One of my favorite musicals of all time is Mamma Mia. What can I say, there’s just something about the bouncy 70’s euro pop stylings of Abba, performed on the backdrop of a beautiful Greek island that really just gets me. I’ve never actually seen it live (to my great displeasure), but I’ve seen the movie and every version I can find across the internet. What’s always fascinated me about the show is how it takes the pop sound of a generation and transforms it into what sounds like a classic musical. The group identity of Abba isn’t really present in the show, yet their music ties the plot together perfectly. Somehow, the reinvigoration of an already well-loved work of art creates a new piece, which is then make anew again with every production produced.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, written and directed by Ernie Nolan, is one of Nashville Children’s Theatre’s ongoing productions for the very young. It features Eric D. Pasto-Crosby and Ryan Michael Friedman as the play’s two characters, Glimmer and Sparkle. The two actors are familiar with their jobs, having performed their roles last fall. When asked about the ease or difficulty of remounting productions which they’ve already performed in, Ryan and Eric, though in similar positions, have very different perspectives. “It was a super easy and fast process getting back into the show and character” says Ryan. “Returning to the script allows more freedom in the small moments and allows me to explore each moment more.” He also attributes his own success to his talented scene partner and hard-working teammates, in establishing fluidity and ease in the production.
Eric, though equally confidant feels more conflicted at the ease of entering a remount. “I always try and find what made the show and character interesting the first time around and then use that as a jumping off place to make this production just as good” he says. “I think as a remount you have to try and make this one better or very least slightly different. Mostly for those who saw it last time to get something new from the experience. The script hasn’t changed so that won’t be new, but little ways Ryan and I interact can be crisper, cleaner, and more playful.”
A lot of what makes a remount differentiate itself from other productions has to do with intention. As Eric pointed out, the script hasn’t changed. As words often lend the way to action, stage business can also be similar between productions. It is the intentions which actors and directors set within themselves that motivates individual shows.
With Twinkle, Twinkle, being a show made for a very young audience, the actors both found their intentions in communicating with their young audience members. Eric, who has a young son of his own, sets his intentions in honesty while portraying his character. “Kids can read through lies” says Eric. “They can tell when characters aren’t being ‘genuine.’ My personal goal is anytime I approach a production is ‘Will those I love see my growth as a performer in this show or that I learned something from past mistakes or moments that didn’t land?’ You must always be attempting to be better than your last performance.” Similarly, Eric found the most success in communicating with his young audience truthfully, as he would any other person only with simpler language. “Much of my professional experience in theatre has been performing for children. I found the most success in being truly honest with the character’s intentions and never downplaying.”
Chad Parsons, the stage manager of the production, separates himself from his fellow teammates in that this is his first time interacting with Twinkle, Twinkle. His entry into the show was “a quick turnaround process,” he says, with his main challenge being inserting himself into an already produced production. “The most difficult thing for me was finding the rhythm of the show, this is something that is usually discovered in the full rehearsal process. With this remount, we only rehearsed for four days. Ernie [the creator and director] was a joy to work with in this process, as he was open to the suggestions and slight changes that would help the show re-adjust to the space at Lipscomb.” Chad also commented on the interactive nature of the show as a means for keeping the material fresh. “They [Eric and Ryan] are both so involved with the children who are watching the show, they listen to what the children in the audience have to say and actually pay attention to them and respond to them; in doing this they are so automatically authentic.”
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, like Mamma Mia, is a reinvigoration of the familiar. As the musical does for adults, Twinkle, Twinkle gets children on their feet dancing, moving, and interacting with the theatrical world in front of them. Be it the first time or the twenty-fourth time, the show presents a refreshing tale of a little star and the starkeepers who look after it from which little ones can learn.