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Kids can sing along at 'Pooh Birthday'

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
Cast members, (center front) Amelia Bender, 6, of Harrison City, (back from left) Hannah Barch, 14, of Springdale, Reese McCracken, 9, of Latrobe, Skye Lanham, 7, Alexandra Swartz, 19, of Delmont, Anthony Hartwick, 11, of Plum, and Maggie Klingensmith, 14, of Murrysville rehearse for the Apple Hill Playhouse upcoming production of 'Winnie the Pooh', Thursday evening, June 27, 2013 at the American Legion in Delmont, PA.

Everyone loves Winnie the Pooh and everyone loves birthday parties. So what's not to love about “A Winnie the Pooh Birthday Tail” at Apple Hill Playhouse?

“The young audience will just love this show,” says Rob Stull, who directs the musical by James W. Rodgers presented by Johnny Appleseed Children's Theatre. Its main attraction is its score with songs that the director says “are catchy enough that the audience is asked to join in with a sing-along in the first five minutes of the show.”

A cast consisting of local youngsters plays the familiar characters from A.A. Milne's classic story of the honey-loving bear. Portraying Winnie the Pooh is Skye Lanham of Murrysville, a second-grade student at Heritage Elementary School. Lanham says she is looking forward to performing “because I can be funny with the character and I love being funny.”

The young actress is no stranger to the stage. She played Sophia in “Beauty and the Beast” at Carnegie Performing Arts Academy last year and recently played a “Who” in the CLO Academy school musical, “Seussical.”

When she's not rehearsing her lines, Lanham studies voice, piano and dance and is preparing to compete at the USA Ambassador Pageant Nationals as PA State Junior Pre-Teen Queen in August in Tampa.

“It has been really busy, but it is what I love to do,” she says. “I also have to have my tonsils out in August.”

In the Apple Hill musical, Pooh is one of the characters who come to the rescue of Eeyore (Mike Bliss), the gloomy but lovable donkey who has lost his tail. Also helping to solve the mystery are Christopher Robin (Alexandra Swartz), Piglet (Anthony Hartwick), Kanga (Maggie Klingensmith), Roo (Amelia Bender), Rabbit (Hannah Barch), Owl (Cameron Swartz) and Tigger (Reese McCracken).

Stull says Piglet and Eeyore sing a song in the show that sums up the message of the musical: “Everybody Needs a Friend.”

“The great thing about this show is that there is a conflict, but the characters join together to help Eeyore find his missing tail,” the director says. “They bond as a team, even if some of the characters may have quirks or differences. Winnie is always hungry, Eeyore is always down, Tigger is always too excited. No matter how little they may have, they try to make a happy birthday for Eeyore.”

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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