News or Reviews for The Play's the Thing Productions
by Andrew Miller
Thisweek Newspapers

Matthew Loyd's costume has plenty of flair but one small drawback.
Cast as the singing, anthropomorphic clock Cogsworth in Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr., the 14-year-old Burnsville resident says his boxy, bulky costume which includes a giant key protruding from his back and a pendulum dangling from his chest  took some getting used to, especially offstage.
"The hardest thing is getting through doors?" he said.

It's all part of the learning process, though, for Loyd and the 50-some other young actors in the classic Disney musical, which will be presented Aug. 11-13 at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

Young Actors Take Spotlight in "Beauty and the Beast Jr."
The show is being staged by The Play's the Thing Productions, the company of Dayna Railton of Lakeville. Railton says the goal of her shows is to give south-of-the-river students a chance to get familiar with theater and all the challenges, and fun, that come with it.

They learn focus, musicality, articulation, what kind of physicalities appeal to an audience, their position on stage and how it affects the entire show? Railton said.

Along with learning the nuts and bolts, these are lifetime experiences they'll cherish their whole lives," she said. it's magical?

The child cast and paid adult crew have been rehearsing four hours a day, five days a week for the past four weeks at Eagle Ridge Junior High in Savage, in anticipation of their move to the Burnsville venue next week.

Railton said "Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr.' is the biggest children's theater project she's undertaken since founding The Play's the Thing Productions two and a half years ago. The show has a two-story set, elaborate costumes and professional props rented from Chanhassen Dinner Theater and other groups.

The production will be presented on the main stage in the Burnsville arts center's 1,000-seat proscenium theater. By children's theater standards, that's a massive auditorium to fill, but Railton said her production of Annie Jr.? last summer at the same venue drew about 600 people per show.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr.? will be presented at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 and 13, and 1 p.m. Aug. 12. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students and senior citizens, and are available at

By Keighla Schmidt, Staff Writer 

Have you got a golden ticket?

Willy Wonka is handing out five golden tickets to get into his chocolate factory in the imaginary world showcased in ISD 191 Community Education's production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Junior at Eagle Ridge Junior High School.

The show features 54 cast members between 5 and 15 years old. 

Audience members will experience a show reminiscent of the film version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? featuring Gene Wilder in the first screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

The musical show will have some of the same songs as the 1971 film but is abbreviated to fit a shorter time frame as some of the reprises are omitted to save repetition. 

Director Dayna Railton said the 90 minute production is perfect for childrens theater  well, actually for everyone - the kids in the play, the audience, everyone.

Riley Pester, 8, is playing an orange-faced, green-haired Oompa Loompa in the show. I liked the movie, the Savage resident said of the Wilder flick. 
Railton said many members of the cast had seen both versions of movies (the original one with Wilder and the remake with actor Johnny Depp), but seemed to connect with the original.

For 13-year-old John Goering, of Savage, he thought the play sounded fun. 
"I love doing theatre," said Goering, who plays Wonka. I've worked with Dayna before and had a good time." 

"The kids all seem to know the older version and they know the newer version, too, but they really like (the 1971 version)," she said. 

Parents, too, were excited to have their children in the play. 

"My mom signed me up for the show and told me it would be fun ."Pester said. 
When they would sign them up (the parents) would say how their kids were excited for the show," Railton said. But you could really watch the parents get excited about it themselves.
Also, some of the costumes will bring the audience back to the classic film. 

The Oompa Loompas will have orange sober-faces surrounded by a bright green wig that contrast their fluffy white eyebrows and will be dressed in a yellow turtleneck shirt under white overall Capri pants. 

The costumes resemble movie director Mel Stuart's interpretation of the Oompa Loompas that helped Wilder in the 1971 version.
"The Oompa Loompas are so cute." Railton said.
WONKA is spelled out across the back drop of the stage and the letters double as props. There’s candy in the “W,� a video will be featured in the “O,� and the “N� masquerades as a chute. 

Other parts of the set feature a chocolate river, a land among candied everything and decadent scenes only available in an imagination.
"People are going to be sitting there and wanting a chocolate bar. I was." Railton said. We created the illusion of a chocolate factory.

Creating the set and controlling the sound and lighting was an additional community education activity as tech camps took place to teach these skills, too. 
Railton said the students learned how to operate what goes on behind the scenes. 
As a director, Railton said she has watched the show come alive during the three weeks of rehearsals. 

The best part is watching the kids bring the play to life and their enthusiasm as they discover it,? she said. I like to watch that discovery and know they're having fun. 

Oompa Loompas bring original version to life

Friends in real life, Amanda Jackson and Whitney Schultz become bitter rivals when the curtain rises.
Jackson, 10, plays the title character in “Junie B., First Grader in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May),� which opens next week at the Lakeville Area Arts Center.
Schultz, 9, plays Junie B’s pint-size nemesis May.
“We have to pretend to hate each other,� said Jackson of Burnsville.
re not actually mad at each other  thats what acting is, said Schultz of Lakeville. “It can be fun.â€?
While the faux rivalry is a new experience for the duo, whose friendship has developed as regular cast members in shows with Lakeville-based children’s theater group The Play’s The Thing, the production itself is a new experience for everyone involved.
This is the first time the play, based on the popular children’s book series by Barbara Park, has been staged in Dakota County, and only the second time it’s been staged in Minnesota, according to The Play’s The Thing director Dayna Railton.
The paucity of Junie B. productions may have to do with difficulties in acquiring rights to the show.
About a year ago, Railton read the book and, finding it funny, decided she wanted to produce it.
“But no royalty house had it – I could not find it anywhere,� she said. “The first group that had ever performed the show was in Arizona, so I called that theater. From them I got the scriptwriter and her husband’s email, and I contacted them directly.
“That’s how you get the rights to this show.�
Featuring student-actors in The Play’s The Thing’s Advanced Players program – the company’s more experienced actors – “Junie B.� is split into two casts, which will alternate performances.
“Junie B.� will be presented Dec. 16-29 at the arts center at 20965 Holyoke Ave. in Lakeville. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, students and groups. 

The Play's The Thing presents holiday show Dec. 16-30
by Andrew Miller
Thisweek Newspapers

Article by: LIZ ROLFSMEIER , Special to the Star Tribune 
Updated: March 23, 2012 - 6:01 PM

Play's the Thing Productions is putting on the musical with teens in the key roles.

The kids spend the early part of the rehearsal at the Lakeville Area Arts Center singing their ABCs to test mics taped to their cheeks while the sound guy yells from the booth and stage managers run around swapping out dead batteries. In most productions, said director Dayna Railton, they don't bother with microphones, but in the big, bouncy, hypercolor razzle-dazzle of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," voices can get lost. The whirlwind story, which leaps from biblical to futuristic to retro '60s to ancient Egyptian times, keeps the cast of 35 kids dancing, doing lifts and maneuvering through a kaleidoscope of sets and costumes -- from tie-dye-clad dancers with purple wigs and peace glasses to the sparkly young ladies in Egyptian robes, gold headdresses and blue sneakers. About 350 costumes, and all the time singing, singing, singing.
Jack Johnston, 14, of Mendota Heights, who plays Joseph, appreciates that it's a completely sung-through musical with no straight dialogue. "I like singing more than acting," he said. He said his family has listened to the soundtrack of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in the car, so songs like the dramatic "Close Every Door" (his favorite), which he sings from a jail cell, weren't difficult to recall."If there was one show I could be in, this would be it," he said.
Taylor Rients, 13, of Eagan, who plays one of the narrators, always loved Donny Osmond in the film version. "I like all the characters," she said. "The Pharaoh is absolutely hilarious. Doug is an amazing choreographer."
Doug Dally, who teaches theater at Northeast Middle School, said the blur of melodies -- rock 'n' roll, country-western, calypso, French chansons -- makes things "interesting and at times tricky." With all the giddiness of music and dance, Dally said, sometimes they "have had a really challenging time [helping] the story come through."
Still, the kids seem to be gleaning messages from the story -- about jealousy, attempted fratricide, betrayal and revenge based on the biblical story of Joseph. "I think it's that you can be anything you want to be and no one can stop you from it," Johnston said.
"When you're struggling and you pray, things get better," Rientz said. "God's always with you and God's looking out for your best interest."
Also, she added, "Even if you get thrown in a well, you can forgive."
"Everybody loves Joseph," said Railton.
Railton started The Play's the Thing Productions in 2009 and has put on shows like "Beauty and the Beast," "Willy Wonka Jr." and "Schoolhouse Rock," at times renting out the Burnsville Performing Arts Center stage for performances. This summer, they put on "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Poisoned Apple," a comic approach to "Snow White," and they offer "Pre-Glee," their first musical theater class for ages 5-7.
"Dayna's focus and mine is that it's a training ground," Dally said. "They pay money to be here. We think they need to learn something. We're both all about articulation and projection. It's not just getting up on stage and jumping around."
Anna Gwaltney, 16, of Eagan, a narrator in "Joseph," played Belle in "Beauty and the Beast." "It's one of my favorite shows and one of my dream things to do," she said.The first show she saw on stage at age 6 was "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," put on by the Eagan Community Theatre, she said. "I wanted to be in it ever since."

All About Joseph and that Amazing Coat
One of Josephs brothers (played by Ethan Quist, 15, of Farmington) gives some bad news to his father (played by Richard Silverman-King, 13, of St. Paul) during Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Off to see the Wizard at the Burnsville PAC
By Andrew Miller on August 2, 2012 at 12:21 p
Children's theater group presents The Wizard of Oz Aug. 10-12
This summer, young actors with The Play's The Thing Productions are learning how to fly.
The Lakeville-based children's theater group's summer show, The Wizard of Oz will see several of its cast members fitted with harnesses and zipping through the air.
 Dorothy defying gravity and the Wicked Witch piloting a broom through the sky are among the host of visual flourishes The Play's The Thing director/producer Dayna Railton is employing as she brings her summer production, and its cast of 80 young actors, to the main stage of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center from Aug. 10-12.
 The production is the capstone to The Play's The Thing theater camp for young people ages 4-17 that was held at Eagle Ridge Junior High in Savage this summer.
 The actors at the camp were divided into two groups a main camp, and a munchkin camp for the 30 or so children ages 4 to 7 who will be performing as munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.
We have some very small munchkins, Railton said. They're learning everything the older ones are learning choreography, stage presence, focus, direction, projection.
The production features music from the classic MGM film starring Judy Garland, including Over the Rainbow, Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead, and  I Only had a Brain.
The Wizard marks the third show The Play's The Thing has presented in the Burnsville Performing Arts Center's 1,000-seat main-stage theater. In 2010 the children's group presented Annie Jr. there, and last summer it staged Beauty and the Beast Jr.
 Tickets for Wizard are $14 for adults, $12 for students, and are available at the Burnsville PAC box office and through Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787.

Eight-year-old Henry McCormick and 14-year-old Tia Thompson, both of Burnsville, are among the 80-actor cast of The Wizard of Oz which plays the Burnsville Performing Arts Center next week. Thompson is cast as Dorothy; McCormick is the munchkin coroner. (Photo by Rick Orndorf
From left: Tia Thompson, Kenndi Orr, Ethan Quist and Alejandra Pastranarom left: Tia Thompson, Kenndi Orr, Ethan Quist and Alejandra Pastrana
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The Play's the Thing Productions is looking to bring a little bit of Broadway to Lakeville this month.

The Lakeville-based children's theater company's holiday musical, Irving Berlin's White Christmas is based on the Broadway musical circa 2004, which itself was inspired by the iconic 1954 feature film “White Christmas starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

Our show is the Broadway version, and it's a big show the costumes, the sets, the big song-and-dance numbers where everyone's matching, said director Dayna Railton. This was very ambitious for us.

The musical, which runs Dec. 14-30 at the Lakeville Area Arts Center, features a 30-member, all-youth cast performing classic songs such as Blue Skies, How Deep is the Ocean,  and I Love a Piano.

The show seeks to evoke the 1950s-feel of the original, Railton said, and the production includes a short homage to “The Ed Sullivan Show along with a group tap-dance number arranged by The Play's the Thing choreographer Doug Dally.

White Christmas is The Play's the Thing's second holiday-themed production at the Lakeville Area Arts Center. Last year, the theater group presented Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells which Railton says proved so successful the theater company plans to stage it as its holiday show again in 2013.
Spinning a web of wonder with ‘Charlotte’s Web’
By Andrew Miller
March 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

Katie Mills, playing Wilbur the pig, and Ava Byrne, as Charlotte the spider, rehearse this week for The Play’s The Thing’s presentation of “Charlotte’s Web.” (Photo submitted)
A local children’s theater group is bringing the timeless wonder of “Charlotte’s Web” to the stage of the Lakeville Area Arts Center this month – giant spider webs and all.
Young actors with Lakeville-based The Play’s The Thing Productions, ranging in age from 6 to 16, will be donning animal costumes and presenting a musical version of the classic E.B. White tale March 15-24.
Dayna Railton, the show’s director, said she chose “Charlotte’s Web” as The Play’s The Thing’s first production of 2013 because it’s a story that just about everyone can relate to.
“It has a wonderful simplicity – it’s a tale of life, loss, friendship, loyalty and growing,” said Railton, who founded the children’s theater group in 2009. “I read it myself back in the 60s, and I don’t think children who read ‘Charlotte’s Web’ ever forget it.”
“Charlotte’s Web” is the first in a series of children’s productions The Play’s The Thing has lined up in Dakota County this year. In April, the group will present the Old West-themed musical comedy “Wagon Wheels-a-Rollin” at Boeckman Middle School in Farmington.
Presentations of “The Princess King,” “Disney’s Little Mermaid Jr.” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” are also planned this year, as is a summer theater camp for area youths that will culminate in a production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
“Charlotte’s Web” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., March 15-24, at the arts center located at 20965 Holyoke Ave. in downtown Lakeville.
Tickets are $13 and can be purchased online through the arts center’s website at or by calling (952) 985-4640.
More about The Play’s The Thing is at

Fifteen-year-old Taylor Rients of Eagan plays the mermaid Ariel in “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.” at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center. (Photo submitted)
There’s an abundance of sea creatures bound for the stage of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center next month.
Local children’s theater group The Play’s The Thing is taking audiences into the magical oceanic deeps with its production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.,” which runs Aug. 2-4.
Adapted from the 2007 Broadway musical “The Little Mermaid” – which was based on the 1989 animated Disney film of the same name – the production features popular songs from the original such as the Oscar-winning “Under the Sea” and “Part of Your World.”
Audiences also will recognize characters from the original production – the mermaid Ariel (played by Taylor Rients of Eagan), King Triton (Wesley Hortenbach of Burnsville), Prince Eric (Ethan Quist, Farmington) and the evil sea witch Ursula (Olivia Page, Savage).
Many of the show’s 70 young actors, ranging in age from 6 to 16, will be taking on the personas of aquatic wildlife. It’s a unique experience for the kids – not many actors can list “manta ray” or “seahorse” on their resumes.
“We’ve got fish and fowl, reptiles, frogs, plus the mer-people – it’s just a really interesting mix of characters for the kids, to play” said the show’s director, Dayna Railton, who founded the Lakeville-based children’s theater group in 2009.
Because licensing for “The Little Mermaid” just recently became available, costumes for the show were hard to come by. Railton ordered many of the sea-creature outfits from an Illinois costume company. And to achieve the underwater gliding motion of mermaids and fish, many of the young actors will be in Heelys, or wheeled shoes.
Railton scoured eBay for the 20 sets of Heelys needed for the show.
“The younger kids seem to take to the Heelys easier,” she said. “The two little seahorses – these girls are whipping around like there’s no tomorrow.”
The performances of “The Little Mermaid” are the capstone to The Play’s the Thing’s summer drama camp for youths held this month at Eagle Ridge Junior High in Savage, which included singing, acting and dance instruction.
Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for children 12 and under, and are available at the Burnsville arts center’s box office and through Ticketmaster (800-982-2787 or

‘Little Mermaid’ at the Burnsville PAC
By Andrew Miller
July 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

 Arts & Entertainment
Footloose’ comes to Lakeville stage
By Andrew Miller
March 20, 2014 at 11:38 am 

There’s a wild teen dance party going down in Lakeville. Kevin Bacon certainly deserves some of the thanks.

Thirty years after the release of “Footloose” — the classic Kevin Bacon film about a rebellious teen at war with the powers-that-be in a small town that’s banned rock music and dancing — The Play’s The Thing Productions is bringing the musical to the stage of the Lakeville Area Arts Center.

The show, which runs March 21-30, is a time portal of sorts to the decade in which the story is set. Fashion from the 1980s — acid-wash jeans, denim jackets, skinny black leather ties — are on display, as are songs from ’80s-era rockers Kenny Loggins and Sammy Hagar, who contributed to the original “Footloose” soundtrack.

“It could be considered one of the best rock ’n’ roll musicals of all time,” said director Dayna Railton. “It really is about the promise of youth and their future, and to remind us not to close our ears to what they have to say.”

The show’s 40-member cast includes Jack Johnston, 16, in the role of Ren McCormick (originally played by Bacon), and 13-year-old Maddie Railton as female lead Ariel Moore.

“Footloose” marks the first production for The Play’s The Thing in which adults were cast (10 of the roles are played by adults).

“When we first started talking about the possibility of doing the show, the kids told me, if we’re doing ‘Footloose,’ we want to be teenagers, we don’t want to be adults,” Railton said.

“And now the adults (in the cast) are as giddy and excited as the teens. It’s set 30 years ago and it reminds us of our youth and where we were at that time.”

Show times for “Footloose” are 7:30 p.m. March 21-22 and 28-29, and 2 p.m. March 23 and 30, at the arts center, 20965 Holyoke Ave.
Thirteen-year-old Maddie Railton, of Lakeville, and Jack Johnston, 16, of Mendota Heights, play Ariel and Ren in “Footloose” at the Lakeville Area Arts Center. The leading roles were originally played by Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer in the 1984 film version of “Footloose.” Thirteen-year-old Maddie Railton, of Lakeville, and Jack Johnston, 16, of Mendota Heights, play Ariel and Ren in “Footloose” at the Lakeville Area Arts Center. The leading roles were originally played by Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer in the 1984 film version of “Footloose.” 
Audiences will get to witness the classic love story between Danny and Sandy when “Grease” comes to Farmington. The musical features actors from across the south metro; Nicholas Horst (Danny) is from Eagan and Madison Railton (Sandy) is from Lakeville.
Musical opens Aug. 16 in Farmington
Since it was turned into a movie 40 years ago, “Grease” has become a classic musical. It’s been performed in high school auditoriums, Broadway and everywhere in between.
Even people who haven’t seen the musical likely have a mental image that comes to mind: John Travolta with slicked-back hair, Olivia Newton-John’s transformation from good girl to confident bombshell.
And now the iconic production is coming to Farmington. From Aug. 16-19, community theater group The Play’s the Thing Productions will perform at Boeckman Middle School.
Director Dayna Railton said “Grease” features a cast of 20 actors who range in age from 14 to about 25 years old. She recently directed another musical in Farmington, “The Little Mermaid Jr.,” in June, but said “Grease” is a much more demanding musical.
“The choreography is harder — much harder, much more demanding, faster. Oh my God, some of these songs are just so fast,” Railton said.
The play will deviate slightly from the original 1971 musical and the 1978 movie in the sense that it’s more cleaned up, Railton said.
When the play first premiered in 1971, it featured some elements that audiences might consider crude or shocking today, Railton noted. But the shock value aspects of the play could be attributed to the time period, she added.
Though the Farmington musical takes away the crude jokes and language, Railton said audiences will still enjoy the cleaned-up version.
“You don’t need all that other stuff. It’s still bad boy meets good girl and how do they make it work in high school with peer pressure and all that. … And girls and boys not getting along — oh yeah, like that doesn’t happen now, right?” Railton said.
The cast
Actors from all over the south metro appear in this production, but following are a look at two: Madison Railton, 18, from Lakeville and Makenna Hand, 19, from Farmington.
Railton, Dayna’s daughter, has been performing since she was 6 years old. She said she grew up around theater, and it became her passion when her mother introduced her to it.
She has performed in “Grease” before as the character Marty, but now gets to act in what she calls a “bucket list role” – Sandy.
“(Sandy’s) innocence and having a change in herself — it really made an impact on my life,” Railton said.
That transformation, along with the chance to channel her personal experiences into the character, were reasons she auditioned, she added.