Over the River - Bradford Little Theatre to hit the stage with new show

Oct 13, 2016 by

Alex Davis, Reporter for The Bradford Era

From left, Patrick Collins as Nick, Chuck Church as Nunzio, Marcia McAndrew as Emma, Rawny Reed as Aida and Ron Buchheit as Frank practice for the upcoming Bradford Little Theatre performance of “Over the River and Through the Woods” on Wednesday night. The play will be staged Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Togi’s Playhouse on Welch Avenue. Not shown is Katie Zapel as Catlin.

Rawny Reed of Bradford will age quickly –– between 40 and 50 years older –– as she hits the stage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

No, she’s not dressing up early for Halloween. And she’s not experiencing a midlife crisis.

Rather, she’s appearing in “Over the River and Through the Woods,” the production that will kick-off Bradford Little Theatre’s 20th season at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Togi’s Playhouse at 18 Welch Ave. in Bradford. The production was originally staged by the theater group during its fifth season in 2002.

The comedy, set during a mid-1980s summer in New Jersey, is about four Italian immigrant grandparents who try to keep their grandson Nick from accepting a promotion that would force him to move to the West Coast.

“This script is challenging because we’re all on stage for a good part of the show,” Reed said on Wednesday, one of the nights the cast was practicing for the upcoming play.

For her part in the show, she has to remember to keep in character –– she can’t move a certain way or move as fast, Reed indicated. She has to go from being a young adult to being 40 to 50 years older.

But she is up to the challenge, and is no stranger to the stage world. Reed has been involved in BLT for four years.

“I’m just looking forward to being on the boards (the stage) again,” said Charles Church.

His role in the play is somewhat of a chore, since the character goes through a life change, which could bring sadness, Church said. But then again, being part of the cast is fun, he added. Church said he enjoys a good comedy.

“In high school I was very, very shy and introverted,” he said.

In college Church became involved in productions, and here he is again with BLT, more than five years later.

“I just kind of drifted away from it,” Church said.

For Patrick Collins, he said he didn’t envision being part of the cast. In fact, he didn’t want to audition for the role of Nick Cristano. He said his wife prompted him to try out for the “Over the River and Through the Woods” production.

“I’m really excited about it. This is my second BLT production that I’ve done,” he said.

So, what’s he looking forward to the most with the play? He wants to hear the audience laugh, and said he figures the audience will laugh quite a bit.

“There are definitely a few scenes worth a chuckle — or three,” he said. “But the entire play is an emotional rollercoaster.”

To revive the “Over the River and Through the Woods” production from several years ago poses its own challenges, said Diane Kerner Arnett, one of the co-directors of the show. For instance, “everything is interpreted differently,” Arnett said. “We (also) have a different venue.”

Show co-director Nanci K. Garris and Arnett both lauded the hard work of the cast.

“They have worked very hard, encouraging and supporting each other along the way,” Garris said. “We have shared stories, tears and laughter (much laughter).”

Garris has had an interesting time directing the production –– when it was first staged in 2002, she worked back stage and never saw the show. Now she is co-directing the production.

During the open night of the production on Friday, Arnett and Garris will receive the Bradford Little Theatre Brauser Award.

The Lester Brauser Theatre Appreciation Award is presented to an individual or individuals whose work makes community theater possible in the Bradford area. The award, established in 2001, is named after the late Lester Brauser, a theater enthusiast.

“We both worked with him. His heart was with the arts and theater,” Arnett said.

Since being part of BLT, Arnett has been involved in nearly every aspect of theater, both on and off. She has been a member of the group for 11 years.

Meanwhile, Garris has been part of the BLT board, serving as president for four of her 11 years. Her theater community involvement began with Kiwanis Kapers.

Arnett and Garris have participated in more than 30 Bradford Little Theatre productions.

Both women will be honored at a small reception after the production on Friday night.

‘Over the River’: Bradford Little Theatre to hit the stage with new show