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Family Theater: 'Dear Edwina' is Back in New York


"Dear Edwina," the Broadway sensation that appeals to preteens and the whole family alike, is back in New York City by popular demand - with an all-new cast, and for a limited run.

Dear Edwina, 2010 cast

The 2010 cast of Dear Edwina

Edwina Spoonapple...now there's a name worth remembering, right up there with Pippi Longstocking and SpongeBob SquarePants on the fun-to-say-o-meter. And while Edwina may not live in a pineapple under the sea, she does come from what has to be the most animal-friendly, onomatopoeic town in the U.S.: Paw Paw, Michigan.

Edwina, a.k.a the determined 13-year-old heroine of the musical comedy Dear Edwina, is the brainchild of Zina Goldrich (music) and Marcy Heisler (book and lyrics), the duo responsible for turning the adventures of Barbara Parks' Junie B. Jones into a hit kids' musical in 2005. Unlike Junie, however, Edwina didn't arrive on stage with a literary following when she debuted Off-Broadway in 2008 (which didn't stop her show from earning two Drama Desk nominations and several rave reviews, including one in Variety that gave it a major thumbs-up for adults as well as kids, comparing it - humor/sophistication-wise - to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown).

Dear Edwina theater signBut Edwina (played by Beth Cheryl Tarnow) is definitely a character unto herself: a Dear Abby/Emily Post for the preteen set, with a dedicated entourage of singing and dancing friends who come together every Sunday afternoon to perform - live from the Spoonapple garage - the "Dear Edwina Show," in which letters from a variety of kids are answered through clever musical numbers courtesy of Edwina and company.

This is not to say Edwina doesn't have her share of early adolescent angst. An unabashedly Type A personality who desperately wants to validate her gift of advice-giving gab, she firmly believes she's lived too long in the shadow of her three talented siblings, a math whiz and two musicians who have been hogging prime refrigerator-magnet real estate for way too long. Edwina's goal, you see, is to post a coveted invite to the Kalamazoo Advice-A-Palooza Festival (Kalamazoo being a stone's throw from Paw Paw) on said Frigidaire - a viable possibility thanks to the presence of a festival talent scout at this Sunday's show. Whether or not she achieves her wish is not revealed until the very end...and, thanks to Heiser and Goldrich, the journey is beyond engaging.

 

In the Beginning

Cast & Creative Team

For the current all-too-limited Dear Edwina run, a versatile ready-for-anything new cast has been assembled:

Beth Cheryl Tarnow (Edwina)
Katie Whetsell (Kelli)
Judith Dry (Annie)
Noah Zachary (Scott)
Jared Picone (Bobby)
David McDaniel (Billy)
Christopher Brasfield (Swing/Dance Captain)
Katy Vaughn (Swing)
Martin Landry (Pianist/Joe Spoonapple)
Robin Lai (Drums/Myron Spoonapple)

As for the creative behind-the-scenes forces, Goldrich and Heisler are thrilled to have the full original team back on board:

Steven G. Kennedy (choreography)
Court Watson (scenic design)
Kathryn Furst (lighting design)
Theresa Squire (costume design)
Joe Kinosian (music director)
According to Heisler, Dear Edwina began as a series of "interstitial shorts a la 'Schoolhouse Rock,' about various etiquette rules," which she and Goldrich pitched around Hollywood to favorable response. "But not really knowing that world, we decided to build a story around them," she says. The transition took a personal turn when the collaborators sought out a name that rhymed with Zina for their title character and dipped into Heisler's childhood for inspiration. As a result, Edwina's group of friends bear a pointed similarity to the playwright's posse growing up on Birchwood Avenue back in Deerfield, Illinois. "People always ask me if Edwina is based on me," says Heisler, "but in truth, I am more like Edwina's little sister Katie."

Still, Edwina is full of traits that are typical to many kids: "She is talented, vulnerable, fun, inclusive, inspirational - filled with the best childhood sense of 'of course!,' if that makes any sense," Heisler says, adding that in her creative approach to problem-solving, Edwina "shares what she loves to do with her friends, appreciating and featuring all their talents."

That probably explains why the woman behind the script describes one number in particular as being very close to her own heart: "Sing Your Own Song," which ends with the lyrics:

 

"...Hold on tight to who you are

Don't lose that joy to please the crowd

And if they still don't understand

You'll have to sing a little louder

Just sing your own song

Use your own voice

Your voice is not a thing to be afraid of

And when they hear it ring true

There's not a thing they can do

To take away the music that you're made of

Don't let them take away

The music that you're made of."

 

Does the message get across? Well, not only do parents and kids exit the theater talking about the show's songs and topics, but many of the children follow up with their own letters to Edwina, underlining that the show has an impact that touches young audiences on a very real, very contemporary level.

"I think kids really enjoy it," says Heisler, "and I love it most when parents tell me their kids went home and recreated the songs in their own living rooms. That's what Dear Edwina is all about!"

 

 

Get more information on the show, including theater location, ticket prices, and show times

Also see: Our Online Calendar, for even more family events in Manhattan and the New York metro area

 

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Griffin Miller, Theatre Editor

Author: City Guide Theatre Editor Griffin Miller moved to New York to pursue an acting/writing career in the 1980s after graduating magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, she has written for The New York Times, For the Bride, Hotels, and a number of other publications, mostly in the areas of travel and performance arts. She currently is the theatre editor for all NYMetroParents publications. An active member of The New York Travel Writers Association, she is also a playwright and award-winning collage artist. In addition, she sits on the board of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Griffin is married to Richard Sandomir, a reporter for The New York Times. See More

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