By Lisa Steiner
Happily Ever Before, Community Players, Saturday November 12, 2022 7:30PM
When I heard about the play that’s a mash-up of Into the Woods and Back To The Future, I knew I had to get to Happily Ever Before, the culmination of Community Player’s Acting Up Program for Fall 2022. Heading into my seat, I could see family and friends of the cast (and crew) of thousands ready to see the product of all the work these artsy youth have done over the last few months. The after-school program starts meeting weekly once the school year begins and picks up the frequency of rehearsals as the show gets closer. Comfy in seat F15, the house lights dimmed, an amusing pre-recorded pre-show talk played, and the lights came up on a stage-full of kids raring to go.
Happily Ever Before, written by Tracy Wells, is the story of a band of villains venting about how everyone else gets a happily ever after, despite their best efforts. Rumpelstiltskin crafts a plan with the Evil Queen, Wicked Stepmother, and Dark Fairy to send everyone back in time to disrupt the plots of Cinderella, Briar Rose, and Snow White. Along the way, we meet characters from all sorts of fairy tales, including trios of bears, little pigs, and Prince Charmings; 7 dwarfs; 2 stepsisters; Hansel & Gretel; Goldilocks; Robin and Little Red Riding Hood; a huntsman; the Big Bad Wolf; a few fairies; a magical mirror; and a partridge in a pear tree. They all meet up at various locations in the fairytale forest in a smattering of scenes that rewrite what we remember from our own childhoods. These stories have also been updated to modernize some of the witty humor, to include jokes about therapeutic anger management, current stereotypes, and trickle down economics.
Our cast of characters ranged in age and experience level, but all were invested in the storytelling. I could see several youngsters in the audience that were captivated by those on stage. It was easy to tell that director Tyler Rinne ensured everyone felt comfortable adding their own reactions during scenes, and were engaged in what was going on around them. I don’t think I ever saw anyone distracted, which is quite a feat for a gaggle of children. In particular, I enjoyed the chemistry between the villains, Kaylynn Ballue (Evil Queen), Leena Tunink (Wicked Stepmother), Kiptyn Behrends (Dark Fairy) and Jonah Erikson (Rumpelstiltskin). The audience applauded for the agility of James Given (Robin Hood) and Sophia Tunink (Clumsy), as well as the irony of spunky Eloise Maurstad’s Little Red Riding Hood. I also want to give a shout out to ClaraAnn Kirkendall’s delightfully emo portrayal of Angsty.
The production team also deserves praise. The costumes were pretty typical representations of the familiar characters, but with some extra flair for each. Especially fun were the Big Bad Wolf and Stepsisters costumes. I enjoyed the scene change music, which was very light and neo-whimsical. The time-travel scenes were accompanied by some colorful rotating lighting. The set design was simple and allowed for efficient scene changes, something I wasn’t necessarily expecting from young actors.
The script was a hoot, and even had some sentimentality. In several moments, the audience was invited to think critically about how futures can come about in ways we don’t expect. If we could go back in time and change something, does that mean we’d end up with a different result? How do we move forward in life when it seems the same things always happen? Do we just have to trust life enough to continue turning the page and hoping for something in particular? Deep stuff.
Truly, I give a big hand to all those involved in this educational production. It takes guts to put yourself into a situation where you are learning about something new, especially with something so personal as acting and bringing others’ stories to life. Give these youngins some love and go check them out if you haven’t already!
If you go: There are two more productions: Saturday, November 12 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, November 13 at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at beatricecommunityplayers.com.
Lisa Steiner is a long-time lover of theater and the arts, who enjoys performing, music directing, and filling the role of patron. She has a Bachelor of Music degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she also was a staff writer, layout designer, and production editor for The Reveille newspaper. During the day, Lisa is a case manager for the Department of Health and Human Services. Through this great position, she is able to combine her strengths of working with people and completing paperwork. Lisa also has two cats, Sienna and Lucy, who tolerate each other.
As always, if you liked this content and want more, please join our email list and like us on Facebook!