Oddfellows Playhouse Junior Repertory Company presents the mainstage production, Middletown Fantasia. Dic Wheeler directs a cast of 40 youngsters, ages 9-14, in this wacky musical, spiced with whimsical dialogue and jokes that incorporate references to local stores and restaurants, historical figures, and surrounding towns. A 5-piece pit band, under the direction of Dominick Grant, provides live music for the 10 original songs; Carolyn Kirsch has choreographed the dances. The show previews on March 10 with additional performances on March 11, 12, 13, 18 and 19.        

First presented in 1975 and written by Oddfellows co-founder Nat Needle, Middletown Fantasia is a Playhouse classic, a hilarious, irreverent, vaudeville history of Middletown from the original Native American residents to the triumph of fast food. The play was originally written to commemorate the 100th birthday of Middletown ’s Russell Library, and coincidentally the 325th anniversary of the city’s founding by Sir Adrian Block. This new production, with an updated script and score by Nat Needle, marks Oddfellows’ 30th birthday.

The play, an absolutely silly satire, is essentially an economic travelogue, a microcosm of the delightful diversity and painful problems of American culture. Act One documents the arrival of explorer Adrian Block to the home of the peaceful Manicotti tribe, led by Chief Sowheag. Block and his mutinous crew of Vitamin-C fanatics proceed to trick the natives out of their land and convert them from a social economy with no “private property” to the Wampum system. Act Two reveals the result of three centuries of Wampum economics on Middletown . The city is engaged in a competitive struggle between Middletown ’s pizza shop owners, under the leadership of Mama Mozzarella, and the invading hamburger shops owned by corporate giant Cyrano de Burgerac. The future seems saved by the power of young love between Mama Mozzarella’s son, Tommato, and Burgerac’s daughter, Lettucia—but there is a surprise twist at the end.

To complement Middletown Fantasia’s improbable history of Middletown , Oddfellows is collaborating with the Middlesex County Historical Society. Each spring the Historical Society presents a “Scandals” walking tour of downtown sites featuring stories of individuals and events that didn’t necessarily make the history books but were a lively part of the city’s development. The updated script of Middletown Fantasia includes cryptic references to some of the scandals to be highlighted on the Historical Society’s 2005 tour.

Special support for this production comes from the Middlesex County Community Foundation and the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism; support for the Playhouse’s 2004-05 season comes from the CT State Department of Education, the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism, the Middletown Foundation for the Arts, and Pratt & Whitney—Middletown.

Middletown Fantasia previews at Oddfellows Playhouse at 128 Washington Street in Middletown on Thursday, March 10 at 7 pm , with a “can-can” performance (pay-what-you-can and bring a can for the Amazing Grace food pantry). Additional performances are on March 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 pm and matinees on March 13 at 4 pm and March 19 at 2 pm. Tickets are $10 adults and $7 students and seniors; all matinee tickets are $6. For more information or to reserve tickets, call (860) 347-6143.



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