OAKLAND -- Two local actresses have joined the cast of East Bay Children's Theatre's world premiere musical, "Jack and the Beanstalk (and the Giant, and the Goose, and the Really Truly-Uly Rotten Day)."

Oakland resident Barbara Sloane joins the ensemble, while Caroline Schneider takes on the role of Lucy the Goose. Schneider is a favorite at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda, where she has appeared in "The Odd Couple" and "Sideshow."

"East Bay Children's Theatre (EBCT) is an 81-year-old company that brings musical theatre to underserved East Bay elementary schools free of charge," said Ron Lytle, the company's resident composer-lyricist who wrote the script and score for "Jack." "We pay for our schools' tour by producing a few ticketed public performances each year."

The all-new musical version of the classic fairytale, directed by Sue Ellen Nelsen, comes with an "upbeat attitude, clever comedy and Broadway-style songs," said publicist Arron Schuler. "The wacky cast of characters includes the troubled title character, an overworked and underpaid Golden Goose, and a diminutive Giant with an enormous Napoleon complex."

Sloane, a former Piedmont resident, is a retired English and drama teacher who joined EBCT 19 years ago. She said "Jack" is a "rollicking, funny, toe-tapping production with not just one, but two lessons for young people: Eat your vegetables, and don't be a bully."

She said members of EBCT, many of whom are retired educators, believe that the arts should be part of all children's lives.

"EBCT provides a teacher's guide a few days before the performance with ideas for connecting the story with classroom activities," Sloane said. "Children often draw pictures of their favorite characters for the teacher to send to us."

Sloane said a special treat for audiences this year is the 11-year-old actor (Liam Gaard) who plays Jack.

"He has a marvelous singing voice and all the natural responses one would expect from a child facing a giant," Sloane said.

Schneider, aka Lucy the Goose, moved from Pittsburgh more than a year ago and now lives near Lake Merritt.

"Theater has been in my blood since I was very young, I was always performing in school musicals," said Schneider, who holds a bachelor's degree in musical theater performance.

She said her role in "Jack" is one of the most rewarding experiences she's ever had.

"Ron has written such a clever piece that teaches children the importance of things like diversity, friendship and healthy eating habits," said Schneider, who describes her Lucy character as "the comedic sidekick who wishes the best for everyone. She's goofy, loud and frantic, yet she always finds a way to help others in any situation."

Nelsen said she also loves Lytle's script and score.

"Ron writes on several levels so that the whole family, including adults, can enjoy the show," she said. "In this case, he handled the difficult task of having a Giant with so much imagination. Having a 'little' Giant opened the story to new possibilities."

She said this is the first year that EBCT has been able to pay its cast, which has naturally attracted a greater pool of talent.

"We have actors coming from San Francisco, Antioch and Pleasanton, as well as from Oakland," she said. EBCT, which began in 1933, is the oldest continuously running theatre in the Bay Area.

According to its website, "EBCT's main purpose has been to bring the heritage of traditional folk and fairytales in the form of musical theatre to economically disadvantaged elementary schools in Oakland and surrounding areas."

With the help of more than 45 volunteers, the company performs before about 9,000 children in pre-K through fifth-grade every year, with the goal of promoting positive values and strengthening children's self-esteem.

Nelsen said many of the students have never seen live theatre before.

"They love it -- they sway with the music, clap, laugh and even talk to the characters during the show," Nelsen said. "The actors are sometimes able to mingle with the children who often believe the characters are real. It is so satisfying for all of us involved — the actors, the directors and the crew and all the supporting members of EBCT."

In addition to school tours in February and March, the theatre is presenting two public performances on March 23 in Berkeley and March 30 In Lafayette. Advance ticket purchase is recommended as the shows are expected to sell out.

FYI
What: "Jack and the Beanstalk" musical by East Bay Children's Theatre
When: 2 p.m., March 23, Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley http://ebct.brownpapertickets.com/
2 p.m., March 30, Town Hall Theatre, 3535 School St., Lafayette
Tickets: $12 online or at the door; go to https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=b89a98fc73a94c7315b9c461d47170c1
Information: www.ebctonline.org