Children’s Theatre of Annapolis is kicking off a spooktacular season with The Canterville Ghost by Claudia Haas, a tail about a rambunctious American family that buys a haunted manor in England. Adapted from the short story by Oscar Wilde, Director Joe Thompson works with a cast that ranges in age from 8 – 18, which makes The Canterville Ghost both charming and family-friendly.
The show opens with Oscar Wilde played by Zoe Argabright, accompanied by Ghost #1 played by Noelani Segree, Ghost #2 played by Olivia Brady and Connor Page is Ghost #3. They request that Mr. Wilde write a story of a haunting and this sets the comedic tone for the show.
The haunting takes place in 1910, an era of elegance in both décor and clothing. The setting of the play is the Canterville estate that is comprised of a cascading staircase, multiple doorway entrances, grand windows, and of course a floor to ceiling bookcase that shifts for The Ghost’s appearance and disappearance from the grand room. There is minimal furniture, two high back chairs upholstered in a white satin with button-tufted design with side tables that are positioned stage left and right. The fireplace is decorated with multiple pairs of brass candle holders. The credit goes to Todd Croteau and Luke Page who made the set so sophisticated.
Mr. and Mrs. Otis played by Dave Martinek and Natalie Nankervis, respectively is the affluent American couple that buys the Canterville manor in England from Lady Canterville portrayed by Sophia Poole. She tells them of the ghost that haunts Canterville, but the Otis’ don’t believe in ghosts. Both Nankervis and Poole are classy in their roles. Nankervis, reminiscent of a young Laura Dern, is a bit more vivacious than Poole, who is reserved in her role playing a British woman of high-society. Martinek is a bit awkward as Mr. Otis but does hold his own against some strong women characters and father of four children.
The Otis children played by Diana Rach as Virginia, Andrew Mimms as Will, Rory Burley as Gabby and Reid Murphy as Iggy are opposing in personality. Virginia is a young and posed woman while her brother Will is reserved and bookish, then the twins, Gabby and Iggy are quite precocious and adventuresome. They are the ones, along with their friends, Georgia Eckman as Elizabeth, Maggie Baum as Vivian, and Heidi Thiessen is Kathryn, who devise a plan to scare away The Ghost cleverly played by Matthew Lucente.
As The Ghost, Lucente breaks the fourth wall, engaging the audience and drawing them into the story by narrating the gambit of the ghost’s feelings. Near the end, he exposes his vulnerability during an encounter with Virginia, who discovers the truth of the spot that has stained the floor of the manor for 300 years. The Ghost recognizes how Virginia is different from the rest of the family and confides in her about the death of his wife. The Ghost’s scare tactic garner a laugh and the special effects used are a nice surprise to the scene where the Ghost and Virginia go to a place that no human has gone. Truly talented, Lucente has a future as a bright, comedic actor. He and Rach are a complementary pairing as well.
Noah Jaccard is adorable as Duke Charles who also happens to be Virginia’s love interest. Jaccard plays opposite Lady Canterville, who is his aunt. Rach and Jaccard are a sweet match and their characters show each other respect and a moderate level of maturity for their ages.
The Gypsy children are a band of children that camp out on the Canterville grounds each year. They ask the Otis’ if they can maintain their tradition and they oblige the gypsy children. Gypsy children are comprise of Devon Beagan plays Lyanka, Daphane Eckman is Lala, Katie Garrity is Tawny, Camille White is Sizma, Drew Claxton is Nicu, and Andrew Wilson is Dumnken, the leader and crystal ball reader for the group. These kids are the quirky characters of the show that are as insightful as they are fun to watch.
Ryan Hoover as Henry and butler of Canterville Manor provides the most comic relief as he interacts with the Otis twins. He teases them, stoops to their level, and is quite sarcastic when Mr. Otis asks anything of him, such as answering the door. Hoover delivers with perfect comedic timing.
Lizzy Dixon as Mrs. Umney, the house keeper, and Henry are an amusing couple with a bit of chemistry. It’s clear they like each other and Hoover and Dixon are effective at responding to each other’s quips. They maintain the Otis’ home despite the chaos that ensues around them from ghostly hauntings, to high-spirited children, and slightly goofy home owners. Henry and Mrs. Umney are the backbone of the Canterville manor. Adding to the staff are the likes of Annabelle Cotton as Cook Crumley and Sara Kalafos as Cook Crushey. Another pairing of personality opposites, one is a constant chatter-box while the other acts like a frightened mouse.
The additional layer of elegance is the costuming by Kathleen Ouellette and Michelle Lucente. By far, Mrs. Otis and Virginia don several full length dresses and hats of the time. Accentuate with lace or a chiffon apron-like lay, the costumes are eloquent and the hats are fanciful with feathers and ribbons. The other Otis children and friends are dressed in proper style, the girls in dresses with satin sashes while the boys wear trousers and suit jackets. The Canterville staff wears the appropriate black and white uniforms while the gypsy children’s costumes are bright in rich colors – sparkling greens, pinks, and blues. The ghosts are costumed in shredded tops and pants that are shades of tan and white. Oscar Wilde wears a stunning quilted maroon leisure coat.
The Canterville Ghost is a spooky comedy with some zany scenes that are fun and entertaining for the season. It is family fun and family appropriate that is high-energy and enjoyable for all ages.
Running Time: 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.