Next gen of Comedy Kids to perform

Paisley Bunt

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
“Off with their heads!” says the Queen of Hearts, played by Paisley Bunt, and then she waits to see if her command is carried through.

HILLTOWNS — Kids will be singing, dancing, and kazooing in a new version of the play “Not Yer Av’rage Fairytale” as part of a new children’s program sponsored by the Hilltowns Players.

The new group is called the Comedy Kids, named after a group of Berne-Knox-Westerlo students Penny Shaw directed in theater programs in the mid- to late 1980s. Shaw, an original member of the Hilltowns Players, wrote “Not Yer Av’rage Fairytale” in the 1980s for the players and later had BKW students perform it as part of an arts-in-the-school grant in the 1990s.

This will be the first performance by the new group. Auditions for the show started the week before February break, said Shaw, with rehearsals the week after the school vacation. She and Rich Bartley — her husband and co-director — were surprised to have 13 children, ages 7 to 13, audition, including eight boys.

Shaw said that the original “Not Yer Av’rage Fairytale” had one nonspeaking role and two roles with very few lines. She and her husband wanted to let each of the children participate more. When the second day of auditions was canceled due to bad weather, the co-directors used the time to create an introductory first act with new roles.

The original show took place entirely in the land of Hillville, said Shaw, and is a “hillbilly” take on several fairytales. Everyone speaks with a southern accent, she said, and the storyteller is a “laid-back guy who likes to fish.”

The tomboy Cindy Lou doesn’t want to get married, despite the desires of her Granny Pearl, although Willie Jim BoDean is secretly in love with her. Among many other characters, there is also a wolf, B.B. Wolf, who steals chickens, and Polly, the “Fairy God-Mama,” who has an opening act at the Grand Ole’ Opry.

The new version adds a first act, taking place in the kingdom of Old King Cole and his mother, the Queen of Hearts. The royals are amused by four court entertainers with “fractured nursery rhymes” when the entertainers invite everyone to the great hall to hear a fairy tale, transitioning to the land of Hillville.

The performance is set to be a traveling show, taking place at several locations. The children started rehearsals in the BKW Elementary School library, sometimes having rehearsals of the first and second act directed in different rooms split between Shaw and Bartley.

 

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Old King Cole, played by Jack Dibble, is blasted by an even merrier soul, a knave played by Kayden Lovell.

 

Later, near the end of March, they rehearsed at the Thompson’s Lake Reformed Church and started dress rehearsals in April.

The play features five songs, including a performance with kazoos during the hoedown near the end of the show, said Shaw. When a character says the word “dance,” she said, the cast members ask, “Did somebody say ‘dance?’” and begin playing “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” on their kazoos.

“There is definitely a lot of talent in these young ones, a lot of energy,” she said.

Shaw originally had some children singing the song but, when they were given kazoos, they all wanted to play. So, instead, she and her husband will be singing backstage, and they have put the lyrics in the program and will encourage the audience to sing along. Shaw has already let the parents know.

The parents of the performers have all been incredibly helpful, said Shaw. She was surprised to find out that five of them were original Comedy Kids themselves.

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“Not Yer Av’rage Fairytale” will play on Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m. at the Clarksville Community Church; Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m. at Woodman’s Hall in Westerlo; and Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. at Camp Pinnacle in New Scotland. Tickets are sold at the door for $5. For more information, call 518-872-9455.

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