Things that go bump in the dark Theater: 'Goosebumps' the play hopes to lure youngsters into theater seats with stories both familiar and eerie.

November 06, 1998|By Lesly Borge | Lesly Borge,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Since the onset of the "Goosebumps" children's book craze in 1992, there have been "Goosebumps" videos, a "Goosebumps" TV series and "Goosebumps" paraphernalia from T-shirts and bookmarks to flashlights and key chains. Now there's a "Goosebumps" play, and it comes to Baltimore tomorrow.

If you're one of the millions of fans of the "Goosebumps" series, then you already know how funny and fantastic these stories by R.L. Stine are. More than 250 million of the series' 160 books have sold since 1992.

The "Goosebumps" books tell eerie tales with funny twists to young readers. Though the characters and the stories change, Stine uses the same formula with every book. His stories may be eerie, but they won't give the kids nightmares.

"Goosebumps: Live on Stage" is a $6 million production that began a 50-city, two-year tour in September. The play was written by Tony Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes and is produced by Feld Entertainment, which produced "Disney on Ice," "The Wizard of Oz on Ice," "Siegfried & Roy" in Las Vegas and "Anastasia on Ice." It stars Paul Benedict, best-known for his role as Mr. Bentley in "The Jeffersons" TV show.

The idea behind the show is to introduce youngsters to theater. It's aimed at the 7 to 13 age group and stars two children.

"Scaring the children is what I like the most," said Benedict. "It's really fun scaring the children, as long as you let them know that it was a gag at the end."

The show features three stories never seen or read before. The only familiar character will be Slappy, the evil dummy adored and feared by "Goosebumps" fans. The frame is: Some kids discover an old bookshop on their way home after their dad didn't pick them up from a basketball game. In the shop, the old man who owns it -- Mr. Gander (Benedict) -- tells them "Goosebumps" stories and shows them slides. Eventually, the kids realize they are in the stories.

Brittany Leigh Keiffer, 11, of Tampa, Fla., and Jaime Lyn Keller, 13, of Nazareth, Pa., take turns playing one of the kids, a 9-year-old named Jamie Barton.

"Sometimes when she's on stage doing it I'm like, 'Ohhh, I want to do it,' but we need the break because it gives us time to do our schoolwork," said Brittany.

Jamie Barton is a likable brat who doesn't like her brother's friend Skate because he is "annoying, dumb and stupid," said Brittany.

"She's supposed to be very cute, but a horrible brat, but when it comes to something scary she has feelings, too. It's really neat because I'm 13 and I'm playing a 9-year-old," said Jaime.

Michael Sean McGuinness, who has such television credits as "Law & Order," "The Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns," plays Dad Barton.

In writing the script, Holmes was familiar with Stine's style since he had been reading "Goosebumps" to his 9- and 11-year-old boys. This let him write with the same scary-but-funny effect that Stine uses. A volume of the script, redone as a novel by Stine, will be given to those who attend the two-hour show.

'Goosebumps'

When: 7 p.m. today; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow; 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 14; 1 p.m. Nov. 15

Where: Mechanic Theatre, 1 N. Charles St.

Tickets: $12.50 and up

Call: 410-752-1200 or 410-625-4251

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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