'Really Rosie' is a show really for kids (of all ages)
Apple Hill Playhouse will close its summer season with a musical that one cast member calls “truly a show for children of all ages.”
Abrielle Brown, an eighth-grade student in the Norwin School District, portrays the title role in “Really Rosie,” a family-friendly musical that brought together best-selling children’s author Maurice Sendak (“Where the Wild Things Are”) and composer Carole King, who wrote the score.
Rolling Stone called King one of the most successful female songwriters – and among the most influential songwriters – of the 20th century for her many hits, including “You’ve Got a Friend” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.”
Her honors include a National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award, a Grammy Trustees Award and the Library of Congress Gershwin Award for Popular Song. Sendak has won a Caldecott Medal, National Book Award and a National Medal of the Arts for his work.
Their 1975 musical was first produced as an animated television special, followed by off-Broadway stage productions in 1980 and 2017.
Apple Hill debut
Brown is making her Apple Hill debut as Rosie, “a sassy and dramatic 10-year-old who lives on the block of Brooklyn’s Avenue P.”
“I love stepping into her ‘over the top’ character and making the audience smile at her splashy antics and star-struck daydreaming with her friends,” says Brown, who is from North Huntingdon.
“Adults will love the retro feel of the songs written by Carole King in the 1970s and I guarantee that kids will be humming the catchy lyrics as they leave the theater,” she says. “This is truly a show for children of all ages.”
Her character amuses herself and her friends by acting out her show business dreams, including starring in and directing an Oscar-winning movie titled “Did You Hear what Happened to Chicken Soup?”
Brown played orphan and ensemble roles in “Annie Jr.” at her school last year and has participated in theater productions since second grade – in leading roles including Glinda in “The Wizard of Oz,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland” and Wendy in “Peter Pan” – for Maestro Minds School of Music in Irwin.
Capturing childhood’s innocence
Keeley Thomas of Greensburg portrays Rosie’s best friend, Kathy, who longs for her own chance to shine in the spotlight. An 11th-grade student at Greater Latrobe Senior High School, she performed in her school’s two most recent shows, “Titanic the Musical” and “Annie the Musical.”
Thomas says “Really Rosie” is special because it manages to capture the innocence of childhood while also incorporating more mature, sometimes darker themes.
Tobitha Sasso, Apple Hill’s marketing director and Johnny Appleseed Children’s Theater apprentice coordinator, is directing the show and says it is a look back “at the way kids used to play before technology and electronics took over the lives of young people.
Sasso says her cast features nine talented children playing multiple roles.
“Many of the cast members are on stage for the entire show, which is tough on an actor, and these kids handle it like pros,” she says. The cast ranges in age from young elementary through senior high school students.
Sasso directed JACT productions of “Oh, Jack!” and “A Winnie the Pooh Birthday Tale.” She is founder of Norwin Middle School Theatre Company, where she directed “Peter Pan Jr,,” “Annie Jr.” and this year’s production of “Shrek Jr.” She is an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Norwin Middle School.
Michael Busija of Export is music director; Leyna Wright of Greensburg is choreographer.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.