'Magic Tree House' comes to life

Stage version of popular book series heads to Shippensburg, Pa.

Stage version of popular book series heads to Shippensburg, Pa.

October 31, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. -After years of turning down TV and movie offers, children's author Mary Osborne Pope decided to take her popular book series to the stage.

After all, it would be in good hands with her husband, Will Osborne.

"He's the first reader of anything I do," said Pope, during a recent interview from her rural Connecticut home. "He's just as familiar with Jack and Annie as I am."

So with Pope's blessing, Will Osborne and lyricist Randy Courts wrote "Magic Tree House: The Musical," the stage version of her popular "Magic Tree House" book series. The play, 105 minutes long, will tour through roughly 60 cities along the East Coast and the Midwest through spring 2009, Pope said.

The production is scheduled to be in Shippensburg, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 1, for two shows at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center. The play will feature life-sized puppets and 16 actors, Pope said.


"Magic Tree House: The Musical" is based on the book "Christmas in Camelot," published in 2001, but the Christmas theme is left out of the play so that it would be relevant all year, Pope said.

For more than 15 years, Pope has penned the "Magic Tree House" series, which follows the adventures of Jack and Annie, two kids who travel through time and see the world while seeking adventures. Pope and her husband collaborate on Magic Tree House Research Guides, fact-filled guides for each Magic Tree House title.

Pope said the idea behind the books is to get kids interested in topics that they might otherwise pass up. She said she's finished the next installment - a story about Mozart - and is working on a book about Louis Armstrong.

Pope said that in the past, she turned down TV and movie offers because she thought it would make it harder for readers to connect with the characters in her books. She felt that the theater, however, would still enable young people to use their imaginations.

"We always wanted to keep the book as books," Pope said.

Pope says she doesn't plan to pull a "Harry Potter," and start cranking out movie versions of her book. But she did say she was happy with how her husband handled writing the play.

According to the stage play's Web site, Will Osborne's musical theater chops include writing "Saddle Jazz," a Western swing musical, and "The Wonderful O," an adaptation of James Thurber's novella. He also co-authored the comic murder-mystery "Smoke & Mirrors" with Anthony Herrera.

Pope wrote in her bio that she met her husband at a theater. He was playing Jesse James in a musical. She was in the audience. She said it was love at first sight.

If you go ...

WHAT: "Magic Tree House: The Musical," stage version of the popular children's book series

WHEN: 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University

COST: Tickets cost $15, $22, $28 and $35

MORE: For tickets, call 717-477-7469 (SHOW) or go to

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