Review: ‘Dear Edwina’ at Theatre Aspen

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Theatre Aspen's 'Dear Edwina'
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

If You Go …

What: ‘Dear Edwina,’ presented by Theatre Aspen

Where: Hurst Theatre, Rio Grande Park

When: Through Aug. 13

How much: $25-$100

Tickets:; 970-300-4474

Handling gross little brothers, dealing with rude party guests, remembering how to set a table and politely turning down weird foods. Such are the moral conundrums of the kids seeking advice from the plucky and wise Edwina Spoonapple in Theatre Aspen’s production of “Dear Edwina.”

Running through Aug. 13 at the Hurst Theatre, the family-friendly musical comedy follows a day in the life of the 13-year-old Michigan “advice-giver extraordinaire” as she stages a backyard musical, responding to letters in the “Dear Abby” tradition. Edwina (Alie Walsh Dame) is something of a schoolyard Emily Post, doling out her authoritative etiquette advice in earworm-y song-and-dance numbers.

On the day we meet Edwina and her band of neighborhood boys and girls, they’re performing for a crowd that includes a talent scout from the Kalamazoo Advice-a-Palooza — and Edwina is eager to impress.

Kids are definitely the target audience here (it’s recommended for ages 4 and older). But “Dear Edwina,” by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, is more than clever enough to keep adults entertained over its fast-paced 60-minute running time, and the music and choreography is remarkably varied. There’s an opera aria, a tap-dancing number, a dash of ballet — even a reggae-tinged one about saving money. I defy anyone to walk out of the theater not humming the table-setting instructional anthem “Fork, Knife, Spoon” or the infectiously lilting one about overcoming shyness titled “Hola, Lola.”

The fresh-faced, energetic cast is led by Dame, who also co-choreographs with director Paige Price. Outfitted in a red polka-dot dress and beaming smile, Dame nails the can-do kid who rallies the neighborhood while also managing to plumb some of the depths of early adolescent anxiety. “Up on the Fridge,” her song about longing to do something great enough to land a ribbon on the Spoonapple kitchen refrigerator alongside her over-achieving siblings, is a highlight. The song, like this musical, manages to be cute and funny while nailing some truisms of growing up. And the uplifting closer “Sing Your Own Song” is the best in the show.

Marcus Shane (also seen as Pepper in Theatre Aspen’s “Mama Mia!” this summer) plays an eager, awkward boy with an unrequited crush on Edwina, while four Theatre Aspen apprentices round out the cast — playing multiple roles with relish (Ryne Nardecchia, for instance, makes a fantastic quick change from Edwina’s flustered new neighbor into monster in the song “Frankenguest”).

In the background, Spencer Hansen plays keyboards and Nicole Patrick plays drums, each landing a few memorable laughs of their own as Edwina’s brother and sister.

The show continues a wonderful recent run of family shows at Theatre Aspen — “Junie B. Jones,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Little Women” — that have shunned more insipid fare for kid-friendly musicals that grown-ups can enjoy, too.