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FeaturedOn Stage: Encore goes Irish in delightful tale

On Stage: Encore goes Irish in delightful tale

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by MATT REVILLE, Staff Writer

’Tis the time of the year that everyone wants to be Irish, if only for a wee while, and Encore Stage & Studio has joined the celebration of all things Éire with the world-premiere production of “Riley O’Brien and the Lost Lephrechaun.”

While aimed at the younger set, the show is inventive in its conception and solid in its execution, making it a treat for all ages.

Synopsis: A trainee leprechaun named Flanagan Hannigan is dispatched to the U.S. as part of his final exam before joining the leprechaun guild, and must find his way back to the old sod using only his wits.


He ends up being joined by 13-year-old Riley O’Brien from the local area, who after a fight with her parents – “I’m going to my room!” – discovers Flanagan and sets about helping him back to his homeland.

Along the way, they run into a bevy of other Irish creatures, from pixies and fairies to banshees and trolls. Some are friendly, some not so much. There’s even a unicorn (“Call me Jack!” he says in between prancing) who provides some needed assistance.

Those supporting characters are fun, but the heart of the show is the interplay between Flanagan (Erik Fagerstrom) and Riley (Reagan Holland), who have natural chemistry. Their scenes together seem organic, never forced, making it easy to believe their characterizations and root for their success.

Some of my favorites among those we see along the way: Caledonia Ross as the chief leprechaun, who sends Flanagan on his test; Beatrice Misch as Scary Carey Fairy, who helps fend off the likes of bombastic Big Boss Banshee (Tucker Wright, who can chew the scenery with the best of ’em); Noah Golden and Pippa Holland as the devilish and caffeinated pixies Clixie and Trixie; Riley Dennis as the aforementioned Jack the unicorn; and Austin Gibson as the troll Nicole, the last obstacle for Flanagan getting back to Donegal.

Add Jagger Grove and Margy Morris, who portray Riley’s parents, to the list of solid casting decisions.

Director Elizabeth Pringle’s work was effective in keeping the two-act, 90-minute show moving without any lags. Encore’s usual high tech standards are met by Debra Leonard (costume design), Kristen Jepperson (set design/build and technical director), Gary Hauptman (lighting director), Kira Kettler (props designer) and Matthew Heap (composer).

The production included a number of “firsts”: It was the first time performers went mask-free since Encore resumed productions following the initial onset of COVID, and it was the world-premiere performance of the script, penned by Kate Monaghan.

“It’s such a special gift to get to work on a brand-new show,” said Encore executive director Sara Duke.

Monaghan was in the audience for a number of first-weekend performances, and pronounced herself impressed with the cast.

“This has been really, really wonderful for me,” she said. “I’ve seen it twice now, and I could see it 10 more times. You nailed it, every one of you.”

• • •

“Riley O’Brien and the Lost Leprechaun” continues through March 13 with performances Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Gunston Arts Center Theatre I, 2700 South Lang St. in Arlington.

For tickets and information, see the Website at www.encorestage.org.

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