Theater production “Alexander” to open this week

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day… Odds are that you’ve heard the story, or you can at least guess what it’s about: a kid named Alexander has an exceptionally awful day.

It’s a classic children’s story that the Unions theater department is bringing to life in musical format this week. A 6-year-old boy wakes up to find gum in his hair, and his day refuses to improve after that.

Actually, it gets worse. Much worse. From not finding a prize in his cereal box to being demoted to third best friend to having to get plain white sneakers, everything goes wrong throughout his day. It gets so bad, he decides he should just move to Australia. But at the end of the day, his mother tells him that some days are just like that, even in Australia, but each day is a new day.

“I think because it is based on a classic story and a popular story, people are going to be pleased by the musical interpretation of it,” said John Klonowski, professor of theater and director of the show. “It includes all the best parts of the original story; I think it’s going to exceed their expectations.”

There will be a total of six performances of the show, all occurring between May 2 and May 4. Four will be here at Union, and two will be at the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center in Huntingdon, Tennessee.

Most of the performances are during the day for elementary school students, but there will be a 6:30 p.m. show Tuesday May 3. Union students can attend chapel at 10 a.m. on Wednesday for a free viewing of the show and a chapel credit. Tickets for other shows are $4 at the door and $3 online.

Though the show has been advertised as a children’s musical, Klonowski assures everyone that the performance will be fun for all ages. It’s good, clean humor that everyone can enjoy.

Junior theater major Wendy Laarz is excited to make her debut performance with the Union Players and said she’s loved the experience.

“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” she said. “But it’s also enjoyable, and it’s nice to watch everyone else do it… I think the kids will laugh a lot. I love that we’re interacting with the audience, and I’m very excited to see how not only the children but the parents react.”

An interesting new aspect of this Union production is that the lead is played by a high school student rather than a Union student. After the first day of auditions in April, word was sent out through Facebook that the auditions would also be open to homeschoolers in the surrounding area.

“First and foremost, we have a shortage of men that can play younger roles,” Klonowski said. “But we also saw it as an opportunity to connect with our community a little more. It’s something that Burke and I have always talked about doing.”

Sam Kiehl, a 10th grade homeschooler, was one of two high school students to audition for the play. His family has been well-connected with Union, and he’s worked with the Klonowskis before. He was recently in a production of Oklahoma that Kristin Klonowski directed, and he’s thrilled to be performing now in a Union show as Alexander.

“It’s been quite a learning experience,” Kiehl said. “Some of these students are training to be actors, directors, and so on. It’s a little intimidating, but I’ve definitely been able to learn from them and feed on their energy and experience.”

“From day one [Kiehl] has just acclimated well to the cast,” Klonowski said. “He’s an entertainer and a lot of fun to work with.”

A Union alumna took on the role of music director for the first time, with current students taking up roles in choreography, props, stage managing and scenic painting.

“We’ve got a great team that’s really gelled,” Klonowski said. “This process has taken a big burden off of me.”