A fun ride through ‘Phantom Tollbooth’ Talented cast, direction, choreography keep trip exciting

Alexander Tan, left, and Grace Martini star in ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ at Walker Farm.

By David Lampe-Wilson
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Weston Playhouse kicks off its 2019 season with a production of The Phantom Tollbooth, performed by members of the Weston Playhouse Young Company at the new Walker Farm venue, and the performers of this summer-long program give it their all in this musical version of Norton Juster’s classic children’s fantasy adventure novel.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Milo, a bored pre-adolescent, is sent through an adventure of seemingly illogical encounters where he discovers just how exciting learning can be.

Adapted for the stage by Juster with an able assist by Sheldon Harrick (Fiorello!, She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof), this musical retains the high points of the novel, condenses them and brings it to its conclusion in just about an hour’s running time.

Felicity Stiverson’s inventive choreography dazzles.

Alexander Tan is an endearing Milo and Grace Martini is the watchdog Tock that ticks. The rest of the ensemble (Dominic Dorset, Jazley Genovese, Daelynn Jorif, Sammi Messina, Bella Muller and Ben Senneff) keep the energy up as a bevy of illogical characters from a Whether Man to a Pronoun Seller.

Perfect for kids ages 8 and up (and for some more precocious younger audience members), this talented, energetic cast keeps the action moving and laughs coming under the vigorous direction of Piper Goodeve. Goodeve has a good eye for the silly and, thanks to choreographer Felicity Stiverson, many of the musical numbers dazzle with their inventiveness, none more so than “Subtraction Stew,” which proves to be crazy, cacophonous fun played with an accompaniment of spoons, bowls and sauce pan lids.

As always, technical support is top drawer. Brian Dudkiewicz’s scenery captures the literate fun with a set built from enormous versions of classic literature from A Tale of Two Cities to Little Women. Elizabeth Mak’s lighting delivers a series of moods from the odd to the funny to the sinister. Whitney Locher’s colorful concoction of costumes also hits the mark.

The show, for kids 8 and up, runs through June 30.

It’s always a treat to watch young performers eager to strut their stuff as they stand on the cusp of what, one hopes, will be a fruitful and creative life in the theater. If The Phantom Tollbooth is any indication, we will be enjoying many of these young actors in years to come.

The Phantom Tollbooth continues through June 30 at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, 705 Main St., Weston. Performances are 4 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday and at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 22 and 23. For information, call 802-824-5288. Click here for tickets.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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