Quote of the Day: This is the happiest time of our lives. from the play Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank R. Gilbreth, JR. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel. Mrs. Gilbreth (Jana Johnson) says this line, and it is echoed by her children. The story is an adaptation of the memoir written by two of the dozen children. Their father Frank Gilbreth (Kevin Yeager) is a highly organized business man who believes the children should be constantly learning, even while in the bathroom. Hence, the delivery of Victorolas to be placed in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms where they will play foreign language records while getting ready in the morning. (One or more of them might have sneaked in a jazz record to liven things up.)
While the script is dated, (the real family were growing up together in the 1920’s) the tug and pull of family life, the older kids growing up and soon moving out and into their own lives, and parents aging and having health problems are still relevant. I know. I have another senior this year, and as he’s getting excited for his next stage, I’m pining for the times when all four brothers wrestled around on Saturday mornings, filled the table, and ate mountains of spaghetti in a single sitting. (Well, they still eat the mountains of spaghetti.) Once the oldest flies the coop, the whole family dynamic changes, and it will never be the same again. Cheaper by the Dozen is a sweet story of a big family, kept in order by a business-minded, yet loving, father, and a doting mother. We giggle at the dad being worked up about his daughters wearing silk stockings (gasp) and “painting” their faces (is that rouge, I see?), we understand that protectiveness and rules about not going out on a school night. Frank’s children are brilliant and well trained, and he’s proud of them. He also knows he won’t be around forever to teach and protect them, and is trying (against the laws of nature and boys) to prepare them for that time. I got a little teary in the end.
I applaud the Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts (GLAPA) for doing a family friendly show that casts so many children. It truly is a community theatre production, including all ages, and appropriate for the whole family. Although, because it is a quieter, more thoughtful show, with lots of dialogue and not much action, it might not keep the attention of younger children. (It is nothing like the 2003 movie adaptation starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt.) One of the grandma’s in the audience said, “That was adorable.” Kevin Yeager has the dad role down – The Miracle Worker (CLC community theatre), The Diary of Anne Frank (CLC), and most recently It’s a Wonderful Life (Stage North), as well as his own family, and sharing the stage with another of his own daughters, Megan Yeager. He knows the emotional tug of a parent, and evokes it in the audience. All the kids did a great job. Mackenzie Papillon-Renford who plays Anne has a big role, as her character is in the most need of change, growing up, and challenging the family dynamic. She plays well off her two closest sisters Ernestine (Rebecca Aanerud) and Martha (Sheridan
Wilson), although I would have liked to see them be more physically close to each other. Real siblings are much more in each other’s space, and girls would show more affection. Still, with ten kids on stage for much of the show (“The babies are napping upstairs”) they interacted well, lining up at a whistle (ala Sound of Music) whenever dad needed them. (Kevin Yeager’s authentic loud whistle came in handy for this role!) Also, Sagmar Shadows Lunar Eclipse, the dog, stole a few scenes as he was led off dad’s bed, down the stairs, and out the door, once again.
Cheaper by the Dozen is playing on the Pequot Lakes High School stage today (Sunday, 2/21/16) at 2:00, next Friday and Saturday (2/26 & 2/27) at 7:30, and once again on Sunday, Feb. 28, for a 2:00 matinee. You can reserve tickets by calling 218-568-9200, or arrive early and purchase them at the door.
Play off the Page Theatre Workshops for students in grades 1-4 will be held at Central Lakes College Dryden Theatre, Thursdays, 4:30-5:30, March 17 – April 28, and for Middle School students, grades 5-8, Thursdays, 6:00-7:30, March 27 – April 28, with a performance for both groups on April 28. The theme is Fairy Tales and Medieval Times. Register by calling Jean at the CLC box office, 218-855-8253. Cost is $15, thanks to a grant by the MN State Arts Board.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Did you grow up in a big family? What was your family like? When did it start to change?