Embry Thielmeier, Paul Kerr, Billy Flood, Ben Evans, & Sierra Stacy in Miss Nelson is Missing! Photo courtesy of Stage One.
Miss Nelson is Missing!
By Joan Cushing
Based on the Book by Harry Allard
Directed & Choreographed by Jamie Lynn Sutton Gilliam
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
Raise your hands if you and your elementary school class ever got into trouble? Ok, raise your hands if you got really excited when a substitute teacher came in and instead of raising a ruckus you became better students?
Such is the story of the students of Room 207 at Horace B. Smedley Elementary School in Harry Allard’s award winning story Miss Nelson is Missing! According to the custodian Pop Hanson (Paul Kerr), Gregory (Ben Evans), Adam (Billy Flood), Allison (Sierra Stacy) and Cheryl (Embry Thielmeier) are some of the worst kids that have ever come through the school and their poor, rattled teacher Miss Nelson (Clara Harris) tries very hard to rein her students in, but seem to be losing the battle.
As the students run amok throughout the classroom Principal Blandsworth (Paul Kerr) comes in and instructs the children that there will be a substitute teacher in Miss Nelson’s absence. The children are exuberant with the news until….in walks Ms. Viola Swamp (Clara Harris).
Dressed in black with striped green stockings, Ms. Swamp wears a crooked nose and dark glasses and holds a ruler that she uses on furniture and walls with great effect. She instructs the children of Room 207 that she will not tolerate misbehavior and she will whip the class into shape.
True to her word, the children are deluged with facts and numbers, with tons of homework. Soon the children begin to believe that Miss Nelson was not coming back, that perhaps she is missing. In the delightful “What If…” scenes the children begin to come up with all sorts of theories as to what has happened to their beloved Miss Nelson. Collectively they put up posters, write a letter telling her of their sadness that she’s gone and even go to the Police Department to file a missing person’s report with Detective McSmogg (Paul Kerr), who can’t even remember Miss Nelson’s name.
After a week goes by the children seem to accept the fact that Miss Nelson may not be coming back, but there she is. The children rejoice and ask for a story, and Pinocchio is chosen. As Miss Nelson reads Pinocchio and why he turned into a real boy, she asks Gregory, Adam, Allison and Cheryl what lessons can be learned from the tale. The children happily share that…..
You have to see this delightful musical to find out.
There is an excellent reason why Stage One is celebrating their 71st Season this year and that is because they continue to bring high caliber entertainment to eager audiences that appeal to a wide range of ages. As I watched Miss Nelson I saw children as young as two and adults well into their, ahem…wise years too. The laughs were coming from all age ranges. The children yelled when they could and weren’t afraid to do so.
Clara Harris, portraying both Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp, did an excellent job of encapsulating an exhausted yet hopeful teacher while emulating what I believe a lot of teachers strive to be: an effective educator. Ms. Harris has a great voice too.
Paul Kerr, the chameleon of the group, had many hats to juggle and he did so with energy and great comedic effect. Mr. Kerr, I appreciated your ability to adjust your singing skills. I do have to mention that his Detective McSmogg got to be a bit muddy with the British accent that he was throwing out, but the rest of his characters were delightful.
I want to give a huge thumbs-up to the actors who played the Students of Room 207. None of them overshadowed the other and they acted and sang as a true ensemble. Now, that is not to say that an occasional musical balance was off a little, it didn’t distract too much. I heard some fantastic solos and strong melodies throughout the performance with the student quartet. Thank you for your collective and individual talents Ben, Billy, Sierra, and Embry.
The production value was perfect for the staging at the Kentucky Center with three moving pieces that could be opened up to reveal more goodies inside. Props Mistress Kathryn Spivey found some great pieces that made one feel like they were in the classroom or at the Museum of Crime and Punishment. Costumes were vibrant as was the lighting, especially during the field trip.
Musically speaking, you can’t go wrong with having Louisville legend Ms. Gayle King on your side as Music Director.
Bring the kiddos. Bring yourself. This production is interactive. The playbill is interactive. I even had to take my pen out and participate in the activities. A delightful, fun and thought-provoking day can be had at Stage One’s Miss Nelson is Missing!.
Miss Nelson Is Missing
September 9,16 & 23, 2017
11am & 2pm
Single tickets are $20 for adults / $15 for children 12 and under and are available through The Kentucky Center Box Office at 502.584.7777, in person at the box office, or online. Group discounts for parties of 12 or more are available by calling 502.498.2447.
**Student matinee performances available as well! Visit stageone.org for more info or call 502.498.2436.
StageOne Family Theatre
Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.