Panhandle Community Theatre (PCT) has been on a roll lately. Two months ago the local theatre group brought to the stage the “Vaudeville at the Imogene” show to sold-out audiences. Last February, the response for the play “Steel Magnolias” was so tremendous that a lengthy waiting list was instituted.
Either PCT selects the perfect scripts, opts for paramount directors, or has a crystal ball concerning stellar cast members.
This makes their latest installment such an interesting endeavor. The comedy-drama “A Little Princess” opens Dec. 7 at PCT’s studio theatre on Woodbine Road in Pace. Six shows are offered and if history repeats itself, perhaps this show should achieve the same outcome.
“PCT continues to produce quality productions for the community,” said director Lauren Sutton. “My hope is that the audience will be intrigued to explore the works of this classic story.”
This production is not a Christmas play, nor is it even a holiday-themed show. However, it is a sweet story written by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1905 as a children’s book set during the Victorian-era. The show’s costumes and set are inclined to complement the well-written script.
The story revolves around a little girl named Sara Crew, who is rich and pampered yet intelligent, polite and creative. Her wealthy father enrolls her into Miss Minchin’s fancy boarding school for girls, which he recognizes will teach her the proper fashions of life among the privileged. The two are very close. Sara fits right in and befriends the odd and misunderstood at the school. Sadly, word comes that her father has met his demise and in the process lost his grand fortune. Suddenly, his now-orphaned daughter is left a pauper and at the mercy of the overbearing and non-nurturing Miss Minchin.
“Even her own sister is afraid to stand up to her,” explained Katherine Moore, who plays Miss Minchin’s timid sister Amelia. “Miss Minchin can be very harsh and stern. Amelia is more likely to be kind to the children when her sister is not around.”
The storyline begs several questions, such as will Sara now become a street beggar? Will Miss Minchin throw her out or keep her under her roof as a servant? Perhaps Sara isn’t really destitute and does indeed have a fortune to inherit? How does a sweet, considerate, wealthy aristocrat deal with subservient conditions and lifestyle?
Only three adults are included in the 12-member ensemble cast. The others are children or teen-agers and occupy a wide-array of talent and experience.
“Juggling schedules of so many busy children is a challenge in itself,” Sutton related. “And getting the vision that is in my head into something that (the children) can see has been an obstacle as well.”
Playing the lead character is Zoe Strahan. “Even though Sara is rich, she is still a nice, kind person,” Strahan said. “We, as young actors, can be a handful. But, we all pulled together and hopefully made a great show.”
“Zoe is exactly what Sara Crew should be like,” exclaimed Sutton. “That character has to appear innocent, but also instill imagination, a daring nature, and project a sweetness the audience can fall in love with.”
Other characters are intertwined into the storyline such as spoiled and bratty fellow boarding school students Jessie and Lavinia, played by Hannah Westrick and Gabbi Reese, respectively. Another stage gem is Robin Tillery, an experienced actor who seizes the audience as the semi-psychotic Miss Minchin. Tillery’s lines are crisp in aggression, but lure the audience into the school marm’s method of over-pleasant behavior towards wealthy clients.
“A Little Princess” was made into a movie in 1939 starring Shirley Temple and then remade in 1995. It was also developed into a musical which debuted in 2002. The book has been named to the "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" by the National Education Association.
Other cast members include Joshua Simmons, Perri Fortune, Hannah Krupa, Evangeline Moore, Baleigh Perritt, Barry Shuck and Elijah Watson. The assistant director is Nancy Sabol, Dean Emerson heads lighting/sound, with David Cook set director and Sylvia Love head costumer.
“What the audience should get out of this play, is that even in your darkest moment, a positive outlook can make all the difference,” concluded Moore.
‘A LITTLE PRINCESS’
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, December 7-9, 14-16
WHERE: Panhandle Community Theatre, 4646 Woodbine Rd., Pace
DETAILS: 850-221-7599 or email firstname.lastname@example.org