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The Powerful Cast of George Street Playhouse's virtual production of "Tiny Beautiful Things" talk about Healing and Emotion During the Pandemic

The Cast of George Street Playhouse's virtual production of Tiny Beautiful Things
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Laiona Michelle (middle) plays "Sugar" in Tiny Beautiful Things

The George Street Playhouse's latest virtual production of Tiny Beautiful Things is based on the best-selling book by Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the state by Oscar-nominated Nia Vardalos.

The cast of Tiny Beautiful Things, which includes Laiona Michelle, John Bolger, Kally Duling and Ryan George, joined WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about the play that runs through May 23.

In this unforgettable play, wit and hard-won wisdom are dished out in the advice column exchanges between a writer who goes by the name of “Sugar” and her readers. Tiny Beautiful Things is about reaching when you’re stuck, recovering when you’re broken, and finding the courage to ask the questions that are hardest to answer.

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Laiona Michelle stars as "Sugar" in GSP's virtual production of Tiny Beautiful Things

All the actors in this play are veterans of GSP productions. Laiona Michelle, who wowed audiences as Nina Simone in "Little Girl Blue", plays the columnist "Sugar". Michelle says when director David Saint chose Tiny Beautiful Things, it was the soul food that we all needed.

"You know it is an advice column about love and life and for us as actors we all know each other, so it was like a first time we were all able come out of our cocoons and nest together in this house and do what we do best, which is serve in our craft as artists. It's just been tremendous and I'm just happy is going to be not just sharing this with the George Street community, but because it is virtual, we're going to be able to share this with the world. The message is so universal. I just delighted to be able to just step into the shoes of Sugar."

For John Bolger, Tiny Beautiful Things is his eighth production with the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. He calls this on-line production amazing.

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John Bolger in Tiny Beautiful Things

"I think the great thing about this, especially for the three of us, who sort of stood in for the chorus of people who write seeking advice, you get to see people in fragments. You get to hear one line, two lines, a paragraph, a page of someone who is desperately in need. The world has been desperately in need for the last year in a half, maybe thousands of years, I think the need is the same. It's for connections, for communication, it's for comfort, it's for healing. The beautiful thing about this play, for myself, Ryan and Kally, we get to jump in and out as voices that just pass by quickly and yet they represent whole lives. They represent people who are suffering, people who are in pain, people who are lost."

Kally Duling, who drew praise for her work in the Broadway smash-hit Fun Home, plays a variety of roles in Tiny Beautiful Things including Sugar's mother and a 64-year old man.

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Kally Duling in Tiny Beautiful Things

"Even though the demographics of the role may not be something we could play, we can all step into those shoes and relate to those people because it's really just about humanity. I think everyone an relate to this in some way. In one of the scenes it's Laiona (Sugar) talking about losing her mother and I recently lost my father and I think there was just so many parallels to anybody's life. What so fantastic about is that anybody can relate to pieces of it. There was a lot a related to playing the mom."

In real life, Duling is the mother of a young child.

Ryan George returns to George Street Playhouse (this time in a house setting) and felt completely comfortable with the virtual setup, the cast and the support staff.

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Ryan George in Tiny Beautiful Things

"This is the third production I've worked with David, the second with John, the second with Kally and it was my first with Laiona. In general the team, you know it was so used to seeing everyone's faces. It was also a wonderful experience to be able to see them in person. So being able to be around new people after a year of not doing that, it does build the bond even stronger."

What does Laiona Michelle want viewers to come away with after watching this virtual show on the GSP website?

"Come get your soul food. Whatever you're going through. as we travel through this journey of healing, just remember to create something beautiful."

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A lighter moment during an emotional chat with the cast of Tiny Beautiful Things

You can see the zoom chat with the entire cast of Tiny Beautiful Things at https://fb.watch/5ttWv4v6PU/.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.