HARRODSBURG — The sweet story of a family looking forward to the upcoming World’s Fair in 1903 St. Louis comprises the core of Ragged Edge Community Theatre’s “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The spring musical is directed by Steve Sleeper, who took time to answer questions about the production.
A-M: What is “Meet Me in St. Louis” about?
SS: “Meet Me in St. Louis” is a wholesome, romantic story of a Midwestern family whose lives get turned upside down when the father comes home and announces his law firm is promoting him and they are moving to New York City. The announcement especially distresses their two teenage daughters, who are being courted by two suitors. To top it off, the entire family is in an uproar because the 1904 World’s Fair is set to open in St. Louis the following year. (This is) an event they have been eagerly looking forward to having come to their home town.
A-M: Who are the key players in “Meet Me in St. Louis”?
SS: The play centers around the Smith family. Mr. Smith (Darell Rickmers) is an attorney whose law firm has promoted him and (is) sending him to New York City. Mrs. Smith (Robin Dickerson) is displeased with her husband’s decision to move from St. Louis but remains supportive of her husband.
The Smiths have four daughters. There is 8-year-old Tootie (Jenna Moses); she is an adorable little spark plug. Her dolls keep dying and she buries them all over the yard. Her 12-year-old sister Agnes (Elizabeth Meredith) is a tomboy.
Grandpa Prophater (Jim Sprague), a Civil War veteran with a charming wit, lives with them. There is Katie (Wendy Hood), the housekeeper, who runs the Smith household with her Irish charm and wisdom. Then there are the two older teenage daughters, Rose and Esther (Kathy Shewmaker and Tagan Cox). The play primarily deals with their new romances with Warren Sheffield and John Truitt (J.P. Robbins and Michael Cotten), and how the move threatens to upset their courtships.
A-M: What is the central theme of “Meet Me in St. Louis”?
SS: The central themes are the strength and joy found in family relationships, and the ups and downs of romantic love.
A-M: Why did you decide to direct “Meet Me in St. Louis”?
SS: I chose to direct “Meet Me in St. Louis” because it is one of the great classic musicals. The songs, the dancing, the comedic lines, its time period, costumes and the uplifting, heartwarming story are a delightful combination. I also wanted the challenge of directing a musical. I have acted in musicals but never directed one before.
A-M: As a director, what do you like about “Meet Me in St. Louis”?
SS: It has something for the whole family. The songs are uplifting, the dancing is fun, the dialogue is humorous, the set and costumes are fabulous, the singing and acting superb. Of course, there are the unforgettable songs like “Meet Me in St. Louis”; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”; and the “Trolley Song.”
A-M: How has directing “Meet Me in St. Louis” challenged you?
SS: We have had some challenges in casting some roles and working around other productions with an overlapping schedule but vastly different set needs. Ragged Edge is an outstanding organization with a great facility, and exceptional leadership and volunteers who somehow make it magically come together. It has also been a challenge to devise a trolley full of people on our stage, but I think our audience will be quite pleased with the result.
A-M: If someone asked you, “Why should I see ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’?” what would you say?
SS: I believe people will be captivated by the exuberant vivacity of the Smith family. It will entertain and encourage with its amusing and heartwarming story.