“Our Miss Brooks!” was a popular radio and television sitcom in the 1940s and 1950s, and RiverStage Community Theatre is expecting the play to be a local hit as well, as the group kicks off a new season.
Written by Christopher Sergel, the play is adapted from the sitcom and, according to a provided synopsis, “follows the adventures of a 1950s high school English teacher, Miss Connie Brooks, as she handles her students, her job, and her love life, all with trademark style and humor.”
The play is described as a “three-act extended ‘episode’ of the show” — one that is appropriate for all ages, as well as for both those familiar with the show and those who are not.
“If you are a fan of TV comedy in general, this is just a fun show,” said Jove Graham, RiverStage’s board president, “and it’s clean fun for everyone.”
“The show is a great throwback to the classic television sitcoms with fun characters and great jokes that everyone, young and old, can enjoy and laugh at.”
Director Maggie Able said the play includes 17 cast members — six adults and 11 students ranging from ages 12 to 17 — as well as several crew members.
“This group is amazing to work with,” she said. “I have been laughing my way through rehearsals as the cast has developed their characters and brought them to life. There are some great comedic moments in the play.”
Since the entire play takes place in a high school classroom, she said, it was a great opportunity to get both adults and kids involved in the production. Graham said the play has allowed them to build off RiverStage’s summer youth theatre program.
“It’s nice to help foster a love of theatre with our youth and to have them be able to work alongside veteran actors,” Able said.
This is the first official acting experience for Jordan Adams, of Shamokin Dam, who will be playing the role of Coach Hugo Longacre — a character he has come to enjoy.
“I like that the coach is a traveler in a time when traveling isn’t something most people did,” he said. “It makes me think he possibly has a military background, and being interested in military history I really like that aspect of him.”
In preparing for the role, Adams said he has read, re-read, and both written and typed out his lines.
“I typed my cue lines and have my phone read them to me while I deliver my own lines,” he said, joking, “People are probably thinking I’m unstable because it looks like I’m having conversations by myself throughout the day.”
Aside from his own character, Adams has come to love other characters in the play as well.
“My favorite part of the play is when Rhonda is doing her reading,” he said. “I’m also a fan of Mr. Wadsworth and his constant struggle to maintain composure.”
Graham said set designer Peter Wiley enjoyed building a high school classroom inside the Greenspace Center, which is part of the former Lewisburg high school.
“We borrowed a dozen school desks and re-used real doors from the old school,” he said.
Graham said RiverStage each year works to balance its season with a mix of shows — some that are familiar and others that many may never have seen before. “Our Miss Brooks!” was the perfect blend of that, he said: “It’s based on a very popular sitcom, but chances are that most people will not have seen a live staged version like this before.”
It’s also a storyline that has relevance in today’s culture, he said.
“I love that this version of the show is a combination of a workplace sitcom with a strong woman lead (like ’30 Rock’ or ‘Mary Tyler Moore’) with the fun of high school. Miss Brooks has to handle crazy co-workers and teenagers at the same time, which a lot of us can relate to.”
Upcoming productions by RiverStage will include a brand-new adaptation of the children’s book “Anne of Green Gables”, and their second annual co-production of “A Lewisburg Victorian Nutcracker” with Strictly Ballet. Following the holidays, the season will continue with “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Twelve Angry Men,” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”