A twist on Appalachian folk tales in ‘Sing Down the Moon’ at Adventure Theatre

The rhythmic original mountain music is thigh-slapping fun, and the choreography is jubilant.

MaryHall Surface knows the ins and outs of great storytelling, and she covers the gamut as book writer, lyricist (with composer and lyricist David Maddox), and director of Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales at Adventure Theatre.

The stories are based on legends and folk tales that look familiar but have a special twist.

Jeremy Crawford as Jack and Brigid Wallace Harper as Catskins in ‘Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales.’ Photo by Alan Kayanan.

Catskins is played by Brigid Wallace Harper with remarkable vocals. The character perseveres through the hardship of being orphaned and so poor that she wears ragged garments made from the disgusting skins mentioned above. Once she’s magically attired in a gorgeous royal blue dress, her kind-heartedness shines through to the Prince, and her inconsiderate family members get their due.

Jack, played winningly by Jeremy Allen Crawford, is a well-meaning but rather dim-witted lad who ends up being the ultimate clown. His antics keep everybody chuckling, including a despondent rich maiden who needs a good laugh. The ensemble has a fun time with “Sow and Her Three Pigs,” where each sibling builds a house to escape the wolf’s clutches, but only one is fortified with steel and aluminum to outsmart him. And boy, do the tables turn for that one. In “The Enchanted Tree,” a lost girl, a charming Chelsea Majors, is left alone in the forest full of scary treacherous predators. Once she befriends a large frightening crow, her life becomes filled with new enchanted possibilities.

The rhythmic original mountain music by David Maddox interspersed throughout the stories is thigh-slapping fun, and Kurt Boehm’s choreography is jubilant. The actors jump along, spin, and cascade along the multilevel set, beautifully designed by award-winning Tony Cisek. The percussive rhythms and fiddle and banjo bring out an urgency that permeates the scenes. The underlying message throughout the show is that life’s hardships might knock you down, but music and determination can help you get up, keep going, and survive.

Director MaryHall Surface moves the characters around the set with jubilant ease. She shows the beauty and wonder of the Appalachian tales — they have the markings of well-known treasured stories, but each one ratchets up the consequences. Death and grief are pervasive, there’s no escaping that reality — it’s all a part of life. What’s important is to get up and keep going, no matter what.

TOP: Chelsea Majors, Irene Hamilton, and Julia Link; ABOVE: Jordan Essex and Chelsea Majors, in ‘Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales.’ Photos by Alan Kayanan.

MaryHall Surface has described the stories as being “different versions all over the world because they capture a universal experience — the process of growing up.”

The entire family will enjoy the magical stories filled with tenderness and beauty mixed with moments of grief and exuberance. Yes, it’s all in there. Surface shares that she and David Maddox actually have roots in the region, which adds to the excitement of having an inside track for viewing the tough reality of this resilient slice of Americana.

Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission.

Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales plays through May 26, 2024, at Adventure Theatre MTC (ATMTC), 7300 MacArthur Blvd, Glen Echo, MD. Showtimes are Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (also Tuesday, April 30) at 11 AM;  Saturdays at 2 PM; and Sundays at 11 AM and 2 PM. See the schedule to plan and purchase tickets. Tickets (general admission, all ages, $25) are available online or by calling the box office at 301-634-2270.

Recommended for all ages.

COVID Safety: Masks are currently optional for Adventure Theatre for most performances.

Jordan Essex, Brigid Wallace Harper, Stephen Russell Murray, Jeremy Crawford, Chelsea Majors, and Irene Hamilton in ‘Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales.’ Photo by Alan Kayanan.

Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales

Brigid Wallace Harper as Catskins
Jeremy Crawford as Jack
Chelsea Majors as Daughter and Girl
Irene Hamilton as Mother and Old Woman
Jordan Essex as Storyteller and Crow
Julia Link as Nancy and Lady
Ben Ribler as Farmer and Fox
Stephen Russell Murray as Farmer and Pa

Playwright and Director: MaryHall Surface
Music: David Maddox
Book Writer: MaryHall Surface
Lyrics: MaryHall Surface and David Maddox
Set Designer: Tony Cisek
Costume Designer: Bailey Hammond
Choreographer for musicals: Kurt Boehm
Musical Director: Nathan Beary Blustein
Sound and Lighting Designer: William K. D’Eugenio
Dialect Coach: Sherri L. Edelen (also in original production 2000 and 2002)
Fight Choreographer: Ryan Sellers
Stage Manager: Sam Linc
Props Designer/Master: Cindy Jacobs


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