A charming and thoughtful (if finally slight) musical, Tuck Everlasting asks the question if you could live forever, would you? While it doesn’t really take that question head on, it uses it to gently explore questions about family, love and many other things. Set in the 1890s in small-town New Hampshire, the musical follows 11-year-old Winnie Foster as she runs away and meets the immortal Tuck family, who are very intent on keeping the key to their immortality secret.
The choreography by director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw (best known for Something Rotten!, Aladdin and The Book of Mormon) is the best thing about the show, especially in gaudy production numbers set in a traveling carnival, and a moving extended sequence tracing Winnie’s life after meeting the Tucks. His skill at dramaturgically shaping a piece is also evident in the crisp clarity of the storytelling and the musical’s jaunty pacing.
Nicholaw’s dance steps are a creative balletic reinterpretation of absolutely true-to-period folk-dancing. Composer Chris Miller’s score is a exact parallel to that: 19th Century Amercian folk music, filtered through a poppy Broadway sensibility. The level of craft isn’t quite up to Nicholaw’s: while the emotional tone is generally right, and the music is certainly pleasant, it doesn’t rise to the memorable. Nathan Tysen’s lyrics are quite strong, truly the place where the themes of the show are most penetratingly investigated.
Over all, the score is a little syrupy for my taste; as folksy musicals go, I prefer the coolly astringent intelligence Steve Martin brought to this season’s Bright Star. Speaking of that show, this has been a season full of folksiness: these two shows and to a lesser degree the country-tinged Waitress. Tuck Everlasting is just well-made enough to hold its head up in that company – Claudia Shear and Tim Federle’s book for Tuck is considerably stronger than Bright Star‘s, for example – but is that enough in this crowded field? In any event, Tuck Everlasting is engaging and very sweet, and I can easily recommend it.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.