Hare & Tor­toise sprint in Cana­dian pre­miere

The Niagara Falls Review - - Local - JOHN LAW John.Law@ni­a­garadailies.com 905-225-1644 | @JohnLawMe­dia

As a kid, Kur­tis Leon Baker re­calls watch­ing Carousel Play­ers visit his school with their chil­dren’s plays. One show in par­tic­u­lar, “The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe,” starred the com­pany’s cur­rent artis­tic di­rec­tor Mon­ica Du­fault.

Flash for­ward 18 years, and it’s Baker now per­form­ing in front of school kids in a Carousel Play­ers show. Di­rected by Du­fault, no less.

The Cana­dian pre­miere of Bren­dan Mur­ray’s “Hare & Tor­toise,” a whim­si­cal new ver­sion of the fa­mil­iar fable, has been tour­ing Ni­a­gara schools this month and comes to the Ni­a­gara Falls His­tory Mu­seum April 28. Baker stars as Hare, who can’t wait for spring to ar­rive so he can race his good buddy Tor­toise (Kaleigh Gorka). But Tor­toise has some house­keep­ing to do first, and wants to ap­pre­ci­ate the sea­son for awhile.

The 50-minute show won Best Play for Chil­dren at the 2012 Writ­ers Guild of Great Britain Awards. Now, when he looks out into the au­di­ence, Baker says he sees the same sense of wonder he likely had watch­ing Carousel all those years ago.

“I still am a lit­tle kid when I go to the­atre,” he says. “I ex­pe­ri­ence it in what­ever ca­pac­ity I can. I love go­ing to see any­thing and ev­ery­thing.”

Un­like pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the story, which de­pict the Hare as a bully who loses the race be­cause of his ar­ro­gance, Baker’s

Hare is just over-anx­ious to race his friend. The Tor­toise, mean­while, sim­ply wants to hit pause and en­joy the day.

“More so than ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ it’s re­ally about let­ting go,” he says. “It’s about trust­ing each other and the friend­ship. Re­ally slow­ing down and ob­serv­ing, en­joy­ing what is around you.”

The show fea­tures orig­i­nal mu­sic by Ni­a­gara’s Joe Lap­in­ski, and sets by Brock Univer­sity in­struc­tor Kelly Wolf.

Baker, who starred in the Shaw Fes­ti­val’s pro­duc­tion of “Mer­rily We Roll Along” in 2002 when he was eight, spent five years in New York be­fore mak­ing his “fun re-in­tro­duc­tion” to Ni­a­gara the­atre with this show.

LAU­REN GAR­BUTT CAROUSEL PLAY­ERS

Kur­tis Leon Baker and Kaleigh Gorka star in Carousel Play­ers' pro­duc­tion of Hare & Tor­toise.

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