|Kristin Alba and Erin Tarkington|
"E. B. White's classic 1952 children's novel "Charlotte's Web" tells the story of the new born pig Wilbur and the spider Charlotte who helps him escape from being slaughtered by spinning words into her web that praise Wilbur. Charlotte's words draw considerable attention to the young pig, making him into something of a media sensation that ultimately saves his life. The novel has already been turned into two feature films so it would make sense that someone would adapt the novel into a family friendly musical. Desert Stages Theatre co-founder Gerry Cullity, who passed away in 2005, adapted and wrote the music and lyrics for a musical version of Charlotte's Web and Desert Stages is currently presenting a return engagement of Cullity's creation.
Running almost two hours and spread over two acts, the musical runs a bit long with several ensemble numbers that, while nice to see the hard work of the young cast, slow the second act down. But, even though the show could be trimmed a bit, seeing the dedication and enthusiasm of the young performers is refreshing. And while the score only has a few memorable tunes, most of the songs do their job of either moving the plot forward or giving us additional insight into the characters. Charlotte's Web is a show that deals with some grown-up topics, including the slaughtering of a pig and the death of one of the main characters, so while it is geared toward families, I'd recommend keeping smaller children at home and also expecting to have older children ask some questions about the themes that are brought up. Charlotte's Web at Desert Stages is a sweet telling of the classic children's novel, with a large cast, nice leads and colorful and creative costumes.
The Desert Stages production of Charlotte's Web runs through March 30, 2014, with performances at 4720 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Tickets are available at www.DesertStages.org or by phone at (480) 483-1664
Photo: Heather Butcher/Desert Stages Theatre