“Some pig. Terrific. Radiant. Humble.” I remember E.B. White’s book well from childhood and I have read it to my own child. Imagination Stage’s production of Charlotte’s Web is set for the stage with the addition of music and creative acrobatics and I love that they bring audience interaction into the mix.
“If you love me, I will love you.” In these tender words to Wilbur, Fern saves the runt pig from her father’s axe. Uncle Homer Zuckerman is eager to sell Fern’s beloved pet. The chorus sings Wilbur’s hour-by-hour schedule of fun, which consists of eating, sleeping, playing and scratching his back against the fence. None of the barnyard compatriots want to play with Wilbur. Templeton is a selfish rat, Goose and Gander are preparing to welcome goslings and sheep is too old, hobbling along with a cane. The rain begins to pour turning Wilbur into a pit of sadness. He says “I want love. I want a friend. I want someone to play with me.”
“Salutations,” said Charlotte, who instantly befriends Wilbur. The star of the show is indeed Charlotte whose friendship and love is unwavering. Shanara Gabrielle, who plays Charlotte, brings the charismatic grey spider to life. Gabrielle’s soothing voice and aerial dance skills spin flawless webs of art.
With the arrival of spring, things are looking up. Charlotte has made Wilbur famous with a message woven into her webs. The animals gather round the barnyard singing “Skip to My Lou.” Laughs follow when the goslings arrive in the hilarious form of a wooden pull toy with 7 little ducks. Fern celebrates by bringing Wilbur pineapple upside cake. Springtime also means sadness for Wilbur because he knows his future is grim. “I’m fat and healthy and am going to be turned into ham! It’s freedom or the frying pan,” Wilbur exclaims. He escapes from his pen temporarily running through the audience, I mean the barnyard.
Throughout the play, Charlotte assures Wilbur that he will be safe. “People are not as smart as bugs,” says Charlotte. The county fair approaches and Charlotte relies on Templeton to search for words to buy Wilbur more time. As Charlotte says, “people believe anything in print.” Luckily, Charlotte is just a spider.
With each word intricately woven, Charlotte says, “The message is done. I’ve come to the end. The job that I’ve done is all for my friend.” When Charlotte is dying, you could feel the sadness in Wilbur’s voice. I admit that I became emotional during this scene. I can relate to the characters because my father is battling cancer. It was at that moment that I realized why Charlotte’s Web was chosen to be performed during the holiday season. Life is short. Be humble and kind. Spend the time with the ones you love — your family and friends.
What to Know
- Charlotte’s Web runs through January 7, 2018. Tickets range from $14 to $32. A limited number of $10 tickets are available on Mondays at 10:00 a.m. for the following week’s performances. They can only be purchased through the Box Office.
- There is a sensory-friendly performance on December 17th at 11 a.m. and an open-captioning performance on December 17 at 1:30 p.m. An ASL-interpreted performance will take place on January 7th at 4 p.m.
- The play is suitable for ages 5 and up. Booster seats are available for prime viewing.
- The production runs an hour and a half with no intermission.
- Stop into the gift shop where there are so many unique gifts including a few adorable pig souvenirs.
- There is a parking garage adjacent to the theater with metered parking weekdays and free parking on the weekends.
- Shake the winter blahs and sign your kiddos up for Winter Break Arts Blast at Imagination Stage. Held in December, they have dramatic art camps for all ages and stages.
Photo credit: Margot Schulman.