“If I can fool a bug, I can certainly fool a man,” said the spider. Just as Mija is determined to save her pig from a slaughterhouse death in the new movie “Okja,” Charlotte the spider is resolute to save Wilbur, the Zuckerman pig, also from becoming a ham.
By writing words in her web over Wilbur’s stall in the barn, “Charlotte’s Web” draws attention to Wilbur and makes him the talk of the county. Though my favorite line in the show is Edith Zuckerman’s after her husband says: “‘A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.'' Mrs. Zuckerman does not agree. “‘…It seems to me you're a little off,’ she says. “It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.’” I agree, Charlotte is one smart spider, and proves to be a loyal friend, too.
E.B. White’s book has captivated children for generations with its message about the power of friendship, and how to deal with loss. The story is rich with quirky animal characters and the premise that they chat and live a life similar to ours, which is a fantasy Fern Arable and every child has imagined. Fern, Wilbur’s original owner and niece to Homer Zuckerman who now houses the pig, is the only one who can hear the farm animals converse in the barn; and luckily we can too!
The Cape Cod Theater Company’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” written by White and adapted by Joseph Robinette is delightful, and will more than satisfy those who love the tale and convert those who haven’t found it yet. Director Rob Zapple and choreographer Michele Zapple have been here before; Charlotte’s Web is the husband and wife team’s 34th production at CCTC, home of the Harwich Junior Theatre. This show has all the earmarks of a Zapple production: terrific acting, adorable child actors, hand-clapping dancing and a fabulous set.
The cast of 24 is packed with engaging stage veterans and promising new stars. The young actors playing Fern (Gracie O’Leary) and Wilbur (Julian Morris) have an appealing chemistry and perform their lynchpin roles with confidence. Deanna Dziedzina masters the fluid moves of a spider as she voices Charlotte’s wisdom in a cleverly constructed costume that exemplifies a female arachnid. Her portrayal helped me recalled how meeting Charlotte in White’s pages changed my views on spiders forever.
A trio of narrators (Sarah Kelly, Lexy Hatch and Garry Mitchell) inventively introduce the production’s scene changes so even the youngest audience member can follow along. We loved the bird calls especially, and Mitchell’s turn as Uncle the Pig was also tremendous.
Ed Coppola and Jillian Annessi as John and Martha Arable have their hands full raising Fern and her precocious brother Avery, played by Jameson Zapple. David Wallace bellows with style as Homer Zuckerman and Dianne Wadsworth as Edith Zuckerman delivers some of the script’s funniest lines with a humorous deadpan flair.
In the barn, even the most curmudgeonly audience member will chuckle at the Goose (Lily Pierce) and the Gander (Trenton Hatch) as they say everything in triplicate, the Sheep (Alice Murphy) and the Lamb (Angelina Manchuk) who “baaaa” their lines, and the cranky utterings of Templeton the Rat (Jarrett Strzepek). The charm meter goes off the charts when the goslings and the little spiders (Emily Carr, Larsen Wake and Nicky Ricard) are on the stage. You could hear a unanimous “ahhh” from the audience on opening day. Lurvy (Pete Campbell) and the fairgoers/spectators (Maya Vernazza, Nicholas Allegreto and Ella Adamsons) delightfully dance their way throughout the show and add a magnificent layer to the production.
James P. Byrne’s set and lighting design suggests the web and the web’s words impressively in the multifaceted barn setting and again at the county fair. Credit also to Will Hopper (projection design) and harpist Mairead Doherty for this theater magic. The Milkey ladies (Diana and Karen) continue the magic with the cleverly designed costumes along with Grace Fernandes’s superb make-up design (especially the geese!). Tech director Matthew Kohler and J Hagenbuckle both contributed to the sound design. Designers design and then all these folks make it work: Hannah McLaughlin (production stage manager and light board), Fiona Pina Parker (sound operator) and stage crew Rachel Simmons and Shiloh Pabst.
This theater with a “Terrific” and “Radiant” history is obviously proud to present a story that showcases the timeless significance of the circle of life. It is indeed “Some Theatre!” just as Wilbur is “Some Pig!” Go see why. It’s close to two hours long with a 15-minute intermission, but be sure to add some extra time to your outing by staying after the show to meet the cast in costume who will sign your program and pose for pictures.
At the Cape Cod Theater Company, Home of the Harwich Junior Theatre
Through Aug. 6; Tuesdays to Thursdays at 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Information and reservations: 508-432-2002 ext. 2, www.capecodtheatrecompany.org