‘Dear Edwina Jr’ will encourage theatergoers to ‘sing your own song’

Metropolitan Performing Arts offering three shows at the Durst Theater in The Vancouver School of Arts and Academics beginning May 19

VANCOUVER — Pacific Middle School eighth-grader Olivia Ashdown has never had the lead role in a play.

Olivia Ashdown as the lead character Edwina. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts
Olivia Ashdown as the lead character Edwina. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts

For her first effort in that position, she’ll play Edwina Spoonapple in the Metropolitan Performing Arts production of “Dear Edwina Jr,” an uplifting musical billed as a celebration of the pleasures of growing up.

Ashdown admits having the lead role is intimidating, but she’s embracing the challenge.

“It’s scary, but since I relate so much to Edwina it feels very natural,” she said.

Ashdown and the rest of the cast of “Dear Edwina Jr” will hit the stage of the Royal Durst Theater in the The Vancouver School of Arts and Academics for three shows over a single weekend on Sat., May 19, and Sun., May 20.

Megan Connelly as the character Annie. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts
Megan Connelly as the character Annie. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts

The play is not as well known as others performed by Metropolitan Performing Arts, but that’s by design, according to  Executive Director Barbara Richardson.

“I spent a great deal of time reading material to pick for our season,” Richardson said. “This year I wanted to produce musicals that empower young folks, particularly young girls who are learning to speak their mind, explore their individuality, and understand that femininity includes being clever, smart and strong.  Although Dear Edwina is not widely known, the lead character is a role model for independent and fearless thinkers. The show’s theme to ‘sing your own song,’ to be unapologetically yourself makes it a must-see show.”

For Ashdown, the play hits the target outlined by Richardson.

The young actress says she admires the character of Spoonapple because she pulls through and doesn’t let obstacles get in her way, including negative opinions of other people.

“I feel like I can relate to Edwina in the sense that she is artsy, quirky, a little bit out there,” Ashdown said. “She likes to be a part of something and at the same time, she is dealing with self-doubt.”

Ashdown will be joined by 21 other performers, all youths from Vancouver.

Jaedon Moore as the character Bobby. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts
Jaedon Moore as the character Bobby. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts

Here’s how Metropolitan Performing Arts describes the plot of the production:

“Thirteen-year-old Edwina Spoonapple is desperate to be part of the Kalamazoo Advice-a-palooza Festival. While her siblings both have ample evidence of their accomplishments, poor Edwina has no credibility. When a talent scout from the convention visits her hometown, she introduces her musical advice-giving show live from the family garage in hopes of finding her place in the spotlight. A spunky, singing version of Dear Abby, told through a show-within-a-show format, Edwina and her neighborhood friends share wisdom on everything from trying new foods to making new friends through clever, catchy and poignant songs. The show unfolds like a virtual block party and will delight children, teens and adults of all ages.”

“Dear Edwina Jr” is directed by Paul Angelo, winner of the 2017 PAMTA special achievement in directing for his contributions to Portland theatre from 2005 to 2017. The musical director is Metropolitan Performing Arts teacher Kristin Heller, and choreography will be provided by Broadway veteran and acclaimed choreographer Randy Davis.

“Our students are so lucky to have such an incredible group of theater professionals investing in their success as young performers,” Richardson said. “What makes MPA truly unique is the caliber of theater professionals who direct and teach our classes.”

Holland Hauskins and Lily Blodgett as the characters Kelli and Becky. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts
Holland Hauskins and Lily Blodgett as the characters Kelli and Becky. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Performing Arts

The one-hour musical is part of The Broadway Junior Collection with music by Zina Goldrich and book and lyrics by Marcy Heisler.

With just three shows, organizers are strongly advising attendees to secure their tickets early.

There are performances at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sat., May 19, and a final performance at 2 p.m. Sun., May 20. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for youths. A special family day with discounted tickets will be offered during the 6 p.m. Saturday show. Group rates are available, and organizers warn that tickets are more expensive at the door. Special VIP tickets are available for the opening show red carpet event. VIP tickets include reserved seating, a picture with Edwina after the show and a concessions voucher.

The address for the Royal Durst Theater in the The Vancouver School of Arts and Academics is 3101 Main St. in Vancouver. Information and performance details are available at www.MetropolitanPerformingArts.org or by calling (360) 975-1585.

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