WEST ALLIS — The heartwarming story of a Norwegian immigrant family in early 1900s America will open a two-weekend run Friday, March 10, at West Allis Central High School, 8516 W. LIncoln Ave.
"I chose it because it's a classic and I like to introduce the kids to good classic stories," said director Peggy Link. "Old scripts have stood the test of time."
Old indeed, as famed actor Marlon Brando made his debut in the show, she said.
"I Remember Mama" also won her favor because immigration is in the news and Link said she thought the kids might relate more to it because of that.
No point of view
"I don't present a point of view, it's just the story of immigrants in America 100 years ago," she said. "It's a nice family working together to survive and thrive."
There's comedy and there's sadness, just like life, she said.
"It's heartwarming to see the family's interactions," Link said. Audiences also will fall in love with Mama.
"She's a wonderful character — making sure her kids are doing right and getting what they need," not always easy when money was scarce, she said. "And they'll love the young kids. They are just charming."
The play has three young members in the cast, two are in Mama's family and one is a cousin.
The story focuses on Mama who, with the help of her husband and Uncle Chris, brings up the children in their modest San Francisco home. Mama, a sweet and capable manager, sees her children through childhood, manages to educate them and to see one of her daughters begin her career as a writer. Mama's sisters and uncle add a great deal of comedy and a little incidental tragedy, while the doings of the children manage to keep everyone in pleasant turmoil.
Among the play's challenges for the girls in the cast is piloting around long dresses and learning the ways of people in the early 1900s, Link said.
"The girls had lessons in posture and how to carry themselves and to sit," Link said. "When sitting, they can't cross their knees, they have to sit ladylike with back straight and ankles crossed."
There was new ground for the boys, too.
"Some of the boys are wearing ties for the first time," Link said.
Mastering the Norwegian dialect was probably the toughest part, though. A friend who does dialect coaching said that particular one is hard, even for her, Link said. Her friend has been helping the cast get the Norwegian sound down. The cast member with the tallest order in that regard is a Chinese foreign exchange student. She already has a Chinese accent that she is trying to mold into a Norwegian one.
The major characters in the production are Mama played by Emma McClure, papa played by Brad Hoerl, Katrin by Abagail Houk, Nels by Tristan Haugh, Christine by Melanie Dlouhy, Dagmar by Erin Gajeski, Uncle Chris by Evan Barbian, Aunt Jenny by Anastasia Jackson, Aunt Sigrid by Korra Justham and Aunt Trina by Jeri Cutsworth.
"I Remember Mama" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, March 10 and 11, and 17 and 18. Admission will be $8, general, $6 for students and those at least 65.