'Cheaper by the Dozen' set to open at Corn Stock

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Amy Williams has long loved the book “Cheaper by the Dozen” and hoped to someday be involved with the stage version of the biographical novel.

She got her wish. She is directing the comedy by the same name that opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. under the tent at Corn Stock Theatre in Upper Bradley Park, the second show on Corn Stock’s slate of shows this summer.

The classic, which was made into a film in 1950 but not into a stage until 1992, will run each night through July 2.

“The story of the book, which is based on a true story, has always been one of my favorites. You read it and you think, ‘This was quite a family.’ And it is funny. Audiences will love it,” Williams said.

The play is about the Gilbreth family headed by the father, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, and the mother, Lillian Moller Gilbreth. They have 12 children in their Montclair, New Jersey home. One of their children, Mary, died at the age of 5 of diphtheria.

What appealed to Williams about the story is what she believes audiences will take from the play. “It’s all about the importance of family and the struggles within a family, struggles that exist no matter how many kids a family might have,” she said.

“The oldest girl is more interested in boys than she is in mathematics, which of course doesn’t sit real well with her father. And it shows that is a common problem with teen-aged girls no matter what year we’re in. Throughout the show, we see how they came together as a family and it’s important,” she added.

Williams said her cast has done that since rehearsals began. “The way they have all come together as a family on stage has been fun to watch,” she said.

Stage veterans Charles Brown and Amy Wyckoff portray Mr. and Mrs. Gilbreth. Each is well known to Corn Stock audiences and Williams said they bring good chemistry to the role. In the play nine of the children are seen.

The story is told by the characters of Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth, the oldest children. They also wrote the book. They are portrayed here by Logan Henderson and Anna Duffer.

Younger Frank Jr. is portrayed by Creighton Peacock and younger Ernestine is Elizabeth Duckworth. The other children are portrayed by Emma Wycoff (Anne), Megan Walters (Martha), Gardner Brown (Bill), Margot McNutt (Lillian), Jacob Brabec (Fred), Flynn Robertson (Dan) and Laynie Zika (Jackie).

“I could not have been happier with the turnout and the talent at auditions,” Williams said. She noted that 90 people auditioned, an almost unheard-of number for a non-musical. “It was overwhelming and of course, it made for some very hard choices. But that was a good problem to have. I would guess it was the well-known title that brought people out,” she said.

She added that some who came may have thought it was the story in the Steve Martin film of the same title made in 1992. That film had nothing to do with the Gilbreth story.

Williams said several of the actors are making their Corn Stock debuts, at least at the tent, but several of the children she was familiar with from having directed them in Corn Stock For Kids productions, including “Charlotte’s Web” this past spring. “It was great to see so many of them at auditions. I just wish I could have used them all,” she said.

While the play does have some dramatic parts, it remains family friendly, Williams said. “It is a family show, no question. The type of drama it has is the type adults will pick up on but not the younger kids in the audience,” she said.

Tickets for “Cheaper by the Dozen” are on sale at Corn Stock’s box office, online at www.cornstocktheatre.com, or they can be reserved by calling 676-2196. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students.


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).