By George Basler

Scott Fisher became acquainted with the best-selling children’s novel Tuck Everlasting when, as an elementary school teacher, he read the book aloud to his pupils. He loved the story.

The novel by Natalie Babbitt tells the story of Winnie Foster, 11, who encounters a fountain of youth and must weigh the pros and cons of immortality. It later became two feature films and then a Broadway musical.

The musical asks the question: “If you could live forever, would you?” said Fisher who is directing a production that opens this coming weekend (Feb. 4-6) at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson City.

“You would think the answer is obvious, but in many instances, it’s complicated,” he added.

The production is being mounted by SRO Productions III, a local troupe that has been staging musicals in the community for 38 years. The multi-age cast of 20 is a mixture of SRO veterans and newcomers, said Pam Ondrusek, board president. Also featured are 11 dancers from Dance Connection, a Broome County-based dance studio.

New York Times critic Charles Isherwood called Tuck Everlasting “a warm-spirited and piercingly touching musical that has nothing flashy or splashy about it” when it opened in 2016.

Fisher calls it “a fun show” with an upbeat musical score by Chris Miller, music, and Nathan Tysen, lyrics, as well as lively dance sequences and a spunky, adventurous heroine at its center.

Alice Richardson, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Whitney Point Middle School, is playing the heroine in the SRO production. She auditioned after being encouraged by a friend who had been in other SRO shows. Although Richardson has been in two other shows, this is her first major role.

The Whitney Point girl said she identifies with Winnie, who is “sassy, but kind,” adding with a chuckle that she’s a little sassy herself.

To prepare for the role, she watched scenes from other Tuck Everlasting productions on YouTube and thought “it was a really good show.”

“There’s a lot of suspenseful moments,” as well as romantic and comic ones, she said. “The most fun part is the dances even though I have to work the hardest on them,” she added.

Fisher, who has directed numerous SRO productions, said he was attracted to Tuck Everlasting because its “broad appeal” enabled him to cast actors of all different ages. Many of those who auditioned had read the novel in elementary school, and “that took me a little by surprise,” he said.

One challenge for the production has been working around the omicron virus. “We’ve made it so far without major issues,” Fisher said. However, as a precaution, he asked some members of the show’s large ensemble to be ready to step into other roles if there is a last-minute illness.

The camaraderie of the cast has been “awesome,” Ondrusek said. “It helps you remember why we’re here.”

IF YOU GO: Tuck Everlasting will run for two weekends (Feb. 4-6 and 11-13) at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46 Willow St., Johnson City. Friday and Saturday performance are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. All seats are reserved. Tickets are $25 ($23 for students and ages 62 and older). Purchase tickets at Reservations are recommended as some performances may sell out.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, mask wearing is required of all patrons. The Firehouse Stage is requiring proof of vaccination at the door and a photo ID. An exception can be made for someone who can provide a negative rapid test from the day of the performance, or a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours of showtime.