Huge cast assembled for 'Babes in Toyland'A cast of nearly 80 actors — men, women, teenagers, boys and girls of all ages — has been assembled to appear in “Babes in Toyland,” a musical extravaganza to be performed Dec. 6-9 at the Sheldon Theatre.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
A cast of nearly 80 actors — men, women, teenagers, boys and girls of all ages — has been assembled to appear in “Babes in Toyland,” a musical extravaganza to be performed Dec. 6-9 at the Sheldon Theatre.
Jerry Lacroix is directing Phoenix Theatre’s annual holiday production — his first musical, although he previously directed shows while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, in Ellsworth and in Grand Rapids, Minn.
Lacroix, from Bay City, has been involved with Phoenix as a set designer/builder and as an actor during the past four years, including the role of Scrooge. He chose “Babes in Toyland” for a couple of reasons.
“I knew it would be a challenge,” he said, adding “I wanted to do a show that would really involve a lot of people.”
He got his wish with “Babes,” a story filled with Mother Goose characters, toy soldiers, living toys and a stage full of singers and dancers.
Though he’s never before worked with such a large group of kids, Lacroix is having fun with them.
“They’ve been just delightful,” he said, noting that the cast includes several mother-and-child groups.
“Babes in Toyland” made its debut in 1903 at New York’s Majestic Theatre. It has been made into a movie a few times, but none of those versions truly resembles the original created by Victor Herbert and Glen MacDonough, he said.
Laurel and Hardy put their spin on the story in 1934, Disney cast Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands in the lead roles in 1961, and
Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves starred in a made-for-TV version in 1986.
The original operetta, which is the version being performed at the Sheldon, tells the story of orphans Alan and Jane (played by Alec Pflueger and Chelsea Indrehus).
They are wards of wicked Uncle Barnaby (Mark Sandstrom), who wants to steal their fortune and arranges for them to be shipwrecked.
However, they are rescued by gypsies and returned to Mary Contrary’s (Susan Kinyon) garden. But Mary has learned that Barnaby wants to marry her and, believing that her beloved Alan is dead, she runs away with her brother, Tom-Tom the Piper’s son (Jessie Stewart).
The four young people find each other in Toyland, which is ruled by the Master Toymaker (Steve Jorstad), an evil genius who plots with Barnaby to create toys that kill and maim.
Although justice comes to the evil characters, Lacroix said the production is “not too scary.” It’s filled with music and dance, including a few songs people will find familiar, among them “Toyland.”
Cast in other key roles are: Sara McCormack Hoffman as the Widow Piper, Caleb Overlander and Dan Dickerson as ruffians Gonzorgo and Roderigo, Sarah Gorski as Jill Piper, Foster Johnson as Grumio and Kevin Funk as Inspector Marmaduke.
Cast in supporting roles: MaryAnn Valentine as Hilda; Megan Bowen as Simple Simon; Kate Gadient as Peter, Molly Cyr as Tommy Tucker; Eli Anderson as Jack; Elicia Stensrud as Boy Blue, Rhett Waller as Bobby Shaftoe; Emma Reese as Bo Peep; Calli Hughes as Miss Muffet; Belen Benway as Sally Waters; Lexi Christianson as Curly Locks; Elyce Jaeger as Red Riding Hood; Leanne Overlander as the Queen.
Also, Eva Anderson and Gracie Hill as the girls; Michelle Waller, Therese Luther-Dolan, Darcy Gunhus and Stacey Anderson as the widows, and Ben Gunhus as the workman.
Students at Shoreline Dance are working with the 12 Toy Soldiers on their numbers: Ella Bettich, Madisyn Ryan, Hailee Jones, Shana McClelland, Rylie Jones, Gracie Bettich, Libertie Ryan, Bryce Hammerschmidt, Ariana Stensrud, Ella Sutherland, Caitlyn Faust and Anna Pritchard.
The Living Toys are: Rebeccca Alpers, Ally Hadler, Hannah Coyle, Ashleigh Overlander, Haley Pritchard and Willa Nagel.
Members of the chorus are: Eva Anderson, Gracie Hill, Michelle Waller, Therese Luther-Dolan, Darcy Gunhus, Stacey Anderson, Leanne Overlander, Julie Birk-Betcher, C Jay Rasmussen, Kira Dickinson, Ben Gunhus, Ashlyn Daly and Amanda Williams.
The Youth Choir includes: McKayla Wilson, Rhondalynn Bartlett, Lexie Christiansen, Trianna Eubank, Madeline Sutherland, Claire Baker, Samantha Nordquist, Destiny Chavez, Ashley Blue, Lexi Richli, Madeline Ahern, Krista Larson, Chloe Struss, Jessica Frechette, Hallie Roschen and Bailie Roschen.
“I think that I’ve assembled a real dream team” for the production, Lacroix said. Bill Foot is directing the pit orchestra, and Dawn Conroy-Pretto is vocal director. Choreographer is a newcomer, Tamara O’Brien, a classically trained dancer.
Costumes for the storybook characters are being provided by Karen Boek and Dace Miller, and Tori Miller is stage manager. Other helpers are: Heather Finholm on set, Sean Dowse on makeup, Randy McLaughlin on sound, Lucas Phillips on lighting, Sherry Allen on props, and Min Martin-Oakes and Marcy Watzl on promotion.
Tickets to “Babes in Toyland” are available now at $22.50 for adults, $14.50 for students. Stop at the Sheldon, 443 W. Third St.; call 651-388-8700 or 800-899-5759, or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.