Last Saturday, at the opening of Nashville Children’s Theatre’s Charlotte’s Web, Boogie-Woogie-Bebop 1950s flair danced with the sights and sounds of the picturesque West Glow Farm. Artistic Director Ernie Nolan recalls it as being nothing short of amazing.
“The play starts, ‘Listen to the sounds of the earth. Listen to the sound of the morning,’ and here we are actually on a farm in the morning. All of the sounds of the play are coming from the band or handheld things… The music is a beautiful artistic addition to the play rather than simulating something.”
Behind that evocative soundscape is a talented trio: Ben Andrews (Music Director for Charlotte’s Web) on drums and percussion, Max Dvorin on saxophone, and Cassidy Gephard on piano. Together with arrangements by David Weinstein (NCT’s Resident Music Director), they create another layer of the unexpected. Families will find that behind the classic story they love, the unique music and location of the show will inspire them to think beyond the familiar and welcome new possibilities.
West Glow Farm at Dunvegan opened in 2017 as a dream turned reality for Mary Britton and Jody Cummings to start a sustainable vegetable farm. But soon, the farm became much more. Now, West Glow also serves as a venue for weddings, yoga retreats, and many more events that the Cummings hope inspire visitors to think about where they buy their food.
For the owners of West Glow, the NCT collaboration is both surprising and organic: “Jody and I are both from Nashville, so we have spent many hours as children on field trips to NCT, and then when we had our children, it was just such a special place for them to cultivate that love of the arts and theater,” Mary Britton explained.
With several friends across the Nashville theatre scene, including a few NCT Board Members, the couple was excited to see their barn take on new life as a venue. Mary Britton expressed how thankful they were for the opportunity to give back to Nashville artists, “As Nashvillians, we have taken for granted how easy it is to access the arts whether music or theatre…. And it was such a void during the pandemic. I didn’t realize how much it filled us up until it was gone.”
Nolan reiterates the importance of this homecoming and how it fits into the musical tone of Charlotte’s Web, “… using live musicians is Nashville. It’s an element that the actors get to play with that is special to this production. The music is alive in the space with the audience and the actors. To me, live musicians equal celebration, and since this is our first live show back after so long, the trio is a part of that visceral celebration.”
Yet, audiences can still expect intimacy in this celebration. Ben Andrews (also a part of NCT’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins in 2017, Tuck Everlasting in 2018, and The Little Mermaid in 2019) let us in on another uncommon aspect of this show.
“It is a very unique thing that we are not using microphones; it’s all acoustic…I can hear from my seat what the show sounds like to audiences without a mixer. No one can turn this person down or up; that’s on us. We are adapting to the environment in real-time.”
Mary Britton describes how the closeness of this production mirrors one of West Glows key mission statements: “to gather the community and honor that gathering of generations and different walks of life.”
“This is the music that would play at the county fair, what was on the radio families listened to on front porches or while working on a car.” The show carries a quality of nostalgia with Nolan’s vision of bringing the audience into the time of Charlotte’s Web, as well as appealing to what Mary Britton describes as “the longing to get back to the land.”
Now that this one-of-a-kind production has opened, get tickets for your family today at www.nashvillect.org. Stay tuned for more deep dives and exclusive peaks into NCT’s Charlotte’s Web.