Featuring characters named Nerf Man, The Burper and Rubber Chicken Dude, Chantilly High's production of "Little Red Riding Hood (and the Power Mutants)" is a children's play with its own take on the classic tale.
IT'LL BE presented Friday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 29, at 2 and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 30, at 2 p.m. in the school theater. Tickets are $4 at the door.
From the fertile mind of Chantilly Theater Director Ed Monk, it's definitely not your father's "Little Red Riding Hood." In this version, Little Red is told to deliver a basket of goodies to someone's grandmother, and a wolf named Oswald — who runs a school for wolves — tries to get the basket.
Meanwhile, Power Mutants try to save Little Red from the wolves, and hunters try to catch the wolves. At the same time, rangers are trying to catch the hunters because they're hunting in a protected forest.
The show is double cast, and playing Little Red are sophomore Chloe West, 15, and junior Kelly Sachs, 16. "She's very dramatic," said West. "She goes from being normal to freaking out about whether she's gonna be able to get the basket of goodies to grandma's house. She flips emotions fast and worries if the wolves will attack her or she'll get lost."
Sachs calls her a self-centered, drama queen. "She says, 'It's up to me to protect Grandma,'" said Sachs. "But she needs others to protect her and do the hard work. And nothing is subtle with Little Red — she's big and loud and wears her emotions on her sleeve."
Since she's loud, herself, said Sachs, the role's well-suited to her. And she's pleased that she gets to "make children laugh and use my body to convey comedy. It's a tale everyone knows, but with twists."
WEST LIKES shifting from one emotional state to another within the same person and is "excited to see how the little kids will react to my character." In a children's show, she said, the actors make huge motions and really get to connect with the kids in the audience. "And we get to act goofy," added Lindsay Arnsmeyer, 16, who plays Oswald.
West said children will really like the Power Mutants because "they're silly, awkward and weird and are a takeoff on the Power Rangers." They include Nerf Man, who has a powerful Nerf Ball, and Rubber Chicken Girl and Dude, who throw rubber chickens at people. Fittingly enough, The Burper's power is belching. In one scene, he's paralyzed by the wolf, but gets out of it by burping.
Arnsmeyer describes Oswald as "like an overpowering, Army sergeant wolf, mean to everyone." But she likes playing a character so different from herself. Sophomore Chris Lewia, also playing Oswald, said, "He's really strict and trains his students to be like him."
Lewia said it's difficult "trying not to laugh when I see everyone's faces." He, too, says children will enjoy the show because "there aren't many performances of 'Little Red Riding Hood' and it's a lot of stories rolled into one."
Playing Rubber Chicken Dude is sophomore Jesse Igbokwe, 16, who's thrilled with his role. "He's the coolest mutant — he gets all the ladies," said Igbokwe. "I have rubber chickens on my hands. But he sounds like a duck — I gotta work on that. He's a nerd, but cool."
However, he said, his character is a follower who does what others say. He thinks he has a strong power, but really doesn't. "I love it because I get to show my craziness," said Igbokwe. "I don't have to be all serious — I get to be loud and obnoxious." He said the toughest part is the voice because Rubber Chicken Dude lisps. The best part? Having those rubber chickens.
Freshman Ray Diaz, 14, plays Nerf Man. "He's really cocky," said Diaz. "He always speaks in a superhero voice and is very full of himself. He's made out of foam and is the dorky leader of these misfit mutants." He said it's wonderful talking like a superhero and is neat "acting like a superhero when you're not."
Sophomore Casey Whitehead, 15, plays Norma, the evil wolf. "I go to Oswald's School for Wolves," she said. "We learn how to hunt basket-delivery people, how to howl and how to be mean and scary wolves. I'm supposed to be 37, but I act like a little kid because people pick on me all the time. I'm kind of a nerdy, loser wolf."
But she says it's fun because she gets to act annoying and then mean and stay in character all the time. "It's hard because I'm not usually loud and scary," said Whitehead. "But I like being able to perform for the little kids and make them laugh."
ALSO PORTRAYING Norma is sophomore Lizzie Song, 17. "It's my first play, and I really like acting," she said. Song's working on making her character's voice sound young, and she's enjoying the part because Norma's "kind of a funny character."
Brenda the wolf is played by freshman Clare Bonner, 14. "She's really smart and likes to show off her inventions, but she's also a dork," explained Bonner. "It's challenging, but it's fun because, one second, she's nice, and the next second, she's angry."
Meanwhile, freshman Christina Day, 15, plays a wolf named Killer. She said the actors were given scripts and told to develop their characters as they wanted to, and she's had a good time doing so with Killer. "He wants to be a really bad wolf so he can scare people and eat them," said Day. "He's really enthusiastic and speaks in great detail."
She likes her part because she gets to scream. "The other two wolves are nerdy, but I get to go over the top, and it's fun," she said. "The hardest part is keeping the volume in my voice loud enough and doing this character's run-on sentences. The best part is his one-track mind about eating people; it'll be funny to the audience."
Playing Earl the hunter is sophomore Shannon Moore, 15, who plays her character as a girl. "He's the other hunters' sidekick, and I portray him as kind of stupid," she said. "He doesn't know what's going on around him. They've been hunting for 17 years and haven't caught anything."
Moore likes the part because she, too, gets to speak in a different voice. "I'm going for Southern," she said. "And we'll have cool costumes. We'll go to a thrift store and find really random things to wear." She said the voice is the toughest thing for her, but she enjoys playing a character so far removed from her real self.
Sophomores Courtney Siegert and Lauren Smith, both 16, play rangers Reba and Rhonda, respectively. "We work together as a pair," explained Siegert. "I'm the ditzy, more out-there one, and we have Russian-like accents."
"Rhonda's more uptight," said Smith. "She knows a lot about the forest, and Ranger Reba gets on her nerves a lot. Sometimes, Reba will mess up the crime scene or get lost but, in the end, Rhonda couldn't do it without her."
"IT'S FUN, and there's a lot you can do with this character," said Siegert. "And she's funny for the kids." Smith also likes her role because "I get to be animated, talk to the kids and make jokes." Siegert says the play will appeal to all age groups because "there's silliness for kids and subtle jokes for adults." Added Smith: "Everyone's doing a good job with their characters, and everything's coming together, so it should be a good show."
Freshmen Chris Mondloch and Chris Crowley, both 14, play Trent and Troy, respectively, who assist an ace TV anchorwoman. She's the one who sent Little Red to deliver a basket to her grandmother. Mondloch plays his part like Igor from "Frankenstein" with a humped back and a weird face and voice. Crowley does it as an Englishman who waddles.
Mondloch has to talk in a scratchy voice, but likes being able to develop his character so that he's funny. And, said Crowley, it's not a huge part, "but it puts pieces of the plot together."
Director Monk said children's shows are fun because "we get to see our freshman and sophomore talent — the kids who'll be the leads when they're juniors and seniors. They're coming along faster than I thought — they're a sharp group of kids."