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Little Miss Fix-It musical is surprisingly touching

On Sat. Feb 1, Pace NEW Musical’s Little Miss Fix-It performed their final show. When asked about the show, Linnea Summer, BFA Musical Theatre freshman, responded, “It’s a really cute show. It’s so adorable,” and she was right.

For those who missed the fleeting engagement, Little Miss Fix-It is an original musical with book and lyrics by Kirsten Guenther, an upcoming musical writer, and with music by Joy Son, a recipient of the Jerry Harrington Award and the first ever Shelley Pinz Prize, both for Musical Theatre.

The plot consists of character “Little Miss Fix-It” Nan, played exquisitely by senior Sarah Hollands, who resides in a comfortable New York apartment where she tries to escape the bickering of her argumentative parents. Nan is a frazzled elementary school girl who tries to control everything and everyone around her- including her unreasonable schoolmates, her irresponsible teacher and even the boy who sits on her favorite park bench.

When the new student at school, David, given life by the sweet Ethan Carlson (Sophomore), invades “her” bench, there begins the blossoming of innocent young love. However, Nan is not yet ready to share with her new friend, and she finds her boundaries tested, as she must come to terms with letting go of control. As her and David’s friendship twists and turns into an odd romance, Nan must also face the trouble brewing at home.

While the book becomes predictable at points, the audience will cheer for the cutesy charm of the show. The script is filled with jokes, many at the expense of the grown-up characters whom the audience befriends along with Nan. The book leads the audience to experience love and fear through the eyes of this fiercely determined child in a loving and nostalgic manner. Although it is easily to anticipate the turn of events as the young heroes’ relationship grows, it did not detract from the show’s amusement.

Joy Son’s score is filled with catchy, if quirky, tunes that capture the rock and roll of a classroom, the excitement and confusion of a first kiss, and the tenderness of navigating new relationships with new friends. As several of the songs emanate from the mind of our heroine, the score does an excellent job of discovering the imagination of an excitable youth.

Hollands gives Nan a great balance between her frenetic frustration and her tender fearfulness. Hollands’ Nan can be said to be the next Annie, a spunky young girl who isn’t about to give up what she believes in without a fight. She captures the know-it-all 11-year-old many of us remember being, and she carries the show very well. As a graduating senior, this brilliant actress will make a great addition to the league of talented ladies out there in the business of musical theatre.

Ethan Carlson, following his performance as the geeky and spirited Xavier in last fall’s Lysistrata Jones, gives a charming turn as David. He manages to be both laid-back and vulnerable as the new student who moves to the city after going to private school. He and his impressed new schoolmates have a fun time during the song where David tells them, “My Old School Was Better.” Carlson’s chemistry with Hollands is great, as is his chemistry with senior Andrea Ross who plays David’s nervous mother Gail; with good comedic timing and with whom he shares some funny moments.

Kevin Shotwell as Nan’s musician father and Katy Rea as her mother play their roles with maturity. They believably portray the couple’s quarrels while also sharing several endearing moments as the loving and concerned parents to their up-and-at-them, OCD-type daughter. Carlson’s lullaby he sings to Nan is an especially note-worthy moment. The University also bids these two talented seniors farewell this spring.

Bethany Perkins plays the family’s eccentric Latina nanny, Ana, with charisma. As Nan’s wise best friend, she advises her with wit and gets her to relax and have fun in a salsa-inspired cooking number.

Mrs. Hallway, Nan’s maniacal schoolteacher, is given a scene-stealing performance by junior Ragan Pharris who tickles the audience’s funny bone with her take on the laughable loser in charge of teaching America’s next generation. Though an excellent performance, one may fear for the next generation of children lest a Mrs. Hallway teaches them.

The ensemble is rounded out by the characters of Nan and David’s school chums including Jacob Pincus’ as funny weirdo-pervert Tyler and Melanie Wildman’s too-cool-for-you popular girl Carri among others. Wildman also carried the task of choreographing the show with its exciting movement.

David Shocket’s lighting design neatly fits the show’s imaginative quality, and the set makes good use of the minimum, using only a few pieces such as a bench and table, allowing the actors to command the stage. Director Amy Rogers’ blocking feels natural, and one would hardly suspect that this cast and crew had only a few weeks to stage a full 90-minute musical!

Audiences were very fortunate to have the opportunity to see this well-done production of an exciting new work, and at no price at all. Wherever this show may go after being experimented with here at the University, it will certainly make for an enjoyable night of entertainment.

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