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‘Tiny Thumbelina’ gives Steel Beam kids a chance

What’s Thumbelina to do when she meets a bunch of animals with ulterior motives — including a mole that wants to make her his bride and a water rat that wants to put her in a show?

Children of all ages can watch the musical tale of “Tiny Thumbelina” as it unfolds on stage at Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles. The show opens April 5 and runs through April 27,

“It’s the story of Thumbelina and how she get lost, and gets found again and discovers the Land of the Little People,” Director JZ Zaeske said.

Along the way she meets a variety of different characters, from the cat who sells her to a family of toads to a Prince and Princess who look to help her.

“It’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot going on, so even little, little kids are going to be entertained,” Zaeske said. “It’s just a good thing to do on a Saturday morning when you’re looking for something creative to do to get out of the house with the kids and give the parents a break. And it’s actually really entertaining for the adults too.”

The show features a cast of 15 students from St. Charles and the surrounding area.

“Most of the kids, this is the first show they’ve ever been cast in,” Zaeske said. “So it’s a lot of kids that are new to theater that wanted to try it and see what the experience would be like.

“So we took a lot of those kids and gave them some pretty meaty roles. It’s been so amazing to see how much they’ve learned and grown, and how much they’ve put forth and how much they’ve grown in such a short period of time. Not everyone can do that, so I was really impressed that we’ve not had one kid left behind,” she said.

The students have done a good job of tackling all of the challenges that have come their way, which includes a shorter rehearsal process than usual and difficult choreography, she said.

“There’s choreography numbers where the kids are actually doing lifts and stuff,” Zaeske said. “It’s actually very entertaining and it’s really impressive what they’re doing, especially when you see them picking each other up and throwing each other around on that stage.”

Older students in the show were given several roles to play in the show, she said.

“The kids are doing a really good job,” Zaeske said. “They’re taking on challenges and really come through for us. It’s really impressive.”

The production of “Tiny Thumbelina” also marks the first time Steel Beam has student assistant directors helping with the show. Through the new program, the assistant directors worked with the cast and were given a scene in the show to direct.

“They’ve really got involved and sunk their teeth in. It was the first time we tried a program like this, so it’s going to be really, really, awesome to see everything up on its feet,” said Zaeske, who has also appeared onstage and choreographed productions at Steel Beam.

Being involved in the production gives the students an opportunity to see if theater is something they want to pursue in college and as a career, she said.

“It allows them to see what goes on on the other side of the table. Because if you want to be involved in theater — everybody always thinks that you have to be on the stage, and that’s not the case,” she said. “You can be involved in theater in other ways. There’s always so much going on behind the scenes and in the rehearsal process that people don’t even think about.”

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