STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
What makes us different is what makes us special. That’s the message of “Freckleface Strawberry: The Musical,” an hour-long show based on the book by Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore, who was called that name and teased for her red hair and freckles as a child. The show is part of the Walnut Street Theatre for Kids series, which encourages families to read stories together at home, then come to the theater to experience them live. The goal is to inspire creativity and link literature and the arts.
The story: Strawberry loves doing all the things seven-year-olds do, but not all seven-year-olds have freckles. She is teased about hers and then wishes she was like everyone else. Along the way, she finds out that her friends have differences, too. They all learn that differences make people unique and they should be celebrated.
The cast features members of The Theatre School at Walnut Street Theatre. Devon Fields, of Upper Darby, who plays Harry and Don Fontaine, says the show is the American childhood on stage. He grew up in a diverse school district and appreciated that experience.
“I remember being on the playground at recess and discovering everyone’s differences and how special each person really was,” he said in an email interview. “This show exemplifies just that.”
The show may remind people of their own youthful experiences, like “what it was like to be an imaginative seven year old with crushes, hobbies, insecurities, and even some cases mistaken identity,” he said.
Fields relates to both of the characters he plays.
“Harry is the everyman — a ball of energy with a lot to say. Once he starts laughing at a joke, it snowballs into a high-speed train of that has to be expressed right then and there…. He just loves being with his friends. I’m not sure if I just described my character or myself because those traits are pretty equivalent in us both,” Fields said.
And Don Fontaine interacts a lot with the audience, “which I love doing as an actor,” he said. It’s a comedic, interactive role and Fields loves that.
For him, the best thing about the show is the music.
“The songs are very catchy, very upbeat, and almost every song has dance break in it which makes me happier than you can imagine,” he said. “I’ve been dancing less since becoming an acting apprentice at the Walnut [Street Theatre] so I’m happy to exercise that skill set with this show.”
Fields has been acting since middle school. During his high school years, he joined Upper Darby Summer Stage which provided the opportunity “to continue my growth and confidence as a performer,” he said. He has continued to work there as a choreographer. He attended Penn State University and majored in Broadcast Journalism and minored in Dance. During college, he worked as both a director and choreographer with the Penn State Thespians.
He’s happy to be working on this show, his second in the Walnut Street Theatre for Kids series, because it’s fun for all ages, but especially kids, and it highlights an important message.
“It’s important for kids to gain a sense of individuality as early as possible,” he said, “and this show will not let you forget how special you are for a moment.”