Community members took advantage of the vast culture Needham has to offer on Saturday as a crowd bustled, making their way into the Newman auditorium. The quality entertainment wasn’t far; Needham Community Theatre (NTC)x delivered their spring play, Ramona Quimby with flying colors.
Ramona Quimby is a play based on the book by the same name by popular children’s author Beverly Cleary. Young third grader, Ramona Quimby, supported by a spirited and youthful ensemble of “Imagination monsters,” explores the world through a unique lens. Her creativity gets her into quite a bit of trouble, but she learns how to embrace it as she navigates life in a way that’s anything but boring.
Gorgeous life-size storybooks colored the stage and also functioned as set pieces. A giant book with moving pages was center-stage and marked Ramona’s entrance, as well as scene changes. Various youthful pops of color existed in children’s outfits, especially the Imagination Monsters. The Imagination Monsters, not originally in the script, served as an extension of the titular character’s emotions and overactive imagination. The liberty that co-directors Danielle Woods and Morgan Flynn took paid dividends in terms of theming the show. “We wanted to include as many kiddos as possible that wanted to be involved. Having them help bring Ramona’s imagination to life was a great way to get them involved,” Flynn shared. When asked how to direct characters that aren’t part of the original source material, Woods explained, “We encouraged them to think of their individual monsters. How they’d act in different scenes. Some anchored onto different emotions. It was about giving them space to play and discover their own creation within the ensemble.”
“We wanted books to come off the page,” said Woods. “Our set was books and that brought us into the world of Cleary.”Flynn added, “A story or picturebook is very timeless- it’s nostalgic. We tried to include something that felt like a little bit of growing up for everybody.” The two female directors worked in tandem to bring the story to life. A colorful element filled each aspect of the production. Rainbow LED lights were strewn across the perimeter of the Newman auditorium to add a whimsical feel to the entire space.
Actors were animated and used aisles for entrances, which fit perfectly into the show as Beezus, Ramona’s big sister, spoke directly to the audience. Nina Barzilay, the young actress who played Beezus was excited to return to the stage. The seasoned performer noted, “I played a sister role last year as well, I have an older sister and a younger brother.” The Needham Community Theatre is a welcoming and unifying space for everyone. Barzilay’s father, Ilan, also plays her father, Bob Quimby onstage. Various child-parent pairs exist in NCT and the element of community is strong as the bonds formed during production are clearly formed and prevalent in performances. The warmth of the cast radiated to every area of production.
Producers, sound techs, and stage managers all lent a helping hand to new folks and those wanting to be involved. For children as young as kindergarten-age, NCT members held tech workshops and had them help out with the set. Professional skills such as set-building and painting are accessed easily through the collective talent of the NCT. Using each unique member’s skills to their advantage, the producers also were able to incorporate an original score into the show. Sound designer and composter Chris Tess brought Ramona’s imagination to life through youthful compositions.
This colorful production of Ramona Quimby showcases the high-quality level of talent and dedication in town. All ages banded together to make a nostalgic and warm production that audiences loved. The Needham Community Theatre is always seeking new members to collaborate. Ramona Quimby held additional performances, on Saturday and Sunday, May 13th and 14th, which were both at 2pm.