Review

Bridge to Terabithia
by Christian Youth Theater

Tyler Ulrich and Heather BanksKatherine Patersonís Bridge to Terabithia became an instant classic of childrenís literature Ė a story about friendship and imagination. And about death. The beautiful and powerful story focuses on Jesse Aaron and Leslie Burke. Jesse isnít the most popular kid in school, nurturing a secret love for art, and taking pride in being the fastest kid in school. In comes Leslie, an awkward newcomer whose artsy parents donít have a television, and who beats Jesse and all the other boys in a footrace. The two misfits find friendship and magic as they create their own world of Terabithia in amongst the woods across a creek, with a magical swinging rope the only way to enter the kingdom.

Christian Youth Theater adapted the story into a jukebox musical using popular songs from the 1970s, when the book was written. The kids learn how to sing thanks to their fun, artsy, hippy teacher Miss Edmunds (Briele Feria), with Briele leading the cast in Free To Be You and Me, Ainít No Mountain High Enough, and Sing. Other hits include Both Sides Now, Fire and Rain, and Do You Believe in Magic?.

Leading the way are two thirteen-year-old actors Ė Tyler Ulrich as Jesse and Heather Banks as Leslie Burke. Tyler has a good sincerity about him as the somewhat shy and awkward boy who isnít all that happy at home or at school, until he meets Leslie. Heather is a polished actress and singer who captures the difficulty of being an oddball in a new school, also capturing the inner light of the character who has a deep appreciation of life, glowing as she leads Jesse in creating the kingdom of Terabithia in their beautiful duet of a modified Both Sides Now, accompanied by the Terabithians. Her effect on the previously depressed Jesse is clear as he brightens in their duets that depict their quickly growing friendship, including You Didnít Have To Be So Nice and When We Grow Up. And later, in Fire and Rain.

The cast of family members do especially well after the death, especially when itís revealed, in a powerfully performed and staged scene by directors Chris Ninness and April Wikholm. The biggest family role goes to the smallest, a remarkable Rebecca Jones and Tyler Ulrich nine-year-old talent named Rebecca Jones as Jesseís little sister May-Belle. Sheís a riot as the funny, bratty, sassy baby sister, apparently drawing on her experiences with her own brother for the role. But sheís also got a great sense for the character and the moments in the story.

The CYT sets for the land of Terabithia include dead trees that also resemble castle parapets. Lighting designers Josh Pontsler and Zach Wikholm, and sound designers Glen Collins and Yoli Collins, contribute to heightening the drama of the showís most striking moment, when Terabithia clashes with harsh reality, leaving a terrible hole in the lives of the characters as they struggle with death.

Performs November 7 - 9, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
 

Jesse Aarons: Tyler Ulrich
Leslie Burke: Heather Banks
Miss Edmunds: Briele Feria
May-Belle Aarons: Rebecca Jones
Ellie Aarons: Jordan Olson
Brenda Aarons: Jazmine Ruiz
Janice Avery: Sonja Cash
Mrs. Aarons: Emily Oswald
Mr. Aarons: Anthony Antoniszyn
Mr. Turner: Jesse Kendrick
Mr. Burke: John True
Mrs. Burke: Alicia Lopez
Prince Terrian: Stella-Bella

~ 3rd Graders ~
Billy Jean Edwards: Mia Apalategui
Jenny: Gabrielle Nathanson
Timothy: TJ Kendrick
Nathan Adam
Mathew Fernandez
Erin Flores
Madison Graves
Brittany Weilerbacher

~ 5th Graders ~
Gary Fulcher: Landen Baldwin
Wanda Kay Moore: Amy Wawryznski
Mary Lou Peoples: Ivanna Quiceno
Greg Williams: Adam Lopez
Earle Watson: Corwin Batchman
William: Ben Maley
Janie: Julia Collins
Jack: David Batchman
Lori: Megan Weilerbacher
Sally: Taylor Keene
Isabelle Cebreros
Mas Discar
Tess Eaton
Elizabeth Figueroa
Brittani Garcia
Jesse Olson
Kayla Ruiz
Anthony Sancez
Isabel Sheehan
Victoria Valdez
Christopher Weeks
Greta Zimbauer

~ 6th and 7th Graders ~
Willard Hughes: Daniel Collins
Wilma Dean: Makayla Balders
Bobby Sue Henshaw: Kaelah Lyons
Jimmy: Jake Gardner
Naylen Feria
Osmar Gonzalez
Amber Maertz
Hannah Mason
Malcolm Moses
Christine Nathanson

~ Terabithian Knights ~
Anthony Antoniszyn
Landen Baldwin
Daniel Collins
Max Discar
Jake Gardner
Jesse Kendrick
Malcolm Moses
John True

~ Maidens ~
Isabelle Cebreros
Taylor Keene
Hannah Mason
Christine Nathanson
Jordan Olson
Ivanna Quiceno
Jazmine Ruiz
Amy Wawryznski

Directors: Chris Ninness and April Wikholm
Musical Director: Coreena Mulloy
Choreographer: Amanda Pontsler
Accompanist: Leandro Coelho
Costumer: Karlyn Apalategui
Sound Design: Glen Collins and Yoli Collins
Set Coordinator: Levi Moses
Lighting Design: Josh Pontsler and Zach Wikholm
Drums: Loren Fernandez
Guitar: David Hott

   

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