Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Neuse Little Theatre’s Bridge to Terabithia Does "The Hut" Proud


One of the perks of attending a play by Smithfield’s Neuse Little Theatre is this: you get to watch a play inside a log cabin! “The Hut’s” current show is Bridge to Terabithia, billed as “A Play with Music” by Katherine Patterson and Stephanie S. Tolan, with music by Steve Liebman. Based on Patterson’s 1977 Newbery Medal-winning novel by the same name, the play is set in a rural, impoverished area about an hour’s drive from Washington, DC.

The central play’s character is Jesse Aarons (played by Timothy “TJ” Ruffino), and the story centers on his adventures with his new-found best friend Leslie Burke (played by Erin-Elizabeth Taylor). He is a lonely, artistic type who trains all summer to be the fastest runner in his class. She is a newcomer to the community who is not readily accepted by her peers, and she initially infuriates Jesse by winning the footrace that he had hoped would result in his victory. The two, however, soon become best friends and share fantasy adventures in their magical kingdom of “Terabithia,” which they create in the nearby woods.

This show could be called a “children’s show,” because all but three of the 16 actors are under the age of 15. Director Shaun Braswell and music director Daria Paedin coax fine performances from this youthful cast.

TJ Ruffino and Erin-Elizabeth Taylor both give strong performances, acting and singing quite well. These two promise to be strong presences in the local theater scene for many years to come.

The supporting cast is also quite strong, including several young actors who have been double-cast as classmates and Terabithians. Matt Gore and Leigh-Ann Pearce are endearing as Mr. and Mrs. Aarons, Jesse’s parents. There is a comfortable, down-home relationship in this family that also includes two daughters — Maybelle (Gabriella “Gabbie” Hawk) and Brenda (Kaitlyn Zhoroff). Pearce’s motherly “vibe” dominates the kitchen scenes with her children, and Gore’s strongest scene is the one in which he shares fatherly advice with Jesse.

The show includes a cameo appearance by Guido Ruffino as Prince Terrien. At the top of the show, there is a sign on a fence that says “Free Puppies” which is replaced by during intermission by a sign that says “Free Dog.” Eventually, the sign disappears; and later still, Jesse presents Leslie with her Christmas present — Prince Terrien!

The Department of Picky-Picky felt that the play was a bit too long, that judicious cutting could have improved it by shaving off some of its two-hour running time. In addition, DoPP states that some of the blackouts between scenes were over-lonnnggg, and not all of the singing was first-rate.

However, we do recommend Neuse Little Theatre’s production of Bridge to Terabithia. Getting to know the members of this community and to share their experiences was fun.

The Neuse Little Theatre presents BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA at 3 p.m. Nov. 13 and 8 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19 in The Hut (the former American Legion Hut), 104 S. Front St., Smithfield, North Carolina 27577, at the corner of Front St. and U.S. 70 Business (Market St.).

TICKETS: $15 in advance and $17 at the door.

BOX OFFICE/TICKETS: 919-934-1873 or

SHOW: and



Bridge to Terabithia (1977 illustrated children’s novel): (official web page) and (Wikipedia).

Bridge to Terabithia (1985 PBS TV movie): (Internet Movie Database) and (Wikipedia).

Bridge to Terabithia (2007 Disney film): (official website), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Bridge to Terabithia (1990 play with music): (Samuel French Inc.).

Katherine Patterson (novelist and playwright): (official website), (Facebook page), (Wikipedia), and (YouTube).

Stephanie S. Tolan (playwright): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

Steve Liebman (composer): (Samuel French Inc.).

Shaun Wyatt Braswell (Shoeheel, NC director): (Facebook page).


Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews