Dec 06

Alberta Theatre Projects’ Charlotte’s Web is a solid telling of a classic story

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Léda Davies and Tenaj Williams in Charlotte’s Web at Alberta Theatre Projects. Photo: Benjamin Laird. (Set & Lights: Anton de Groot, Costumes: Jennifer Lee Arsenault)


Review written by Jenna Shummoogum

Back in 2014, Alberta Theatre Projects‘ produced E.B White’s Charlotte’s Web, an adaptation by Joseph Robinette. It was quite a hit for them, so they have remounted it with a brand new cast, making it a different but similar production. What still resonates in this classic story is the unusual friendship between a pig and a spider. Sometimes, you do get by with a little help from your friends.

The play tells of Wilbur (Tenaj Williams) a piglet who is saved by his human friend Fern Arable (Annabel Beames) from the slaughterhouse. Fern’s father, John (Philip Fulton) and his wife Martha (Sarah Wheeldon) decide to sell Wilbur to John’s brother Homer Zuckerman (Stafford Perry) and his wife Edith (Nadien Chu). Wilbur is delighted to live in the barn, where he meets the other animals including Goose (Chu) and Gander (Fulton), the Sheep (Wheeldon) and Lamb (Aubrey Baux, who also plays Fern’s brother Avery) and Templeton the rat (Geoffrey Simon Brown who also plays Lervy who helps on the farm). All of the animals are kind towards Wilbur but warn him of impeding doom, saying that the Zuckermans are fattening him up to kill him. When nobody can save him, he meets Charlotte (Leda Davies), a kind and wise spider who decides to save her friend.

Cast members of Charlotte’s Web at Alberta Theatre Projects. Photo: Benjamin Laird. (Set & Lights: Anton de Groot, Costumes: Jennifer Lee Arsenault)


The big difference between this production and the last mounting of this work is Davies in the role of Charlotte. Davies hangs from her silks, often not using her hands to create this vivid picture of Charlotte as a spider. Her cocoon for sleeping is two sheets wrapped around her, while she balances mid-air and characters walk around beneath her. This portrayal is quite innovative to witness. Williams is charming, earnest and humble as Wilbur and Brown is a great contrast of selfishness and self interest. Ethan Cole is the musician on stage as well as the narrator and it rounds out the production.

Anton de Groot’s set design moves around to create the barn and the county fair, while allowing a place for Charlotte to hang. Jennifer Lee Arsenault’s costume design lets the actors change so quickly from scene to scene, switching from animal to human as most of them play dual roles. Director Laurel Green has it all unfold at a steady pace so that the play doesn’t feel too long.

Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of Charlotte’s Web is solid, standing strong on the values of loyalty and friendship. Sometimes the songs are not as catchy as they could be, but the variety of instruments used is quite nice. It makes for a full telling of a classic story.

Alberta Theatre Projects’ Charlotte’s Web runs until December 31. More information is available online.

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