Donuts and eggs are just a couple of items that come by the dozen; sometimes children even make their way onto that list, too. Having 12 kids can be, um, chaotic, but The Stage Door’s production of Cheaper by the Dozen proves it also can be entertaining.
Director Frieda Penn said that the show, based on the 1948 novel by siblings Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, weaves comedy with bittersweet emotion.
Cheaper’s father, an expert in industrial efficiency, is dying, unbeknownst to his sons and daughters. Aware that he won’t be there to help them, he pushes his children to excel. This leads to plenty of clashes between him and daughter Ernestine, who just wants to be a normal teenage girl.
“There’s such a cool family dynamic going on, and I drew a lot of love from [the characters],” said Penn. “I know that today is different. People are so busy, but it’s the same as kids are growing up too fast.”
Cheaper is a wholesome show for all ages. Its 1920s setting — other than the title, the play has no connection to the movie comedies that starred Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt — is imbued with an air of innocence likely to reach fans of every generation.
Penn did research in preparation for staging the play. She aimed to create a setting true to its time, with sets, music and period costumes capturing the flavor of the Jazz Age.
The cast includes experienced actors, as well as those making their stage debut. Penn said The Stage Door encourages actors of every level, seasoned or brand new, to audition.
“The show’s cast has a natural knack for it and the hardest part is to seem natural. As for the kids, they’ve amazed me,” said Penn. “Sometimes children can be unruly, but this group is so quiet when they wait backstage. Both the kids and their parents have been outstanding.”
Cheaper by the Dozen ultimately is about tolerance and love. The play doesn’t court controversy (no Octomom-styled shenanigans here), but it does boast something for everyone, whether your home is teeming with people or you live alone with a cat or dog.
Speaking of, there is a dog in the show ... but just one.