DOVER — To start off the new year on a happy note, the Children’s Theatre is bringing the ultimate good news story to the stage with “Pollyanna.”
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a couple years and the timing was absolutely perfect,” said director Carol Ann Harding.
“There is so much going on right now and I think a lot of us really need to look at the bright side of things and should follow Pollyanna’s example.”
Based on a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna Whittier is a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly.
Pollyanna has an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. She brings so much gladness to her aunt’s town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live.
Ms. Harding cast 10-year-old Alexia Nadel in the title role.
“Pollyanna is really positive and happy all the time, which some people think is weird. But I think I’m pretty positive most of the time too, so it’s not too much of a stretch,” she said.
After a year and a half of acting, Alexia didn’t go into auditions expecting to get the lead role.
“I didn’t even read for Pollyanna in the audition but people kept telling me I’d get the role but I didn’t have my hopes up,” she said.
“So I was really surprised when I found out I got the part.”
The 21-member cast is smaller than the Children’s Theatre’s usual cast, which sometime stretches across 40 roles.
“Small casts are great because everyone gets to know each other better than in a big cast,” said 11-year old Evie Snyder, playing town resident Mrs. Payson.
In addition to being a small cast, the actors are also young, with only two in high school and the youngest members only in third grade.
“It’s fun with the younger kids, but it can also be a little chaotic,” said 13-year-old Giovanni Harding who started acting when he was 7 after seeing his two older siblings perform.
Along with being young, many of the actors are new to the theater. Ms. Harding attributes all the newcomers to advertising the Children’s Theatre’s auditions at each of its shows.
“I think a lot of the kids that act here have been to plays before and heard there that we have upcoming auditions and others just see that there are kids their age doing this and want to try it out themselves,” she said.
“For me, it’s my first play and I auditioned because I saw a friend do it and I was curious if I could do it too,” Michaela Jean Spangler said.
“For the audition, I read for several parts and was really happy I got this one.”
Michaela’s character is one of many who is taught the lesson of looking at the bright side from Pollyanna.
“My character has a disaster — all of her hair gets cut off and she thinks it’s the worst thing ever but Pollyanna gets her to see that there’s at least one good thing about it. She’ll never be late to work because she doesn’t need to take so much time doing her hair anymore,” Michaela said.
All the actors are hard at work perfecting their roles from rehearsing their lines every day to working on accents.
“I think I have the most lines of anyone,” said Nate Barish who portrays Jimmy Bean, the narrator of the story and an orphan like Pollyanna.
“I’ve practiced every day with my family and I think I really have it down now.”
Nate has only been acting for six months after wanting to try it out for a long time.
“When I watched the movie with Hayley Mills, she had a British accent, so I thought it would be cool to do it for my performance too,” Alexia said.
“I’ve practiced a lot because I wasn’t very good at the accent when I first tried, but it’s gotten a lot better and I’m used to it by now.”
She added that speaking in an accent for the role has come with a great responsibility because she has more lines in “Pollyanna” than she’s had in any of her previous roles.
As the show approaches, everyone is getting excited.
“I’m really excited but definitely nervous too,” Nate said.
“I’m excited because I found out that I can act and people will be able to see me show my talent,” Evie said.
“Pollyanna” will be performed at the Schwartz Center, 226 S. State St. in Dover on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and available at the door or online at schwartzcenter.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.