PEOPLE can exclusively reveal that Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon will be starring in Netflix’s revival of The Magic School Bus: Rides Again as the voice of teacher Fiona. Fiona, who is the sister to the the original Ms. Valerie Frizzle, will bring the same comedy mayhem and science education as the original educational ’90s series. Frizzle. The TV series — which premiered on Sept.10, 1994, is based on the book series of the same name by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen.
Ernie Nolan, an award-winning director and playwright based in Chicago, has been named as the new artistic director of Nashville Children’s Theatre, beginning February 1, 2017. Nolan succeeds Scot Copeland, NCT Producing Artistic Director for 31 years, who died unexpectedly in February of this year.
“I am thrilled beyond measure to declare Ernie Nolan NCT’s next artistic director,” says Jamie Eskind, NCT Board Chair. “Ernie is an artist of the highest caliber and an esteemed leader in the field of theatre for young audiences. His inspired vision, collaborative spirit, and investment in what is special about NCT are the precise combination of abilities required to lead NCT into the future.”
“I am incredibly honored to be a part of NCT’s rich history of exceptional theatre for young people,” says Nolan. “I feel so lucky to be able to call an organization with such talented artists, top notch staff, and dedicated board my new home. I look forward to serving the children, families, and teachers of Nashville with programming that reflects Nashville’s amazing community and bring stories to life that both inspire emotional discovery and ignite a fierce passion for the arts.”
Nolan, in 2014, was the recipient of the Illinois Theatre Association’s Award for Excellence in Theatre for Young Audiences. As former Artistic Director of Emerald City Theatre, he helped create The Little Theatre, the nation’s first performance space dedicated exclusively to interactive and immersive theatrical experiences for early theatre goers ages five and under.
Nolan’s work as a playwright has been featured both nationally and internationally. He has adapted and directed such storybook favorites as If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Take a Mouse to School, Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle. His work at The Broadway Playhouse includes A Charlie Brown Christmas, Fancy Nancy The Musical, Pinkalicious, The Cat in the Hat, Cinderella, Charlotte’s Web, and the world premiere of Hansel and Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat, written in collaboration with GRAMMY-nominated recording artist Justin Roberts.
As resident artist of The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, Nolan has directed and choreographed world premieres by such Tony-nominated artists as Willy and Rob Reale, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and Bill Russell and Henry Krieger. For Chicago Playworks he has directed The BFG, The Giver, The Witches, A Wrinkle in Time, Number the Stars, The Day John Henry Came to School, Peter Pan and Wendy and The Kid Who Ran for President. In March 2012, Ernie made his Off-Broadway debut as a choreographer with Lucky Duck at the New Victory Theatre.
Nolan is currently the International Representative for TYA USA to ASSITEJ, a global theatre for young audiences service organization. With his appointment at NCT, he is leaving his position as Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at The Theatre School. He is a graduate of both the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (BFA Musical Theatre) and The Theatre School at DePaul University (MFA Directing).
The process of identifying a new artistic director for NCT began ten months ago. Frank Parsons, of the Center for Nonprofit Management, worked with NCT to conduct the search. The NCT Board of Trustees approved Nolan’s appointment unanimously in late November.
“We looked long and hard and were extremely deliberate in our search for a new artistic director,” Craige Hoover, chair of the search committee, says. “We were determined to find all of the qualities we wanted in one candidate and we believe we have that in Ernie.”
Nolan will visit the theater periodically over the next two months as he prepares for NCT’s 2017-2018 season, and will officially assume his post in February, 2017.
Daniel Brewer, a longtime collaborator of Copeland’s at NCT, has served as interim artistic director since the latter’s death.
About Nashville Children’s TheatreNashville Children’s Theatre is a professional theatre company providing the children,families and educators of Middle Tennessee with extraordinary shared theatrical experiencesthat inspire imagination, develop creativity, and build community.NCT was founded in 1931 by the Junior League of Nashville and is recognized as the oldestprofessional children’s theater in the country. A national leader in professional theater arts and education programs for young people, NCT was ranked by TIME magazine as one of the top five children’s theaters in the country.
Based on the series by R.L. Stine, First Stage Associate Artistic Director John Maclay and Music Director-Composer Danny Abosch have adapted the novel into a musical which will charm audiences of all ages. The “big kids” will immediately recognize the storyline from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera while the “littler ones” easily pick up on all the Disney references. When Brooke and Zeke are cast in a show about a phantom, strange things begin to happen at the school. Is someone playing tricks? Or is there a real phantom out to stop this production?
Director Niffer Clarke masterfully keeps the silly suspense turned up high amid the solid musical numbers and her own well-executed choreography. With Stine’s books, it’s the kids who are the smart ones and Brooke and Zeke certainly rule here as they try to figure out who—or what—is actually behind all the ominous warnings.
The Chills cast of young performers handled the acting chores at last Saturday’s matinée with the utmost enthusiasm and professionalism. Chantae Miller is already a veteran of local productions and it shows in her pitch-perfect performance as Brooke. Jake Koch’s Zeke is the perfect comic foil and Mallorey Wallace hits all the rights notes (literally) as “mean girl—kinda-sorta” Tina. Veteran stage actors Carrie Hitchcock and Chris Klopatek serve this production well as the befuddled teacher and scary janitor, respectively.
Read the full article by Harry Cherkinian from the Shepherd Expresshere.
It’s not always the case that a play lives up to either its title or its billing, but First Stage, as you might expect, does just that with “Goosebumps,” which opened over the weekend.
The full title of the play is “Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium: The Musical,” based on a book by R. L. Stine, who wrote a series of novels for children that have sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
The musical was yet another world premiere for First Stage and was written by John Maclay, who wrote the book, and Danny Abosch, both clients of the Gurman Agency, who wrote the music. The two combined to write some of the best and most interesting lyrics I’ve heard in a long time.
A high school drama class is going to stage a play under the thoughtful and hopeful direction of Mrs. Walker (a marvelously disguised Carrie Hitchcock). The story of the play is about a phantom who prowls the halls of the school auditorium. There are eight students (in the Chill cast which I saw Saturday) who have various roles in the production, headlined by Brooke Rodgers (Chantae Miller) and Zeke Matthews (Jake Koch) who is really the phantom.
Goosebumps runs through Nov. 13.
Read the full article by Dave Begel from OnMiluakeehere.
“Goosebumps the Musical: Phantom of the Auditorium,” opened this weekend at the Newmark Theatre, and it retains the Stine signatures: campy horror, personal growth for the tween protagonists, and a supernatural twist in the final pages.
Based on the 24th book in the series, the musical is the logical, initial adaptation to launch what may develop into a stage franchise that could run for decades. The play mostly takes place in a middle-school theater, and the ghostly phantom is one of the author’s least gruesome villains, which dials down the fear factor for younger theatergoers. (Oregon Children’s Theatre suggests the show is a fit for ages 8 and up.) And the story is no sillier than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s overblown version of Gaston Leroux’s chiller, but here there’s no pretension, no tacky chandelier trick and no faux operatic caterwauling.
Line of the Night: “The show must go on. No one’s going to scare me off. It’s my time,” aspiring lead actress Brooke (Katie McClanan) proclaims after she’s fed up with the phantom’s antics.
Strengths: While the movie was a nostalgic feast for young parents who devoured two or three books over rainy weekends during their tween years, John Maclay’s play chiefly serves kids. And that feels absolutely correct. There’s no need for clever winks to Stephen King or cameos from Stine’s stable of other creatures. (Although the opening number, “Goosebumps,” delivers a quick shout-out to Slappy the demonic ventriloquist’s dummy, who’s the unofficial mascot for the series.) We can limit our nostalgia intake and let the kids discover all of the frightful fun for themselves.
Danny Abosch’s creepy, slightly pop score sounds much more suited to Stine’s material than Danny Elfman’s erratic, overly cute instrumental arrangement for the recent film. In fact, Sony Pictures should grab the play’s opening song for the upcoming “Goosebumps” movie sequel. This is one of those rare musicals with a tune that sticks in your head, playing over and over, days later.
Weaknesses: This is one of those rare musicals with a tune that sticks in your head, playing over and over, days later.
Most Significant Performances: Drama teacher Ms. Walker (played by Laurie Campbell-Leslie) and her convincingly anxious, spacey, funny and determined middle schoolers are a credit to theater geeks everywhere. The young cast owns their characters’ idiosyncrasies like natural personal traits.
McClanan handily pivots from tenacious, Tony-bound thespian to an adorably awkward crushing tween. As Zeke — a hyperactive, junior Johnny Knoxville whose pranks finally backfire — Skylar Derthick is all-heart, no Ritalin. He chews through his scenes with good-natured ferocity, like a hamster chewing through a shoebox.
Take-away: Small scares, little life lessons and a title track that, for better or worse, you’ll take to your grave.
— Lee Williams, for The Oregonian/OregonLive
“Goosebumps the Musical: Phantom of the Auditorium”
When: 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday (no 11 a.m. shows Nov. 6, 13 or 20) through Nov. 20
If a musical that explains the electoral college sounds like theater detention, skip the rest of this review. But you’ll miss out on an hour of fun in “Grace for President,” the world premiere now at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.
Your child might tell you the story comes from a 2008 book by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator LeUyen Pham, in which a third-grader looks at a wall full of presidential portraits and asks, “Where are the girls?” Grace decides to run for class president and, because uncontested elections take place only in dictatorships, an opponent is found: Thomas Cobb, a superachiever with an ego the size of his C.V.
What your child doesn’t yet know is the cleverness with which composer-librettist-playwright Joan Cushing has converted this narrative to a musical. We get a harmonized hymn to maleness in “Boys Boys Boys,” a plaintive song about participation in “My Vote Counts,” and a hip-hop showstopper in “The Democracy Rap” that borrows from the “Hamilton” playbook.
Yet Cushing makes a lot of good points: We should vote for the person best qualified for the job, not the blowhard who makes empty promises with no intention of keeping them. Long-term policies, not short-term gratification, matter most. Shy or hesitant people need to be invited to participate, whether in a school cafeteria or life. And a single vote can sway an election, as all historians know.
She tells the story so rousingly that children in the audience were cheering for Grace and Thomas by the end, like nominators at a political convention. Director Michelle Long, aware that politics can be a staid subject, keeps things moving cleverly: At one point, the student portraying Washington gets “rowed” across the classroom on a movable desk by fellow students. Talia Robinson’s energy, a combination of exuberance and justifiable irritation, makes the progressive Grace a charmer.
Read the full article by Lawrence Toppman for The Charlotte Observer here.
Despite the fuss made over Hillary Clinton, Grace Campbell was the first female to declare an interest in being president in 2016. We’ll find out how she does well before November.
She’s the third-grade heroine of “Grace for President,” the musical Children’s Theatre of Charlotte commissioned and will open next week. (School performances precede the Oct. 21 opening to the public.) It’s a world premiere, though CTC allowed Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Ga. to do two public performances last weekend.
Back when Clinton’s candidacy was still a rumor – a likely rumor, but not confirmed – CTC artistic director Adam Burke hired Joan Cushing to write book, music and lyrics for this show. She’d done “Ella’s Big Chance” for CTC and happily dug into the story of Grace, which started life as a picture book by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator LeUyen Pham.
It depicts the race between practical, down-to-Earth Grace and Thomas Cobb, who attains popularity by making inflated promises he can’t keep. Any similarity to the current “adult” race remains accidental, as Burke and Cushing were discussing this idea in 2014.
“We thought it would be a perfect fit for the election season of 2016,” says Burke. “Joan had a career for years as a political satirist in Washington – she played the piano (in revues) as Mrs. Foggybottom – so who better to write a musical that explains the electoral system?” Michelle Long, CTC’s director of education, will helm the show.
The kids in Ms. Barrington’s class all represent a state in the election. Not to give the ending away, but it comes down to the three electoral votes of Wyoming – which elected the first female governor in U.S. history, Nellie Tayloe Ross, in 1924.
Grace’s African-American heritage also seems timely to Burke, not just because we have a black president now but because “what’s happened in Charlotte recently has made this story relevant. It’s important for us to provide offerings that represent the whole community.”
Yet the message, he says, is less that girls can serve capably or even that African-Americans should have a hand in running the country. It’s more that “you should vote for the person most qualified to serve, whoever it may be. Vote not for what they are – Republican, Democrat, man, woman – but what they stand for.”
Read the full story by Lawrence Toppman for the Charlotte Observerhere.