Forever young

young man and young woman dressed in old fashioned clothing on stage. laughing together

Tuck Everlasting latest musical from Powerhouse

An upcoming show at Laconia’s Colonial Theatre explores the idea of eternal life, how desire to live forever can be all-consuming, and what the consequences of achieving immortality might be.

Tuck Everlasting began as a children’s novel by New Hampshire writer Natalie Babbitt that later became a movie in 2002. A Broadway adaptation was nominated for a Tony but only lasted for 39 performances. Fortunately, Bryan Halperin, who runs the Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative with his wife, Johanna, caught one and was enamored.

It was part of “a string of shows we saw for a couple of years where we really enjoyed them and they all flopped,” he said by phone recently. Halperin has learned firsthand how a show can come up short in New York but make it elsewhere. Last year he directed Captains Courageous and won for Best Musical at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, even though an off-Broadway production of it opened and closed quickly.

“How something does on Broadway is not necessarily reflective of it as a musical property that actually moves people, and people love,” he said.

Tuck Everlasting, he continued, is an uplifting musical, and wonderful songs are just one reason. Particularly moving is a 10-minute dance sequence that traces the arc of the main character’s life. “It’s the climax of the musical, without singing, just music and dance,” he said. “We wanted to do it someday, and this was the day.”

Choreographer Meg King will oversee dancing for Powerhouse’s three-day run.

“That’s the most exciting thing for me in this production,” Halperin said. “Meg is doing some legitimate lyrical ballet dance that we don’t usually get in musicals [and] the last sequence is astounding to watch; people in the cast get tears in their eyes every time they see the dancing.”

In 2004, the Halperin family relocated from Massachusetts to the Lakes Region and opened the Winnipesaukee Playhouse, which they ran for 10 years. After, Halperin said, “we were nomads for a while, doing stuff with Hatbox and Community Players of Concord. Then we got kind of recruited out of our full-time retirement to start up again.”

Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative was formed in 2020 as a way to continue a program of performances at Belknap Mill and got its name from the historic facility. It became an independent nonprofit last year. It has also been the Colonial’s resident theater company since it opened.

“We constantly pinch ourselves that we get to do theater and rehearse in this beautiful space.” Halperin said. “For a 750-seat theater, it has an intimacy to it…. We feel very lucky that it’s our home.”

Powerhouse always looks to spur involvement in its work, for actors and people who love theater.

“To really emphasize the community building nature of community theater,” Halperin said. “It’s about collecting people into the family, finding ways for them to shine on stage no matter what role they’re in, and surrounding them with high-quality production values.”

One example is the annual performance of A Christmas Carol. Over the years, they’ve added a choir that performs prior to the show and later adds vocal color from the boxes. “That allowed more people to get involved than we could fit on the stage in character roles,” Halperin said. “We try to find ways to engage as many people as possible for each production.”

Looking back, Bryan and Johanna are still happy with their decision to move north.

“We do think about how our life changed by making that choice to leave our careers and start a theater company,” he said. “But the rewards of community and artistic expression, being in a job that our children could be involved with and grow to love as well, far exceeded our expectations. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has definitely been emotionally rewarding.”

Halperin encouraged people to come out for Tuck Everlasting.

“Everyone involved gets such joy out of singing the music and telling the story,” he said. “It’s a great Mother’s Day weekend, take the family show, kids of all ages are appropriate. I’m pretty sure you will love it if you come to see it.”

Tuck Everlasting
When: Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 12, at 2 p.m.
Where: Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia
Tickets: $18 to $22 at etix.com

Featured Photo: Nikolai Fernandez and Maci Johnson as Jesse Tuck and Winnie Foster in Tuck Everlasting. Courtesy photo.

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