Uwharrie Players present ‘Miss Nelson Is Missing’ this weekend

The Uwharrie Players will present its second production of theater targeted for young audiences.

After 2023’s “The Hundred Dresses,” this year The Uwharrie Players will breathe new life into the characters on the pages of the children’s book “Miss Nelson is Missing.”

This musical based on the children’s book of the same name centers around the kids of room 207. First published in 1977, this book, written by Harry Allard and illustrated by James Marshall, has inspired several companion books.

The story follows the kids of room 207 who are notorious for their misbehavior in the classroom and in the halls of the school. Their teacher, Miss Nelson, can’t get any traction as she attempts to correct their behavior and inspire learning.

The kids of room 207 are in for a surprise when a witch-like substitute, Miss Swamp, arrives on the scene and puts them through their paces day after day. They start to realize how lucky they were to have Miss Nelson and set out to find her and bring her back.

The show is full of color, funny scenes, silly songs and is punctuated by themes around the importance of showing respect and being obedient and unselfish.

After the success of “The Hundred Dresses” director Christain Payne knew he was on to something.

“Theatre created specifically for young audiences is critical. So many of us love going to the movies. Why? Because Disney, Pixar and others created incredible characters and stories for us to enjoy when we were young. Live theater is no different. Children need live theater to be accessible,” says Payne. “We are thrilled to bring this story to life and hope this show contributes to more young people falling in love with live theater like I did as a child in this community.”

This will be Payne’s fourth time serving as director of a Uwharrie Players production. He previously directed “Drinking Habits,” “Cinderella” and “The Hundred Dresses.”

The production team also includes Gene Starnes, audio; Juan Leon, lighting; Audrey Barringer, props; and Bella Parrish, Karma Jade and Teresa Crump, backstage. Two other members of the production team include Christine Barringer, costumes, and Bradley Eudy, stage manager.

Payne, Barringer and Eudy first shared the stage together in 2007 when The Talent Company’s performed “CATS” in the old Central Elementary School Auditorium, now the Albemarle Neighborhood Theatre.

The production team brings to the life the pages of the book as the cast made up of Madeline Medlin (Miss Nelson & Miss Swamp), Audrey Barringer (Poppy Hansen), Jacob Hoffer (Detective McSmogg), Blair Johnson (Principal Blandsworth), Rebekah Ayscue (Allison), David Joseph (Adam), Kimrey Lowder (Cheryl), Christian Payne (Gregory), sing and dance their way across the stage and even through the audience.

“Miss Nelson is Missing” is made possible by a grant from Stanly County Community Foundation and through partnerships with the Stanly County Arts Council and the Partnership for Children.

This grant and these partnerships allow the show to be free for anyone attending who is 13 and under.

All first and second graders in Stanly County Schools are able to see the production through the Arts Council’s Cultural Education Program. This program brings various arts to the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center to expose students to a wide variety of the arts.

Classroom teachers also receive packets to help guide the students as far as connecting the piece of literature to the live performance on stage.

“Our hope is this sparks an interest in theater and the arts in general,” Payne said. “We are thrilled so many community resources are coming together to help us showcase live theater.”

The play, which will last about 50 minutes, opens at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Albemarle Neighborhood Theatre on Third Street. Additional productions will be at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 24 and 3 p.m. Feb. 25.

Tickets can be purchased online and also at the door on show dates. Tickets cost $10 for people over 13, and tickets are free for those 13 and younger.

The 2024 season will feature three other productions: “Southern Fried Nuptials” in the spring, “The Addams Family” in the summer and “Four Old Broads” in the fall.