News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Young Life: ‘Flat Stanley’ musical takes flight
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Area children are in for a delight when a lovable character—who has, for decades, shown new vistas to young students through a special school project—appears live onstage via the magic of Stage Door Productions. In performances this weekend, that ever-optimistic, paper-thin protagonist, Flat Stanley, will whisk the audience away for adventures near and far.
As the story opens, Stanley and his younger brother, Arthur, are hosting a slumber party. Just before bedtime, after the boys’ parents, the Lambchops, bid them goodnight, the children share what they would wish for if one dream could come true. A shooting star sails through the sky as Stanley tells of his hope for a life of travel and adventure. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for!
That night as Stanley sleeps, a magical bulletin board falls on him. He awakens in the morning to discover that he is as flat as a pancake. His parents, fraught with worry, take him to Doctor Dan, who assures them that, aside from his thickness deficit, he is in perfect health.
But while Stanley’s condition had no negative effects on his physical well-being, the fact that he is slightly different from the rest of his peers makes him the target of the Cool Kids at school, who contrive to make him into a kite. Little Arthur watches in dismay as his brother sails through the air and becomes stuck in a tree.
In circumstances that might depress others, Stanley uses his time in the treetops to muse about prospects that could unfold for him in his new condition. Shortly thereafter, an avenue to adventure is shown by the neighborhood letter carrier, Mrs. Cartero, who suggests that Stanley take advantage of his flatness and travel by mail to explore new sights.
With that, Stanley’s adventures begin. Stamped and sealed, he visits the Louvre in Paris, where he collaborates with portraits of Napoleon and the Mona Lisa to thwart a burglary. He then travels on to California to meet a Hollywood agent, who casts him as the star in a Hawaiian surfing movie. Offered even more prospects for future roles, Stanley declines, feeling the heartstrings pull from home, and takes one last trip in his envelope, back to his hometown.
His parents rejoice when they open the envelope and Stanley emerges in his original three-dimensional form.
“The performance is going to be a lot of fun for the audiences and is very upbeat, but at the same time, it has a message you can take away that I think even kids will relate to,” said director Matthew Armentrout, a theater teacher at Chancellor High School. “As Stanley says at the end, what’s the point of doing amazing things that the world has never seen before if there’s nobody to share it with?”
Armentrout says that the music for the production is so high-energy and catchy that “even the adults will be walking away humming it.” At the same time, he notes that the show also includes some heart-moving songs such as the letters from Arthur and Stanley’s mom and dad.
As a director, Armentrout strives to arrange for each of the youths in the 45-member cast to shine onstage. In addition, he has coordinated activities to link the production to the original Flat Stanley project.
He has elicited Flat Stanleys from locations that are featured in the show (including France and Hawaii), which cast members will bring to landmark sites in Fredericksburg to take photos that will be sent back to the classes they came from.
The audience may also note that the photos of Flat Stanley that line the hallway to the auditorium bear a striking resemblance to the cast members.
Armentrout, a nine-year Stage Door Productions veteran, notes the value that the experience of live theater has for young people.
“It is uniquely engaging for kids. It’s a live event that’s happening in front of them at one moment in time, and it will affect each person watching it in some way.”
What: Stage Door Productions presents “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr.”
Where: The Central Rappahannock Regional Library, 1201 Caroline St., Fredericksburg
When: March 30 at 7:30 p.m.; March 31 at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.; April 1 at 2 p.m.
Info: 540/372-1144; stagedoorproductions.org
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.