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Saturday, June 15, 2024
The Observer

PEMCo lives forever in ‘Tuck Everlasting’

Maria Tobias | The Observer

Good girl Winnie Foster, every day / Is in bed at seven,” sings Pasquerilla East Musical Company’s (PEMCo) leading actress Serena Melonio.

Yes, precocious 11-year-old Winnie Foster is well-behaved. She is the kind of little girl who says please and thank you and ma’am. But the year is 1893 and the place is Treegap, New Hampshire, a small and isolated town nestled in the dangerous woods of the Adirondack Mountains. So she stays trapped within the confines of her family home to appease her grieving (and sometimes overbearing) mother and grandmother.

But what happens when good girl Winnie Foster wants to “raise / a little something more than heaven?” What happens when she runs away from home? 

This is how we set the scene for PEMCo’s production of “Tuck Everlasting,” a musical adaptation of Natalie Babbitt’s beloved children’s novel of the same name. If you’ve never read the book, just know the woods hold a mysterious secret: an immortal family called the Tucks and the magical spring that gave them eternal life. Oh, and there’s also a man in a yellow suit who is doing everything in his power to bottle that very spring and sell it for money. Caught up yet? 

I’ll stop myself from going into detail to avoid spoiling anything else, but let’s talk about how much of a treat the audience is in for, yeah? 

Harry Larson (left) as Jesse Tuck and Serena Melonio (right) as Winnie Foster talking.

Melonio is perfectly cast as Winnie Foster. Her small frame and perpetual blush could make her pass as a girl half her age, but her voice still holds the strength of a woman well-trained in music. Melonio plays Winnie much like Amybeth McNulty in “Anne with an E” — with an earnestness and passion seemingly inherent in plucky late 19th-century childhood heroines. 
Melonio’s age also makes the age difference between Winnie and the Tuck’s 17-year-old son Jesse (Harry Larson) less uncomfortable. Jesse, however, is never a threatening presence. He is exactly the type of young man a little girl imagines herself falling in love with: protective yet adventurous, radically honest yet kind.

The real love story in “Tuck Everlasting” is between the Tuck parents Angus (Mark Hieatt) and Mae (Camila Holden). ‘Til death do us part truly means forever when you’re immortal. The Tucks manage to keep falling in love a thousand times over and still have a joyousness in their marriage that I’ve seen absent between newlyweds. 

The surprisingly emotional core of the musical, though, lies in Christian Dunne’s performance of “Time” as older brother Miles Tuck. From the moment Miles is introduced, the audience gets a sense his maturity comes from borderline exhaustion, but we never fully explore his baggage until this song. In “Time,” you never get the sense that Dunne is performing. He becomes Miles with all his grief and emotional restraint, and with his powerful voice the devastating lyrics are delivered like a sucker punch. “Time” is the first song that truly grapples with the themes of mortality, growing up and change that define “Tuck Everlasting,” and it is performed tremendously. 

Serena Melonio as Winnie Foster and PEMCo ensemble dancing at the fair.

Other performances to note are the dancers and choreographers who beautifully interpret Winnie’s life in “The Story of Winnie Foster” and comedic buddy-cop duo Bryce Bustamante as Constable Joe and Robert Fuller as aspiring detective Hugo.

“Tuck Everlasting” is truly a treat. 

As a senior approaching her final semester of college, it’s nearly time for me to begin uttering the first in a very long series of goodbyes. There have been so many precious moments over the past three and a half years where I wished I could “stay like this forever.” But as much as I wish the fountain of youth from “Tuck Everlasting” was real, this PEMCo production reminded me that having all the time in the world means absolutely nothing if it isn’t spent with the people you love.

You can watch PEMCo’s production of “Tuck Everlasting” on the Washington Hall Mainstage on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the LaFourtune Box Office for students at $7 and for the public at $10.