Youths tackle immortality in ‘Tuck Everlasting’ - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Youths tackle immortality in ‘Tuck Everlasting’

August 7th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Youths tackle immortality in ‘Tuck Everlasting’

By Colleen Sparks, Managing Editor

Many Chandler children and teens will delve into immortality and the need to create meaningful lives when they present in the musical “Tuck Everlasting” at a Gilbert theater.

Opening night is Aug. 10 for “Tuck Everlasting” at Limelight Performing Arts inside Studio 3 Performing Arts Academy at 511 W. Guadalupe Road, Suite 12. The musical will also be performed Aug. 11, 17, 18 and 19; the Aug. 12 show has sold out.

Based on the book by Natalie Babbitt, “Tuck Everlasting” was also made into films though the musical version has some differences.

In the musical at Limelight, 11-year-old Winnie Foster longs for an adventurous life beyond her white picket fence and gets more than she could have envisioned when she meets the Tuck family.

She discovers the magic behind the family members’ eternal lives and must fight to protect their secret from others who would do anything they could to get a chance to live forever.

Jackie Brecker, 20, a 2016 Hamilton High School graduate and Limelight Performing Arts veteran, is directing. She also teaches at Studio 3 Performing Arts.

“I love it,” Brecker said. “I think it’s so well-written. It’s incredible material for children to get to do. It’s a serious subject but it’s handled so well. I think what drew me to the show is that it’s really about this family that’s just stuck.

“They feel like they don’t have any reason to continue living their lives. This little girl shows them how they can still have a meaningful life and teaches them how to connect again. For me the whole show is about connection and is about healing. It teaches you that you’ve gotta be grateful for what you have. It’s a really good life lesson tucked into this really well-written, well-constructed musical.”

She performed many years as an actress, singer and dancer in the Valley, including at Limelight. Brecker is living in Gilbert temporarily and then will move to Chandler for a few months to perform “Jekyll & Hyde” at Arizona Regional Theatre in Phoenix.

In October she will return to her new home in the Chicago area, where she has been pursuing her acting, dancing and singing studies, as well as choreographing.

“As a director you’re in charge of making sure everything serves a story, everything that happens on stage serves the moral or the lesson that you’re trying to get across,” Brecker said. “I think it’s going to make me a better actor. It helps me see the big picture.”

She said the cast of 30 in “Tuck Everlasting” will take the audience members through diverse emotions. They range in age from 8 to 22.

“Hopefully they’ll laugh and they’ll cry,” Brecker said of the audiences. “It’s a really beautiful story that is written so well. There are moments of extreme light and extreme darkness. You’ll leave the show and want to talk about it.”

The young actors in “Tuck Everlasting” agreed with Brecker’s assessment.

Connor Brigola, 18, of Chandler, another Hamilton High graduate, who has performed in many shows at Limelight, plays Miles Tuck in “Tuck Everlasting” and said the story is “very interesting.”

In the tale, Winnie sees Jesse Tuck drinking from a spring. Jesse forbids her from drinking the water and shortly after that Jesse’s brother and their mother take Winnie away with them. They are being pursued by a man in a yellow suit, who had previously asked the Foster family questions about their land.

Brigola said the spring water has made the Tuck family immortal, which causes problems for them.

“It’s such a rollercoaster of emotions, a beautifully written show,” he said. “My jaw drops every time. It makes you want to be a better actor. I think the story especially is something that will hook the people in.”

He said his parents in the play deal with anxiety and boredom respectively knowing they will live forever. Brigola said his character feels depressed as a result of immortality and also because his wife leaves him, taking their son with him. The wife believes Miles is a “freak,” Brigola added.

Brigola said he enjoys singing a song that conveys the message in the saying “time is a fickle mistress.”

This will be Brigola’s last show at Limelight before he starts school at the University of Arizona in the fall, where he plans to study veterinary medicine.

In June Brigola directed “12 Angry Jurors” at Limelight, and last year he directed “The Lion King Jr.” at the Gilbert theater. He has performed in many shows at Limelight over the last five years and also performed at Chandler Center for the Arts theater camps.

“I’m sad, but also I feel like this is the perfect cast, the perfect show to end my time,” Brigola said. “Being an only child, what the studio, what theater’s done for me, it’s without words. It’s been such a fun experience.”

While he does not plan to study theater at UofA, he said he expects he will come back to participate in summer theater camps at Studio 3 and do “some kind of theater” while in college.

Another recent high school graduate, Jaelyn Brown, 18, of Chandler, is also enjoying performing in “Tuck Everlasting.” She graduated from Tri-City Christian Academy and is attending Grand Canyon University this fall, where she will major in communications and minor in pre-law and dance.

Brown plays Winnie’s mother, Betsy Foster, in the musical and also dances in the ensemble. She started performing in musicals about two years ago and was part of the “12 Angry Jurors” cast at Limelight.

“Honestly, it’s a very hard character to play,” Brown said. “Her husband has just died. She just wants to honor her husband’s memory. It requires me to remember that I’m older; that’s really challenging. The whole point of the musical is the connection they have with each other.”

Jessica Wastchak, 15, of Chandler, a sophomore at Hamilton High School, also plays an adult in “Tuck Everlasting.” She portrays the adult version of Winnie Foster and is also part of the ensemble.

“It is a gorgeous story,” Wastchak said. “It’s like a chronological storyline but you get to see all the flashbacks. Winnie is just the spark of joy. The choreography is brilliant. The songs are gorgeous.”

Like many of the teens and children in the show, Wastchak has been taking dance classes for a long time. The performers dance complex choreography with male partners lifting them up. Wastchak has been studying dance for six years.

“I love the cast,” she said. “A lot of them I’ve known a couple years. We all get along really well.”

Chandler brother and sister Matt and Julia Pitman also like the dancing and camaraderie of the show. Matt, 16, a junior at Perry High School, performs in the ensemble and said the show features a lot of singing and dancing.

“It’s very dance-heavy and the dance is challenging,” Matt said. “I started taking dance around third grade. What I love about Limelight is I have so many friends here. It’s a really friendly experience.”

He has performed in several other shows at Limelight and said it is fun participating with his sister so they can practice together at home and “it’s just easier to talk about it sometimes.”

Matt said he believes the story of “Tuck Everlasting” will show people they “should appreciate things” in life.

Julia, 12, a seventh-grader at Santan Junior High, plays the young Winnie Foster in the musical and has also acted in many shows at Limelight.

“I really like this character and this musical,” she said. “It’s an amazing story. I really like that it’s about moving on. I think at points it might be a little sad, but also touching at the same time. I like Limelight. I love performing here; it has such a good community.”

Julia and Matt said they would love to perform on Broadway some day.

Two younger castmates also have the acting bug: Kaylee Forth, 8, of Chandler, a fourth-grader at Haley Elementary School, performs in the ensemble as does Kaylee Delgado, 9, of Chandler, a fifth-grader at Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary School.

“I like that it’s like everlasting and people can dream that they can live forever,” Kaylee Forth said, adding that the singing is her favorite part of performing in “Tuck Everlasting” and that the show has “all the emotions.”

Kaylee Delgado also likes the show but she loves the acrobatics, tumbling and dancing in “Tuck Everlasting.”

“I think like it’s a really good show,” she said. “So far it’s the best show I’ve ever done. I’ve been dancing since I was one years old.”

Brecker said she is proud of all the actors in the show.

“They’re so well-rounded,” she said. “They’re also dedicated. It’s really been a joy to get to watch them rehearse. I just wanna stress how hard these kids are working and how talented they are. I’m so lucky and proud that this group of kids came together.”

She is also grateful for the support and help from Emma England, owner of Studio 3 Performing Arts Academy and artistic director and board president of Limelight Performing Arts. England is also the designer for “Tuck Everlasting.”

Nick Magel is the stage manager and “he’s doing amazing,” she said. Brecker added Haylee Abney, the music director for “Tuck Everlasting,” is “amazing” and a longtime friend.

Many other East Valley youths are also performing in “Tuck Everlasting.”

Gilbert performers are: Paige Erdmann, 11, ensemble; Zoe Bauerle, 10, ensemble; Caitlyn Miller, 14, Nana; Mireya Tovar, 14, ensemble; Jordan Gingell, the Man in the Yellow Suit; Emma Martin, 11, Thomas; Manuel Edrozo, 16, Hugo as an adult; and Marisa Edrozo, 14, Thomas’ mother.

Mesa performers include: Nick Williams, 15, Jesse Tuck; Abby Springer, 11, ensemble and understudy for the role of Thomas; Savannah Springer, 8, ensemble; Brenna Bauer, 13, ensemble; Connor Olden, 14, ensemble; and Nicolas Caglia, 20, ensemble.


1. Connor Brigola, 18, of Chandler, a Hamilton High School graduate, plays Miles Tuck. 2. Jaelyn Brown, 18, of Chandler, plays Betsy Foster. 3. Jessica Wastchak, 15, of Chandler, plays the adult version of Winnie Foster. 4. Julia Pitman, 12, plays the young Winnie Foster. 5. Kaylee Forth, 8, of Chandler, a fourth-grader at Haley Elementary School, performs in the ensemble of “Tuck Everlasting” at Limelight Performing Arts in Gilbert. 6. Kaylee Delgado, 9, of Chandler, is in the ensemble.