Tuck Everlasting began its life as an extremely popular children’s book by Natalie Babbitt in 1975 and was adapted for the screen in 2002. The book has a loyal following, and it is easy to see why the story is still a fan favorite. Now Tuck Everlasting is everything you would expect a family-friendly Broadway musical to be–soaring set, beautiful lights, vaulting voices, and dancers kicking so high you might be worried for their faces. Yet this whimsical and cheerful musical packs an emotional punch: It deals with family, love, loss and living life to the fullest.
The show opens on an adorable redheaded little girl whose family is in mourning. She recently lost her father and just can’t live like this anymore! Little Winnie Foster desperately wants to break the monotony of grieving and go to the exciting fair that has come to town. Sadly, her mother won’t break convention and confines Winnie within the limits of the property. Wishing she wasn’t such a good girl, she escapes to the woods to explore. There she meets the Tucks, a fantastical family with a dangerous secret: They have drunken from a spring on her property that has granted them immortality. This sparks the greatest adventure in her young life and leads us all to ask the question whether immortality is all it’s cracked up to be.
There is no weak link in the cast. Each gives a warmhearted showing, but Sarah Charles Lewis, who plays Winnie, and Michael Park, who plays Dad Tuck, give truly stand out performances. Park, my personal favorite, was charismatically vulnerable and strong at the same time. His relationship with his wife, played by the charming Carolee Carmello, renewed my faith in romance. The two sons played by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Robert Lenzi also bear mention. Strong choices by each actor brought to life an intensely personal relationship to their circumstances.
One could consider the beautiful set design by Walt Spangler another character in the show. The set seems practically alive as a Victorian style home and garden rotates into view followed by a forest, treetops, a carnival and more, in a seamless and spectacular way. Credit must also go to costume designer Gregg Barnes as the 1880s-inspired dresses and suits whirled across the stage and heightened every moment of the show. One of my favorite lines is from the grandmother, played by Pippa Pearthree, calling to the villainous carnival barker, played by Terrence Mann, “You are an evil banana!” in reference to his stunningly absurd yellow suit.
The music is festive and sweet. The orchestra supports the songs perfectly, and the choreography is incredibly strong. The director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw currently has four shows running on Broadway (Aladdin, Book of Mormon, Something Rotten), and you can see why. However the show’s strength is also its weakness: Nicholaw’s choreographic and aesthetic muscle is so strong that at times it overpowers reality. There were moments where the actors are directed to move in a way that isn’t fully justified by the circumstances. That being said, it is easy to be swept away by the beauty of his work. The climax of the show is done entirely as a ballet and is so moving that I wished it wouldn’t end.
Ultimately Tuck Everlasting brought me to tears. While the first half was light and fluffy, the second act dives deep and plucks at the heartstrings. This show is great for families with younger children who have the attention span. This sincere celebration of life is something we can all use a little more of.