Since its publication in 1952, E.B. White's Charlotte's Web may have been more responsible for furthering the cause of animal rights, or at least vegetarianism, than the Animal Liberation Front and Diet for a Small Planet combined. The Arden Children's Theatre understands its audience's deep attachment to humble runt-of-the-litter Wilbur, spider scribe Charlotte, and their barnyard friends' campaign to save Wilbur's bacon, and honors these sensitive, sweet characters with a saccharine-free production.
Many parents will recall the story's 1973 animated version, with Paul Lynde as Templeton the rat, singing about the state fair's veritable smorgasbord-orgasbord-orgasbord. While Joseph Robinette's adaptation leaves room for music, it's of a subtler sort. As designed by Christopher Colucci, the cast members stroll the set under David P. Gordon's wooden barn frame, strumming and humming some bluegrass (Charlie DelMarcelle on guitar and harmonica) or piping a few magical notes on a flute (Sarah Gliko's Charlotte). Drew Billiau's lighting is all bright summer days, and proving this is a show that celebrates all the sensory experiences central to young (and old) life, director Whit MacLaughlin sends his cast out into the house, waving fans doused in lavender oil.