‘Charlotte’s Web’ opens tonight at Thunder Bay Theatre

Courtesy Photo The cast of “Charlotte’s Web” poses at a recent rehearsal. The show runs tonight through March 24 at Thunder Bay Theatre in Alpena.

Farm-fresh fun is on the menu tonight, as Thunder Bay Theatre’s “Charlotte’s Web” opens at 7:30 p.m. The annual youth production kicks off TBT’s spring season.

The cast of 20 ranges in age from 9 to 17, all ready to teach the audience a lesson on friendship and inclusivity through the barnyard tale of a spider and a pig.

“Wilbur is kind of this wide-eyed little innocent, naive pig who is just really excited to be introduced into the world, but as he learns more about the world, the more problems he has to face,” said Adrian Alexander, “Charlotte’s Web” director and education coordinator for TBT.

Rehearsals began the first week of February, five days per week.

“The kids have really been working hard, and they’ve been doing a really good job,” Alexander said.

In this heartwarming tale, the hopeful pig Wilbur is played by high-schooler Connie Fluharty, and high-schooler Amelia Berles plays Charlotte, the wise spider who befriends Wilbur and spins messages for him in her web. Ten-year-old Laura Poli takes the stage as Fern, the girl who convinces her father not to slaughter Wilbur, the runt of the litter.

“Fern is the first person to stand up for Wilbur,” Alexander explained. “She has this line that says ‘It wasn’t the pig’s fault he was born small, was it? This is the worst case of injustice I’ve ever heard.’ She’s just the first person to kind of fight for him, and show him what friendship means.”

Other cast members include Austin Heath as Arable, Jenna Petersen as Mrs. Arable, Thurston Imhoff as Avery, Thomas Jore as Homer, Kyrann Hoffman as Edith, Logan DenBleyker as Lurvy (and Wilbur’s understudy), Ollie Gerhart as Templeton, Tori Eller as Goose, Alayna Kreys as Gander, Nicole Jore as Sheep, Alexis Petersen as Lamb, and Sylvie Luther as narrator. Chorus members are Brenten Beaubien, Clover Bailey, Amanda Wentz and Jaime Diaz. Collin Heath plays a fairgoer, spider, Uncle Pig and Lurvy’s understudy. Other fairgoers/spiders are played by Ethan Deville, Kaelyn Heath and Elizabeth Beaubien. Benji Senchuk is the announcer.

“The story, on the surface, is a very cute kids show, but I have conceptualized it and worked with the kids and directed in a way to teach a lesson about how differences are what make us stronger instead of what set us apart,” Alexander said, adding that “Friendship and love will always overcome adversity, and that’s the kind of story we are trying to tell.”

Alexander noted that actors will not necessarily be in full animal costumes, but that their garb and mannerisms will represent the essence of the animals they are playing.

“We gave these animals human archetypes with a few animal characteristics, so that you know they’re still playing animals,” he said.

He said the set is very creatively designed, and he is excited to present this play to the community.

The play runs at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays this and next weekend, and 2 p.m. this Sunday and March 24.

Tickets are $18 per adult, $12 per teen ages 13 to 17, and $8 per child ages 12 and younger. Call the box office at 989-354-2267 to reserve tickets. The theater is located at 400 N. Second Ave. in Alpena.

Because of lobby construction, playgoers are asked to arrive at the theater no earlier than 7 p.m., and they will need to enter through the door on Second Avenue closest to the corner of Fletcher Street, where a makeshift box office will be located as well.

The lobby has been gutted at this point in the renovation process, which means the theater does not currently have restrooms. Alexander explained that attendees are asked to please use the restroom before the play, but that JJ’s Steak & Pizza House across Second Avenue has generously allowed the theater to let the public use their restrooms during lobby renovations. He added that staff will be available to help walk people across the street if they need assistance.

Reach Darby Hinkley via email at dhinkley@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5691.