“We are in the home stretch,” said Trudi Olivetti, director of the Marblehead Little Theatre’s production, “Tuck Everlasting: The Musical” as she prepared to head out for one of the final rehearsals before the premiere on Friday, Feb. 24.
“We’re doing full runs in costume, figuring out where the furniture will go, and especially the lighting.”
As Olivetti explained, the lighting is a crucial element in the MLT production. “It helps identify a location, the time and tells the story.”
The musical is based on Natalie Babbitt’s timeless children’s classic written in 1975 about the friendship between an 11-year-old girl, Winnie Foster, and the Tuck family who live nearby. The Tucks drank from a magic spring which made them immortal. Jesse Tuck, who is17, asks Winnie to drink from the magic spring when she turns 17 so that she can join the family and be immortal. The book was adapted to a popular 2002 film and a Broadway musical in 2016.
“It made the rounds of community theaters since it closed on Broadway after a fairly short run,” Olivetti noted. “It definitely plays well in community theaters.
“The music is quite delightful,” she added. “The tunes are going around in my head all day.”
While the book is considered a children’s classic, Olivetti believes the story’s message is a profound and philosophical one: what does it mean to be immortal, stuck in time forever?
Over the years, Olivetti, who hails from Swampscott, has acted, produced and been involved with the MLT children’s theatre program. In 2022, she directed Irish playwright Brian Friel’s “Translations,” a work she had long dreamed of presenting. “It was quite a great experience,” she said.
Presenting a musical with a larger than usual cast, dancers and orchestra posed some challenges in the MLT’s compact black box theater, she noted. “We needed to honor the size of the space and but not have a big complicated set. We are embracing that this is a fantasy and the story has an abstract quality to it.”
When asked how directing a drama like “Translations” differs from a musical such as “Tuck Everlasting,” Olivetti paused before responding. “It’s a very different experience. The size of the extraordinary cast for one thing. But the biggest is that there is a team. You have to be very much in sync. Our team is so talented and we get along really well.”
The “team” that Olivetti referred to includes the choreographer, music director, producers, stage manager, light and set designer, dancers and especially musicians. Olivetti has worked with several members of the team in the past, including music director Thom Smoker whom she has known for years.
“I also feel like I didn’t go into this project with a preconceived notion. My process for this has been very different than with “Translations.” I wanted to be very clear about the deepest message of the story. The songs convey a lot of the ideas.”
Olivetti marveled at how well and how swiftly the production came together. “We couldn’t get in to rehearse because “Party?” (the MLT’s previous production which ran in January). We had only eight weeks to rehearse.”
Despite the tight turnaround, Olivetti credited the genial and professional cast and team for pulling it off. “We had zero problems. Everyone was so good and followed instructions.”
“Tuck Everlasting – The Musical” runs February 24-26 and March 2-5 at the Marblehead Little Theatre, 12 School St. www.mltlive.com