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Nate the Great, depicted by illustrator Marc Simont on the cover of Marjorie Weinman Sharmat's book, comes to life April 26 on the Sheldon Theatre stage.

Boy detective gets help solving mystery

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"Nate the Great," an adventure story about a young detective who helps a friend solve a mystery, comes to the Sheldon Theatre April 26 for two school day performances, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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Some school groups will be attending, Sheldon officials said, but there are plenty of seats available to the public as well. The play, based on the book by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, is appropriate for young children age 4 and up.

Nate the Great is only a kid, but he has been just as successful as the great crime-solving detectives when it comes to finding lost things -- balloons, books, slippers, chickens. Once he even found a lost goldfish.

Nate believes that great detectives work alone, but his opinion changes when Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan and some other fictional detective heroes show up to help him solve his toughest case: helping his neighbor Annie find her missing painting.

He learns that "Unraveling mysteries is easier, and a lot more fun, with a partner -- and a big plate of pancakes," according to Theatreworks USA, a New York City-based theater company that is bringing the production to Red Wing.

The boy detective's adventures debuted in the first volume of Sharmat's "Nate the Great" book series.

In addition to being an adventure story, "Nate the Great" is also about teamwork and friendship -- including imaginary friends.

Theatreworks tells Nate's story in musical format. Nate and Annie are joined by some of the world's best-known detectives singing such tunes as "The Latest and the Greatest," "Pancake Song" and "I Can Find Anything." Nate also sings about his dilemma, "I'd Like Annie If I Liked Girls."

The lyrics and music were created for this show by Mindi Dickstein and Daniel Messe, who previously collaborated on several other Theatreworks shows including "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." The director and choreographer also presented other Theatreworks shows which have toured Red Wing in the past, including "Junie B. Jones."

"Nate the Great," which lasts about an hour, toured the New York City area in 2008 before going on a national tour that keeps the troupe on the move. The five actors and stage manager are expected to arrive early in the morning to set up scenery and make other preparations. When the performance is over, they pack it all up again and hit the road in two large vans.

Theatreworks USA is America's largest professional, not-for-profit theater for young people and family audiences. Since 1961 the company has been entertaining about 4 million people a year, including more than a dozen touring plays and musicals.

The company, which has won many honors, claims a number of famous actors, writers, designers and directors among its alumni, including Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks and actor Henry "The Fonz" Winkler. For more information, go online to www.theatreworksusa.org.

Tickets to "Nate the Great" are available at the Sheldon Theatre, 651-388-8700, or by going online to www.sheldontheatre.org. Cost is $6 for children, $14 for adults, plus fees.

If you go...

What: "Nate the Great"

Who: Theatreworks USA

When: 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. April 26

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Cost: $6 students, $14 adults, plus fees

More info: 651-388-8700 or 800-899-5759 or www.sheldontheatre.org

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