It was a frightful situation for the producers of Boo! A Family Friendly Halloween Musical last October.
It was barely a week before showtime in Patchogue, with tickets already sold, and the lead actor backed out suddenly. They needed someone to play Harold (Hal) Owen Ween — and quick. To help cast a wider net for would-be actors, they opened the role up to women, and in short time they found their leading lady.
As the script goes, Halloween was saved that day. And the play, being performed for the first time in Patchogue after four years in Central Park, was a huge success.
This year, producers Howard and Linda Beckman weren’t taking any chances. They booked actor Ellie Eichenlaub, a now 21-year-old St. Joseph’s College junior, months in advance.
As a girl, the character’s name has been changed to Hallie (Hal) Opal Ween. (Still Hal O. Ween, get it?)
“The kids love her. We love her. The cast loves her,” said Howard Beckerman, who wrote the music and lyrics for Boo!. “You can’t help but love her.”
So what makes Eichenlaub so special?
“She oozes warmth and love for the kids, and they feel it,” Linda Beckman explained.
Eichenlaub, who was delighted to land the role, takes the stage with the rest of the Boo! cast at 3 p.m. this Sunday at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on East Main Street.
“I came in as an emergency replacement to the show, and hit it off with the rest of the staff,” said Eichenlaub, of St. James. “The dynamics on stage and the energy worked together so well that they asked me back this year, fortunately.”
Having performed on stage for several years, Eichenlaub said she prefers children’s theater.
“I think children’s theater is so important, because it’s a child’s first introduction to the art and if it’s not presented in the right way it can really change their perspective on theater for the rest of their lives,” she said. “If they’re given a fantastic production, they’ll always appreciate the theater.”
This particular show, Eichenlaub said, has got a great storyline that resonates with kids and families.
“I think the message of the show is great,” she said. “It’s about not judging somebody based on what you heard about them, or you think you know about them, or what they look like. But if you take the time to get to know someone and work together, you can accomplish great things.”
And, she said, maybe become friends along the way.
Click here for more, and to buy tickets.
Photo: Ellie Eichenlaub in the theater lobby Wednesday. (Michael White)