The play begins in 1965 when Coco's mother dies, leaving her and her older brother Tom to sort through the house. Coco discovers her diary and delights in reading it and remembering that time in her life, which mostly involved dancing, boys, and getting into and out of trouble. Only after reading the diary is Coco able to say good-bye to the house. Three actors bring this story to life through reading the diary and reenacting the scenes:
- Kacie Riddle (herself 13 years old) plays the young Coco. It's amazing to me that someone so young can so handily carry a two-hour play. Yes she has help from two very talented adult actors, but she is Coco, in all of her moods - funny, charming, dramatic, hopeful, despondent, and lively.
- Andrea Wollenberg (one of the hilariously evil stepsisters in Cinderella) is the adult Coco, as well as Coco's mother, Coco's younger sister, and several other characters. Whether she's walking around on her knees and talking with a lisp, or sternly reprimanding Coco for her latest exploit, she brings great life to these different characters. And she has a lovely voice!
- Jake Endres plays Coco's brother Tom, both the 1965 and the 1927 versions. He also portrays her father, teacher, and any other characters needed for the story. Jake also acts as the music director and accompanies much of the action on piano, as well as singing songs of the day in his beautifully deep voice. I love plays that add music to the story-telling. It's not a full-blown musical, but the music adds to the story and helps set the scene, especially because Coco is so obsessed with dancing.
Coco's Diary plays at the History Theatre in St. Paul now through March 25. It's a delightful look at what is was like to be 13 in 1927, which it turns out is not so different from today.
*I received two complementary tickets to attend the opening night of Coco's Diary.
I have a feeling there were a lot of notable people in attendance on opening night. The two I recognized were Jon Hegge, who was in On the Town with Jake Endres last summer, and Norah Long, who played a young Judy Garland in Beyond the Rainbow at the History Theatre last fall.