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Arts and Entertainment

Family Musical Based on Julianne Moore's "Freckleface Strawberry" at the Landers

(Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)

Learn to love the skin you’re in with Springfield Little Theatre’s production of "Freckleface Strawberry the Musical" at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut.  This show for the whole family is based on actress Julianne Moore's best-selling books, and it's co-directed by Zoe Zelonky and Clayton Avery.
Zoe Zelonky describes Freckleface as "a girl who is teased because of her freckles at school, and she really doesn't take well to it. It's all in good fun, but the kids just don't understand."  Strawberry tries anything and everything to get rid of her freckles – from scrubbing them with soap to caking on makeup and even wearing a ski mask to school. But when she hides under the ski mask, none of the kids can find her--including her friends.  "So she realizes all of her friends want to be with her and don't really care about the freckles," says Zoe Zelonky. Eventually, with the help of her friends, Freckleface learns that everyone is different, and that’s what makes everyone special.  
Co-director Clayton Avery describes Strawberry's friends as "typical of those characters that you would see on an elementary (school) playground.  There's the little boy that likes basketball and gets all the girls; the little nerd that loves bugs and space and science and Greek mythology.  There's a perfect, flawless girl that is a ballerina; and there is a nerd girl."  There's even a kooky teacher.  "Yes," says Avery, "she's a hoot."
As for Strawberry  herself, Zoe Zelonky says of Katie Harmon, "It was a huge plus that our perfect Strawberry walked in with red hair!" Harmon sees Strawberry as "someone who really enjoys life--except for the fact that she has freckles and gets made fun of.  She's really fun-loving and just wants to be like everyone else." How does Harmon tap into that younger-child elementary-school vibe in playing Strawberry? "I really have to think about it sometimes--I love it, though.  I love playing younger.  It's a lot of fun. You have to make everything bigger, and, like, go over the top with everything."
Asked how they came to be co-directors of this show, Zelonky says she and Avery had been friends for "a long time" and had performed together in several LT shows, as well as working together in music direction on smaller projects. But we wanted to try a mainstage production.  And when we saw that 'Freckleface' still didn't have a director about midway through the season, Clayton said, 'we should do that!'"
Avery says the production "has been a blast--it couldn't have gone any smoother. (During) the rehearsal process the kids stayed on top of it the whole time--we actually ran ahead of schedule all through the rehearsal process!"  Which, adds Zelonsky, "doesn't usually happen with casts this large, and with so many young, new faces."  There are 64 in the cast(!)--practically an entire elementary school in itself, ranging from age 6 to adults.
This stage adaptation is by Gary Kupper and Rose Caiola.  Clayton Avery says, "I actually watched an interview a few weeks ago with the producer of the original cast, and she said what really made her want to get it done was the illustrations (by LeUyen Pham) from the original book--they just jump off the page and are begging to be put on stage."
Performances of "Strawberry Freckleface the Musical" at the Landers Theatre are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm through May 7.   Tickets range from $12 to $19, and Little Theatre is also offering kids' birthday parties during the run of the show.  (Call the business office at 869-3869 for information.)
Also, a "Final Fridays Improv Night" takes place on Friday, May 5 following the "Freckleface Strawberry" performance at about 9:00pm; admission is “pay what you can.” Little Theatre's Teen Players will present this hilarious program to raise funds for an educational trip to New York City. For information visit or call the Landers box office at 869-1334.