Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Dazzling ‘Circus’ Comes to Delaware Theatre Company

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) ends its 2016-17 season with the American premiere of the London smash hit family musical, Hetty Feather. Emma Reeves’ adaption of Jacqueline Wilson’s beloved book about a headstrong orphan girl’s adventure to find her true home will delight young theater goers. However, the mature themes of abandonment and loss in the story will also intrigue adult audience members.

The Cast of Hetty Feather. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Hetty, played by the wonderful Clare O’Malley, is on a quest through Victorian England searching for her birth mother. Being an unwed woman during this time, Hetty’s distraught and sadden mother had no choice but to leave her infant daughter at London’s Foundling Hospital (a public institution for abandoned children).

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Hetty is sent to a foster home in the countryside where she spends the first six years of her life. The headstrong heroine never loses her insatiable desire to find her birth mother, even though she forms a strong bond with her foster mother and three brothers. While living with her foster family, Hetty develops a keen imagination that will later serve her well.  

Hetty, like all foundling children, must return to the hospital following her sixth birthday. Under the stern supervision of Matron Bottomly (chillingly played by Michael Philp O’Brien), life at the hospital is cruel and unforgiving. Living in such harsh conditions, Hetty becomes even more driven to find her legitimate place in the world, but to get there she must go on a journey that will take her to bleak places where she must face tumultuous situations.
Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Director Bud Martin has created a charming, yet sinister, production that at times delights as well as frightens. His brilliant ensemble cast creates their characters on a circus set which provides a great juxtaposition to Hetty’s plight.
O’Malley and O’Brien — along with their stellar co-stars (Terry Brennan, Dave Johnson, Rachel O’Malley, and Karen Peakes) — have the daunting task to act their parts while performing circus stunts. For most of the show, the actors are hanging from flowing sheets or a ring that dangles above the center of the stage. It’s amazing how effortlessly they make it look to stay in character as they climb, swing and perform high above the stage.The cast is flawlessly costumed by Katie Sykes. Her understated costumes, some including a hint of a clown suit, not only capture the grim look of the poor during the Victorian period, but also let her circus set shine. The stage was built so the fantastic musicians (Liz Filios and Josh Totora) have an area to create mood music and flow easily in and out of scenes. In addition to playing their instruments, Filios and Totora provide the vocals for most of Bendi Bower’s score, leaving the actors to focus on their characters and circus stunts.
Hetty Feather isn’t your traditional family show or musical, but that makes it a special treat for the whole family. DTC recommends the show for children ages 7 and up. Hetty Feather runs through May 14. 

For tickets and additional information, call 302.594.1100 or visit www.delawaretheatre.org.

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