Childhood’s joy land: Toyland returns for second year at Roxy Theatre

FRANKLIN LIVING— When the Franklin County Arts and Humanities Council announced the reboot of the acclaimed “Legend of Toyland,” it was to thunderous applause from the community. Now, with the all-important first show under their belts, the directors – and several actors – are ready to reprise their first year’s success.

“Last year was a big year because it was the first year that we brought Toyland back. It worked perfectly,” said assistant director Hillary Hall. “So many people have told me they like it being at the Roxy because they feel more personal with the characters.”

This year’s show, Hall explained, is built on a section of last year’s show incorporated with some new scenes. The cast and crew also plan to dress to impress, boasting purchased costumes this year, rather than rented. “The costumes are going to be amazing. They are going to be beautiful,” Hall said.

Ticket are for sale online at eventbrite.com as well as at Russellville Florist and Gifts. All shows last year were sold out, Hall said, and they are planning for a sell-out show again this year – meaning nearly 8,00 people experiencing Toyland for themselves.

Among the actors in this year’s cast are Zoe Smith and Zeke Lowery, who are returning from last year to reprise their roles as Queen and Merlin, respectively.

“They did an excellent job last year, so when we started planning this year, we asked if they wanted to do it again,” Hall said. “We’re looking forward to this year’s performance. We’ve worked really hard this year to make this an even better performance than last year.”

Shows will be Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday.

The view from Toyland with Zoe Smith

Share a little about yourself.

I am Zoe Smith from Haleyville. I am a 17-year-old senior at Haleyville High School. I am a member of the Haleyville Roaring Lion Band, and I play center snare. I am the youngest daughter, with one older sister and one older brother. My entire family plays instruments and enjoys music.

How did you become involved in Toyland?

I became involved in Toyland because my sister-in-law heard about it from her co-worker, and she knows I like to dance, play music and perform. Because I love to dance, I initially planned to get a dancing part. At first, I had no idea Toyland was a huge production; I was just excited to be a part of a play, so I signed up for everything. I ended up getting the role of Queen.

Before Toyland, did you have prior acting experience?

The only experience in acting before Toyland has been in my church. I am the drama team leader at Winfield City Family Church. I have participated in dramas and written some plays. Toyland is the first real experience on a larger stage for me to improve my acting skills.

Share a little bit about your role in Toyland.

I play the role of Queen. The Queen is first person the audience sees in Toyland. She introduces the problem that there is no one to give out presents to the children on Christmas. She then watches the talents and skills of the people of Toyland to see who is the best match to give out presents to the children. She decides Santa Claus is the best choice, and Toyland celebrates this choice.

What is your favorite part of playing this role?

My favorite part of playing this role is getting to watch all of the sections. I honestly love plays and would be upset if I did not get to watch this awesome play. It worked out perfectly! I get to act and watch the play. It’s the best of both worlds!

What is the toughest part of your role?

The toughest part is trying to make each performance my best. I want to give it my all every time, and that can be a little stressful and tiring.

What do you enjoy about acting?

Acting is just another way to share what I love to the world. Performing is so much fun!

Why do you think audiences should come see Toyland?

I think audiences should come see Toyland because it is just a whole lot of fun. I promise it is not just for children. It is so entertaining! There is comedy and romance, and the visual effects are beautiful. In the end, children are happy, and the actors and older audience members have a sense of nostalgia.

You were also in Toyland last year. What about it made you want to return again this year?

Once I had been in Toyland, it became like chocolate to me; I have to keep trying it again. I love the role of Queen; it touches my heart to be a role model for some of these little girls. It is important to me to earn respect from them. I am excited to see a new cast this year, and I hope it is even better than last year.

What has the rehearsal schedule been like?

Rehearsals are fairly easy. They go really fast, and it’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but that just builds my adrenaline. I have a very big passion for this show, and that is how I stay so focused. I learned my lines by recording on my phone while we practiced; then, at home or during downtime at school, I just listen to them over and over.

What is it like being part of this cast?

Last year’s cast was so much fun! I was a little worried about it, knowing I wasn’t from here, but everyone accepted each other. We always seem to have a good laugh after the show about something we did or saw, but we really did become a family during our shows. This year I have not met the cast yet, but a lot of the cast from last year is doing it again this year. I am excited to meet everyone and grow together this year.

The view from Toyland with Zeke Lowery 

Share a little about yourself.

I am 19 years old and live in Littleville. I went to Russellville City Schools from kindergarten through seventh grade; I then moved to Greenhill to attend Rogers High School from eighth grade until I graduated. I am currently attending my second year of college at NW-SCC, and I work as a work study in the Music Department.

My grandfather is Lanny McAlister, the writer of Toyland, and my mother is Jennifer Lowery, who is in charge of the costumes for Toyland. My two older brothers, Zach and Tristan, were also both part of Toyland at a young age.

How did you become involved in Toyland?

I got involved in Toyland because of my family relations, as my grandfather/father figure was the writer/director of Toyland. I started at the age of 4 and had my own act in the Circus part of the show.

Share a little bit about your role in Toyland.

For this year I am playing as Merlin and the Turkey. Merlin is a weird character who is not too great with his magic. He is the Queen’s right and royal adviser. His companions, the elves, love playing and having fun with the audiences.

As for the Turkey, he is the bassist for the Dixieland Band in the Mardi Gras Parade. He is laidback and chill with the other band members, such as the Fox, Rooster and the Parrot.

What is your favorite part of playing this role?

My favorite part as Merlin is poofing out of thin air and allowing his elves to prank and joke around with him. As the Turkey, I love just to kick back and let the music take my feet and dance.

What is the toughest part of your role?

Acting in general is not easy because you have to over-express your character’s actions and emotions.

What do you enjoy about acting?

I enjoy acting because it helps me not crawl in a shell like a turtle and to socialize with strangers – to make them happy, joyful and even scared sometimes – and when that happens, it makes me feel great because that is what I was aiming for.

Why do you think audiences should come see Toyland?

I think people should come to Toyland because Toyland changed my life and made me even more entertaining – and, in my opinion, Toyland is like a Broadway production. Toyland is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to just enjoy being kid or a kid at heart.

What about Toyland makes you want to return year after year?

Throughout my 11 years of being part of Toyland, I have seen friend relationships grow and some relationships go as far as marriage. All in all, Toyland is a place of happy and wonderful memories that I would not take back for a second. I had to return to Toyland this year; it is practically in my blood. I greatly enjoy meeting new and old friends to socialize with and to have fun.

What has the rehearsal schedule been like?

As for rehearsals and schedules, they have been great. Susan and Melissa connect with us and make you feel at home. Even though rehearsals get rough, we all have fun doing it together.

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss Northwest Shoals

Franklin County

RHS graduate crowned Miss UNA

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: In memoriam – Monuments honor the fallen of Franklin

High School Sports

RHS senior chosen as Bryant-Jordan Region 8 Scholar winner

High School Sports

Russellville High School ladies soccer team members participate in annual Night to Shine

News

Russellville High School Scholars Bowl team qualifies for state tournament

News

Vina kindergarteners connect with lots of other classes

News

PCHS JAG student places in district conference

Features

Wedding Spotlight: Layne and Frank Edwards

Franklin County

RHS senior competes at state DYW competition

News

Extension, 4-H present free resume workshop

Franklin County

Franklin County has lots to love

High School Sports

Russellville High School honors alum Luther Tiggs with special night of basketball

News

BTCPA announces second production of season

News

RMS holds annual state assessment celebration

Franklin County

Red Bay welcomes new city attorney

Franklin County

Attempted traffic stop leads to high-speed vehicle pursuit, wreck 

Franklin County

Vehicle pursuit ends in wreck, arrest 

News

RFD, RHS collab promotes job readiness, community safety

Franklin County

Local students named to Mississippi State University’s fall 2023 President’s List

News

Russellville Elementary features among U.S. News & World Report best elementary schools

News

RCS receives recognition as finalist for national award

News

Plans get underway to raise funds for cancer research in memory of Bedfords

Franklin County

PHOTOS: Freezing temperatures make way for fun

x