'Gustav': Department of theater's season opener soars

From+left%2C+Hannah+Michaelree%2C+Zach+Craft+and+Austin+Hook+play+animal+characters+who+sled+down+a+mountain+on+their+way+to+America+from+Canada.+The+play+%22Gustav%3A+The+Goose+Who+Wouldn%27t+Fly%22+by+Matt+Fotis+premiered+Friday+evening+in+the+Highlander+Theatre.

From left, Hannah Michaelree, Zach Craft and Austin Hook play animal characters who sled down a mountain on their way to America from Canada. The play “Gustav: The Goose Who Wouldn’t Fly” by Matt Fotis premiered Friday evening in the Highlander Theatre.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By BETHANY SHERROW
Assistant News Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — “Gustav: The Goose Who Wouldn’t Fly” is a show about adventure, expectations, disappointments, unexpected friendships, overcoming adversity, redemption and accepting yourself.

PHOTOS BY BETHANY SHERROW / ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR From left, Hannah Michaelree, Zach Craft and Austin Hook play animal characters who sled down a mountain on their way to America from Canada. The play "Gustav: The Goose Who Wouldn't Fly" by Matt Fotis premiered Friday evening in the Highlander Theatre.
PHOTOS BY BETHANY SHERROW / ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
From left, Hannah Michaelree, Zach Craft and Austin Hook play animal characters who sled down a mountain on their way to America from Canada.

Grown-up themes and all — Gustav is indeed a children’s play. The show made its world premiere Friday evening in the Highlander Theatre.
The playwright Matt Fotis was in attendance as he traveled from Reading, Pennsylvania to see the show performed by UCM students.
Fotis said the idea for the play started with the idea of a bird that couldn’t fly. However, the bulk of the show went much deeper than funny talking animals.
Fotis said the big theme of the play is that whatever you believe about yourself can become true. Another theme is accepting yourself for who you are.
Fotis included various characters of funny talking animals in the play for the children in the audience. In addition to the gaggle of geese, you can’t forget the chipmunk named Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree; the Gophers, played by Kacy Barta, Alyssa Haverly and Emily Bridges; and Mounty the Moose, played by Austin Hook.
Chris Scoot, who plays a Canadian border patrol officer, rides Mounty the Moose, played by Austin Hook. Gustav the goose, played by Zach Craft, looks on while Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree, sleeps in a narcoleptic episode on his shoulder.
Chris Scoot, who plays a Canadian border patrol officer, rides Mounty the Moose, played by Austin Hook. Gustav the goose, played by Zach Craft, looks on while Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree, sleeps in a narcoleptic episode on his shoulder.

Mounty the Moose was a crowd favorite. The children and adults in the audience roared with laughter whenever he made a funny noise. He said the moose noise he made was inspired by Chewbacca from Star Wars.
Although I can’t relate to Mounty’s  character, he was still one of my favorites because he was charming and funny. He was sure of himself and knew what he wanted to be.
The main character, Gustav, is a goose who wouldn’t fly. Played by Zack Craft, Gustav charmed the children in the crowd with his likability and energy. Instead of flying,Gustav had a hobby of designing golf courses.
The geese grew up traveling back and forth between a golf resort and Mexico. Craft said Gustav couldn’t really identify with his father in flying, so he found the great thing that he could put himself into – golf.
The play is narrated by golf legend Arnold Palmer, played by Chis Scott. Scott also plays Gustav’s father as well as a steam boatman, football player Aaron Rogers and several other characters. Scott showed his range of voices and facial expressions by frequently changing characters.
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, tells Canadian border patrol officer, played by Chris Scott, about his plans for his golf courses.
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, tells Canadian border patrol officer, played by Chris Scott, about his plans for his golf courses.

The play also featured pop-culture references. Fotis said the added references were in the play to keep the older audience members’ attention.
“This is the first play I wrote specifically for young audiences, though I probably wrote it more for 35-year-old parents,” Fotis
said.
A character who stole the show and was sure to deliver a huge reaction from the kids in the audience was narcoleptic chipmunk Maple Cheeks, who was often mistaken for a ground squirrel. Every time she spastically fell on the ground or talked about herallergies, the kids would break into fits of giggles.
She made me laugh more than any of the other characters. As a college student, I can relate to wanting to suddenly fall to the ground and go to sleep.
The house was not packed for the show, although more than 20 children were in attendance. Their laughter was plenty to fill the room.
Fotis said he was happy with the premiere performance.
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, comforts a downtrodden Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree, when she is afraid she won’t make it home in time for dinner.
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, comforts a downtrodden Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree, when she is afraid she won’t make it home in time for dinner.

“It’s humbling anytime a group of artists put all of their time, creativity and effort into something you wrote,” Fotis said. “It’s a really good feeling and then doubly good when they do such a good job with it.”
Audience members were also excited. After the show, the cast and playwright came back to the stage for what is known as a talkback. A talkback is when the cast of a production answer an audience’s questions about a particular show.
One woman in the audience said she had attended many children’s theater productions. Her curiosity led her to want to know what was on the horizon for Gustav.
“This was as good as any professional children’s theater I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Is this going forward into mainstream, because
it should.”
Fotis jokingly asked the woman to be his agent.
I agreed with the woman, the show was great.
The director of the show John Wilson had the last word of the night.
“I want you to know you’re a very special audience tonight because you are the first audience to see the world premiere of Gustav,” Wilson said. “It’s the first time it has been fully produced and you were a part of it.”
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, strikes a soulful pose as he sings jazz music.
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, strikes a soulful pose as he sings jazz music.

Gustav, played by Zach Craft, and Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree, sing a jazz song to the young audience's delight.
Gustav, played by Zach Craft, and Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Michaelree, sing a jazz song to the young audience’s delight.

The hunters, played by Kacy Barta, Alyssa Haverly and Emily Bridges, search for a goose to make for their Thanksgiving dinner.
The hunters, played by Kacy Barta, Alyssa Haverly and Emily Bridges, search for a goose to make for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Mounty the Moose, played by Austin Hook (far left), Gustav, played by Zach Craft (second from left), and Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Micaelree (far right), get a pep talk from Quarterback Aaron Rogers, played by Chris Scott (third from left).
Mounty the Moose, played by Austin Hook (far left), Gustav, played by Zach Craft (second from left), and Maple Cheeks, played by Hannah Micaelree (far right), get a pep talk from Quarterback Aaron Rogers, played by Chris Scott (third from left).