‘Charlotte’ spins web at RCC

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By Corinne Love

(Katrino Manio)

By Corinne Love

“Do you think the web is real?” asked one child.

Perhaps it is.

Hundreds of children from neighboring elementary schools came to see the musical adaptation of E.B. White’s beloved children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web,” May 4.

The musical came to the Landis Auditorium courtesy of the Laguna Playhouse Theatre Reach program which does numerous renditions of children’s stories into Broadway-style musicals.

“Charlotte’s Web” was directed by the Theatre Reach program director Donna Inglima. The cast included: Christopher Zenner, Dyan McBride, Bethany Knieser, Dennis O’Brien, Mark Turnbull and Jane Hillary.

The musical brought to life the story with audience interaction and new songs composed for the play. Such as “Country Fair,” which kids were likely to sing on the school bus trip on their way home.

Children who have seen the 2006 big-screen version of the story (starring Dakota Fanning) were in for a surprising look at the story.

How can a play compete with a movie that can afford to have CGI animals talking?

As Sponge Bob Square pants would say “Imagination.”

Imagination was abundant at the play, as the characters came to life in a personal space.

The characters were in bright costumes, and their voices could be heard clearly all the way to the very back row.

The audience was packed, and kids were everywhere.

There were so many children that during the progression of the play it looked as if the audience was one huge wave of kindergartners and first graders.

Some of the kids looked on in total absorption at the activity on the stage, some used toy binoculars to get a better view, while others were busy absorbed in just where Charlotte’s 514 spiders may be.

Children looked to the Landis’s high ceiling for traces of the baby spiders, many pointing and some looked utterly lost.

Similar to the original story “Charlotte’s Web” provided children with lessons in humility, friendship and courage.

One scene in the play, Wilbur (Zenner) says “There are more important things than yourself,” a valuable lesson for all, adults and children alike.

In supplement to the musical, the Landis Art Center Gallery also features an exhibit “The Web We Weave,” that showcases paintings, illustrations based on the whimsical and children’s fables.

The exhibit features work from Joyce Patti, Polly Powell, Joel Nakamura and David Shannon amongst others.

Patti and Powel’s multidimensional pieces are featured in a glass display case spanning everything from CDs to box sets.

Joel Nakamura’s cartoon type illustrations at first glance are colorful and seemingly adolescent until closer look and one can make out a devil archetype with horns.

Woodblock cutouts are blotched with primary paints in Maria Rendon’s pop art pieces that include attachments adding to the overall texture.

Robert Jew’s “The King’s Secret,” is an excerpt from the series done in intense greens and lush backdrops.

Shannon’s “Pay Attention,” is a colorful illustration of a child ‘s gigantic head facing outward and scrawled at the top it reads “Pay Attention.”

Jim Burke’s images evoke feelings of family connections in “Reading Cassatt.”

A blend of oils and acrylics contribute to Shaunna Peterson’s flamboyant illustrations with a mixture of greens and yellows.

In between the professional works from acclaimed artists are aspiring newcomers, and children’s artistic portrayals of Charlotte’s Web.

The three winners of the Charlotte’s Web Student Illustrations are also on display.

Fans of the whimsical should not miss “The Web We Weave: An Illustration Exhibit for the Young at Heart” and its closing reception May 14.

The stars of the “Charlotte’s Web” musical (from left) Jane Hilary, Bethany Knieser, Dennis O’Brien, Mark Turnbull, Dyan McBride and Christopher Zenner. (Courtesty of Chuck Abernathy)

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