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Cast members in rehearsal for the New Acting Company’s “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
BY TIM LALUMIA | Like spring, the New Acting Company’s latest production at Children’s Aid Society on Sullivan St., is upon us. The similarities don’t end there. Blooming creativity, warm rays of youth and the miracle of transformation should be eagerly anticipated in the upcoming staging of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” This one is sure to be another winner.
Adapted by Kathy Keane — the brilliant scribe of last year’s N.A.C. masterpiece “Snow White” — the show is under the sensitive and wildly inventive direction of the company’s own founder and producing artistic director, Stephen Michael Rondel.
The play features a tight ensemble cast comprised of five professional adult cast members and five fledgling young actors trained right in N.A.C.’s own acting programs.
Based on some real life events, this adaptation follows Jack, an inspirational dreamer who is determined to find a better life for his family. The story merges hilarious modern situations and themes with the classic sky-high David versus Goliath fairly tale.
After 150 years at its West Village location, Children’s Aid Society is closing it’s doors. Having served this community in so many diverse and positive ways, the lively children’s center will certainly be missed. But unfortunately this also marks the New Acting Company’s final spring production at this location. (N.A.C. highly anticipates moving into a new space very soon).
The good news is that “Jack and Beanstalk” will continue to follow in the New Acting Company’s own “giant” footsteps. Over the past 12 years, each show — including “The Jungle Book,” “Alice and Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” — has always raised the bar by this company’s ever-expanding and inventive style of youth theater. Not surprisingly, this latest production extends the scope and production value, as well as the laughs and first-rate performances that have come to be expected with each outing. Expect the campy musical numbers and fanciful reworkings of old characters and the introduction of new edgy ones, to warm the semifrozen winter hearts of theatergoers young and old.
The New Acting Company has, for more than a decade, redefined children’s theater by serving up to the community a string of theatrical treasures while simultaneously providing a children’s acting training ground through its extensive after-school programming. Each semester dozens of actors — as young as 3 years old — are taught the basics of stage acting while learning the self-confidence and creative thinking crucial to life in today’s modern society.
The program’s quality and depth of training are apparent. For example, just this year, three longtime N.A.C. students were accepted at the prestigious LaGuardia Arts High School, and recently one student appeared in a Broadway production of “Macbeth” opposite Patrick Stewart.
Many children continue through middle school with advanced classes, experiencing firsthand the entire process of producing a show. They audition, study, prepare and perform in shows ranging from basic to the company’s yearly full-scale production.
Every week dozens of classes are offered to kids after school, helping students to face such important issues as responsibility, teamwork, self-esteem, risk and success. There are also evening adult acting classes.
As Rondel noted, “Rehearsing and studying their parts for each production, large and small, the students are always urged to ‘rise to the occasion’ while dealing with the risks and surprises inherent in live theater. We believe that it is this unexpected aspect of the process that provides the unique effect of lifting the students up with pride, while revealing skills and feelings which they were not aware of. Most importantly, this serves to break — or point out — their perceived limitations and helps them grow as actors and people, onstage and in their lives.”
We need much more of this kind of children’s theater, and let us hope this one finds its new home as soon as is humanly possible.
“Jack and Beanstalk” will run from April 12 through May 6, Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m., at the Philip Coltoff Center, 219 Sullivan St. (between W. Third and Bleecker Sts.). Tickets are $18, available online at SmartTix.com or by phone at 212-868-4444, and at the door by cash only. This show is recommended for ages 4 and up: No infants will be permitted.