A swarm of friendly, singing and dancing insects will soon take the stage at Fullwood Theater as the nonprofit Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts presents the lively musical “Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly.”
Performances are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23 and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m.; March 1, a Friday, at 9:45 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and March 2 and 3, Saturday and Sunday, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $9 for students and seniors. Fullwood Theater is located in the Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell St. E. in Matthews.
The stage production is based on three children’s books by Doreen Cronin and follows a group of elementary-aged insects as they dance and sing their way through the day-to-day pressures of being a school kid.
“Kids can relate to a lot of these things,” Dena Bruton-Claus, the show’s director, said. “They talk about what fears they have … they talk about, sometimes, conflicts with parents. It’s very relatable. Everything that they’re going through is what kids go through.”
Bruton-Claus, who has worked with the Playhouse on shows like “Treasure Island” and “The Jungle Book,” said “Diary” is particularly unique because of its small cast of just six actors – three adults and three students. The students in the show have taken classes at Matthews Playhouse and have worked with the nonprofit before, while a couple of the adults are new faces, she said.
After working with casts of as many as 30 actors in the past, Bruton-Claus said she’s enjoyed the chance to work with a smaller group.
“With a small group, you can collaborate a little more and try things a little easier than with a large cast,” she said. “It’s been very fun. It’s just been a very nice, nice group.”
Because the characters are insects – a worm, spider, fly, ant, butterfly and bee – Bruton-Claus and the cast have worked together to find creative ways to stage the show. They turned to a costume designer for costumes that aren’t simply Halloween-esque outfits, but “extensions of the characters,” she said.
But perhaps the most creativity revolves around the character Worm. Because Worm doesn’t have arms or legs, 14-year-old actor Nolan Dunnagan doesn’t get to walk at all during the show.
“I don’t have the use of my legs at all in this show,” Nolan said. “I really rely on other (cast members) to help move around (on stage). I fit in a big planter, so I really have to trust everybody else to get me to places I need to go.”
Another challenge Nolan’s faced while preparing for the show is getting into character. Worm, he said, is a “pretty shy kid” who struggles with wanting to be great at something, like he feels all his friends are.
“I’m not really a shy person in real life, so that’s been tough to overcome,” Nolan said. “But (Worm) just acts like a normal kid. Just putting on the costume makes me feel more (in character).”
He added, “It’s a great story about growing up and friendship … even though it’s about bugs, it translates into a greater message.”
Bruton-Claus said the show, which runs about one hour, is ideal for children ages 3 to 10, but older kids and adults also will find humor in the play and enjoy the lively music and choreography, which include rap and vaudeville numbers, “lovely ballads” and a Jitterbug dance.
“It’s very quick-paced, a feast for the eyes, a feast for the music lover,” she said. People who come “will be having so much fun.”
Want to go?
For more information, or to buy tickets, call 704-846-8343 or go to www.matthewsplayhouse.com.