Friday, March 27, 2015
Jack & Louisa Act 1, by Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Weterhead
Louisa is just coming down from being at Camp Curtain Up (theater camp if you can't tell) with the other MTNs (musical theater nerds). As she and her parents pull into their driveway, they notice that the new family is moving in two doors down. Louisa notices that the kid looks about her age, and then suddenly she notices his tshirt. It's from the musical Mary Poppins! This is a very interesting development. After all, up until now, Louisa was the only MTN in her grade!
If Louisa only knew! Jack's dad's job wasn't the only reason they were moving to Cleveland. Jack had lost a job himself. He is a theater kid, and not too long ago he was cast in the musical The Big Apple. And not in a bit part either. He was super excited to be part of the cast...until the first rehearsal. Jack is going into 7th grade, and his voice was changing. The notes no longer came easily...and sometimes they didn't come at all. So Jack was no longer first choice for the role. Which obviously made leaving NYC a heck of a lot easier.
In this age of google, Louisa finds out about Jack pretty quickly. And seeing as they are in the same class at school, she figures they are pretty much meant to be friends since they have so much in common. But Jack is thinking about reinvention. It's pretty easy to be a theater kid and be a boy in NYC, but in Cleveland he figures his soccer skills will make his life easier than his singing and dancing skills.
Sometimes, however, it's hard to turn off what you really love. And when the community theater announces it's putting on one of Jack's favorite shows of all time, will he be able to resist the call of the stage (let alone Louisa's influence)?
This is a pitch perfect middle school story that's not simply about theater, but drills down into issues of family, friendship and being true to oneself. Keenan-Bolger and Wetherhead get the voices spot on without ever venturing into over-the-top Glee caricatures. The alternating voices go back and forth in time, but are never confusing, rather a great device for giving the back story in pieces instead of one big chunk. Fans of Federle will eat this up, as will fans of realistic fiction and musical theater.