The Plaza Academy Performing Arts School has been running classes in musical theater and creative acting for several years, in addition to a summer show camp. In the process of training and educating youngsters in the area in the theater arts, the school has also been building a strong talent pool of young, talented performers. Many of these young performers have the opportunity to take center stage in Plaza Theatre’s staging of “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
Dramatized by Christopher Sergel from the book by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, “Cheaper by the Dozen” is based on the real-life story of the Gilbreth family. Frank Gilbreth Sr. was a pioneer in the field of motion study and often used his family to test new ways of being fast and efficient. More often than not, amusing and humorous situations arose from the hijinx.
Luke Hunt and Jamie Dugger play the parents of the of the Gilbreth clan. Hunt is perfect as the efficiency-obsessed father. Stern and unyielding, Hunt always underlines his performance with love and affection. Gilbreth only wants the best for his brood, and the best way to achieve happiness is not to dawdle, fidget or waste time.
Dugger portrays Mrs. Gilbreth with a calm voice and velvet hand. Mrs. Gilbreth is the voice of reason and buffer between the children and their father. Dugger handles the task with ease.
Most of the conflict within the family is between Mr. Gilbreth and his three eldest daughters, Anne, Ernestine and Lillian. Anne is head strong, longing to wear silk stockings and date boys. Tabitha Barrus plays young Anne with strength and character. Any father that has come at odds with a chip off the old block knows how this will play out.
Scout Harrell is cast as next-in-line Ernestine. Harrell’s character narrates the play with younger brother Frank. Harrell is funny as she encourages Anne to push the envelope with their father, knowing this will make things easier for her when she is older. The same holds true for Katherine Balaban in her portrayal of Lillian. Balaban plays the boy-crazed Lillian with humor and childishness.
Parker Barrus plays eldest son Frank as a miniature Mr. Gilbreth. He is especially good during the narration scenes with Harrell.
John Hunt steals the show when he must chaperone Anne on her few-and-far between dates. Hunt has a quick comic delivery and a big voice for a little man. Garrett Whitehead should also be singled out for his turn as cheerleader Joe Scales.
“Cheaper by the Dozen” is a charming story of a father wanting the best for his children but not always knowing how to show the love he has for them. It is amusing and poignant and all the young talent assembled by director Christine Atwell acquit themselves well.
“Cheaper by the Dozen” runs through June 26 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, with two performances Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For information, call 817-202-0600 or visit www.plaza-theatre.com.