At the Feb. 8 run-through rehearsal of the San Jose-based Playful People Productions’ “Our Town,” members of the Thornton cast tell a story, spanning 1901 to 1913, about the simple lives of the townspeople in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. A meaningful reflection in the third act presented the question, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”
Especially noteworthy and uncommon about this particular production of the Thornton Wilder play, which is not a musical, is its vocal music. Songs the show choir sang, with comfort and optimism, included Samuel Ward’s “America, the Beautiful,” Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” and C. J. Webb’s “Home Sweet Home.” Not to be missed is a soloist, who goes by “The T,” performing John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” with passion and heart.
“‘Our Town’ is about people and their lives and how we interact with each other, and how one generation creates things that are there for the next generation,” said Stephanie Crowley, Publicist of Playful People Productions. “‘Our Town’ is a show about families and this is a production with actual families performing together.”
Eliza Singer, 14, of Santa Clara, has been in 11 shows with Playful People Productions, including this current production, with at least one parent in the cast. In “Our Town,” both her parents are fellow cast members.
“It’s nice to see my parents happy and smiling and interacting with each other onstage,” Singer said. “I’ve been helping my mom run her lines in ‘Our Town’ because she plays Mr. Webb, who has a lot of long monologues.
“My dad needs less help from me,” Singer continued. “He plays the role of Dr. Gibbs, as the father of one of my character’s best friends, George. It has been interesting seeing the relationship of George and Dr. Gibbs develop onstage. The person who plays George is one of my best friends.”
“Whenever there is a Playful People show that adults can be in, teens can be in the show as well,” said Melissa Gilbert, Singer’s mother. “It gives the kids an opportunity to help their parents because the kids can quickly learn the choreography, the blocking and the lines. It’s nice to have an area where our children can help us, and where they can see us being vulnerable, making mistakes and persisting. Eliza has helped me with my vocals in past Playful People shows.”
Gilbert pointed out there are few activities where families can come together across generations. Filling that void for Gilbert and her family are Playful People Productions’ shows that allow for both adult and teen participation.
“In this production of ‘Our Town,’ there are at least 10 families represented,” Gilbert said. “It’s a welcoming environment for families to perform together, and also for people wanting to do a show who don’t have family members in the show.”
Featuring the Thornton and Wilder casts, “Our Town” is running Feb. 23-26 at San Jose’s Historic Hoover Theater. Unlike the rehearsals, most cast members will be unmasked during actual shows. Visit playfulpeople.org to buy tickets.