HOULTON, Maine — Would immortality be a blessing or a curse? That was the question posed during Houlton Middle-High School’s performance of “Tuck Everlasting: the Musical.”
The stage of the Houlton Community Arts Center was transformed into the wooded forest of the fictional town of Treegap, New Hampshire, for four performances Nov. 15-18. The Friday night showing had to be postponed to Saturday evening due to a storm.
“This show was unique as it is fairly new and unknown to many, specifically in Houlton,” said director Jason Anderson. “We had no preconceived notions of how this show would be received by the public, and we didn’t have to compete with any reputation that the show had already. I think that was liberating for the kids as they could approach the theatrical presentation and development of their characters in a very personal way.”
Featuring a large combination cast of students from both the middle and high schools, the show had several performers “sharing” characters in the play, with actors swapping out roles and different people playing different parts depending on the performance.
“Once again I’m incredibly pleased with the outcome,” Anderson said. “I’ve been working hard to create an environment where my high school students are providing more direct mentoring to my middle school students, and in many cases, this mentorship is providing a great experience to students at both levels.”
“Tuck Everlasting: the Musical,” told the story of a young girl named Winnie Foster, played by Ellie Grant and Grace Kafferlin, who meets a young boy named “Tuck” (Sydney Peabody) while exploring a wooded area. Winnie, who wishes for a life beyond her small home, learns that the Tuck family has lived for over 100 years and cannot die.
Jonathan Smith gave a rousing performance as the “Man in the Yellow Suit,” an immoral person who wishes to exploit the Tuck’s fountain of youth for personal profit. Jack Hodgkins, in his first theatrical appearance, was a scene stealer throughout the show for his comedic performance of “Constable Joe,” the local police officer tasked with finding Winnie after she goes missing.
Other cast members included Mia Findlater and Isabel Cyr as Mother; Mariah Peterson and Natalie Delucca as Nana; Emmalyne Drake as Miles Tuck; Tessa Solomon as Mae Tuck; Christian Lively as Angus Tuck; and Nicholas Hardy as Hugo.
The ensemble cast included Hannah Duchesneau, McKenna Phillips, Lydia Byron, Arianna Ardell, Amelia Callnan, Katilyn Kenney, Mallorie Woodie, Lucy Hebert, Helen Hebert, Elizabeth Howe, Hailey Suitter, Avalon Williams, Mimi Weston, Jordan Fitzpatrick, Kristian Kellerhals, Alexandria Craig, Jasmin Trecartin, Rider Austin, Gabrielle Duchesneau, Mataya Pinette and Lindsey Bartman.
Anderson said the themes of the show were a great topic of conversation during rehearsals.
“We took a lot of time in rehearsals discussing the overarching themes of this show — is eternal life a blessing or a curse? — and the concept of greed and obsession driving action (in the case of the Man in the Yellow Suit), loneliness and how people cope with loss and the feeling of being alone, as well as others,” Anderson said. “I think the kids developed some really impressive insights into these themes. Our conversations were really deep and meaningful. They impacted me as the director and caused me to think differently when it came to blocking (choreographing) some scenes in the show. Allowing the kids to take real ownership over their character’s emotions and actions made this production as impactful as it was. I’m really proud of them for that.”
Editor’s note: Houlton Pioneer Times reporter Joseph Cyr’s daughter was in the cast of “Tuck Everlasting: the Musical.”