Tom Sawyer, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood.
Dorothy, Toto and Wicked Witch of the West.
Heidi, Pollyanna and Queen of Hearts.
Doctor Dolittle, Frankenstein, Long John Silver and Hopalong Cassidy.
These fictional book characters come to life in Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre’s production of “The Enchanted Bookshop.” It opens Friday night at Royal Off-the-Square Theatre in Brownstown and continues through Sunday and then will be staged again July 22 and 23.
During the day, A Likely Story may look like any other used bookstore. But at night, it’s a place where magic happens. That’s when the characters inside the books come alive.
Six of those characters long to help Margie, the scatterbrained owner, save her struggling store. But they’re not allowed to leave the building or be seen by human eyes, so when a pair of smugglers comes looking for a stolen necklace hidden inside one of the books, the characters are torn. Should they warn Margie and risk disappearing forever? Or can they find a way to defeat the crooks without being seen?
Featuring other beloved literary characters, this comedy celebrates the joy of reading in a fresh, fun-filled way.
“I like how it promotes how important books are and how important it is to read,” Director Steve Deweese said. “So many times, readers kind of get the short end of the stick. Growing up, if you’re a reader, if your bookish, you’re a nerd, you’re not cool, but this really shows that reading is an adventure, it’s fun, it’s exciting.”
Even though JCYAT is for elementary to high school students, Deweese was happy to learn many of them knew the characters.
“I was really, really pleased that I have a cast of what appears to be readers who really were in touch with the work,” he said.
Destiny Long, 17, was drawn to audition for the role of Margie after participating in the annual JCYAT workshop in June.
“I really wanted Margie because she is pretty much me dressed as a hippie,” she said, laughing. “She is a scatterbrained book lover who just wants to push her knowledge and books on everybody else and wants everybody to love books as much as she does. That part is me. The style, not so much.”
She said she’s familiar with the book characters.
“I really love how it’s all characters that kids or adults even grew up reading about, and I love how this story kind of brings them all to life and puts them all together and they have to save a bookstore,” Long said.
Sam Dyer, 13, plays the role of Sherlock Holmes and has enjoyed perfecting his British accent. Several times, he has found himself backstage or outside the theater still talking that way.
“I’ve always liked Sherlock Holmes as a character. … He has always been one of my favorites. I’ve always liked detectives that solve mysteries. I’ve always liked mystery books in general,” he said. “Plus, I’ve played Gaston (in Immanuel Lutheran School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”), so I’m used to acting like I’m full of myself and I’m smart.”
Like Long, Dyer is a book lover.
“At my school, we have this thing called Accelerated Reader, and you get points for reading books. I’m one of the top people who reads the most books,” he said. “I like that it takes me somewhere new. I love this. It’s great. It’s always good sometimes to escape and go somewhere else.”
Long and Dyer both like the storyline of “The Enchanted Bookshop.”
“I love that everything about it is fun and interesting,” Long said. “There is not a scene that I would say is boring. You watch it and it’s like, ‘OK, that’s funny’ and ‘That’s funny.’ It blows my mind every time the kids get onstage and they act out, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s still funny today.’”
Dyer compares it to a popular movie.
“I love the movie ‘Night at the Museum.’ This is like that but with books,” he said. “It combines two of my favorite things. It’s amazing.”
Deweese appreciates all of the work by the cast.
“These kids had sort of an abbreviated time to get used to doing this play and to learn their lines, and they came in within the first week and many of them were off book or very close to being off book,” he said.
When he asked them at the end of the second dress rehearsal Tuesday night if they wanted to take Wednesday night off, they all responded “No.”
“They are absolutely committed, they love the work and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said. “It’s always beautiful to watch them grow and progress and fall in love with acting.”
Again this year, a JCYAT veteran was asked to be an assistant director. Landon Whitson is filling that role this time around.
“I wanted to familiarize some of the JCYAT kids with the nuts and bolts and the technical aspect of it, too, because we aren’t always going to be here,” Deweese said, referring to the adult volunteers. “Landon has been amazing.”
Deweese and the young actors encourage people to check out the show.
“It’s a hilarious show. You’re going to laugh,” Dyer said. “There are the classic bad guys, the classic good guys, the classic damsel in distress. It has all of the things that a play should have.”
Long said the show is funny and encourages reading and there are good actors and actresses who have worked really hard.
“If I could tell the world how much I love books and if they just open a book, they would see that going into another world is literally the best,” she said. “One of my lines is ‘Oh, no, books are wonderful. They fill your imagination. They teach you about other times and other cultures.’ It’s literally true, and so I really love how my character is literally what I would tell people.”
If you go
What: Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre’s production of “The Enchanted Bookshop”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. July 22 and 23
Where: Royal Off-the-Square Theatre, 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown
Cost: $9; available online at http://tktassist.com/Tix/?u=JCCT
Director: Steve Deweese
Assistant director: Landon Whitson
Production manager: Karen Haas
Costumes: Olivia Deweese
Cast: Kelly Beavers, Brynn Burton, Jack Charlton, Lilly Charlton, Sam Dyer, Alyssa Haas, Derek Haas, Emory Helton, Hunter Hollenbaugh, Annie Keller, Emily Keller, Olivia Keller, Destiny Long, Sabrina Long, Izzy McGill, Benjamin Neawedde, Daniel Neawedde, Jonathan Neawedde, Elise Olsen, Quinn Olsen, Isabel Perez, Teresa Perez and Holten Trimble