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Pious Kids Overcome Monotonous Score in “Children's Letters”

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In support of the Acts of Faith Festival, Stage 1 Theatre Company offers “Children's Letters to God,” a loosely plotted musical illustrating children's questions about life. Director and choreographer Chase Kniffen assembles a production team that expertly takes the audience into the unaffected world of children.

Set designer Mercedes Schaum effectively uses simple chalk drawings, designed by Amy Kaeberle, projected along the back wall of the set to suggest scene settings, leaving a brightly painted, raked stage clear for basic but effective blocking and choreography. Kniffen and musical director Jimmy Hicks get A-plus performances from their young cast, despite a monotonous score, which is saved somewhat by its charming lyrics.

Even with the grown-ups behind the scenes doing fine work, the youth ultimately have to carry the show — and they do. Sean Dunavant, Lillie Izo and Mackenzie Mercer are polished and professional. But Eric Pastore and R. Cooper Timberline (son of Style theater critic David Timberline) steal the show. Eight-year-old Timberline brings the house down with his song, “Ants,” in which he emphatically explains his love for squishing the insects. And Pastore is just beginning to bring real maturity and emotion to his performance. In his solo, “Kicker Brown,” the audience shares his gratitude to God for creating children who are worse at sports than he. S

“Children's Letters to God” runs through Feb. 21 at Stage 1 Theatre Company, 9130 Dickey Drive. Tickets are $15-$22. For information visit www.stage1va.org or call 427-7548.

Correction: In the original version of this story, R. Cooper Timberline's age was incorrectly reported.

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