The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Bridge to Terabithia
Organization FreeFall Stage
Date(s) of show March 13 - April 5, 2015
Reviewer Gerry Camp

Jesse Aarons is something of an outsider at his school in rural Virginia in 1977. He is a talented artist, but the only person who appreciates his talent is his teacher, Miss Edmonds. He has been practicing running all summer, hoping to win a little respect as the fastest runner in fifth grade. Imagine his humiliation when in the first race he is defeated by the new kid in school, Leslie Burke, a girl.

But Jesse’s disappointment is soon forgotten as he and Leslie, also an outsider, become great friends. Leslie’s imagination leads to the creation of the Kingdom of Terabithia in the nearby woods, and Jesse becomes its king. King Jesse and Queen Leslie win the hearts of their imaginary subjects, fight a ferocious battle with an invisible enemy, and find a place they can be themselves and learn to love.

With a wonderful cast, a beautiful set by Rich Kirlin, and a great story perfectly directed by Laura Escobedo, the show lives up to the high standard set by FreeFall Stage, which just closed its brilliant production of Shaw’s Pygmalion. There are three adults in the cast: Jesse’s hard-working but grouchy parents played beautifully by Deanne Eldridge and Matthew Rives, and Madison Keim’s understanding teacher. Madison’s most memorable contribution is her singing to her students Elton John’s 1970 hit, "Your Song" (“How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”).

But the entire evening rests on the shoulders of three wonderful young actors. Sean Stewart shines as Jesse, and the beautiful and talented Tessa Tally wins everyone's heart as Leslie. These two outstanding young actors were last seen as Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Together they make the audience believe in the magic land of Terabithia and the unspoken love that can grow between two special children. Seven-year-old Lilian Fisk just about steals the show as Jesse's tag-along little sister, May Belle.

Cheyenne Keim also stands out as the class mean girl, who, it turns out, has her own pain to bear. Chad Eldridge as Jesse’s running rival is excellent in the mean boy part. Mariah Embree is Jesse’s older sister Brenda, who seems full of herself. The other school children, Emma Dees, Maizie Dees, and Emily Howell are perfect as, well, school children.

The play was adapted for stage by Katherine Paterson from her Newberry Award winning novel. Though the novel is a classic of children’s literature, this play is certainly as much for adults as it is for kids. In her director’s note, Laura Escobedo makes clear the universality of the appeal of this story. “There is still deep beauty that occurs in a lasting friendship that changes you forever; there is risk of pain in love, but it is worth it; you can be yourself, and there is more power in your imagination than you realize.”

So if you have children who can appreciate a serious play with wonderful child actors, children who can understand that not all stories have happy endings, by all means bring them to this show. But if you have no children to bring but love seeing an excellent play well performed, don’t be put off by thinking this is a play for kids. It is a play for all lovers of live theater, presented by Folsom’s gift to its community, FreeFall Stage.

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