The Railway Children: New for the Holidays at Northern Stage
and Adieu, Eric Love
“The Railway Children,” newly adapted for the stage by Carol Dunne and Eric Love, has opened in a world premiere at Northern Stage, providing a new holiday musical for children and the parents who have read to their kids—more than once—from the book of the same name by Edith Nesbit.
The book followed a family who fell on hard times in 1905 after the father was tried and imprisoned for a crime he claimed he did not commit. Mother and kids were forced to leave their posh home in London for an uncertain future in the English countryside. In the Dunne and Love rewrite, the year is 1929; the original home city is Boston. And the countryside? None other than White River Junction, Vermont.
1929 was a time when almost thirty trains a day ran through White River Junction. The railway station was the town’s hub and in the play, provides a combination shelter/playground/portal to the community for the uprooted siblings. The Station Agent, played superbly by Joy Lynn Jacobs, is a sort of surrogate mother as the children’s actual parent (Jayne McLendon) is often holed up in her room, trying to support her family by writing. The Old Gentleman (Stephen Lee Anderson) is a real-life fairy godfather who steps in from time to time to grant wishes.
The kids are the center of the story and of the action, heroes always in a series of loosely connected vignettes about various aspects of railroad town life. They are played in alternating performances (designated charmingly in the program as “Team Train” and “Team Tracks”) by Callum Heinsch/Yuvraj Sathe as Peter, Margaret Hourdequin/Reya Sharma as Phyllis, and Bebhinn Knudsen/Monet Nowlan as big sister Bobbie. Alex Hoyt/Noah Schutzius portray the non-sibling James.
The score is pleasant, with a clever number specifically about White River. Rachel Mulcahy as Mrs. Perks wields a mean violin in duets with her stage husband (Tommy Crawford.)
Best of all? Lighting, set, sound, and other crafty moves bring the train onstage in any number of ways. It’s not exactly the helicopter landing on the stage in Miss Saigon, but still . . . you’ll gasp a time or two.
The Railway Children runs through January 1, 2023 at Northern Stage’s Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction, VT. For tickets and further information, click here.
And the fondest of farewells to Eric Love, who made magic for seven seasons as Northern Stage’s Director of Education and Associate Artistic Director. His successful productions are numerous. In his time at Northern Stage, he taught, directed, produced, acted, and played the cello. He is in the process of moving to New York City to continue his directing career. The entire Upper Valley and beyond wishes all the best for you, Eric!
Over 2,000 subscribers . . . and counting! You’re reading Artful, a blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley, and I hope you’ll subscribe and then share this with your friends and on your social media.
And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.