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From page to stage

Book and TV characters Max and Ruby leap to life at Luhrs

Book and TV characters Max and Ruby leap to life at Luhrs

February 20, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. -They're cute both in looks and action. Their intentions are well meaning. And they are serious-minded.

Seven-year-old Ruby and her little brother, mischief-making, 3-year-old Max, are popular characters created by children's author Rosemary Wells. They also appear in their own TV shows on Nick Jr. and Noggin.

If Max and Ruby sound familiar to parents with young children, it might be because the bunny brother and sister remind parents of their own children. Or because their children love to sit and read or watch as Max and Ruby work out their differences.

Saturday, Tri-State-area families can see the two young bunnies brought to life on stage at Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.

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Of course, the show won't be using real bunnies.

"We cast short actors and very cute, young-looking, 20-year-olds," said Tracy Bersley, Theatreworks USA's director and choreographer for the show. The actors needed to have a playfulness, particularly with Max. Lee Markham, who plays Max, must remove himself from his own maturity, since Max, being a preschooler, usually speaks one word at a time.

Children who see the stage show seem to have no problem transitioning the characters from drawings on a page or cartoon versions on TV to live performers on stage, Bersley said.

Children see stage versions of Max and Ruby's house, Max in his familiar blue overalls and Ruby in her yellow dress, and children automatically are reminded of Wells' books or the TV shows, Bersley said.

Wells began the self-illustrated series in 1979, with the series continuing through at least 2004, according to "Something about the Author," a reference book of information about authors.

"They've been popular for years and they continue to be popular. A lot of times, it's hard to find them on the shelf because they do go out a lot," said Jeff Ridgeway, head of children's services at Washington County Free Library.

Ridgeway, who read the series to his children when they were preschool-aged, said children can identify with the older sister-younger brother dynamic.

"In almost every book (Max) is doing something to get himself into trouble, but in a humorous way," Ridgeway said. Max might be running off and getting lost in a store, or insisting he wants to make a cake topped with Red Hots-like candy for his grandmother's birthday.

The "Max & Ruby" TV show probably helped promote the books, since children and parents who see characters on TV or in a movie are likely to look for a book tie-in, he said.

The stage show tomorrow is a 47-minute musical, Bersley said. The music is new, but children do start picking up on catchy parts and begin singing along, she said.

Children also tend to shout out to the characters occasionally, like when they try to tell Ruby the location of a frog is that Max is trying to hide from his big sister.

There also is a musical number with a tarantula puppet that is controlled by several people behind the set.

The show weaves together various stories from the book and TV series with a main story line about Ruby trying to give her grandmother a special gift.

As usual, Max thwarts her efforts - unintentionally.

If you go ...



WHAT: "Max & Ruby"

WHEN: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21

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

COST: $10 to $15

MORE: For tickets, call 717-477-7469 or go to the Luhrs Center box office. The box office will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and opens at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tickets may be purchased at the door prior to each performance. For more information, go to www.luhrscenter.com.

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