Two young actresses will portray the lead character for performances of the musical “Pollyanna” on the Palouse.Todd and Rebecca Payne, owners of Potlatch’s APOD Productions, decided to double-cast sisters Chloe and Emma Mitchem in the main role.
“They both bring a sort of a different version of Pollyanna to the role,” said Todd, the director, who decided the sisters will perform on separate nights. “They both have that positive energy, that engaging personality, so that’s why … we let them both do it.”
The title character, Pollyanna Whittier, stems from a 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter, a resident of Littleton, N.H. Arranged by Will Ogmunson and Trish Lindberg, the musical adaptation takes place in Littleton, USA, during the 1900s. Pollyanna is a young orphan who goes to live with her wealthy and stern Aunt Polly.
Pollyanna is known for her optimistic attitude.
“She’s always trying to find something to be glad about,” Chloe, 14, said.
Chloe said she finds similarities between her and her lead character.
“For me, she’s really young, outgoing and out there,” Chloe said. “Usually, I’m a lot like that. I talk a lot and I’m always bouncing off the walls. It’s just kind of me.”
For Emma, 12, it’s a bit different.
“I might be sometimes, but I don’t think I’m always like that,” she said.
Todd said the dual role has been convenient.
“With this big of a role, as the show is called Pollyanna — she’s on 95 percent of the time — it’s nice to have that for the actresses, to have someone coming along side you, developing
the role,” Todd said. “And since they’re sisters, it makes it even more convenient, because they can work at home, too.”
Chloe said the two practice together at least five days a week at home.
“Sometimes she’ll do some good things that I see, so we can kind of learn from each other,” Chloe said.
Both are challenged by scenes in the play that involve a turn of character for Pollyanna, after she is injured.
“For one thing, I find it hard to cry on stage and just getting all those emotions out there is really hard for me,” Chloe said. “It’s easier for me to just be really happy, than be really sad.”
Emma agrees with the difficulty.
“Being set and staying one emotion (is easy), instead of being upset and then being happy again,” Emma said.
Todd said there have been other challenges.
“We have a cast of over 30 people, which is larger than we’ve ever had on stage,” Todd said. “There’s more singing than we’ve ever done, more dancing. It’s going to be an over 2½-hour show. The set will be bigger. For the first time, we have some orchestrations being created for us.
Rebecca’s brother is a Portland-area composer who orchestrated a piano score to complete an entire “orchestra in a box,” Todd calls it.
Chloe has been in productions, such as “Little Women” and Emma has been in “Little Princess” and “Winter One Acts,” while both have performed in “Gilbert and Sullivan Revue.”
“We’ve got people have who never done this before and we’ve got people who have done lots of theater,” Todd said. “With the limited rehearsal schedule, and there’s so much to cover, it’s really hard to teach that much choreography and singing and acting to such a wide variety of experience levels.”
But despite the challenges, Todd said everyone has been doing a great job.
“I’m just hoping the cast doesn’t kill me before show,” said Todd who is famous for saying “Nope, do it again,” while the cast practices choreography.
Highlights of the show include a train built from various on-stage items, collected by one of the chorus members, as well as a mini-ballet in the middle of the show.
“Pollyanna” premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday. Other shows are at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $4 for children, ages 5 to 11, and $8 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at Junction Lumber in Potlatch, Keeney Bros. Music in Moscow and Mimi’s Bakery in Palouse. Out-of-town guests can purchase tickets at pollyanna.eventbrite.com.
Chloe and Emma each have their own performances as Pollyana, while one takes Thursday, the other takes Friday and they split the Saturday shows.
“It’s always in my mind that I want to try and do something that people wouldn’t expect to be able to see in the little town of Potlatch,” Todd said. “That they’d have to go to Moscow or Pullman or up to Spokane to see the quality of show that we try to put forward.”
Treffry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 883-4640.
->if you go:
WHAT: APOD Productions’ musical performance of “Pollyanna”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: American Legion Log Cabin off Highway 6, 745 Sixth St., Potlatch
COST: $4 for children, ages 5 to 11, and $8 for adults