Family Theatre’s biggest production of the year is truly a family affair. The 1920s musical, Cheaper by the Dozen, concerns the exploits of the Gilbreths, an exciting, if expansive, family with an efficiency expert at the helm. And it’s running through June 19.
Nothing like Hollywood’s 2003 release with Steve Martin, this engaging story details the successes and struggles of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth as they raise 12 children while running their own business. Based on the book of the same name and written by two Gilbreth children, Ernestine and Frank Jr., Cheaper by the Dozen has just the right amount of real-life drama and theater magic. There’s laughter and tears; there’s singing and dancing.
The central conflict concerns Frank and his eldest, Anne, who is ready to grow up and wear “sheer stockings.” There’s also some tension between the Gilbreths and a rather tightly wound school psychologist who objects to the family’s unconventional teaching methods. All this against the backdrop of a boisterous family that Frank, lovingly, wants to make run like clockwork.
Though there’s a touch of the bittersweet at the end, the play is predominantly lighthearted. After all, it’s hard not to laugh when you see 10 children (the two youngest are babies) rush to assemble at the sound of dad’s whistle — as he times them with his stopwatch.
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Overall, it’s a fun, family feature, with a timelessness that rings true even today, despite the period costumes and props.
True to the style of community theater, it’s intimate seating and new talent on stage. But, with an amusing intro by Family Theatre founder Anne Stumhofer and an enthusiastic cast, this is one not to be missed.
Family Theatre also puts a different spin on its shows by allowing guests to bring a picnic. Combining dinner with a show is a winning hit — and the candlelit tables and free dessert during intermission don’t hurt, either.
Another hallmark of this local theater company is its family-friendly approach. Most shows, including this one, are G rated, so you won’t have to cover your kids’ ears or explain away inappropriate themes. But that doesn’t mean the stories are dumbed-down or simplistic. The volunteer-run nonprofit has performed everything from Our Town to Arsenic and Old Lace.
Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military and $6 for students. And if you have a dozen or so in your own family, don’t worry about an overly expensive ticket. Family passes to a show are $35, whether you have three kids or 13, ages 4 and older.
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. June 18-19 at Family Theatre, located inside Rose Hill Baptist Church. You’ll want to call ahead for reservations: 706-536-8052. Ask for a seat close to the stage, if possible, so you’ll be sure not to miss a hilarious or heartwarming line.
For more information, visit www.familytheatre.org.