Raggedy Ann and Andy prepare for adventure at CTC - Nov. 8-17

Raggedy Ann and Andy prepare for adventure at CTC - Nov. 8-17

November 7th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattnow Art

Raggedy Ann (Gracie Gilbert) and Raggedy Andy (Jonathan Posey) are ready for their adventure outside the playroom in "Raggedy Ann & Andy" in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre Youth Theatre production.

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IF YOU GO

* What: "Raggedy Ann & Andy."

* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 and Nov. 15; 2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 9-10 and Nov. 16-17.

* Where: MainStage, Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

* Admission: $10.

* Phone: 267-8534.

Raggedy Ann has been charming children for nearly a century and her brother, Raggedy Andy, for almost as long.

That multi-generational appeal is why the rag dolls will come to life at Chattanooga Theatre Centre for the next two weekends.

"Raggedy Ann & Andy," which opens Friday, Nov. 8, is part of the lineup for the theater's 90th anniversary, a lineup that was chosen in part by patron votes.

"It's the perfect play for kids," said director Lizzie Chazen, youth and education associate at the theater. "It's a very beautiful play."

The doll, patented by Johnny Gruelle in 1915, "is kind of iconic," she said.

Raggedy Ann stories, introduced to the public in 1918, are not likely to go away, Chazen said. Indeed, she said, Raggedy Ann and Andy were obviously the inspiration for Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the three popular "Toy Story" movies released in the last 18 years.

"They come to life [when their owners] aren't looking and do very exciting things," she said.

The CTC production finds the brother-sister duo heading for the "deep, deep woods" in order to find fancy new French doll Babette who, after arriving in the playroom, was whisked away by Prince Leonard-the-Looney-Hearted on his hobby horse to Looney-Land.

En route to find Babette, they meet the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees, encounter Greedy the gluttonous candy monster, journey through time and travel through a taffy mine.

"We have to use lighting and sounds to create this magic world," Chazen said.

Audience participation is also part of the production, she said. Right away, Chazen said, Raggedy Ann and Andy "pop out and say 'Hey' to the audience. They immediately break the fourth wall [of theater]."

Along the way, the audience is asked to help release the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees and assist in other ways, she said. In addition, Raggedy Ann takes opportunities throughout the play to freeze the action and utter several "life sayings" which are "morally important" and "hopeful."

"She's one of the most inspirational children's characters I've ever seen or read about," Chazen said.

The 22-member cast and crew range in age from fourth grade to high-school senior.

"Every single thing is done by the kids," Chazen said. "It's pretty incredible the level of professionalism," especially considering the production is on the theater's largest stage. "That's exciting."

The production was previously presented by the CTC in the 1993-94 and 2001-02 seasons.

"Raggedy Ann & Andy," written by Patricia Thackray, is most suitable for children in kindergarten through third grade.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6597. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.