By Casey Curtis
Tuck Everlasting is a best-selling children’s novel by Natalie Babbitt that questions whether immortality is as desirable as most of us imagine it to be. It has been adapted into a feature film twice and now takes it’s place on Broadway as a musical with music by Chris Miller, lyrics by Nathan Tysen, and a book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle.
The story centers around an 11 year old girl, Winnie Foster (Sarah Charles Lewis). She has a chance encounter with 17 year old Jessie Tuck (Andrew Keenan Bolger), who, due to having consumed water far more magical than San Pellegrino, is actually decades older than that. He has found in essence, the fountain of youth, and asks Winnie to drink from the same fountain in six years so that they can be forever young 17-year olds together. Along the way, an evil carney wants the health and financial benefits of this H2O and Jessie Tuck’s family shows Winnie the pros and cons of their longevity.
This musical has much to recommend it, but overall it is inconsistent as a work of art. It has charm and poignancy in places, but a corny, dated feel elsewhere. The lead actor Sarah Charles Lewis plays Winnie Foster with yearning and joy, and Andrew Keenan Bolger as Jessie Tuck is spirited and likable. Most notable though is the marvelous comic timing of two secondary characters, Fred Applegate as Constable Joe and Michael Wartella as Hugo. The lyrics by Nathan Tysen were at their best in two comedy songs, “You Can’t Trust a Man,” and “Hugo’s First Case,” but overall, Tuck Everlasting is not a comedy, so while the comedy songs were delightful, they made me wish for more comedy that wasn’t there.
An ineffectual, slow-paced Act 1 is followed by a solid and compelling Act 2 and a charming, emotionally-moving sustained dance sequence that concludes the musical. It’s a shame that the whole show isn’t as good as the second half.
Tuck Everlasting is still a fine work of art for its family show genre. While there are musicals that one might prioritize over it on a limited budget, it is still a worthwhile engaging evening of theater.
Book by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle; music by Chris Miller; lyrics by Nathan Tysen; based on the novel by Natalie Babbitt; directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw; orchestrations by John Clancy; music director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell; sets by Walt Spangler; costumes by Gregg Barnes; lighting by Kenneth Posner; sound by Brian Ronan; hair design by Josh Marquette; makeup design by Milagros Medina-Cerdeira; music supervisors, Rob Berman and Ms. Campbell; vocal arrangements by Chris Miller; dance music arrangements by David Chase; music coordinator, Antoine Silverman; associate director, Patrick Wetzel; associate choreographer, Stacey Todd Holt; production stage manager, Holly R. Coombs; company manager, Thom Clay; executive producer, Sara Skolnick; production manager, Juniper Street Productions; general manager, Foresight Theatrical. Presented by Grove Entertainment, Arlene Scanlan and Michael Jackowitz, Howard and Janet Kagan, Jeffrey A. Sine, Broadway Across America, Samira Nanda, Matthew Blank, Laurie Glodowski/Susan Daniels, Joan Jett Productions/Gabrielle Hanna and Marcy Feller, Patti Maurer/Bev Tannenbaum/Sunshine Productions/Karen Humphries Sallick, Rich Entertainment Group/Jeremiah J. Harris/Darren P. Deverna/AC Orange International, Warner/Chappell Music/Linda G. Scott, Late Life Love Productions/Alexis Fund, Fakston Productions/Kyle Fisher, Jack Thomas/Caduceus Productions and Barry Brown. At the Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street, Manhattan; 212-239-6200, tuckeverlastingmusical.com. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
WITH: Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Jesse Tuck), Carolee Carmello (Mae Tuck), Robert Lenzi (Miles Tuck), Michael Park (Angus Tuck), Sarah Charles Lewis (Winnie Foster), Terrence Mann (Man in the Yellow Suit), Valerie Wright (Mother), Pippa Pearthree (Nana), Michael Wartella (Hugo) and Fred Applegate (Constable Joe).