Weekender

Fuse Productions’ children’s musical tells friendship tale

Fuse Productions will present “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’ ” Wednesday at The State Theatre.
Fuse Productions will present “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’ ” Wednesday at The State Theatre. Photo provided

Characters from best-selling children’s books will come alive on stage Wednesday when Fuse Productions presents “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’ ” at The State Theatre.

The show is a musical production that tells the story of two best friends — an elephant named Gerald and a pig named Piggie — who are invited to a party hosted by three singing rodents known as “The Squirrelles.”

“E&P is a stage adaptation of the book series by Mo Willems,” said Richard Biever, producing artistic director of Fuse Productions and the show’s director. “The books are immensely popular. The show is largely written as several episodes from the books held together by the wonderful songs. If audiences are familiar with the books they will immediately recognize the situations in the show. The musical is silly, fast-paced, hilarious and even quite touching. It’s really a study in what it means to be a friend.”

Fuse Productions does one children’s show a year, but Biever thinks this one is fun for all ages.

“This is written for kids, ages 3-8, but of course, adults will love it, too,” he said.

Throughout the show, the strength and importance of friendship is a key theme. The cast and crew have bonded over spreading this message of love to theater-goers, Biever said.

“It’s a joy to perform for the cast because we know that children and adults will respond with great enthusiasm,” Biever said. “The theme of friendship is very meaningful. And it’s also very cool to know that for some kids in the audience it will be their very first theatrical experience. Hopefully, this will hook them for life.”

The piece was chosen after Biever received a recommendation from a friend.

“The author’s name was recommended to me by a librarian,” he said. “She told me how popular his books were and I was thrilled to find that there was a stage version.”

Typical of a Fuse show, “Elephant & Piggie’s” will feature performances by some returning favorites as well as some locals from Penn State and area schools.

“We bring together or ‘fuse’ local talent with Penn State students and professors, and professional actors from New York and around the country,” Biever said.

Gerald the Elephant is played by Jonathan O’Harrow, who has appeared in two Fuse shows, and in shows with State College Community Theatre and Nittany Theatre at The Barn, Biever said.

“Madeline Biever is playing Piggie, and has appeared in several Fuse shows, including playing Lucille in our production of “Parade” in 2015,” he said. “The Squirrelles are played by Leah Mueller, the music teacher at Delta middle school, Clara Hanahan, a freshman at Penn State and Lauren McKee, a senior at State High.”

Biever and company are no strangers to The State Theatre stage, and the cast and crew are excited to be back downtown.

“We’ve done several shows at The State and were thrilled to be one of the recipients of the Barbara and James Palmer Grants for this production,” Biever said.

Biever thinks any attendees will enjoy “Elephant & Piggie’s” simple tale of friendship. Through songs and laughter, audiences will learn a bit whether they’re fans of the books or not, he said.

“It’s a wonderful show for the entire family, especially fans of the books,” Biever said. “And, it’s a great way to introduce children to live theater.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Fuse Productions’ “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are In A Play!’ ”
  • When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.fuseproductions.org
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