure the magic spring for himself. He’s so deliciously wicked! Never fear, however, that justice will not prevail. It’s up to the officiously official Constable Joe (a terrific David Simon) and his eager beaver doofus of a deputy Hugo (a very amusing Zachary Mazouat, both below left) to come to the rescue and set things right.

Armed with the vial of magic water Jesse has given her to drink when she turns 17, Winnie is forced to make a decision: to drink it and join Jesse and the Tucks or live a normal, mortal life. Well, you’ll just have to see the play to find out.

As always, the Chatham Community Players’ production values are top-notch. The musical ensemble never overpowers the actors as they sing the music by Chris Miller and lyrics by Nathan Tysen. The large ensemble and cast execute Amy Calzone’s intricate dances blending court formality with folk dance without bumping into one another. Joe DeVico’s sound design and Mark Reilly’s lighting design are appropriate to the various venues: woods, fair, town. And Fran Harrison’s costumes telegraph the time, place and character very well. That the actions occur on a set designed by Ray Pancirov and executed by scenic design artist Gordon Weiner makes for an all-around Grade A+ production!

Tuck Everlasting is a marvelous paean to the magic of theater to transport us away from the news of masks, vaccines and war, if even for two and a half hours. Grab the kids and get on over to the Chatham Playhouse, 23 N. Passaic Ave., Chatham, before the show closes on March 12!

Tuck Everlasting will be performed March 11 and 12 at 8 PM, and March 12 at 3 PM. For information and tickets, call 973-635-7363 or visit online.