Children’s book-turned-musical ‘dramedy’ premiers at the Chief
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Twenty Halloweens ago, Kristin Cronin’s nieces came trick-or-treating at her house, the baby dressed as a berry, her 4-year-old sister as a bee. In them, Cronin saw herself and her sister.
“My sister is older, like the berry — she’s responsible and rooted in the ground,” Cronin said. “I’m the bee — I’m a free spirit, I go places, I do things.”
As the crew collected their treats, a story was developing in Cronin’s head. She eventually got it down on paper: a children’s book, entirely in rhyme.
“It’s about sibling rivalry,” Cronin said. “They’re really good friends, but the berry is red — the sun’s favorite color — but the berry only recognizes that the bee has wings, which set her free.”
She didn’t share it with many people, “but when I did, they said, ‘We need to turn this into a show!’” said Cronin, who also teaches at Steamboat Arts Academy.
Steamboat Arts Academy presents the world premier of “The Berry and the Bee” on Friday.
While the show is based on Cronin’s work, the Steamboat Arts Academy students, age 3 to 18, brought their own ideas to the table to build out the production.
“I gave the kids their characters, then they made their own amazing backstories,” Cronin said.
A product of having so many brains contributing input was that Cronin estimates she rewrote the script “probably five times” — a labor of love.
Students also wrote the music, choreographed every dance, designed their own costumes and explored other areas of the production.
“I try to say ‘yes’ as much as possible. The kids really have the best ideas,” Steamboat Arts Academy founder and artistic director Celina Taylor said. “Sometimes adults get really set in what’s logical or typically done.”
Cue the magic of creativity that Taylor aims to cultivate in every part of Steamboat Arts Academy. Within the production’s garden setting, the audience will meet butterflies, ladybugs, birds, a chicken and a bunny rabbit who wants to fly. There are also garden fairies, a troll, a bitter yellow raspberry and the villains, who are not noxious weeds, but obnoxious weeds, telling obnoxious jokes.
“It’s challenging, and I’m learning more things,” said 8-year-old ladybug Sophia Garner. “We’re learning how to memorize lines like the back of our hand and how to project.”
There are monologues, and there’s a student’s first-ever musical solo. There will even be an unscripted part, when the Steamboat Arts Academy Improv Troupe takes the stage.
“They’ll get up there and say who knows what,” Cronin said, laughing.
“It’s their creation,” Taylor said. “We’re here to guide them.”
Cronin and Taylor call the medley of singing, dancing, drama and comedy a “dramedy.”
“The play is pretty fun because we got to make some jokes,” said 10-year-old Moses Tracy, who wrote several lines for the obnoxious weeds and plays a garden-fairy troll. “I think people will think it’s really funny because it has a lot of funny parts.”
“It’s written so the parents in the audience also enjoy it,” Cronin said. “Some of the jokes, the kids don’t really get, but the parents will laugh.”
Friday’s 6 p.m. premier will be followed by a 5 p.m. show on Saturday. After Saturday’s show, The Barley Tap & Tavern will host a Raise the Barre fundraiser from 8 to 10 p.m., supporting Arts Academy students pursuing non-local theater, dance or music programs.
“It’s important for students to get out of Steamboat to meet different people and see different places,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to help the kids embrace opportunities that come their way.”
The Friday and Saturday shows are sold out, but Thursday’s dress rehearsal is open to the public, with donations accepted for Steamboat Arts Academy scholarships.
“I’m thrilled that the book is being shared and that people like it, but I’m more thrilled that the kids are able to utilize their skills,” Cronin said.
She added that, with the positive response that The Berry and the Bee has gotten, she’ll probably try to get the book published.
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