NCC brings ‘Charlotte’s Web’ to stage
By Annie Alleman For GO October 14, 2010 11:02AM
When: 1 and 3 p.m. Oct. 24
Where: North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville
Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors
Contact: 630-637-7469 or visit www.northcentralcollege.edu/showtix
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
For her first professional acting job, Nicole Grillos is playing one of literature’s most iconic characters.
It doesn’t matter that the character has eight legs and mostly stays hidden from sight.
Grillos plays the titular spider in Theatreworks USA’s production of “Charlotte’s Web,” which comes to Naperville’s North Central College for two matinee performances Oct. 24.
The Newberry Medal-winning “Charlotte’s Web” was written by E.B. White and adapted for the stage by Joseph Robinette.
“Charlotte’s Web” tells the story of a little pig named Wilbur who’s destined to end up on the farmer’s breakfast table until a small gray spider named Charlotte hatches a plan to save him. Charlotte, a fine writer, knows Wilbur needs a miracle. So she begins weaving messages in her web, which not only makes Wilbur a prize pig, but ensures his place on the farm is safe.
The story is filled with memorable characters and an enduring message of friendship, bravery and self-sacrifice.
Grillos starts the show as Mrs. Arable, Fern’s mother, but remains hidden behind the barn for the rest of the production.
“I pop up to talk to Wilbur and spin the words,” the New York native said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s a play with music. So I do sing, too.”
A fan of the book, she was excited to be cast in the role of Charlotte, a role Julia Roberts voiced in a 2006 movie.
“I love everything about it,” she said. “I love the themes it explores — the theme of friendship and sacrificing your time and energy for friendship, and in Charlotte’s case, her life. It is a beautiful sacrifice she makes for Wilbur. And he returns the favor by saving her egg sack at the end.”
Another theme explored in the play is one of growing up.
“Wilbur himself grows more mature, and kids can relate to that scene because they are growing up along with the characters,” she said.
Grillos hadn’t ever completely forgotten about Charlotte and her messages to Wilbur, or the other barnyard animals, as she was growing up. She remembers watching a cartoon based on the book as a child, and remembers it “very vividly.”
“It’s always been a part of my life,” she said. “This is the first time I’m returning to it in such a big way.”
Since starting the tour at the end of September, audiences have loved it, she said.
“Kids will call out — when Fern decides to name (the pig), she’s listing a bunch of names, and they’ll shout out, ‘No, no, no’ because they know his name is supposed to be Wilbur,” she said.
Her favorite Charlotte moment came when two young vision-impaired girls came backstage to meet the cast before the show and touch their costumes.
“As they were walking away, one of the little girls was saying, ‘I can’t believe that just happened,’” Grillos said.
Knowing that you are touching a child’s life, she said, is “the best feeling.”
“Some of these kids have never seen any theater before, and they are totally entranced by it.”
North Central audiences can expect to enjoy the timeless story of friendship and sacrifice.
“It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. It’s a sweet story,” she said. “It appeals to adults and kids alike. We have audiences of parents and kids, and the parents laugh at the more adult jokes. It’s something the whole family can get into. And it gives a lot of important messages.”
The hour-long show is recommended for ages 5 and up.